On-Air Talent: New Sources and New Roles

Last week we wrote that broadcast radio operators need to spend more time strategizing how to build listening with consumers who are in danger of straying beyond the dial – even while continuing to employ tactics to try to increase share of their station at the expense of competing stations in the market, i.e., business as usual. Broadcast radio needs more reasons for consumers to connect more often and new reasons for consumers to fall in love (all over again) with our brands.

With commercial-free (or nearly commercial-free) music streaming widely available to anyone carrying a smartphone, the programming executives we spoke to are thinking about how to employ talent to better connect with listeners. Talent differentiates radio’s presentation. Talent drives connection with listeners on-air and via every other channel. Talent is radio’s greatest asset.

“Great pipes” have become less important than having something to say and a unique way of saying it. For on-air talent today, “a radio voice” is becoming a less valuable asset than the ability to create unique content. Today’s great emerging radio talent may take a number of forms – some within the current job descriptions for talent and some that may require new job descriptions.

The best new morning shows may well come from the world of podcasting. Sure, radio broadcasting requires playing by different (and very definite) rules and will require coaching, but starting with a person or team already comfortably creating great content can help put radio ahead.

As smart radio operators pivot from radio’s traditional role to that of a content hub, station talent will be people who perform an on-air show and then drive content creation for the rest of the day. Podcast versions of their shows are obvious line extensions, but other on-brand content and podcasts are certain to arise.

Consider these roles for on-air talent:

  • Social Media contact. Live studio talent, who are also responsible for the station’s Social Media feeds. Instead of recording shows hours or days ahead, talent can interact in real time with listeners in Social channels, as well as on the phone and online. It becomes a better value for ownership and a better experience for listeners.
  • Music (curation) expert. Talent who at least appear to be controlling which songs are being played, give the talent a vital role and connection with the audience – and a sharp differentiation from robotic online music streaming services.
  • Concierge for the local market. For some station brands, talent who know everything going on that would be of interest to an audience would be an amazingly valuable resource. Brief on-air expressions, deeper online resources and, in the right circumstances, podcasts and dedicated apps, can build station branding and connections with listeners.
  • On-site actors. We’ve previously blogged about the twentysomethings in our CRS focus group in Nashville who talked nostalgically about remote broadcasts. They talked about the fun and excitement of station remotes and were sad that stations don’t do them as much (or at all). It’s a situation full of augmented-reality possibilities to increase on-site show biz (to say nothing of revenue opportunities), while keeping the on-air product controlled to maximize ratings.

Next week: building a bridge to better branding.