How the Web has changed the Wireless

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(This is the script of a presentation I made in Dublin on 3 December 2014)

The latest “Internet Sensation” is not cute cats playing piano, not a politician embarrassing themselves in front of the camera, not a racist Tweet from a Premiership footballer. Although all of those are candidates … almost anytime.

No, the latest “Internet Sensation” is not even a video – it is a radio programme, and what is even more remarkable about this “radio programme” is that it has never been broadcast on the radio – not in any conventional sense of what we historically have known the radio to be. Today I want to talk about How The Web Changed the Wireless – see how clever that is with just the right number of Ws?

The web has changed everything. It has changed Journalism, it has changed Broadcasting. It has changed our relationship to the story, whether we be Journalists or the Audience. The web has changed the Radio in 3 specific ways; distribution, interaction and production.

Distribution
We hear radio programmes from around the world that we didn’t know existed. Among them This American Life from NPR. Once popular in the States, now listened to all over the world. Even satirized by the Simpsons. “Serial” is from the This American Life family sharing the same production team and some of the style.

Serial is a 10 part podcast – although WikiPedia has set out a 12 week grid – and Wikipedia tends to be correct. In many senses it is what we would expect from a radio programme – but it has more. First, each episode has the time that it needs. Episode 9 is 48 minutes, episode 7 is 33 minutes. Second, it takes 10 episodes to tell one story.

The over arching story concerns itself with a murder. A 17 year old boy – an honour student – is charged and found guilty of murdering is former girlfriend. The murder, investigation and conviction were in 1999.

In many ways this is a conventional radio programme. There is a presenter with an outstanding talent for talking directly to the listener, there is commissioned music, both simple and haunting. There are contemporary recordings of police interviews, new interviews with friends and family of the victim and the boy. He himself is interviewed from prison. This is radio. This is journalism.

But this radio programme has never been broadcast on radio. It is a podcast. According to Apple – the fastest ever to reach 5 million downloads.

Downloads and Streams
download-stats

The Web has changed everything and has given us audio downloads (including streaming). Between March 2013 and March 2014, the average monthly downloads of BBC radio programmes was 71 million per month. And the radio programmes – unlike the TV programmes are available world wide. RTÉ declined to tell me about their figures saying it was “commercially sensitive”. I do not understand why it should be – most organisations crow about their podcasting successes.

We now interact differently to radio whether a programme or a report.
Once the journalist delivered the story for publication and aside from the odd complaint, compliment or award, that was job over. Now the programme or report – audio, video or text – is available on the web anytime. Whether there is a comment box or not is irrelevant. The audience will repost on social media platforms. The audience continues the story. I was once doing some Social Media training at the Belfast Telegraph and one of the reporters was aghast that people would comment on his story.

Production
w
Compared to television, radio has always been a flexible medium. A phone in the right place and you can get the live report, the actuality, the interview more easily and from places an OB truck could ever reach. Although the Web has changed TV, too. Working for New York’s WMCA in 1945, Barry Grey was bored with playing music and put a telephone receiver up to his microphone to talk with bandleader Woody Herman. Soon followed by listener call-ins, this is often credited as the first instance of talk radio.

Now journalists often use Twitter and Facebook to find stories, interviews and leads. You can now produce a complex radio report with interviews, sound effects, actuality,
Music and commentary, mixed over a number of tracks.

unnamedThe web and digital technology have enhanced radio, brought programmes to new audiences, let us interact with the story in new ways. Strengthened the medium, and Serial introduced a new genre.

Networking Hours and #BelfastHour

Invitation

Friday Night MashUp Christmas Party Invitation

UPDATE – This event is now cancelled

Last night Friday Night Mashup ‏@FNMashup cleverly jumped on the @BelfastHour networking session to promote their Christmas Party (5 December at T13 Get your tickets and more info here ow.ly/ECNiH).  

#Belfasthour was set up “to help Belfast businesses promote each other & connect.” The Twitter only event takes place every Thursday between 9pm and 10pm. It’s hosted by @Edwardsandco_

@CrawfordDorcas of @EdwardsandCo_ tells me via Twitter, “#Belfasthour starring everywhere – started just 5 months ago & already winning major awards!”. Edwards & Co is in the part of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter where you are more likely to find creative businesses and digital start-ups – it has (by this morning 21 November 2014) 3344 followers and follows 2609.

#BelfastHour is one hundreds of Networking Hours that have sprung up. Bee Social Marketing @BeeSocialUKhave compiled a pretty exhaustive list here along with some of the back story and etiquette.

Twitter Scheduling as Radio Programming

 

Suddenly there was too much to Tweet.

My main intention with the @BledSlovenia Twitter was to create a community of passion. People come to Slovenia and fall in love with it (yes, it is the only country with LOVE in its name). When people come to Bled they almost always leave with fond memories and a promise to return. Part of the role of the Twitter feed is to sustain that longing.

It was the height of the summer. There were events to be promoted – public service announcements rather than direct marketing. There were Tweets and photos and videos to be sent and retweeted. There was the distinct possibility I would be sending out too many messages and dominating followers’ feeds. And as we know, the only thing worse than Tweeting too little is Tweeting too much. It is worse to drive people away than to fail to attract them in the first place.

And there were marketing messages, too. Every event deserved to be promoted properly and fairly.

And it all had to have a personal tone of voice.

How could I make this coherent and consistent? Then I remembered my days in radio and the playlist used to manage and balance the weekly music output. Would it work for a busy Twitter feed? This was my first one:

A list – start the day must haves

B list – the week’s theme

C list – today specific not already in a or b list

C 2 list – This evening specific

Priority 2 – User generated Images

Priority 3 – User generated Video

Over the weeks, I developed to optimise the Tweet List. It gave every tweet a fair share prioritising those that were important and giving the community room to engage. And left time for RTing good content and having conversations with the audience.

I don’t know if there is a magical number of daily tweets. Publishers with rolling news can put out more than I could. Big names can and should put out fewer. The only test I could apply was measuring followers: the following grew and there was a very small number of unfollowers.

First thoughts on Tweeting for a holiday destination

First published on LinkedIn 

Balloon over Lake Bled on Monday morning

I have spent the last 5 months working on @BledSlovenia and@SlovenianAlps Twitter feeds – and loved it. Not only because there is so much – for want of a better word – “fan” content on the web, but I have the ability to compare and contrast performance of Tweets for an international audience in two different types of “Brand”.

Just do a search for “Lake Bled” on Google, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and Twitter. The result? Thousands upon thousands of photos, videos and blogs, largely not “professional”, but put there because people who come here love this place. Then there are the daily RTs, conversations with the community and it leads to a very active feed with strong commitment by a surprisingly large percentage of the “Followers”. In this instance I think “Followers” is not the right word. “Followers” implies passivity; this is not a passive group. A very good number get involved sometimes every day.

@SlovenianAlps is a bigger geographic area than Bled taking in a number of towns and villages in Gorenjska (Upper Carniola). It is popular during the summer but comes into its own as a winter destination. I have found it harder to build the community during the summer, but I have been able to research and plan a winter campaign to hand over to my successor.
Now, we are not talking about big numbers here. When I took over @BledSlovenia it had 555 followers. Next week it should reach 2500. @SlovenianAlps was in mid-double digits in June and should reach 1500 next week. I fully expect it to get to 3000 by the end of the winter. OK it’s not Coke or Justin Bieber, but compares well with others in the area such as @VisitLjubljana and @SloveniaInfo.
[Incidentally if there was a paid advertising campaign (which we can’t do on Twitter in Slovenia – it is not a qualifying country), there would be 5 or 10 times more. But what I know for sure through personally building the community that the “Followers” are indeed interested and will participate when they want to. And I have got to know several hundred of them.]
I am gathering lots of information about good practice using Twitter which I hope to publish later. For example, afternoon is supposed to be the best time to Tweet. Well, if you have an international audience

  • speaking around 10 languages (English, French, Spanish, Serbian, Russian, Arabic, Croatian, Italian, German and oh Slovenian) using at least 4 scrips – Roman, Gregorian, Japanese and Arabic)
  • stretching from West coast USA to Japan

then there is no afternoon. (And you get to use Google Translate a lot!)
I can also confirm is content is king then the Image is an Idol.
This was just intended as a quick note – getting a bit long. But I shall add more to this another time.