Live radio + realtime social media

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of doing a short talk on “social media” for many of the hosts and producers of local and regional CBC Radio afternoon shows. I’ve talked about social media and radio before, mostly in the context of Spark.

But here’s the thing: local and regional afternoon shows are completely different from Spark. Spark is a one-hour, pre-taped, weekly show. By comparison, local and regional afternoon shows are several hours long, and live, each and every single day of the week. I’ve worked on these shows, and they can be gruelling. So, the focus of my talk was how shows could prioritize their online efforts, given limited time and resources.

Here’s the theory: some online tools work particularly well in a realtime context, and some online tools work particularly well in an on-demand, time-shifty, random access context. The trick is choosing your tools wisely.

Realtime tools embrace what Nick Carr calls “Nowness.” What’s going on right this minute. Twitter is a realtime tool. Facebook is, in many modes, a realtime tool. Foursquare, Gowalla, and their ilk are realtime tools. On the other hand, podcasts are on-demand, time-shifty tools. A radio show website, updated once a day, is an on-demand, timy-shifty tool.

So, let’s map these tools onto radio.

Radio is “the immediate medium.” It’s fast. Live radio is full of “nowness.” Something big can happen, and you talk about it on the air right now. But live radio items can also have a long-ish shelf life. A feature interview with the mayor will still be interesting in a week, whereas your traffic and weather reports won’t.

So here’s the point I tried to make this afternoon: if, like most CBC radio afternoon shows, you have limited time and resources, be smart about which online tools you use. Use realtime tools for realtime information. Use time-shifty tools for time-shifty information.

I think realtime tools and live radio go really, really well together, and there are some terrific examples out there. CBC’s Here and Now, for example, or The Dave Ramsey Show. Tools like Twitter and Facebook are great for discussion, feedback, contests, questions, and overall, providing an additional layer on top of a live radio show.

Live radio show audiences (if that’s what we call them anymore) are passionate. They are intelligent. They want to help. They want to connect. If you ask me, as a public broadcaster, we have a responsibility to connect with them in as many ways as we can muster.


As part of my talk, I tweeted:

Meeting w/ local @CBCRadio shows from across Canada right now. Tell me, what do they need to know about Twitter + live radio? ^dm

The responses are here and here, and worth reading.

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