Boston Herald Radio: Big Deal or Blah Deal?

Radio trades are in a lather about the Boston Herald’s newest initiative: Boston Herald Radio.

Writes Talkers:

The concept of the full-blown, digital-age “media station” predicted and described for the past decade by Michael Harrison and other radio industry visionaries will be taking a giant leap toward coming to fruition at 6:00 am ET on August 5.  The Boston Herald newspaper is unveiling its ambitious new initiative “Boston Herald Radio” – a Boston-centric news/talk/sports radio station that will begin its life as a venue for four live three-hour shows running weekdays from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Launching at about the same time but without nearly the radio trade media fanfare is, in my opinion, a much more interesting project from the Washington Post.

Writes NetNewsCheck:

The Washington Post today launched “On Background,” an interactive, in-depth online interview show exploring Washington news topics. The show will be hosted by PostTV’s Nia-Malika Henderson.

“On Background’s” interactive format focuses on discussions before, during, and after the show with an online community of smart, engaged participants via social media. The show will run Monday-Friday at 12:30 p.m. and will showcase conversations with newsmakers, political insiders and journalists from the Post newsroom and beyond, the newspaper said. After each episode’s debut, the Post will make shorter clips and highlights available for later viewing and sharing.

So we have two initiatives spawned by media companies most famous for their newspaper brands.

The first is almost a carbon copy of a radio station, duplicating everything but the distribution channel.

The second is built for a transmedia world with an emphasis on video and social media interaction.

Now, I ask you, which is likely to gain greater traction? Which is more in tune with the direction of consumer interests and attention? Which is more inviting to more consumers? Which is vastly more “on trend”?

These are, of course, easy questions with easy answers.

Yeah, you might say, but the two announcements are intended to achieve different results. No they’re not. Both are intended to magnify relevance, attention, interaction, and monetization in a world where fewer people want to read dead trees. Any media brand has one pot of money to work with and one set of strategic priorities to execute. It’s just that some priorities are smarter than others.

The Washington Post chose to chase consumers using the media those consumers prefer in an interactive world. The Boston Herald chose to imitate radio.

I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a “media station.” Media is built to live across platforms where the arbiters of good and bad executions are consumers. Every good idea can be illustrated in a variety of media, depending on the nature of the idea and the manner in which consumers want to interact with or consume it.

Extending the radio metaphor to newspapers does not make newspapers better or radio bigger.

But for newspaper companies to leverage their journalistic prowess across platforms and engage consumers in that conversation, one that embraces all the media consumers want to use, not simply one isolated channel and one familiar format, that’s a positive achievement.

Advantage Washington Post.

Audio is a piece of the story, but in this age it is never the whole story. Especially not for a radio station.

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  • Matthew Freeman

    Yes, BH is taking the road most traveled, via a radio model, in starting an online outlet as an extenstion of their paper. The Washington Post has started an online outlet, too, but as a Public Access TV mixed with Facebook feature…guess what? as an extension of their local paper…So… What’s the difference if the goal is new, but, local listeners/viewers? You favor WP because it’s more visual? It’s uses Social Media? Apparently, so does BHRadio according to their website:

    Listeners can call in, take part in ongoing live chats, comment through a Twitter feed, take polls on important topics and react to columns and blogs written by show hosts.
    Maybe the decions were based on city culture/trends? DC is more tech savvy than Bostonians? I don’t know. I say more traction=great content over distribution choice.

    Sidenote, the “On Background” host is not that good. It’s uncomfortable to watch. Unless that’s what the Post is going for to attract viewers.

  • The show host for On Background may not be your cup of tea but she’s a familiar TV talking head.
    I disagree that it’s strictly about great content over distribution choice. If that were true, then nobody would advertise on the radio. They’d just all create their own podcasts 🙂

  • I should add that that social media description sounds exactly…like radio! Or at least the way every news broadcaster frames their interactivity.

    And certainly this teaser video spells it out, and it’s spelled r-a-d-i-o http://youtu.be/2x8JggiAitU

  • Jay Sterin

    I am going with BIG DEAL. Newspapers and Magazines for that matter are content machines. You always say great content wins. Transforming it into digital audio as the Herald is doing is only because those already producing audio, generally speaking, lack these three things. The content, the focus on distribution, and the push to digital.

  • Robert Lyons

    I think that the major factor for both will be how mobile-first their implementation is. Neither has apps at this point: getting WP on your phone isn’t seamless, and involves their Youtube channel. BH is easy to get to through Tunein and working well.
    I agree that BH is doing a pretty literal migration of talk radio, but talk-radio is inherently more interactive than TV, and as Matthew suggests WP is emphasizing a TV model. All this may shift as they both iterate and innovate, e.g. an app with a ‘speed dial the show’ button.
    But four hours hours into the launch, I’m giving the Advantage to BH. Can’t wait to see how the game unfolds.

  • Okay, then the race is on!

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