It is personal

I was listening to one of my regular podcasts last week when a point raised by the host just fired raft of thoughts and emotions in my head all at once.

They mentioned that when someone meets them they can tell from the way they are greeted, where the person knows them from. If they “high five” them, then they tend to know them from their TV work and appearances, but if they say hello and have a detailed and interesting conversation, then they tend to come from the podcast audience. They then talked about how intimate and personal the relationships through podcasts are.

This was the moment when a million things rushed through my brain at once, ranging from an urge to shout, “Welcome to radio! We’ve been doing that for many a decade!”, to a pleasant thought of how experiences developed through an audio medium are yet again underlined for a new audience and a feeling of being old, seeing someone realise something which you have taken as fact for over 30 years in your professional career.

When I was on air- which is a lifetime ago I hasten to add- listeners would recount to me something I had said about family, pets, home life, holidays or something else from my life- sometimes weeks or months after I may have said it on air. “Oh how is your daughter doing with that thing?”- normally met with a puzzled look from me translated as “how do you know?”, having forgotten I had ever said it and wondering if this person in front of me was stalking me or living in a bush in the garden!

Radio, and by default podcasts when executed well, create a strong personal relationship with their listener. Undistracted by the visuals of TV or video- the words, stories, connection and emotion creates a bond in the mind of the listener like nothing else. Radio is a medium which talks one on one with its listener. Even today with a world of scheduled songs, streams and software- I suspect a lot of listeners would think presenters pick the songs themselves. It’s ‘their’ choice, curated for the listener. Something which is part of radio’s power and it’s longevity.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and a relationship grows with a regular audience, but even at the start, there is a connection which is inherent with the medium- it comes built in. It’s comes from the one to one nature of the medium. Viewers to TV inherently know that there is a camera operator or more, a director, a vision mixer (even though they won’t know the job titles or how many)- it is understood that it takes “many” to make it. It is also viewed in a “many” forum- or at least can be- a TV viewed and watched by a family or a couple or a group etc, all watching the same thing at the same time. In itself a powerful thing of course.

Now radio can be listened to by many in one setting as well so where is the difference? That comes from where the pictures, feelings and images that radio broadcasts are generated. Images? Yes, radio broadcasts images or rather a form of words and suggestions that create images that appear in the mind of the individual listener. So even if there are a group of people in a room listening to the radio, the images and thoughts generated by the words of the presenter are generated individually in the minds of each person one by one- unlike TV which just shows everyone the same picture. If you say, “picture an elephant wearing a shirt standing on one leg”- each person hearing it creates a unique image in their mind (different elephant, different setting, standing on a different leg)- the same thing on TV would show just the one image that everyone watching looks at. Did anyone match the image below or did your personal picture look different?

Image created using AI image creator DALL-E

That process and individual generation of images and thoughts, is what cements a deeper relationship with the listener. It’s part of the reason why things “stick” so much more. A podcast can also do this of course, and much is dependent on the language (use of YOU). I always used to cringe when I heard someone on air say something like, “Welcome everyone” for this very reason. It didn’t always mean their show would fail- some successful presenters have done this, but ultimately they do themselves a disfavour and weaken their overall potential by not playing to the strengths and power of the medium.

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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