There are a lot of different thoughts on how radio should sound these days. But most programmers will agree that the station that has that “local” sound is most often the one that wins, assuming all things like signal, promotions, budgets and the like are equal.
Frankly, I don’t think “live” matters as much, except where a drive time shift is in place or in a daypart and format where the audience expects the show to be live.
So what does “staying local” mean? Frankly it means more than just saying the names of towns and cities and parks and local businesses in a voice tracked show.
It means knowing what’s going on in your area that day and relating to it.
It means knowing what your listeners are doing and relating to that.
Yes, it means relating to that day’s weather. No…you don’t have to do the current temperature. But if it was a nice day, saying “Wasn’t it a nice day today? Wow! I got my bike out and rode 10 miles and now I’m paying for it with the sunburn!” localizes your show with the audience. They can relate to what you’re talking about (even if you didn’t take the bike ride).
Right now, I’m voice tracking an all night show on the top station in my town. I encourage people to tell me where they’re listening on the station’s Facebook page and call out the names of people who like my daily posts. And especially if they comment.
I have a “retro request” feature that allows me to solicit requests via an “open mike” feature on our free app. We’re just getting the audience broken into this. But, when people leave me requests, you can be damn sure I will play their request and use their request on the air. And yes, I actually play requests! (If it’s not in the station’s library and I have it at home and assuming the request fits our format and is familiar, I bring the CD in and dub it into my “personal” music category.) Do you think a song that fits played at 3 in the morning will kill your station? Neither do I.
Yes, I do sendups to local restaurants and truck stops and businesses that are open all night. We have a major Air Force Base in my town. And you know it is not asleep at night. So saying hi to the Base and talking with the military folks can certainly fit the show.
Not long ago, we have a huge storm roll through overnight. I mentioned right at the beginning of my show that because of the potential for a storm, “we may join our (sister TV station) for storm coverage if needed this morning.” And it happened about 3:15 am when the tornado warnings came.
The listeners participate. I am “in the moment” on air every day in every hour and every break in that show.
Do you think anyone really knows that I’m at home in bed when they’re hearing that?
That’s what “staying local” is all about.