James Cridland's blog

A radio futurologist writing about what happens when radio and new platforms collide
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Twitter, Facebook and visualisation for radio stations

Posted on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 7:04 pm. #

"Web Radio". On a TV. Eurgh.

It must be student dissertation time. I’m doing my dissertation on new methods of audience engagement, and whether they will be detrimental to the quality of radio presenting, mainly focussing on social media and visualising radio, says an email that’s just come in. Some interesting questions…

How important are Twitter and Facebook in connecting radio stations/presenters with their listeners?
What are the negative and positive aspects of using social media to connect with listeners?

People feel very connected to their favourite radio presenters. People invite them into their home and next to their bed, after all. So any method of connecting listeners with their favourite radio presenters should, of course, be welcomed, as long as it doesn’t turn into a cliquey experience for the rest of a station’s audience.

But we need to be careful. Twitter is used by less than 15% of the population. Many people don’t care. Too many tweets might make “a twat”, in David Cameron’s words, or, at least, an irrelevant cluttery experience for the rest of us.

Mainly, radio stations now appear to use Twitter as a bellweather for their own popularity. A recent tour round the BBC Radio 4 continuity area shows me that there’s a whiteboard with the current follower number for @bbcradio4. Which is nice, but the real figure we ought to care about is their RAJAR reach. The main differences there are that RAJAR, of course, comes out quarterly whereas a Twitter follow figure is a realtime figure.

Media UK might not be helping, either, with a radio presenter Twitter chart and a radio station Twitter chart

When presenters are using Twitter, should they always be using the station’s account, or their own?
My view in 2009 was that presenters ought to be given station-controlled Twitter accounts, for a variety of reasons – so @johnnyjockfabfm not just @johnnyjock.

I think I’ve changed my mind in the three years since. Now, I think that Johnny Jock should still run his own Twitter account – @johnnyjock – but that the ONLY Twitter account he should ever mention on Fab FM should be @fabfm. He posts on @fabfm only when he’s on-air, referencing his Twitter handle if it’s similar to his name: “Morning, it’s @johnnyjock – coming up in half an hour I’m giving away a cheese grater”

That method gives clarity to the sound of the station on-air – always mentioning @fabfm – and allows listeners to follow the presenter’s personal account if they want to: and adds separation to @johnnyjock’s account that helps in case @johnnyjock decides to go on a drunken, racist outburst on his own Twitter account.

Oh, and this is what Absolute Radio are doing, albeit inconsistently.

Will social media usurp existing methods of interaction (phone-ins, texts and emails)?

Nothing replaces anything: it’s just an additional method. Presenters still get letters, you know.

You might replace certain aspects of interaction for editorial reasons: Now Radio in Edmonton Canada does an interesting job of a talkback-type programme without any callers, with the presenter reading opinions from text and social media; and it’s clear that this does give a tighter, more editorialised sound to the station.

How important is visualising radio? (adding video to radio particularly)
What are the risks and benefits of creating video accompaniment to radio?
I blogged about “adding video to radio” in 2009. ”Chucking a video camera into a radio studio is a sure-fire way of producing really very dull television if you’re not careful. … Popping a video camera into a studio can, if used badly, completely ruin what radio is all about.”

Suffice it to say, I don’t like it. BBC Radio 1′s Top 40 chart show appears to involve a man in headphones mostly ignoring the camera, a radio studio with bits of equipment covered with ugly plywood, and occasional “to camera” pieces which make for very poor radio.

However, adding pictures to radio that enhance the radio experience? Well, that’s different. Things like slideshow or RadioVIS that don’t change what radio is about? A good thing.

Or, you know, do it properly. In this thread on Media UK, James Deane pointed me in the direction of RTL 102.5 Radiovisione which is well shot, in studios built for TV, with videos for every song and some really impressive integration.
Is visualising radio a passing phase or is it here to stay?

I hope that poor video in badly-lit radio studios with grey hessian on the walls that destroys what radio is all about is a fad that quickly goes away: or those that do it try this thing called “television” and do it properly.

What is the future of radio audience interaction?

Not ignoring listeners who contact you on Twitter or Facebook? That’s a good future.

And ensuring that a radio device is better at generating interaction by itself – making that user experience better. That would be good too.

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