The online radio show – A lot of talented, experienced broadcast professionals now choose to do their shows online rather than on-air. The beauty of podcasting, or doing your show live on the internet, is that no one has to “hire you.” If you’ve got a microphone and a computer, you’re good to go.
Listeners are following their favorite personalities from radio onto the internet. Because they’re no longer forced to stick to a singular format, hosts are enjoying increased freedom online. While experienced broadcasters are disciplined and understand the value of working with formatics, doing an online show offers an unmatched opportunity for creativity and experimentation. It’s not radio, it’s not TV, it’s not print. The internet offers all of these elements to enhance the audience’s experience. You can mix audio with visual and interactive components. You can talk, do in-depth interviews, play music, and interact (or not), with your audience. Working online offers a blank canvas for creative self-expression. (There’s more on this in the chapter on Working Across Multiple Platforms in my book, Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age.
In the past, if you lost your job, you lost your means of distribution. You had to find another on-air gig to continue your career, but not anymore. Now, personalities have the power of distribution in their own hands.
One former major market talk host who prefers to remain anonymous says, “After years of ratings success, there was a corporate takeover and I lost my job… In the beginning of my career, I’d moved a lot, living in six different cities. Now I’ve got a family, my kids are in school, we own our home and we’re an active part of a community we love. My wife has a stable job, so for us, moving again wasn’t an option.
“I had no luck when I applied everywhere in town for another radio job. At that point, I thought it was ‘game over.’ But I’d amassed a sizable listener email data base. When my job ended, I sent out a note to that list, with my online contact information, saying, I’d be in touch with news of my next gig. But I was going crazy not working, so I started a podcast. I let my listeners know where to find it and using social media, built from there.
“Creatively, it was like being given wings. No program director cramming mandatory topics down your throat. When my unique downloads hit 25,000, I contacted former radio sponsors and offered them access to my targeted audience at a much lower rate than they’d been paying for their on-air spots. Several said ‘OK, we’ll try it’—which was great. The show continues to grow and it’s making money.”
If you want to preserve one of the historically wonderful things about talk radio—interactivity—you can put in a dedicated phone line and take callers live as you stream. If you prefer to pre-record your show you can still use the “comments” section on your site, giving your audience the opportunity to enter the conversation. A huge advantage of podcasting is that you control your time. You can do your show when it’s convenient, then send a text or email to listeners when it’s posted.
Most notable for moving his “radio show” to the internet is Adam Carolla, who, after three years of hosting the Adam Carolla Show online, now averages around 2 million downloads a week. (The Guinness Book of World Records calls his show the most downloaded podcast ever.) Carolla’s former employer, CBS Radio, now reps his site.
But it’s not just individual personalities enjoying success online, whole entire radio stations have moved over. Audiences in British Columbia, Canada have embraced online-only channel: “Castanet,” which serves the local resort community of Kelowna.
Other hosts use their online platform to pursue journalistic interests. Twelve years ago, with foresight and a desire to control content, former KABC Los Angeles talk show host Bill Pearl founded an online newspaper. LBReport.com, featuring investigative reporting, covering Pearl’s town of Long Beach, California.
This same independent spirit applies to former radio personalities from a variety of radio formats. Some are having so much fun that one internet station isn’t enough. Former Kansas City talk show host George Kaywood was so enthusiastic, he developed and created online content in a variety of formats. You can hear them on www.radiogeorge.com.
Back to Radio?
Canadian radio talk hosts Paul and Carol Mott, moved their talk show online and back to the airwaves again. After leaving traditional radio, their online show “The Motts” [http://www.themotts.ca/] was so successful that now it’s been picked up by a few stations.
And that’s happening a lot. For ten years in Los Angeles, personality Barbara Blake was synonymous with the “Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch,” a live broadcast she hosted on KTWV “The Wave.” After she left “The Wave” two years ago, Blake moved her show online to www.smoothjazzsundaybrunch.com [http://www.smoothjazzsundaybrunch.com] . Blake’s show is a case in point of a personality breaking format restrictions by combining elements of both music and talk radio. Today she’s got sponsors and a sizable international following with a niche audience of those who share her world view, enjoy her original content and artist
interviews and are fans of smart, smooth jazz. Blake hears regularly from radio stations asking if they can broadcast her programming.
Online radio shows are nothing if not diverse. Former Seattle Country personality Ichabod Caine and his partner Scallops host Wild Boar Radio [http://www.wildboarradio.com] .
Their name makes the point that they are free-form, not locked into any single format: Wild B.O.A.R. stands for “Best Of All Radio.”
Howard Hoffman, formerly of KABC Los Angeles, now combines his thriving voice-over career with internet radio on his site: Great Big Radio.
If you’re thinking of moving your show online and need tech support, consider hiring your favorite radio station engineer. There are also several books, websites and organizations that can assist as well, such as www.Blogtalkradio.com and www.podcastanswerman.com.
As with any entrepreneurial venture, you’re responsible for overseeing every aspect of your business, including marketing, promotion and sales, and whether you do it all yourself or hire someone to help.
For sponsors and listeners alike, the Internet is a perfect sales environment for special interest or niche formats. Your audience is global—so you can generate a huge following. If you’re not comfortable selling, find someone who is and who recognizes you have something unique to market. No matter how obscure the theme of your show, say you host a talk show for people with overweight, aging cats—if it’s a good show, it will find an audience.
I hope that if you’re in the area or planning to attend any of these conferences, you’ll say hi!
October 2, I’ll be in Washington, DC, for the NAB Presenting a Small Market Radio Webcast for NAB members: “Powerfully Engage And Grow Your Audience By Mastering Social Media.”
October 6-9 Los Angeles
October I’ll be working in Australia, if you’re in Sydney:
October 12 – Commercial Radio Australia “Creating Powerful Communicators Workshop”
October 13 – IMB Academy “Creating Powerful Communicators Workshop” in Sydney, Australia
October 20, 2012 –IMB Academy “Never Lose A Listener Master Class,” Sydney Australia
Back in the USA:
November 1 – Workshop /Keynote in Boston
Massachusetts Association of Broadcasters (Creating Powerful Radio Workshop)
I’ll be working in Europe in Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Istanbul, Turkey, in November and December.
About the Writer
Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International Broadcast Consultants, works to help communicators become more powerful in 30 countries for news, talk, information and personality. Through consulting and individual coaching for news and talk talent, Geller finds and develops personalities, leads “Creating Powerful Radio” and “Communicate Powerfully” workshops and seminars for radio and TV broadcasters, internet radio and podcasters. Geller is the recipient of the Conclave’s 2010 Rockwell Lifetime Achievement Award and is the author of four books about radio including her latest from Focal Press Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age. To contact Valerie Geller for a one-on-one coaching or consulting appointment, or for information on the “Powerful Radio” seminars and workshops, call 212 580-3385
Note: This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on radio-info.com and has been republished with permission.