How to Write Better Radio

shutterstock_408231010Would you pay to watch a movie that had no discernible script or real content? What if it consisted of Megan Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johannsson, and Channing Tatum just hanging out in a room? While it may be pleasing to watch, that movie would be a box office failure. Writing good content is crucial to producing good media, especially for radio, where audio content is the only output. This may seem like a challenge since there is no one specific format for radio scripts, however, there are simple guidelines you can follow to write them better.

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of radio isn’t totally scripted. Then why are you reading this article, you ask? Well, even in those cases, a script is still an integral part of production. The key to writing for radio is sticking to a timeline and keeping it succinct and organized. For music radio, which is generally more informal, it may be more efficient to use short bulletpoints. News and talk radio have a lot more structure, so an outline with notes would be fitting. Highlighting your talking points and keywords for reference is an easy way of ensuring that your show runs smoothly.

Regardless of what format your radio show is, keep it elementary—having a beginning, middle, and end is necessary for any script. A good place to start is by introducing yourself and any co-hosts you may have. Mention any special guests at some point during the start of the show as well, ideally before the first break, and then reintroduce them before their segment. Create a “roadmap” by giving a quick rundown of the show that day that sets up your story and provides context without giving too much away.

An obvious but oft-forgotten aspect of writing for radio is that you’re writing for ears, not eyes. The way that people listen to speech is different from the way they would watch a movie or read a book, and a stiff, forced monologue can sound like nails on a chalkboard. The key is writing a script that sounds natural when spoken aloud. Essentially, skip the academic abstract and write how you would naturally speak. The more natural you sound in narrating your show, the more possible it is for a listeners to connect and engage with you.

The best writers of radio (or basically anything involving dialogue) have a grasp on how real people have conversations and how that can be translated to text. Go to a coffee shop and eavesdrop—yes, this is actually being encouraged—on peoples’ casual conversations. What are they saying? How are they saying it? How do they casually transition from topic to topic? Is anybody taking part in insider trading? Take note of these things as a third party and apply them when writing your script.

One issue with bridging the gap between relaxed, conversational speech and scripted speech is pacing. In regular conversation, we tend to drag our sentences and add embellishments. This doesn’t work when you have an allotted time to cover a certain number of topics. This also applies to natural pauses and breaks in daily speech. In radio, there is little room for conversational lulls—if you run out of things to say, your audience may run out of the patience to listen.

A basic rule for writing a well-paced script is to be as concise as possible. Leave out flowery descriptions and run-on sentences loaded with unnecessary words. Use the active voice and remain in present tense unless you are reporting or discussing past events. Be present, be energetic, and keep your transitions smooth, not abrupt. Radio scripts should be structured, not rigid—by keeping things succinct and to the point, it leaves room for the speaker to expand and add their own commentary. Just make sure there is enough material to work with!

 

The Internet Didn’t Kill the Radio Star

 

It is December 1999. The world is preradio-blogparing for catastrophic doom in the form of technological disaster, also known as Y2K. Even the likes of Time Magazine releases an issue on the inevitable meltdown of society that comes with the meltdown of computers, which were never programmed to denote the year beyond ‘99. Now fast forward a few months. Computers, electricity, communications, and society are all still around, much to our collective relief. The radio is still an incredibly popular medium in which we get our news, listen to our favorite stations, and figure out how to avoid the hour-long wait in traffic along the Midtown Tunnel.

But the times are changing—slowly, but surely, more and more of the ways we consume our news and tunes are moving to the web. In the year 2000, only 2% of the American population listened to online radio. In 2016, a study by Edison Research found that the number had jumped to a whopping 50%, with 136 million unique listeners tuning in every week and 160 million per month. That number is even higher in the UK, with a study conducted by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) stating that 57% of the UK population tuned in to digital radio every week in the same year.

Internet radio broadcasts and podcasts have literally been taking over the airwaves. This is not to say that radio as we once knew it is dead. Rather, radio streaming is revolutionizing the way we receive news, listen to and curate the music we want to listen to, keep up to date on pop culture, and even how we consume stories—talk radio and fictional programming on the radio have been around since the 1920s and don’t seem to be going anywhere soon. The difference in 2016 is that the listener has a vast amount of freedom in deciding what, when, and where. All the freedom to choose and no limits on where or how often makes for a happy consumer.

Unlike traditional or ‘terrestrial’ radio, internet radio services like the ones offered by Primcast can be accessed globally and across all web-enabled devices at any time. Live broadcasts can be archived by the broadcaster and streamed by the listener at their leisure. This mobility and ease of access makes it apparent why half of America is getting their radio fix online, and beyond that, proves that radio is here to stay. In fact, the average listener in 2016 tunes in to up to 21 hours of live radio per week.

Consider the popularity of “Welcome to Night Vale”, a twice-monthly science fiction podcast that can be streamed on TuneIn, which works in tandem with Primcast’s servers. It is so popular, in fact, that it surpassed NPR’s “This American Life” to become the most downloaded podcast on iTunes, achieving more than 150,000 downloads in a single week. It is arguable that this format of sci-fi longform storytelling has not gotten this much attention since Orson Welles’ broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938, during which distressed listeners thought they were listening to a real, apocalyptic news broadcast. Thankfully, neither Y2K nor this imagined apocalypse were able to wipe out the radio as a medium for storytelling, especially not with the internet around.

For the majority of people, however, the radio is how we listen to music. Whether it’s listening to the songs and genres we already love or discovering something new, music has been keeping us tuned in for almost as long as radio has been around. In the past few years, however, listening to music on the web has undergone a major facelift. Over 50 million people subscribe to some sort of music streaming service. This kind of streaming, which is tangentially different from traditional radio, has become massively popular because consumers crave highly personalized content with which they feel they are curating their own ‘brand’. The same thing applies on a broader spectrum for businesses and hospitality services, which can build a brand with dedicated, global, and accessible broadcasting.

The best way to promote your online radio station

The most common problem that online radio station owners have is getting enough listeners. Even though many of these radio station owners have websites and place their streams for every website visitor to listen to, it is still not enough to fill their station’s listener slots. Probably the best way to increase the popularity of an online radio is to submit it to a number of well-known online radio station directories.

There are many ways in which you could promote your station however, submitting it to online directories is the cheapest and most effective way. Internet radio directories are a quick way to promote your station and get more listeners. You can find websites who share entire list of directories where you can submit your station. These directories have thousands of visitors eager to find new and good quality music, many of which can become your clients.

 There are probably thousands of radio directories out there. However, this doesn’t mean that you should subscribe to all of them. Not only will this take a lot of your time but not all radio directories are worth subscribing to. You can start out with only a hand full of directories to subscribe to and increase the number as you go along, Whenever you feel the need to bring more listeners to your radio station.

Submitting your station to many directories will help you promote your online radio station the right way by exposing your logo, name and link to your website in all the places where listeners gather in search of a radio station.

Listing your online radio station on iTunes radio

If you want to have many listeners for your online radio station you will definitely need to submit your radio station to iTunes for inclusion into their station listing. Even though many people try to do this and gain the much needed exposure, very few actually manage to get a listing on iTunes. For the best change to get your radio station accepted into iTunes you need to follow the below guidelines.

Before we get to the actual steps you need to take in order to get your station listed, you need to be mindful of the increased expenses that come with more listeners. While a listing in iTunes will definitely bring you more listeners, you can also expect to be required to pay extra for the listener slots but also for licensing fees and other expenses.

An important thing to notice when submitting your station for inclusion into iTunes is that your stream needs to broadcast at a birtrate of at least 128 kbps. Your station can list only one bitrate and one genre so make sure you get everything right from the start. Also, stations that use other than their name to be listed higher in the directory or even to get listed twice will automatically get rejected.

When it comes to adding, editing or troubleshooting your listing you need to keep to the following guidelines:

Your emails must have one of the subject lines from below:

a) Station submission: (station name)

b) Station update: (station name)

c) Other inquiry: (brief description of the issue)

If you have multiple stations listed in iTunes then you can send information concerning one or all of them in the same email. However, make sure to attach the needed information in MSWord or Pages when submitting information for more than 3 radio stations.

It is sensible that iTunes will only accept radio inclusion requests only from the contact they have on file or from the radio station owner. Therefore listeners, friends and auxiliary station personnel cannot make requests on behalf of a radio station.

When submitting your request for radio station inclusion make sure to provide all the requested information. This means you need to write the following:

  • Your iTunes Store login account or email address

  • Your legitimate radio station name

  • The City/State or Country of origin

  • The language your radio station is broadcasting in

  • The type of audio stream (whether it is MP3, AAC or AAC+)

  • Station genre (you are only allowed one genre per radio station)

  • Include the address of your radio station’s website

  • Provide a short description for your radio station

  • Contact details such as name, phone number and email address

  • Include the bitrate you are streaming at (you are only allowed to include one bitrate per radio station)

  • You will also need to provide the radio tation URL or IP (again, only one per radio station)

When requesting an update for you radio station you will also need to provide some information. Therefore, your request needs to contain the following information:

  • The radio station name (same as it is written in iTunes)

  • The name, phone number and email of the contact person

  • Write specifically the update you would like to make for your radio station. Attention: do not resubmit information that is remaining unchanged.

Before sending your submission request to iTunes you need to ensure that your radio station works properly in iTunes. To do this you need to open iTunes, select ‘Opend Audio Stream’ from the Advanced menu and from there enter your audio stream URL.

It usually takes up to 5 business days to hear back from iTunes. Always be sure to respect the guidelines or they may even ban your radio station without the possibility of every including it in iTunes again.

Author : Lucian Paun

Automate your online radio station using Auto DJ software

Whether you are looking to build your very first online radio station or you are looking to automate the one you already have, Auto DJ is the service you can’t do without. If you didn’t already know, Auto DJ is an online radio automation software that you can attach to any SHOUTcast hosting account.

Auto DJ brings many benefits to any radio station. The most important benefit that radio station owners will gain access to is the complete automation feature. This means that radio owners will no longer need to stay at their computers in order to stream online. As a radio station owner you will not even need to leave your computer on the whole time you are streaming. So if for nothing else, by attaching an Auto DJ account to your radio hosting you will be saving on your electrical bill.

Auto DJ will also allow you to create playlists and schedule them however you see fit. This way you can have total control over what and when your online radio station will stream. You can even control your radio station from your mobile device since the Auto DJ can be accessed from the web-based control panel.

So to sum it all up, by attaching an Auto DJ account to your online radio you will be saving on your electrical bill, have complete control over your radio station (what and when something is going to play in you radio station), radio station automation and seamlessly switching between a live source and your playlists.

How to get more listeners to your radio station

Just about every online radio station owner has the same problem: getting enough listeners to connect to their streams. However, why do you think that some radio stations have all the listeners while others struggle with only a handful? The truth is that virtually anyone can have a broad audience if they knew how to make themselves noticed.

If you want to have more listeners tuning in to your online radio then the first thing you could do is to make sure that your music and live shows are what people are looking for. If you can’t provide your audience with quality air time then there is no reason why they should come to your station in the first place.

The first step to making yourself noticed is by building a website for the radio station. Nowadays you don’t even need to hire a web designer for this task since there are so many CMS (content management systems) out there that virtually do all the work for you. If you haven’t worked with a CMS before then your best bet would be using WordPress since this platform is the friendliest to work with and easy to do the maintenance once in a while. There are also many free themes that you could use for your website and customizing them is relatively easy. With minimum effort you could have your very own website up and ready. You can even embed a player on the website and have your audience listen to your station directly from the homepage. If you have no idea how to do this then you can search for this on YouTube where there are plenty very easy to follow tutorials on exactly how you can do this.

Building a website is not enough if you want people to actually come and visit. You need to spread the word about your new website on forums and social networks for starters. When you have a few people coming to your website and you will want to have even more then you will want to learn more about Search Engine Optimization. Until then however, you should stick to the basics and settle for what you can get right now.

Local marketing never seems to go out of style. Many companies use the most basic types of marketing even today simply because they work. You can do the same in your city by have a few people spread flyers.

Word of mouth is another old school but very effective marketing technique which you can use successfully with your online radio station. This technique works even better when used on the web. Social networks can create a viral effect if the material is good enough so make sure that your radio station has real value to provide to your listeners.

Don’t quite have the time for your own radio station? Try the alternative : Music-streaming services

The internet hasn’t ignored the busy ones among us either! For their musical delight and their busy schedule, music-streaming services were invented! It’s a cheap, time saving alternative to listening to the music you like without having to manage a real radio station. Most of these services are for free, within a number of listening hours – even better for the truly busy fellows, and for the rest, the subscriptions are at a reasonable price. Here are three of the more popular services on this kind listed by price.

Pandora

Offers you personalized 40 hours of free, advertising-supported music per month. After that, you can either wait for the next month or choose between the two payment methods available: 99 cents for the rest of that calendar month – for the same type of services, with unlimited listening hours, or $36 to upgrade to Pandora One for one full year – unlimited listening hours every month, no advertising, no daily skip limit, higher audio quality streams etc.

Last.fm

A bit more complex and expensive – for those not living in UK, US or Germany – this music website uses Audioscrobbler system to create your list of recommendations. It also offers a series of features that makes your experience more social : forums, private message sending and music player. For the UK, US and Germany clients, the registration is for free and unlimited, but for the other users, there’s a €3.00 per month subscription to pay after a 30 track free trial. The paid accounts offer special benefits like no advertising, priority on Last.fm server, recent visitors list.

Rhapsody

A more flexible, but definitely more expensive alternative is Rhapsody. Rather than buying individual songs, you pay a monthly fee ($9.99/month) for access to Rhapsody’s library of a nine million songs. You can then search, select and stream the music you want to listen to. The interesting thing about this website is that it offers the possibility to download tracks and listen on your MP3 player – after you have it authorized, of course. The service offers a selection of over 10 million songs, and applications for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

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