Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I love radio...

It's the voice that teaches, entertains, or inspires while I drive, walk, or mow the lawn. Now that I have podcasting to allow me to listen to shows at times other than when they are broadcast, it's even better. I can listen to shows when my schedule permits.

I love doing radio for a different reason all together. It's an opportunity to try out new ideas with others who may be struggling with the same problem. Even when the show is not a listener call-in format, there is opportunity for host and audience to work together on the challenges of the day.

Radio is instant community. By the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, I am writing about radio that talks to people, not radio that plays music. Music radio builds a passive community which is great for relaxing, but it's not the kind of radio that I get excited about. Radio that talks gets people to do something. I don't need help relaxing. I want to do something.

As humans, we are a cooperative species. We need to work with others to accomplish the really big goals. This makes us naturally attuned to the voices of other humans. We want to hear what people around us are saying so that we can understand if they are becoming a threat or an aide. Our instinctive behavior causes us to constantly evaluate our operating environment, paying special attention to other human voices. Our brains want to know whether we should be running away or getting closer. So, we listen. We listen... so we can act.

Radio communities are built upon common principles. If someone hears a show on the radio that they can understand and identify with, they keep tuning in. If they tune in long enough, hearing the host's voice often enough, they become familiar the host in the same way they might become familiar with the voice of a friend or family member. At some point they feel so comfortable with that voice that they want to contribute to the conversation much as they might with any of their other friends.

Now think about the hurdles they have overcome. First of all, the host is a disembodied voice. The listener doesn't have your face to look at. It's not natural to hear voices but not see faces, but still your listener has made the leap and will allow themselves to naturally process your voice. Next, the listener might feel like the host is in a position of authority and be uncomfortable calling them. Finally, if the show is not a call in format, it might actually be difficult to contact the host as they might not publish their phone number or email address. The listener who wants to talk to the host might not have an easy time of it at all, but still they persist. At least some of the audience will have a driving need to contribute to the conversation and will persist until they are successful. That is when the fun begins.

An audience that starts talking immediately begins feeding back course corrections and new ideas. They applaud what they enjoy and criticize what they don't. Some will focus on grammar and presentation, others want to integrate these new big ideas into their views of the world, religion and politics. Some will offer incredible useful support and advice. Some will remark upon environmental factors that are simply beyond the host's control. It's ok. The engaged audience presents the feed stock of the shows idea machine as well as a bit on unworkable scrap. It's a reasonable tradeoff. With a great audience, a good show gets better all the time. I love radio.

By the way...
I am now recording Personal Technology segments for Your Day, the statewide public radio broadcast of Clemson University.

Your Day airs from 12:00 noon to 1:00 PM, Monday through Thursday throughout the South Carolina Educational Radio Network:

  • Greenville, WEPR-FM 90.1

  • Columbia, WLTR-FM 91.3

  • Sumter, WRJA-FM 88.1

  • Conway, WHMC-FM 90.1

  • Aiken, WLJK-FM 89.1

  • Charleston, WSCI-FM 89.3

  • Beaufort, WJWJ-FM 89.9


Your Day can be heard live or archived on the web at http://yourday.clemson.edu

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