So how did the AMC folks make this such a successful bow?
Well, for starters they provided a full length sneak peak of episode one on the tail end of the season wrap-up of Breaking Bad. Not only that, but if you DVR’d Breaking Bad like I did, the sneak episode of Rubicon was actually “hidden” in the Breaking Bad recording. So you didn’t need to look for it or ask for it – it was just there. And, by the way, it was provided without commercials.
When it officially debuted it did so just prior to the season premiere of Mad Men – and just after it, too. Again, it’s hard to avoid and it’s in the shadow of an existing AMC hit.
Finally, episodes – full episodes – of the show are available to stream online for free anytime.
So what’s the takeaway from all this for you, no matter what type of content you’re trying to introduce:
1. Make the content worth discovering. Nothing sinks a bad product like good advertising, the saying goes. And nothing sinks a bad product like a bad product either. As an industry – online and on-air – much more effort has to go into the quality of our content, not just its quantity.
2. Make the content impossible to avoid. Not by over-promoting it but by making it a necessary stopping point into or out of an existing hit. Want people to warm up to a new feature? Introduce it right after an existing appointment-listening hit. What, you don’t have appointment listening “hits”? Somebody needs to talk to you about PPM. Put it on the front page of your website.
Sample it when listeners click through to your stream. AMC specifically removed the necessity of choosing to watch the show because the show was simply on when we were already tuned in for something else.
3. Make the content available on demand. One of our problems in radio is that we tend to view our content in long form “podcast” segments. Just as a “hit” is not an hour of music, a “hit segment” is not an hour of morning show. We need to provide both long-form podcasts and “hits” on demand. And that leads to the last item….
4. Make short form “hits” not just long-form “albums.” Take a page from the way music is purchased nowadays. In other words, consider that a show – or a station – is an aggregation of highlights, not simply the dutiful pursuit of consistency. It’s the highlights which can be sold and promoted. It’s the highlights which can be speed-bumps between where audiences begin and where they want to end.
So let me anticipate your question….
What are these “hits” I’m describing?
This is where your creativity comes in. This is how writers take a blank page and turn it into Rubicon.
Rest assured of this much, radio’s future will be rosy in direct proportion to the creative inspiration of its content-makers, both online and on-air.
This is a time of incredible opportunity and incredible challenge.
Be up for it.