There was a time when this is how we saw radio studios. it was a webcam bolted to the wall that might update every few minutes, or if we were lucky it was a live stream. It was rarely in-sync with the audio but that wasn’t the point we could SEE RADIO HAPPENING… and that was exciting, or at least was for radio geeks. Maybe not so much for everyone else. A lot has happened since then and these visual practices are an ever large part of what radio does and we’ve got a lot better at it. It’s not a bolt-on for geeks. It’s not something done to show what toys we have. It’s part of the landscape.
TV is 80% logistics, 10% shouting, 9% journalism, 1% popping on a bit of make-up. The necessary evils of the least forgiving medium.
Radio, on the other hand, is different. Radio studios are different and whilst they are becoming more visually aware they still present a different experience for the guest. They feel more friendly, maybe because radio people are friendly. Static systems in studios, like Virtual Director, sit in the background recording everything from cameras that cut automatically between microphone positions. The production staff don’t need to do anything until something happens that warrants posting on social media.
In this Boris is caught on the hop and camera catches it. This then gets quickly shared online and can easily be shared with partners like Sky News for TV. This is great for brand LBC. Other Global stations like Capital, Heart and Radio X are all working with visuals, in studios designed with cameras in mind. Like the new Radio 1/1 Xtra studios at NBH they are well lit and look good on camera. This is, of course, radio for social media. Audio is hard to share, but video is much easier and is now very much part of the fabric of both Facebook and Twitter. Video could be short and snappy and simply sit as Facebook fodder to drive listeners to the station. These teasers are becoming better and better and there’s a clear sense in work from both BBC 5 Live and LBC that this work is not only aiming to tell great transmedia stories but is also recognising the need to be more visual.
If you’ve not already seen it, the NPR interview with Barack Obama is a great example of what you can do within radio using pictures.
This is of course a RADIO interview. You probably wouldn’t shoot a TV interview like this and that’s the point. Visualised radio is about supplementing the radio experience – taking it into new spaces, engaging new audiences and offering visual materials which can be shared as social capital. Of course it means radio stations need new people, or radio people need new skills but that’s always been the case. Radio has always needed people to take it to new places and new audiences. I doubt that anyone would sit and watch a radio show, but let’s face it there are many shows on TV that replicate what radio is doing but with sets. Move the same show to radio and it can equally dynamic, challenging and cost less. I’m not suggesting that letting radio people make TV is the future, but that video is going to be more and more a part of what we do in radio. Done well it can be great and even get other radio stations talking about you…. like this from Radio 1.
The trick, of course, is doing it well. Make it worth the time and make something people want to see and share. I am sure there will be those amongst you who are now saying ‘Ah, but this isn’t radio is it’ and of course you are right. Well, partly. It is part of the practices of contemporary radio stations. It’s a communication tool and a way they engage audiences in new places. It remediates what has already been aired and drives audience towards new things. it’s all content and that’s our business now.