Last month I did my first Q&A video, where I took questions that I’d been asked or found online and gave my spin on them. In lieu of a video this month, and inspired by a question received on Twitter, I thought I’d devote an entire blog post to a great question posed by Twitter follower Rob Layton.
It’s a great question, and one that I told Rob deserved more than a 140 character response. That, and the fact I didn’t want to spam timelines with multiple tweets inspired this post where I’ll give my opinion on radio vs digital. It’s a topic I’ve somewhat already covered with an article called Podcasting: Boom or Bust.
First, I had to get a bit of background on Rob. From his Twitter page, I found his YouTube account, which features videos from 1-3 years ago of him recapping sporting events from all major sports. I also found a couple of his blogs which featured more current and almost daily writing on recent sporting events including the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA finals and the passing on Muhammad Ali. Judging by all of this, I’m going to assume for the rest of this article that the career goal is either sports talk or sports reporting, perhaps a blend of both. This opposed to say play-by-play as I didn’t see any examples of that.
So going on that basis, let’s answer the question. There’s actually two. The first is radio vs digital. The second is why Rob’s not having much luck sending demos to radio stations. The answer to question one is pretty simple, but hardly satisfying. There’s no reason not to focus on both, because if you do one, chances are you’ll do the other.
For five years prior to getting involved in play by play, I worked at a TV station in Prince George, BC. I was in charge of the technical production of three (later four) daily news programs, as well as a lot of other content on the station (commercials, produced programming, etc). It was a low budget TV station that did big things (and has gone on to win national awards with the staff that currently work there, congrats!). But despite being a TV station, a huge part of the job was digital. News stories which we beamed out via cable and satellite had to be on the website in a hurry. We produced web-exclusive news updates throughout the day and pushed social media hard when social media wasn’t really yet the behemoth that it is today. Despite the fact that my job was to Direct the evening news, I spent more of my day producing web content in one way or another.
Fast-forward a few years later, working at a radio station and again web content was king. Sure the hourly newscasts were important, but bosses demanded that the stories make it onto the web as soon as they were completed. Videos and photos from our events and breaking news were encouraged on Facebook and Twitter and everything began and ended with the website.
So what does this have to do with the sports industry? As I said, I see no reason not to focus and educate yourself on both. I think there will ALWAYS be a place for terrestrial radio in the world. Yes we’re trending digital, but we’re still a long way off in terms of the accessibility of it and the price point. Radio is free to listen and you can get it almost anywhere. Digital requires a smart phone, WiFi or a data plan and is reliant on cell service that can still be spotty in many areas. I’m also not really aware of too many digital only networks that hire multiple people, certainly to the extent of radio stations.
In short, radio is still king. It doesn’t hurt to keep chasing that dream and plugging away at it. Make relationships, network, improve your craft. Streaming is catching up and I’m sure will eventually take over as millenials age and this technology becomes cheaper and more widely used in a greater cross section of society. As for that impact to the job market, there has to be an audience, or at least the hope of an audience before advertisers will jump on board fully. Once that happens, money becomes available for jobs and people.
Secondly, let’s look at why Rob is having some bad luck with radio stations. I’m not going to comment on Rob directly, because I haven’t seen his resume or cover letter, nor do I really know him. However here are some general things that I like to mention:
- Vary your skill set. I’m always looking to learn something new, make myself indispensable to my employer. My current day job involves working with a Real Estate agent, handling his marketing, advertising, videos and photos. He says I’m a swiss army knife because I come with a varied skill set. I don’t just make videos, I advise him on social media marketing, I design his flyers and I stop him from making signs that look like flags of unstable and ruthless countries.If you don’t know already, learn web design, learn to do some basic coding in CSS and PHP (at least learn how to read and edit it), learn some basic video production and editing. These skills, while not direct, make you a more attractive hire. From personal experience, I’ve been hired for jobs, not because I was the best candidate but because I bought the most to the table.
- Be efficient. It sounds like Rob is cold-calling/cold-emailing radio stations. I’m not sure that the action of sending demo reels to PD’s is effective anymore, but someone could easily prove me wrong. With money tight and firings more common than hirings, few PD’s have the cash to hire ‘extra’ people or bring in someone based off a demo. Often times it’s a case of hiring on need rather than want. That being said, be on top of the latest job postings. Don’t limit your search to just your current town/city, but expand and be prepared to move. Look also at smaller stations and consider volunteering at a community station in your area. It’ll give you a direct demo reel of comparable skills, vs trying to port old work into a new job.
- Network. I’d wager than more job hiring processes are influenced by existing relationships and intangibles than actual merit. Obviously skill is important, but I’ve always been told that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know in the industry. Go to local games and meet the crews, see if you can arrange meetings with local PD’s to learn more about their operation, keep abreast of the station and its people via social media and interact when appropriate.
I hope that helps. It’s definitely more than 140 characters and I hope it clears up a few things on why Rob’s not having much success. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does it happens in the blink of an eye. If you’re not getting the response back that you want, then it means there is something you need to improve. Find it, work on it and be successful.