It made me think (again): If radio content is going to thrive in an online world, it has GOT to get better. I’ve written about Radio’s On-Demand Problem before, and I guess this is just a more specific part of that thread.
If you’ve worked in a radio newsroom in the past quarter century you’ve had a boss tell you to “write conversational” — and you know it’s bullshit. Nobody is conversationally delivering 8 news stories in two minutes. You don’t sound conversational, you sound “newsy.”
Actual quote from a radio newscast:
“Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announcing today he is not running for re-election, now the scramble is on to see who will fill his seat.”
That is a fine line in a news script, but in no way is that conversational. Can you imagine walking up to someone and saying “Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announcing today…” ? Of course not.
What does it really mean? Is announcing today? Has announced today? Is he wandering the halls of the capitol constantly announcing?
Anyway, the idea of “conversational” news writing is an oxymoron. Too much information has to be packed into tight little sentences, and your boss wants you to pretend something that happened hours ago, is still happening now.
It is HARD to sound like yourself. It’s weird, but when you put a microphone in front of someone, all of the sudden they don’t know how to be themselves. It takes a lot of practice to just be natural when you are being recorded. (I assume that goes for a camera too, but I don’t have much expereince with that.)
Do you know what a “pukey” radio delivery is? I’m not going to link to that feature I mentioned before, but just thnk of a voice with exaggerated ups and downs, and strong emphasis on what seems like every other word. It’s not conversational, it’s not authentic, it’s not sincere… it’s a performance.
I will put one link here to a radio story I absolutely LOVE about CKLW’s 20/20 news team. This will give you an idea of the kind of delivery I’m talking about without singling out someone today.
By now you should know that I think a podcast needs to actually be conversational. Actually conversational… not the BS version you’ve been told about in your newsroom for years. Conversational, authentic, sincere. For people who have been performing on the radio for years, being “natural” has lost meaning.
LEARN NEW SKILLS
What works on commercial radio, for the most part, isn’t good podcasting. Public radio has a huge grip on podcasting because their storytelling is more compelling and the stories have a longer shelf life than most things on commercial radio. And, despite the cliche public radio voice, the delivery is usually closer to what a normal human sounds like.
(Maybe this is a good point to also acknowledge that the “NPR” voice delivery can be just as ridiculous in the other direction as the pukey news delivery can get on commercial radio.)
For those of you producing news and talk programs for broadcast radio, you have to learn new skills to make it in podcasting. You have to get better at telling stories and you have to strip your delivery of the pukey performance voice that has been ingrained into your sub-conscience.
Here’s my favorite place for you to start. It’s a session from the 2010 Third Coast Conference called “The Script Disappears” and talks about how to sound like yourself, even when you are reading a script.
My favorite part comes with Dean Olsher and John Biewen at 37 minutes in.
It’s my belief the skills that make good podcasts today will soon be the skills that make good radio tomorrow.
Thanks for reading, you can find more ways to connect with me at www.tylermoody.com