New Facebook Radio? What’s it to ya?

On Wednesday Lori Lewis from Cumulus/Westwood One, and the author of Merge on AllAccess.com, posted a story about Facebook’s new “morning show” venture. It’s going to be called “Rise And Shine” and will include local weather, plus segments on exercise and recipes. You can read the article here.

So what’s it mean to you and I?  Some might dismiss it as simply another one of the “hundred” chickens pecking away at our radio kingdom, but I think it’s cause for serious evaluation of the kind of radio we’re delivering every day.

I know what it’s like.  You’ve got a thousand things to do, most of which you would rate as critical, and…oh, there’s production, website updates, and last but not least – the morning show.  I’m writing as an owner/operator/morning guy and I know about the pressure and demands on our time.  But, can we afford to dismiss the new Facebook offering or any other competitor.

Sitting in my car at a stoplight the other day, I was looking at all the buttons on my radio and reflecting on how this dashboard array illustrates the challenge of broadcasters like you and me.  The people in your listening area have so many options.   In addition to the tuner, there’s my satellite option, SYNC system that makes it possible for me to listen to thousands of different sources through my phone, AND my phone that allows me to spend my drive home catching up with family and friends without even hearing a single radio station.

It could be discouraging.   Imagine zooming in on your studio or your cluster with a movie camera.  That’s the world many of us live in.  We’re soaked in our products, our business, our signals and promotions.  But what about the listener.  Camera still hyper focused on your property…then suddenly you start to zoom OUT….and the next thing you know you’re looking at the Big Blue Ball called earth.  Yes, your station(s) is down there somewhere, but the possibilities for people – the options and sources for music, entertainment and information are pretty much endless.

This really isn’t a message of doom and gloom.  This is a message for me.  A reminder NOT to forget about the true priorities in programming and operating our business.

There’s something we can do that Facebook can’t.  Pandora can’t.  SiriusXM can’t.  And the big market station 100 miles away can’t.  We can create and deliver great local radio – compelling and informative local content that listeners can’t find anywhere else.   I fear, though, that in the madness of the day, in our hurry to “wrap up the show” and get into the production room, that we might miss the opportunity to do the very things – we can do – to set us apart.  Local show prep.  Going the extra mile to gather and report the latest local news.  Embracing the power of being the champion for local sports teams, bake sales, and important events that make such a powerful difference right here where we live.

If we get too busy for these things, perhaps we should just hang it up and surrender our audiences to other pros who are working very hard at their craft.  I guarantee you there are resources being poured into developing the product of our many competitors.  A valid question for us is this:  are we willing to organize and strategize in a way that defeats the tyranny of the urgent and empowers us to do what most of us wanted to do when we first got into the business.  Back when I was a programmer for a large broadcasting company, country consultant Phil Hunt told me, “strive to spend at least 10% of your day doing what you’re paid to do all day long.”  Phil’s plugged into the dilemma of modern day programmers and operators.  Yes, we know what to do, but we’re being pulled in so many directions that it’s difficult at times to take care of the baby.  Phil understands that there are many days our hours are consumed with just about anything but the care and feeding of the product.  His point was to set aside a block of time each day – mark it as precious and critical – and dedicate that time to crafting an excellent product.  The more time you can do that the better.

I don’t want to sound like Kansas City or Dallas or Chicago.  Sure, my goal is to forge the very best sound possible, but in doing so I want to make sure we sound like our town/our community.

If we continue to build relationships with our listeners and communities and strive to deliver great radio with a hungry, never-satisfied commitment to excellence and improvement, Facebook’s new morning show will pale in comparison.

Then, when your listeners get behind the wheel of their vehicles and scan the many options available, they’ll remember “your” button and plug back in to “their” radio station.

Carpe Diem.

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Lyman James