I read with sadness this morning via Radio Today the news this morning that the legendary american voiceover Brian James – much used in radio station imaging in the UK in the late 80s and 90s – has died.
To me, he epitomised the sound of large market radio in the UK, when stations were striving to emulate the big American sound. He was the voice used on stations such as Capital FM in the early 90s and created a high energy powerful sound.
Whilst I never had the pleasure of working with him, I had the pleasure of creating the odd bit of production featuring his voice – and it was one of those voices that was easy to use – mainly because he knew just how to deliver the lines.
Just happened across the updated for 2009 (or so I guess) Ryan Seacrest website for his show – he is the master of self promotion. But is there anything radio stations can learn from “Brand Seacrest”?
This site is all about Ryan, where you can see him, where you can listen to him, and especially, who he’s been talking to.
But then, this guy’s show is something else – in terms of content and especially how it’s used. If you think that UK stations are networked too much – this show (and it’s many derivatives) are networked and reversioned around the world.
A couple of years ago, whilst I was still working at Capital 95.8, Ryan and his team (Dennis Clark – his Exec Producer, plus his team from Premiere Radio networks who look after his syndicated shows) came to London. They spent a week doing their L.A breakfast show from Capital’s studio. What was interesting was how they did it ; how much was live, how much was pre recorded “as live”, and especially how the content was used an reused. Let’s face it – when you’re on air as a breakfast show in Los Angeles – but also on air 10-1 or 1-4 or maybe 3-7 on maybe 2-300 radio stations- the brand needs to be about Ryan and his celeb friends.
Then there’s American Top 40 – or it’s variations. This alone needs a 2-3 hour weekly recording session, just to record the links for all the formats, plus various localisations for the stations that take it.
Of course, when a guest comes in on Ryan’s show – they put their headphones on, don’t care how they look and just think of it as a radio show…don’t they?
Not with Ryan… The studio often has cameras set up to shoot the guests and Ryan – they don’t wear headphones but have in-ear monitors like on TV…so the content can show on Ryan’s YouTube channel, or be used on his E! Entertainment show, or maybe as footage on American Idol. And of course, the branding on the walls is for “On Air with Ryan Seacrest”
Anyway – back to the main point. His site is Web.2.0 and more in terms of interaction. You can share everything, link to everything, interact with everything. You can link to his social networks – yes he’s on Twitter – and Facebook. And all of these platforms allow him (or his team) to post content that brings you into even more contact with him – and ultimately his show and ultimately the stations he’s on. You can even (should you so wish) share all of his content on your site – from a fully interactive player that gives you audio and video, to sharing any of his blogs or gossip feeds.
So if you’re not a KIISfm – but maybe slightly smaller, can you even hope to interact on this scale? Well, maybe not – but the tools for interaction and sharing are all out there – and don’t take the biggest brain to work out. His site is built on the WordPress platform (please correct me if I’m wrong). If you’re reading this blog – or have a facebook profile, there’s no reason why you couldn’t build something simpler but similar. And if you’re in radio, working as a producer and you don’t think you need to know how to do this – think again.
As expected, the slightest hint of snow and London ground to a halt.
And so to the feverish task this morning of trying to find out if my daughter’s school was closed. A check on the school website…nothing. A check on the BBC London website…nothing. A check on Capital FM’s website…(shows how much great travel content was on there – but no school closures)….more than nothing (briefly at around 7.30am).
I’m pretty sure Capital and BBC london would have wanted to carry this information – so why nothing…?
I searched for school closures – and up popped BBC Kent and the most comprehensive one – Invicta fm…
So where did my local council (the London Borough of Bromley) suggest I looked online? Nowhere. Their advice was to tune into Time FM.
Timefm – a small South London station were manfully trying to keep up to date answering the phones, and reading out as many school closures as possible – and taking calls from listeners and generally doing what a real local radio station should do. They seemed to have updates on their site – but that seemed to crash a lot. But they got the job done this morning.
Now, one suspects, there was a decision taken somewhere in London at some point to delegate out the provision of school closures to the ultra local radio stations – but in this hooked -up online age – surely there could be a system where the London councils could co-ordinate the information – to be available for all to see – either specifically tailored as a real time feed to all council sites – or equally – to be available on the otherwise excellent travel coverage on sites such as capitalfm.co.uk .
I guess it shows how much we’ve come to rely on websites for information – but it was reassuring to know that stations such as LBC and Capital, plus the small ones like Timefm – could still step up to the job and give me all the information I needed.
So more snow hits the UK – and predictably London is at a standstill again. My daughter’s school still don’t add anything to the website, but texted us. The college my wife works at added a closure to the front page of it’s website.
This morning’s Chris Moyles Show was streamed online to allow you to see the whole show – in all it’s behind the scenes glory. And I really like it.
On the Radio 1 site, it’s viewed via the Visual Radio Player. This allows you to see live video of the show – cut live by Radio 1’s online team plus a load of enhancements such as moderated text messages, a realtime show blog and also song details/artist biog etc which display instead of live video when the songs play. I didn’t try accessing it on my iphone and guess it may not have worked – but a mobile option would be great – particularly on the train (bandwidth issues notwithstanding).It’s an enhanced listening experience – but is it TV – or radio with pictures?
Radio1 have done this before online – and it works as an added extra – not so good if you’re on the move, but a fantastic extra, particularly for the many people listening at work – have it open on the desktop and click on it if you really want to see what’s going on. It would work especially well if the show was live at an event – say backstage at The Brits or all weekend at Glastonbury – as an enhanced experience.
It worked today because they did the show as normal – not really playing up to the fact to the cameras being there – and that’s the main point. This is still visualisation for radio rather than creating a TV viewing experience. But that’s not to say that radio shouldn’t be an enhanced experience. The idea of being able to listen to a station on the move, click on the application to bring up travel information or buy the song playing is available on most radio station websites. But added extras and new ways of presenting the information are all things that differentiate one station from another.Compared this to the trial last year when the Scottt Mills show ran on BBC 3 as a TV show; it worked really well – but many of the features felt like they had too many contrived visual elements.
So this is the BBC – big resources, big ideas and fairly big budgets. But what about those who need revenues to do the same?
Whilst it works best in a wifi area- (data usage is quite high) – it allows you listen to the station, get “now playing information” and, really useful for a local station, live tube data and traffic camera pictures. It also allows you to switch between a number of Globalradio’s services – keeping it in the family.
Of course, if you can see the presenters doing their job on screen – how long before video well and truly kills the radio star? Will “a good face for radio” still be acceptable? 🙂