I had a catch up with Joel Ross last week. We worked together for three years between 2001 and 2004 doing the breakfast show on Key 103 with Jason JK King. I hear many mixed views from the industry about the show but it must have been ok, it won Best Breakfast Show at the Sony Awards (in the days when there was only one breakfast category).
We reminisced about some of the bits we did. Dedicating an hour of a programme to taking listener’s complaints about the show, trying to give away a listener’s horse, filling a row of a Justin Timberlake gig with listeners (female and male) dressed as Britney Spears etc.
Ten years after the show ended these are the things people still talk about when they remember the show. They don’t mention the music we played or the big promotional contests we ran. Sure music and tactical promotions play a part in building an audience but it was the day-to-day stuff that built an emotional bond with the audience that still lasts to this day. Some of it worked and lots of it didn’t but by god we tried and were given the space and encouraged to be the centre of attention every single morning.
I couldn’t name a show or station that is trying in the same way today. More than ever radio stations have become brands and presenters are living out a set of values. That’s great in a marketing sense and gives consistency when the audience turn the radio on but there’s a real danger in missing out on the emotional connection.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are some great presenters working in radio today and some great stations. I love what Heart are doing for example but if we’re being brutally honest how much of what is on radio today is totally unique and powered by ideas and real human personality?
If you want your favourite music there are many fine streaming services that can serve that up. Young people are discovering new music through YouTube more than the radio these days. News and information is freely available when you want it through many online outlets.
The one thing the internet can’t provide (yet) is personality and real companionship. Radio used to be great at providing that but it’s slipping away, To survive and thrive radio needs to find the characters who can entertain, fascinate and hook-in the audience. Set them some boundaries but give them the freedom to be creative and form that emotional connection with the audience.
Otherwise it could quickly become the forgotten medium.