Radio emerges as a tech, personality topic

For years, radio has taken a backseat to TV - and, more recently, the Internet - when it comes to obtaining press interest. Yet, thanks to the influence of political chat, as well as a host of new technologies, radio is re-emerging as a hot and influential medium for other reporters to cover.

For years, radio has taken a backseat to TV – and, more recently, the Internet – when it comes to obtaining press interest. Yet, thanks to the influence of political chat, as well as a host of new technologies, radio is re-emerging as a hot and influential medium for other reporters to cover.

Although there are fewer reporters covering radio in print media than just a few years ago, many outlets have a media correspondent that looks at local radio trends, says Michele Clarke, MD with Brainerd Communicators. Those reporters are likely covering the prevalent media trend of radio shifting from a local medium to a national one, she adds.

“Coverage of radio has been a national story for much of the past five years,” Clarke says. “There's somebody at The Wall Street Journal and at The New York Times, as well as plenty of trades and bloggers covering this [arena] nationally.”

Although many radio-focused media stories look at the business side, there are also many stories on radio personalities, ranging from political fixtures like Rush Limbaugh and Laura Schlessinger to Howard Stern and sports host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, notes Michael Harrison, publisher of Brainerd Communicators, a leading talk-radio trade magazine.

“Music doesn't make news; personalities make news, and most of the people on radio who have any sort of cultural impact are doing one form of talk radio or another,” he says.

Although more than 235 million consumers still listen to their radios regularly, the medium often gets an unfair rap as a bygone technology.

In reality, however, radio can easily be included in technology stories, says Dennis Wharton, EVP for media relations at the National Association of Broadcasters.

“The rap by some is that radio is yesterday's technology,” he says. “But with radio moving onto Web sites, and [with] the arrival of HD radio, we're trying to position it as a futuristic technology.”

Another well-covered topic is HD Radio, the shift by terrestrial stations from analog to digital, which enables local stations to provide listeners with real-time traffic reports and to broadcast up to three channels for every FM signal. Clarke, who represents the HD Digital Radio Alliance, says that much like TV's shift to digital, HD Radio is triggering plenty of new coverage opportunities.

“Most of the newspapers in the 67 markets where we've rolled out HD Radio did full-page stories,” she says, adding that because the technology features advantages such as tagging a song from a HD Radio station to an iPod, it has turned radio into a gadget story as well. “There's plenty of interest from the technology press – such as CNET, which regularly reviews new HD radios – as well as from automotive news and other reporters who cover the car industry.”

Pitching… Radio
  • Pitch the technology – the advent of HD Radio is a breakthrough that can be leveraged to get local reporters to take another look at emerging products
  • The battle between Sirius XM radio on the satellite side and traditional terrestrial companies that are pushing HD Radio, such as Clear Channel, is a business story that the industry might not like, but it's one that reporters will follow
  • Talk radio is now personality driven, so leverage local celebrities to craft a market-by-market campaign

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