Since radio first hit the airwaves, the amount of change is nearly unquantifiable. Everything from technologically advanced switchboards, to digital transmission, to satellites, to podcasts has moved the industry a long way from where it began.
Now, in the age of Internet streaming, social media, high-powered mobile devices and other large-scale shifts in how people interact with information, community-focused radio programming has the potential for even more drastic change.
We are working not only to research that change, but also bring new ideas to fruition in stations across the country.
The Reynolds Journalism Institute and NPR-affilate station KBIA/91.3 FM have already created several innovative programs that seek to harness and test the possibilities of the Web. Shows like Intersection, Global Journalist and Views of the News combine live audio and video with social media to serve and involve new and existing audiences in every discussion.
Our overall mission is to find innovative ways for radio news operations to engage with their audiences on all platforms. We think this kind of multi-platform audience interaction is an important part of the future of radio news, and we are eager to help other stations of all sizes move forward in this direction.
New ideas for traditional programming
The RJI Radio Project so far has focused on two aspects of incorporating the power of the Web into radio news: developing multi-platform ways for audiences to get informed, and incorporating interactive tools to help them participate in the news conversation.
* Multiplatform programming What would it be like if radio stations developed programming especially for their online audiences rather than just for traditional on-air delivery? That's one of the driving questions behind the RJI Radio Project. To answer it, we've developed a framework for shows where the audience can enjoy the program however they want -- live online, on local TV, as archived video, as downloadable podcast... and, of course, via the radio. We're working hard to sort out the logistics of how to seamlessly create multiplatform programming with minimal effort.
* Interactive conversation We have been working to incorporate the tools of social media and the Web into traditional call-in discussion programming to create a new kind of virtual town square. It's all about connecting members of the audience with experts, journalists and each other. Our vision for the next generation of news programming gives audience members the opportunity to:
- Suggest coverage topics in advance;
- Share their own expertise and recommend other experts or panelists;
- Submit questions in advance or during the live program;
- Join the conversation in progress by phone, email, etc.;
- Participate in a live online chat with others in the audience while the main discussion takes place; and
- Post their comments and responses on the website afterward.
Working to help the industry
RJI is currently seeking additional radio station partners to help move the experiment forward. For more information about how we can help your radio station develop innovative online programming ideas, or add innovative ideas onto your existing efforts, please contact Futures Lab editor Reuben Stern, firstname.lastname@example.org; 573-884-9144.