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Boston Herald Radio: Big Deal or Blah Deal?

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

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.

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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