Yes, Public Radio Shows Can Do Cool CwF+RtB Experiments Too
from the keep-it-up dept
One of my favorite radio programs/podcasts is Radiolab. They do absolutely amazing storytelling on really interesting things. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a Radiolab program and then not gone off to talk to someone about it. Their most recent full episode (they also do “shorts”) is a really fascinating exploration of color. The final section, on why Homer (of Iliad & Odyssey fame, not the Simpsons character) never mentioned the color blue is simply brilliant.
That said, it’s also been interesting in the last month or so to watch the Radiolab crew start to embrace some of the ideas that we’ve been exploring for some time, concerning CwF+RtB (Connecting with Fans and giving them a Reason to Buy). I first noticed this about a month ago, when Radiolab announced its Lab Partners premium offering. Just as we’ve seen with artists who offer up content for free, but give people “subscription” style offering for premium features (sorta like our own Crystal Ball offering), Radiolab is giving people a ton of extras if they subscribe.
Some will argue, of course, that this is nothing more than a modern update to the traditional patronage model of public radio — wherein they beg for pledges every so often and you might get a tote bag if you spend enough. And, clearly, the ideas come from the same general place. But there are some key differences — mainly that the premium features aren’t worthless tote bags, but are actually related to the show, and include things like access. So, for example, you can join an editorial chat with the Radiolab team, or, my favorite:
Toss Your Name in the Hat: Enter your first name to a pool of names that we’ll draw from whenever we need to use a made-up character name in a story.
Like many of these kinds of offerings, Radiolabs has a couple tiers to let fans self-select. My one quibble is that I think there aren’t enough tiers — and there isn’t a really low entry-level tier. In watching these kinds of experiments, at least having a very low level of support as an option can really help get more people involved and build up the buzz for a program. But, either way, it’s neat.
Of course, that’s not all Radiolab is doing. They really are doing a lot on the “CwF” side of things too. They’ve done a number of touring live shows (where they often bring along great musicians, like Zoe Keating). But they’ve also just launched a remix contest for the show. Remix contests are nothing new in the music world, but I’ve never heard of one for a radio show/podcast before. But they’re doing the same basic thing — releasing the stems, allowing you to re-score the music, etc.
If you’ve never listened to a Radiolab production, you might not understand why it would ever make sense to remix a radio show. But, the level of production that goes into every Radiolab episode is astounding. And they do a great job with how they reveal stories and plots. I’m honestly not sure that anyone could actually do a better job editing together an episode of Radiolab than host Jad Abumrad, but I’m actually really curious to hear what other fans can come up with.
As a brief aside, last fall, another great radio/podcast story teller, Ira Glass, from This American Life, did a thorough writeup of why Radiolab is so amazing, and it goes into some amount of detail about how Jad and Robert put together an episode. I think anyone seeking to remix an episode of Radiolab might learn a bunch of useful things from reading it.
Either way, I always think it’s great to see more and more people in various areas start embracing these basic concepts and doing really cool things with them. At this stage, it’s really just a bunch of experiments, but that’s how amazing new things happen.