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Max Headroom is back, with a new name: Denise. You may not remember the Cyberpunk star of the 1980s, a badly-glitching artificial intelligence construct named Max Headroom as a faulty brain-scanned simulation of a comatose TV reporter. The character originally appeared as the host of a surprisingly successful (non-fiction) pop video show, titled “The Max Headroom Show”.
Now, 25-plus years later, radio has it’s own version of Max, named Denise.
Mark Ramsey’s blog post on “Denise”, the new artificial intelligence DJ just introduced, is well stated and a point of view that mostly reflects my thoughts on the technology…so I’ll link to Mark’s post here in case you haven’t read it yet. When you’ve finished, come back and share your thoughts on these points and questions:
1) For years, I’ve advised talent and programmers that every personality is either making the station better or they’re making it worse. The advance in technology has made it possible for automation to make music intense stations sound great. But automation does not connect with the audience on a deeper level. It doesn’t become their “friend”, providing the special bond between station and listener. The arrival of Denise ushers in a new era of automation that raises the bar yet again. It’s even more critical now for personalities to elevate their performance, to be more significant…to be a difference-maker.
2) In a programming world that is pressured by cost controls and is (over) reacting to the tactics dictated by PPM measurement, Denise will provide attractive options for some stations.
3) The accountants are likely going to see another opportunity to eliminate talent, particularly those less experienced, developing positions. We’ve already managed to drain the pool of many aspiring personalities. If AI DJ’s catch on, how much more difficult will it be to grow as talent?
At the end of the day, this could be a good thing for radio. As mentioned, it increases the “competition”, making it more important to grow personality that matters. And, as technology takes over, the premium on human connections grows. Is that a threat or an opportunity. It depends. How important are you to your audience?
Sometimes programmers put too much pressure on talent by presenting them with a long list of things they would like changed about the show. As a talent coach, it’s common to listen to a personality and instantly recognize 15-20 things that either should or at least could be better. The list may all be valid, but presenting everything at once is overwhelming and often results in talent “shutdown”. They don’t know where to start or how to go about improving the show.
It’s very difficult to concentrate on more than a couple of “fixes” at a time. A better approach is to create a comprehensive list of everything that needs attention. Then, sort the list, rating everything in three categories: Major problems that will take a lot of time and work to correct, Medium problems that will take a few weeks to correct and Small problems that are fairly quick fixes. Many of these small problems are formatic or technical and can be corrected in a week or less.
Within each category, rank them from most important to least important.
Now, with that list, start to attack. Pick the highest priority small problem and the highest priority major problem first. Once the small problem is corrected, move on to the next one, while still working daily on the bigger ones. When you cross everything off the “small problem” list, start on the medium list. And, you’ll probably identify new small problems to add to the list as well.
This approach helps talent focus, see and feel results quickly and in a short time, you’ll be amazed at the progress you make.
Scanning the radio dial on Friday afternoon much the way a typical listener would, I came across a talk show going into a stop set. The first thing I heard them say was:
“Hey, you wanna keep it down over there? I’m trying to read a spot here, and you’re eating over my commercial”.
I don’t even know where to start in critiquing this, but I was gone right after that first five seconds. There was nothing for the listener, it was immersed inside the studio, irrelevant, and about as lacking in respect for the listener’s time as it could possibly be.
In fact, it was so annoying, I didn’t switch stations, I turned off the radio.
Come on. We can do better than that, can’t we?
I recently had the pleasure to meet an outstanding morning show, Bell Media’s Majic 100/Ottawa Morning Show, which calls itself “Majic Mornings with Stuntman Stu and Angie Poirier. They are joined by their news personality, Trish for most of their segments. The show is going to be a big winner for several reasons, but what really stands out is their commitment to their audience both on AND off the air. They have an appreciation for their listeners and understand that their job is to be involved in their lives. They are everywhere in the market, hosting events, appearing and fundraisers, donating their time. They are involved in their community and their audience’s lives. Shortly after meeting them, I started following Stu on Twitter and it was as if the show continues 24 hours a day. He consistently tweets interesting, relevant content with his unique perspective and personality. He never tries to “sell” his followers on listening to the radio show, but passes on content that leads them to the show when appropriate. This is an art, and he’s terrific with it. Stu’s Blog is a further extension of his personality and character, hosting even more content on a different platform.
Angie is on Twitter too. She doesn’t tweet as often as Stu, but she is on-point, and very consistent with her personality. Perhaps most importantly, both Stu and Angie respond to their followers. They don’t just push out content…they interact with them. If you follow Stu, he will immedia
tely follow you back. He cares, and that matters. A lot. Check out Majic’s Facebook Page. The show posts there, interacting with the station’s fans daily….but they also maintain their own Facebook presence. Here’s Stu’s Facebook page, he has more content there as well. Each medium is used differently, and all with the listener’s experience in mind. Listening and interacting with this show is like being at a party they are hosting, where they are insuring that every guest feels connected, important and is having a great time.
The show hasn’t been together long, just a few months. Working with their PD, Brian DePoe, they are already on the way to success. After listening to the show, and taking into account all that they are involved with, you get the feeling that this is a show backed by a huge staff to crank out this much content and activity. It’s not. It’s just Stu and Angie, with Trish (who also serves in a news role with the company), and their producer, Barry.
It’s not easy. It’s not a 3 or 4 hour a day job. It’s a passion. They are more than just a radio show. It’s a little band of local Ottawa celebrities making an impact on their audience, one of which is on their morning radio show. And that’s what it takes to win.
You can listen to the show here
In baseball, they call August the Dog Days of Summer. It’s the toughest month of the year. The weather is hot, the players are tired and often banged up. Fans are on vacation. It’s not quite September yet. And a lot of teams are coming to terms that they are “out” of the championship race.
It’s almost as difficult for morning shows. Audience response declines. Listeners aren’t as engaged. Personalities take vacations.
Don’t get lazy! As in baseball, it’s a grind. But audience impressions are being formed every single time you open the mic. You may have to work harder to cause the phone to ring. But your competitors are probably “mailing it in” and not saving their best material for September, when everything returns to “normal”.
A reporter once asked Joe Dimaggio why he played so hard every day, regardless of the importance of the game. His response: ”Because you never know when someone will be in the stands watching me play for the first time”.
Use this challenging month to your advantage. Never let up!
There are many ways to create dynamic personalities on the radio. There isn’t a single, simple recipe for success. However, there are basics that every show needs. Let’s start a list. I’ll go first.
Every show needs:
* Someone with an “internal clock”. A sense of when the pace is dragging. The ability to keep the topic in focus, on track and making “sense” to the audience.
* A keen understanding of the target audience’s lifestyle, attitudes, worldview, priorities and the reason they might choose their show.
* An understanding of who they are as personalities and how they match that target audience.
* A coach. Someone to help them, guide them, counsel them and provide perspective.
There are many more. What can you add to the list?