Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hold Up A Mirror

That's a quote from my friend Bill Thorpe, a brilliant man and great radio personality, copy writer and producer, among other things.

In radio, we're still doing a lot of inside-out thinking.  We talk, the audience listens.  And that works to a point because passive listening is a relaxing service, and also because audiences have learned to expect it.

I talk, you listen.

But audiences are looking for their own reflections in their media and entertainment.

That's why the news has been taken over by a handful of outlets that pander to their demographics, to the point where nothing is really news anymore; it's just a version of reality the outlets have determined that their audiences want to hear.

It's the reason representation is so important and why you see a much, much more diverse cast of characters in most TV commercials and stock photos than you saw even ten years ago.  Representation pumps up sales.

It's also why radio needs to bring back phones.

Phones have been phased out somewhat, because most people don't call anyone anymore.  Most people text or message and only call for business or Mom on the weekends.  Still, radio needs to try again to make phoners work much more often.  Because people want to hear themselves on the radio.

Particularly during tragedies, as my friend Bill says, most stations get it wrong.  They work on making the killer famous, or spew out statistics to incite outrage, or dive into political rhetoric. What we should be doing is letting listeners tell their stories and express how they feel.  That's why social media works, and why stations that use phoners and ask for listener input get bigger ratings.

What we really do, if we do it right, is hold up a mirror.

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