What if we replaced the title “Program Director” with one borrowed from the online world, “Director of User Experience?” Isn’t that what today’s PD’s really are anyway? How many actually direct a program during their typical day?
Imagine focusing on what users experience when they come or try to come to a radio station. We all KNOW how it’s done, but imagine it fresh – without all that you already know. First, you’ll have to know how to operate a radio. Two controls at its most basic: volume and tuning. Then, you’ll need to know where to tune to find content you like. It’s a 3 or 4-digit number – including a decimal – between 88 and 108 for most. There’s no menu. There’s no channel guide.
Imagine, for a moment, having to know the IP addresses of websites. What would online traffic be like if Amazon.com had to promote itself as 126.96.36.199? Would Google be a household name if it had to direct consumers to go to 188.8.131.52? The folks at JAM would have a great time singing those IP addresses on jingles.
Whether it’s a station you tuned in to because you’d heard of it before or whether it’s one you’ve hit by scan or seek, it’ll probably take a little time to figure out what’s going on once you’re there.
If it’s a music station, the odds are you’ve tuned while a song is playing. If you’re lucky enough to have an RDS-enabled radio, you’ll probably be able to figure out what song is playing pretty quickly. If you’re among the large number without RDS, you could pull out your smartphone, open Shazam and tag the song. If you have a smartphone with you or access to a computer, you could go to the station’s website or app. Or you can wait and hope that the DJ tells you the title of the song.
We’re often puzzled by the number of stations who aren’t following the lead of Jerry Lee’s WBEB, where the title and artist for each song is pre-recorded into the ending of the song. WBEB’s ratings are always stellar, and that should speak directly to those who have concerns about fatigue building up among listeners hearing the quick backsells at the end of every song. The tactic answers a major complaint consumers have about music radio stations. And, perhaps most importantly, the tactic makes the station stand out from its competition within minutes – no matter where or when you hear it.
If it’s a talk station you’ve tuned in, even if you’ve tuned in because you know it’s the right time of day for a favorite syndicated host, it’s going to take a while to figure out what’s being talked about at the moment. If it’s a great talk host, he or she will likely reset the topic within a couple minutes of your tune in. With luck, you’ll be able to piece it together well enough to make an informed choice about whether or not to change the station again. Here, the station’s website and/or app could save the day with a topic-specific program guide, though many of even the most popular syndicated hosts won’t be bothered pinning themselves down to specific topics.
It’s hard to imagine a business that needs strong directors of user experience more than we do in radio. We provide a valuable service, but we’re in competition with such a wider, more varied array of sources today than we’ve ever been. Making certain that our houses are in order (as we invite people over and hope that they’ll stay and have a good time) is mission critical.