Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Radio Blank

We were driving with a friend's ten-year-old recently on some errands, and to make the 40-minute trip more pleasant, tuned the satellite receiver to Radio Disney.

Now I've been in radio a long time, and it was revelatory to listen to the station. Our children have moved past the Disney stage, and so I knew none of the artist they talked about, nor the songs that they played. Listening to the high-energy patter without any emotional attachment or even knowledge of the artists was revelatory.
"This is [blank]. Coming up next on Radio Disney we'll have an exclusive talk with [blank]. And she'll be playing her hit song [blank] live in the studio! And remember, [blank] is part of the [blank]tour hitting your town soon! And now here's [blank] the second single from the new album by [blank]."
My ignorance made the details irrelevant, letting me focus on the larger structure of the patter. They were patterns I recognized quite well, and I have to say they were very well-done.

It would not surprise me to learn that Radio Disney's breaks are tightly scripted. Not that they sounded stiff, but there was never a moment of questionable content, and never was anyone at a loss for words. Even the fourteen and fifteen-year-old artists interviewed seemed remarkably articulate.

I enjoyed the experience for another reason -- it brought home to me how much content is colored by our likes and dislikes. Fill those blanks with artists and songs I like, and I have an enjoyable and engaging listening experience. Replace them with ones I don't like, and the same patter becomes mindless and irritating drivel.

Content may be king, but context may be the prime minster.

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