Been There. Done That


Radio is still trying to figure out how to exploit social networking, which is ironic since radio essentially created it nearly forty years ago.

The latest wrinkle is Listener Driven Radio. According to the web site: “Listener Driven Radio lets listeners control your broadcast radio station. LDR engages listeners, constantly absorbing their input, votes, and comments about your station’s music. This creates a community around your radio station’s brand.”

We suspect that few programmers remember when KFRC-FM did this in the mid 1970s. Under Dave Sholin’s direction, KFRC-AM’s little automated sister did a 24/7 count-down of the top requested songs. So the innovation of listener driven radio is thirty years old. Been there. Done that.

The technology is new. The concept is very old.

The only reason listener driven radio sounds novel is that radio has pretty much stopped paying attention to our listeners. We go through the motions, whether it might be texting or Twitter, but most stations don’t really care.

There was a time when every music station had a request line and actually answered the phone. Of course, that was when we had live jocks in the studio. There was a time when music stations called record stores and paid attention to sales.

Then we decided that with Call-Out and music testing we didn’t need to tally requests. We didn’t need to answer the phone, because we knew what songs to play.

That was a mistake. Request lines connected listeners to the station. Listeners knew that they could call the station and ask questions, make complaints, and find out what that last song was.

Evening shows on CHR stations were once very important. Often the evening jock was better known than the morning man. Shout-outs and bed-checks were part of a social network connecting the station to its listeners. But a live jock let alone a personality costs money, so now many stations are voice-tracking evenings.

We were creating social networks long before there was a fancy name for it, yet today we are playing catch-up. We’re not quite sure how to exploit Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter because as an industry we’ve forgotten how to connect with listeners.

Now there’s software that claims it can get us in touch with our listeners. Software to get us in touch with listeners is like using Viagra to save a marriage. It misses the point.

–  Harker Research’s Glenda Shrader Bos & Richard Harker