At no other time, since the dawn of radio, have we been in a position to change the definition of radio so drastically. In the next five years, if not much sooner, what we all know as radio will sound, and LOOK, much different.
To some, radio will never change. It will always be a frequency selection on a dial that allows a listener to receive analog (or digital) signals "over the air" to their portable, mobile or table top device. Thus, providing the listener with the ability to wonder what the person on the other side of the "voice" looks like. In the future, the wonder will give way to everyday knowledge. "Radio" will begin to look much different. With the advent of smart phones and smart devices like tablets and smaller laptops and social media tools and software, more companies have found that voyeurism sells. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have been providing users the ability to follow other people's daily life, almost minute-by-minute in some cases, for nearly a decade. Some are even so addicted to the "soap opera" of other people's lives that they can't sleep through an entire night without picking up their device to see what the latest news or gossip is. These same companies have now upped the ante. They have released software that allows anyone to personally broadcast live events from their smart device anytime anywhere. While this "me cast" has been going on for more than a year, it is now rapidly taking hold in one of the last industries that one would have imagined would be jumping on the bandwagon... traditional radio.
A Face for Radio
I've heard it said many times over the years by my friends in radio broadcasting circles, "I have a face for radio!" And, in most cases, the person making the statement is correct (present company included). However, more and more we're beginning to finally see what that person on the other side of the voice looks like and what their interests are through an emerging new technology phenomenon called "New Media".
New Media isn't simply a term that's being used to describe a new form of audio tape or compact disk. Those are relics long forgotten by some and never known by many. New Media is an entirely new way of thinking about communication in this era where technology manages much of our lives and would leave us a blubbering mess if we didn't have access to a smart device or the Internet for more than an hour.
As a radio station owner and broadcaster, I've experienced this new phenomenon in several ways over this past year, but none more exciting than watching the growth of Facebook's new platform, Facebook Live within this industry. This is Facebook's new technology that allows its users to immediately start a live broadcast from their smart device within seconds. It's been used to film events as they happen, both good and bad, and has proven to have the ability to divide an entire country. Other platforms like Twitter-owned Periscope or Life On Air's Meerkat have been around longer, but didn't take off in the radio industry like Facebook Live seems to have.
New Media In a New Era
New Media is the melding of several technologies to enhance communication to a listener, and now viewer, be it news, music, talk shows, etc., thereby opening doors for broadcasters that simply weren't there in full before. As an example, my company Pinnacle Broadcast Holdings, Inc has been growing in the New Media realm for the better part of a year and things are getting absolutely crazy. I own and operate the Talk America Radio Network, a multi-stream Internet and terrestrial network of conservative talk shows. The Talk America Radio Network is comprised of more than 60 radio talk show hosts and podcasters broadcasting on two Internet streams 24/7. We operate at the intersection of terrestrial (AM/FM) radio, Internet radio and LIVE video broadcasting. We're pushing the boundaries of what radio has been for many years and we're dragging it kicking and screaming all the way into the next century.
The Talk America Radio Network operates as an Internet talk radio network, but we have partnered with several terrestrial (AM/FM) radio stations across the country to provide programming on the weekends and in the overnight hours. However, combining social media with Internet and terrestrial radio is not new. What is new, however, is combining the phenomenal power of Facebook Pages and Groups and their sometimes millions of followers with Facebook Live and the world of radio broadcasting. More and more radio shows, whether talk radio or DJ hosted morning/drive-time shows, are beginning to broadcast their shows over Facebook Live to reach a new demographic... those people with their heads buried in the Facebook newsfeed of their favorite smart device at all hours of the day and night.
Watch the Facebook pages of podcasters and radio stations and you'll begin to see many of the show hosts, yes, even those with "a face for radio", broadcasting their shows live not only to their listeners the "old-fashioned" way, but to those listener/viewers via a Facebook Live session that has the potential to really fire up a crowd. Facebook Live provides users with the ability not only to watch/hear their favorite talk show or radio host, but to also interact with them live through the Facebook comments section that acts as a chat room feed during the broadcast. There's nothing like being a show host broadcasting via Facebook Live and receiving live updates from your loyal, and sometimes not-so-loyal, listeners and viewers. Ahhh... Live Radio!
Many radio show hosts are just now learning about Facebook Live and the benefits of expanding their show demographics. Others have been using the tools for several months now and are becoming very successful at reaching many more listeners/viewers. Many of those hosts are becoming quite good at video production themselves or they are hiring production companies, like mine, to broadcast for them. While broadcasting via Facebook Live is easiest using their hand-held smart device, there are other ways to make the production professional and even satisfy the needs of their advertisers in ways not possible or thought of before.
Just a Small Amount of Effort
If a radio show host wants to take every opportunity they can to make the biggest impact on their followers and advertisers in social media, there are tools and companies that can help make their Facebook Live broadcast professional and interactive enough to keep the viewer/listener tuned in for the entire program. Some effort must be put forth, however, to find the right software tools to make the production stand out. There are software applications such as the free OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) platform used by video game-ographers that like to record their games for training other players all the way up to the costly professional production applications like Wirecast from Telestream or LiveStream just to name a few. All of these platforms will help make a full-blown production out of what used to be a simple radio show. Trust me, your advertisers will definitely benefit from the capabilities afforded by you putting their logos on-screen and sending them to all of your station's and partner's millions of Facebook followers.
If you're a radio show host that just simply wants to experiment with Facebook Live and see what it will do for you, get out your smart device, purchase a small tool called an iRig Pre (found at Amazon.com for under $35) and an XLR to 1/4" TRS cable. This will allow you to simply plug the 1/4" TRS into your studio's secondary headphone jack and put the broadcast directly into the input of your smart device. Doing so will allow your audience to not only hear you when you're live on the air, but will also allow them to hear your callers, music* and commercials. If you don't do this, then your listeners/viewers will only hear from your smart device's microphone what goes on in the studio when the studio mic is hot... and that lends itself to them hearing a lot of dead air and ogling the hot guy/gal behind the microphone. 😉
* Be careful to follow Facebook's terms and conditions about rights.