Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Radio Homepages Range from "All Over It" to "Absent"

Waiting for a hurricane is like waiting for unwanted company. You have to get ready, even though you hope plans will change and your company won’t show up.

No such luck in New Jersey today as Hurricane Sandy, arguably the state’s most unwanted guest, is at our doorstep.

With Atlantic City projected to be close to the landfall cross-hairs, I waited for Sandy’s arrival Monday morning by checking out websites for the majority of the market’s FM stations.

Yes, of course, it’s first and foremost about ‘what’s on the air.’ Still, with the potential historic nature of the storm, the appetite for information is already bordering on insatiable.  Some stations had strong online efforts augmenting their on air content while for others, online content about the storm was non-existent.

WSJO/SoJO 104.9 and WCHR:  devoted 2 ½ pages to Hurricane Sandy news and photographs.

WENJ, 97.3 ESPN: three of five flippers were dedicated to Hurricane Sandy content including a live video feed and storm photos.

While not an Atlantic City station, New Jersey 101.5 was heavily invested with unique pages for "Cancellations and Delays," "How Bad Will It Get?" (video that was also posted on a number of other websites), "Here Comes Sandy" (east coast story), "Sandy Ready to Blast New Jersey," "Share Your Storm Photos," plus about a dozen other hurricane-related stories and information pieces.

WFPG, Lite Rock 96.9 and WPUR, Cat Country 107.3: Each had a single, static, satellite photo of Sandy (still showing it south of Florida) that clicked through to links for live radar, headlines and evacuation news.

Two stations simply relied on their Facebook feeds; there were a few updates and photos but nothing approaching substantial.

One station website had a link to storm closings, but clicking there took me to a page of closings dated 8/29/2011. 

For seven others, beyond an (or similar) link, there was nothing on the homepage about the hurricane. Instead, it was the usual collection of flippers one might see on any non-extraordinary day: how to win concert tickets for shows (the shows ranged from December to April), plugs for weekend countdown and/or request shows, plus flippers for downloading the TuneIn app, booking a cruise with a personality (none of these activities I suspect were high on listeners’ ‘to do’ lists), and a couple or slides about winning a DJ poll or the last rating period. 

Then there was this listener poll question: “The best thing about fall is…” Hurricane Sandy wasn’t listed as one of the choices.

In today’s , New JerseyBroadcasting Association President Paul Rotella said, “…that’s what local radio is all about: being prepared, being nimble, and being informative, with real information our listeners need. It’s amazing how dedicated local broadcasters are, especially in New Jersey where local radio means so much to our state!”

Some of our state’s broadcasters clearly have embraced this attitude both on air and online. A salute to you and your staff and a thank you for your work and dedication during a very difficult time.

Hopefully too you've inspired others.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Can You Do A Show Like Taylor Swift?

On any number of levels it’s hard not to be incredibly impressed with Taylor Swift.

But watching her at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York do a ‘Live on Letterman' segment Tuesday night, I was way beyond impressed. 'Wowed' wouldn't be too much.

I want to be careful not to use the word ‘performance’ or ‘show’ in describing what I saw because the half hour or so felt far more intimate and personal. It was instead much like a feel-good gathering of close friends.

The relevance here is that, for the past 6 years, country listeners participating in A&O’s annual online perceptual study have placed a great deal of importance on ‘makes me feel good when I listen’ and ‘DJs who sound like my friends and not disc jockeys’ when talking about why they choose one country station over another.  

As they could relate to the next time you're on the air, here are some take-aways from Taylor’s performance:
  • Choose your words carefully so that they sound careless.  How would you tell a friend about something that just happened to you? That’s the language you’re looking for.
  • Be intimate. When you speak, strive to make it a personal conversation with a friend or group of friends. 
  • When planning the show, intentionally create opportunities for these conversations to occur.
  • Use body language, pauses and inflection to help make your points more salient and the conversation more interesting.  Yes, you can ‘hear’ body language on the air.
  • ‘Love on the music.’ Tell a story that heightens interest in hearing the next song. Of course that works for spoken content, too.  
  • Others players on the show can add power to your content. Taylor’s background singers didn’t just share the stage, they gave Taylor’s music additional power and punch with just the right amount of animation and interaction.
  • Be so prepared you sound spontaneous.
  • Be totally in the moment. Few at the Ed Sullivan Theater probably cared (or even thought about) Taylor’s day probably starting around 4am to prepare for a GMA broadcast. And even if they had known, their expectations wouldn’t have been any less high. Right now is what counts.