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Recently I worked with a couple of different European radio stations — a morning show tune-up with one, an AIR PERSONALITY PLUS+ seminar for another.

Like many stations around the world, they love to quote listeners’ text messages on-air.

Why is this often a mistake?

It was Paige Nienaber who first pointed out to me that radio people tend to use new technology to distance themselves from their listeners. Texting (or SMS) is an excellent example.

The most powerful sound you can broadcast is the human voice.

Forget, for the moment, how cool it is to get dozens or hundreds of text messages or e-mails from listeners.

Instead, view them from the listener’s perspective:

Which is more compelling — hearing a listener on-air, or hearing a jock read words written by a listener?

Having a jock read a listener’s written message is lifeless.

It’s dull.

And it’s completely lacking in spontaneity and risk.

When you’ve got a listener on the air, anything can happen.

Even if it’s recorded and edited prior to broadcast, it should sound live and “dangerous” (“dangerous” = “anything can happen”).

But there’s no way to create the feeling that an e-mail or SMS is “live,” let alone “dangerous.” By definition, before it can be read on-air someone had to write it and send it to the jock.

Recommendation:  Use e-mails and SMS for gathering large quantities of listener response— listener polls, rate-a-record, etc.

But for listener comments? Whenever possible, put the human voice on your airwaves.

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  • Tad Shackles October 25, 2012, 9:24 am

    Agreed, Dan.

    We use MediaNext for our text service and it provides us the listeners phone number. If they say something worth saying on the air, I call them and put them on the air. 90% of the time, they are more than happy to talk to me and it gives me an excuse to hook them up with station premiums, which in turn causes more people to text/call.

    That said, I agree, reading texts is weak.

  • Ethan October 25, 2012, 10:06 am

    I feel a good mix works best in smaller markets. Our listeners know our listeners. Some of them are “supposed” to be at work, so they are more likely to opine through the discretion of email/txt. Phoners are king and the focus of the show, but there’s nothing wrong with reading a text in the mix if the material is great.
    Heck, sometimes in smaller markets, you’re grateful for any participation.


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