I want to return…

…to thinking about what is ‘radio’. I still stand by my view that it’s the microphone which defines and determines the very essence of what radio is.

Rode NT-2 USE (2)

Without it, there’s no way our voices can be captured, recorded, processed and transmitted for the listener and the audience to enjoy.

In that same blog post I wrangled with the question of whether or not a podcast can be included in the very idea of ‘radio’. As a keen reader you’ll’ve noticed that I carefully avoided coming to my own conclusion on this point.

Quite so. Because one recently emerging trend is for short-form talk radio shows to brand themselves as ‘podcasts’. These can be pop-up shows with limited runs, one-offs, or even pilots designed to ease new ideas into the schedules. There’s plenty of examples that’ve emerged on BBC 5 live during the night in recent times. The simple idea is that they fill the schedules during the early hours, and then pick up a fresh audience through the various podcasting subscription services – for listeners commuting by train, bus or car to hear in their own time. It’s a clever branding exercise and it kills two birds with one stone: reaching conventional listeners as well as web/mobile audiences..

Some examples of the wide range of topics and shows available via BBC 5 live:

Brexitcast
Fit & Fearless (women’s health)
You, Me & the Big C (women and cancer)
Tailenders (cricket)
Under the Weather (meteorology)
The BBC MMC Show (mixed martial arts)
5 live Boxing with Costello & Bunce

Each one of these is a new show, varying in duration from anything between 20 and 59 minutes long. And the topics keep changing on a regular basis. For a current list of BBC 5 live podcasts, click this link.

In my opinion, this is a clever use of the word ‘podcast’ to help engage specialist shows with their intended audiences. And it works. On a more prosaic level, the BBC has for a number of years offered its mainstream strands as subscription podcasts. One of my favourites is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4.

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The live version is at 0900hrs on a Thursday morning (during university term time – of course). The edited repeat airs at 2130hrs that same evening, but the full version is quickly available as a podcast on my ‘phone via my subscription. For the complete archive of over 800 editions follow this link.

I recall a stand-up comedian once joking that they’d had a nightmare, and had woken up in the In Our Time studio – with Melvyn Bragg asking them a question about which they knew absolutely nothing. That’s a definition if ‘being scared’ that makes me chuckle.

Elsewhere, one of my favourite podcasts is from the USA, from 2013, about the art of creating a running order for a major current-affairs talk show on National Public Radio. The radio geek in me likes the detail and scrutiny of the workings – and the stress – of a running order. I can see that others share my angst about hitting the next junction cleanly…

In England, a group of academics and radio trainers has just started a podcast about making radio. And James Cridland, a radio producer from England now settled in Australia, has a daily briefing on the world of podcasting which you may find interesting.

I’m still not convinced that this universe of audio is ‘radio’. I think I’m old-fashioned and curmudgeonly enough to insist on live broadcasting (or pre-recorded programmes scheduled for transmission by a radio station for my listening enjoyment). But having said that, this world of on-demand is a fascinating area to delve into.

One thought on “I want to return…

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