Too Many Hats, Not Enough Heads: Should Radio Invest in Dedicated Digital People Too?
While reading one of the radio newsletters I subscribe to and saw an item about a station looking for a digital PD. Jobs like this have been slowly popping up on my radar for the last few years and they're all looking for someone to oversee all of the a station's or cluster's digital outlets: websites, social media pages, streams, etc. I've been a proponent of a position like this for quite some time. However, I think that the job might be too big for just one person to tackle. I've often talked about a digital production director to work hand-in-hand with a digital programmer. So, what exactly would a digital production director do?
Back at my last job, I took it upon myself to start coordinating video production for our stations. Everything from pre-rolls that ran before a stations' audio stream began to play, to full-on production of in-studio artist performances, morning show stunts, video recaps/proposals for sales, and even TV Spots to trade out airtime with the local TV stations. As programming and sales began to take notice of what I was capable of producing, the demand for these services grew exponentially. Proving the adage taught to us by the film Field of Dreams, "If you build it…they will come." Unfortunately, with evolving corporate mandates and protocols on web and social media posts, suddenly a fun side-project to keep me busy between image refreshes and national contests was starting to take up most of my time, become work, and thus less fun.
Before I left my job this past June, I let my Ops Manager know that I felt there was a need for a staff member to carry out this type of work. Perhaps not right away, but the time was coming in the not too distant future. Now I see that others are finding a need to employ at least one full-time person to do a lot of what I had been doing as part of my routine as a creative services director. My advice, don't dump this on someone in your group who already wears a lot of hats. This is a specialized position that requires a great deal of dedication and skill. A commitment that is more than just 9-to-5, forty hours a week. This is a 24/7/365 endeavor that needs a passionate, motivated, tech savvy individual.
As our business changed at the turn of this past century, the entry-level on-air positions were virtually eliminated. Radio's "farm system" was essentially put out to pasture. A digital production person might just be the right position for a young talent who's interested in becoming a personality in radio to get their start. After all, they would be gaining experience in attracting and entertaining the audience by directly interacting with them as they maintain the station's social media accounts. They could be creating video content featuring themselves that allows them to show off their personalities and hone their presentation skills. Finally, the people of this generation have grown up with blogs, social media and web video. They are the prime people to attract their peers and help breathe life into our medium through digital outlets.
So back to my initial question, what would a digital production director do? Well, they would help create the content that a digital PD would "program". You'd need someone who was well versed in social media. They would be responsible for helping their digital PD monitor and maintain the stations' Twitter, Facebook and other social media pages. They would also need to be able to do some basic graphic design (i.e. creating station related meme's, logos for contesting, etc). Video editing and the ability to work a camera is also key. They would need to be able to compose a shot professionally and then make content that would look as "unprofessional" as possible to maintain their street cred. And finally, that X-Factor, creativity. This is the stuff that can't be taught. Which is why as a digital PD, you should be scouring YouTube, Tumblr, & Twitter for those people that are already doing creative stuff that gets attention and recruiting them.
If radio truly wants to become a digital medium, the powers-that-be need to starting thinking digitally. The future is here. And your next superstar jock's name won't start with "Cadillac" or "The Real Deal" but with an '@' or a '#'.