Note from Fred: Today's posting is a guest entry from RIFF2 Program Director Mark Pennington. It's a veritable "6-pack" (Hey, we're in Detroit) of ideas about how radio can better approach the programming and strategic planning that ought to be a part of HD Radio. We have been critical of the lack of content and imagination on the vast majority of HD2 stations in this blog. Our belief is that few HD Radios will be sold until great content drives interest which will, in turn, drive sales. Clever ad campaigns, better store placement, deals with automakers, and improved hardware are all well and good, but without great content, HD Radio won't work. To date, the results speak for themselves. With that in mind, think about Mark's great advice about how to do HD2 right, from the HD2 station recently honored by the NAB.
1. Pick your format wisely. Make sure you have the right people to accomplish your objective. If you work for an Oldies station, for example, you might not have the people or talent in the building to pull off an alternative station.
2. Experiment, experiment, experiment. It’s a radio programmer’s dream - a station without format restrictions, ratings or revenue to worry about. Take advantage while you can. Try something new, if it doesn’t work, tweak it. For example, we originally included Hip-Hop in the RIFF2 mix. After listening and getting audience feedback, it didn't work, so we scaled it back.
3. Turn over some rocks when trying to find talent. Just because that intern in the hall doesn’t have a deep broadcasting voice, doesn’t mean he can’t be good on the air. People are becoming accustomed to hearing content created by non-broadcasters... podcasts, video blogs, etc. It’s become more about the content then ever. On our staff, we have Justin and Jeremy, two guys from the promotion department who love video games. So we created a 2-hour video game around them, part of what makes RIFF2 special.
4. Tap into an internship program or local broadcasting school. Find people who are hungry and passionate. You will be pleasantly surprised if you take the time to work with them. HD Radio has a chance to become the new “Farm System,” which is vital for the overall health of our industry…
5. Listen to your people. Just because you have been doing this for a while, doesn’t mean you know everything. Many of our ideas have come from the staff. We get together and talk about promotional stuff, music, etc. A prime example is the RIFF Music Awards campaign we are doing right now. The idea grew from a discussion about how corporate and un-cool the other music awards have become around town. Thousands of people have cast their votes for our awards on an HD2 station!
6. Have Fun! You have to have the right attitude and passion to make this work. If you treat this like a burden or one more thing that you have to do without getting paid more, the results are predictable. Have fun, be creative, enjoy the freedom, be a music fan again. In that spirit, I have done a holiday dinner with just the RIFF2 staff every year. We tend to forget how far a nice meal goes when you are a broke, starving broadcaster. I did the same thing when we won the NAB award. We made up plaques for everyone (costing us next to nothing), but you would think that we just gave them a Grammy Award.
Fred postscript: When you read over Mark's ideas for building a great HD2 station, perhaps you thought this was pretty good advice for creating a successful HD1 station. Indeed, it is.