The everlasting relevance of radio
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
You saw the Super Bowl, right? My fellow 49ers fans may cringe at the very thought of attempting to recall that fateful day in January, but I assure you, it happened, and it was awesome, despite the actual score of the game (and that was most definitely holding in the end zone!).
As a media connoisseur, I thoroughly enjoy the commercials that air during the big game almost as much as the actual contest afield. For advertisers and marketers, there is no bigger night, and it’s always interesting to see what the best and brightest in the creative industries have come up with to match the moment.
This year, one particular commercial stood out to me as far and above more persuasively effective than the rest, and not for the reasons you probably think.
It wasn’t the buxom race-car-driving supermodels, nor the karmically charged goat or the Oreo-inspired quiet library brawl – all cute and entertaining in an “Oh look, I just spilled more salsa on my replica jersey” kind of way.
No, to me the best of the best that the advertising world had to offer this year was an ad by Dodge, featuring a simple audio essay about the resilience of the American farmers by the late, great Paul Harvey.
It was ironic that the most effective TV ad in the era of incredible production capabilities was the simplest ad of the lot. And that it came from the world of radio.
Paul Harvey was a lifelong radio man, one of the best the broadcasting industry has ever seen, across all mediums.
Why? Because he wrote and delivered his stories in such a compelling, communicative way that you could not help but stop and listen to what was being said. His voice, pacing and inflection all conspired to give his measured words special significance above the roar and chatter of multiple media outlets and daily distractions.
When Paul Harvey first wrote and delivered his famous oratory “So God Made a Farmer” in 1978, he infused it with everything that made radio, his chosen profession, great.
Radio is, and always has been, the theater of the mind. It allows us to use our own creative imaginations to re-create that which is described over the air in frames painted from our own worldviews.
Unfortunately, the radio industry has been under quite a strain for years now. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated the industry, allowing just a few corporations to own the majority of the stations, in turn homogenizing much of its unique regional sounds and styles. Automation technology attempted to render the live, relevant local DJ virtually obsolete in many markets, though many stations have since seen the errors in those ways. Then, there is competition for our ever-shrinking attention spans from iPods, satellite radio, and Internet jukebox services like Pandora and Spotify.
But fear not, radio fans! The evolution will be broadcast! There is a reason that radio is still as important as ever, and why, though the outlets may change, the act of broadcasting a well-written, impactful story in audible form will remain vital for decades to come.
Because just as Paul Harvey so eloquently expressed when he posited as to why God Made Farmers, I say that God Made Radio Broadcasters for similar reasons, and we’ve got a universe of interesting stories for your mind to ponder happening all over the dial right now.
Corby Anderson is an adjunct instructor with Colorado Mountain College’s Isaacson School for New Media. He manages RadioCMC (93.9 FM and radiocmc.com), and is teaching two upcoming CMC workshops: Basic Audio Mixing Principles for Podcasting (March 1-2) and On the Air: The History of Radio Production (April 26-27).
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