By Wayne Clouten, BPR
The expression “Content is King” is sprayed around today by media and marketing people like an F1 driver sprays Champagne around after winning a Grand Prix. But what does it really mean? and how do you set about creating it? It’s an easy thing to say but a much more difficult thing to deliver.
First, there is nothing new about the concept.
Bill Gates wrote in his famous 1996 essay entitled “Content is King”, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting”
In 1974, J.W Click & Russell. N Baird in their book Magazine Editing & Production stress that “Content is King” when selecting photographs for publication.
In 1914 the Historian A. Wyatt Tilby used the expression in one of his books although he wasn’t using it in the context of media as we know it today but rather the broader concept of being content and truly satisfied with something delivered to you.
There is also evidence that the expression was used by printers in the early 19th Century to describe what really sold books. We should not be surprised if it is one day found that William Shakespeare said it, or it is discovered written in an ancient Pharaohs Tomb.
Now let’s track forward to today. In an increasingly fragmented media and entertainment landscape with more choice than what people know what to do with and devices that allow 24/7 access to everything no matter where you are, content that stands out becomes incredibly important, in fact it will likely become the only thing which is important. Media organisations which are good at creating compelling content will prevail. Those that don’t will slowly (or possibly rapidly) fade away.
So, what are we talking about when we say “Content is King? Essentially it tells us that what you deliver is more important than the method of delivery. When all things are equal, great content ultimately transcends technology. Great content is more than just entertainment, particularly in today’s world. It can mean different things to different people of different circumstances.
Content which is King can be generally defined by one or a combination of several attributes:
How does the concept of “Content is King” relate to radio?
Unlike a TV series, film or monthly magazine where all creative effort can be directed at producing a singular product for a limited period of time, radio has the much more challenging task of trying to create great content every day in every session by everyone.
Creating great content is a people driven task. It is swirling combination of ideas, personal chemistry, enthusiasm, vision, energy, planning, preparation and a lot of hard work. It is difficult to get all these balls in the air at the same time
Some radio stations are blessed with exceptionally talented people who, at least for a time; can produce great content with little strategic intervention or desire for direction. Let’s call these presenters and content producers “Unicorns”. Everyone wants to hire Unicorns, but they are few and far between, are expensive and can be difficult to manage. The problem with relying on Unicorns for your content success is that ultimately your business is held hostage to their goodwill, temperament and consistency – or lack of it.
In the absence of currently having Unicorns at your station you need to develop an environment that gives you an opportunity to create great content and for your staff to develop habits and perspectives that may lead them to being Unicorns one day (yes people can grow to be Unicorns if nurtured).
There is not the space in this newsletter to cover all the aspects of being a King of Content however here are five basic areas you will need in order to create an environment where you have a chance of creating great content consistently.
In order to deliver great radio content; consistently, you need to have professional disciplines. Trying to create radio on a wing and a prayer should be avoided. This is particularly true of early morning radio. While spontaneity often creates a shows best moment, the task of ensuring we are as good as we can be; as often as we can be; even on our bad days, is where the true professional is distinguished from the amateur. Relying on spontaneity and hoping to stumble upon something which might be great is simply being lazy.
It can be challenging to see the angle on a story or topic that has the potential to create the most interest or entertainment for the listener. Often it is the not the story at face value that offers the best angle. The key is identifying the emotional context of a story. Teasing out the best angle for a particular story involves trying to think like a listener and brainstorming all of the potential issues and questions a particular story or issue might generate in the mind of a listener. This is what “engaging” the listener is all about. Engagement is when you get the listener actively thinking about what you have said.
Simply re-telling what is already known about a story or topic is not enough. The goal is to create a unique perspective. Listeners gravitate to shows and presenters which reveal something new about a subject or issue. The goal is to turn what might be an average story into something unique to your radio station and the interests of our listeners.
Having a clear understanding of the people you are communicating to is critical. Your stations audience target will be no doubt defined demographically however for the purposes of tailoring great content you need to know much more. It is impossible to create truly great content unless you have a sense of who it is you are attempting to engage with, what their values are, where they live, what they do, what they all have in common, what they are passionate about, what their life stage is. You can never know too much about your audience.
If you are lucky you will have some independent research to draw on. If not, and in any event; take every opportunity to meet your audience and talk about everyday things that interest them, the things they talk about, what amuses them and what they care about. Beware forming an opinion of your overall audience from the people who contact you. The greater proportion of your audience is a vast silent majority that doesn’t necessarily interact with you. Take note of those who interact with you certainly; but be careful about forming general opinions based only on those who contact you or the station or interact with your station on social media.
Much of what happens from day to day in a live show is unpredictable. It could be an interesting day full of fresh story opportunities or it could be a slow day. As a result, it’s important to have a framework that ensures you are conscious of covering all the areas of content that are important to your listeners and the strategy of your radio station and its brand.
Generally speaking, there are four key content outcomes that a breakfast/personality driven show should endeavor to deliver each hour:
You may have other things critical to the brand of your station or expectation of your listeners, however the key thing is to have a content matrix and try to deliver it each hour. Don’t broadcast weak content for the sake of ticking the boxes, the key thing is that in the preparation and execution of your show you are mindful of the matrix and actively look for content that fits your matrix outcomes.
If you operate in a market where the official survey methodology is recall based, then it is critical to create memorable moments to trigger listening recall. People do not keep a calculator that proportionally monitors the precise amount of time they spend with each station they listen to each week. On average people listen to 2 to 3 radio stations each week. As a result, being the station that they recall listening to the most becomes incredibly important. People tend to remember listening to the station that delivered something worth remembering. This is rarely a list of things. It usually just one thing. One thing that made them truly laugh, made them cry or a story or fact that was so interesting they were compelled to tell other people about it.
As a result, ask yourself this question every day, before your show.
What will be our memorable listening moment today, that we have not done before; that will cause people to want to repeat and/or share what we said to their friends and family?
Asking yourself this question of your content preparation each day is not a guarantee you will actually deliver a memorable moment; however, it will absolutely increase your chances of creating it.
The pursuit of creating great content should be at the very heart of any radio business wishing to survive and thrive in the years ahead. The resurgence we see in the consumption of audio content generally is an open-door opportunity for those in the radio business to redefine themselves as leaders in the audio business. Great content is the key and radio presently has the advantage due to our close proximity to the hearts and minds of our audience. Content is King. Never doubt it, never allow anyone to convince you otherwise.