Radical Program Format

This post covers the Style Guide for our program format and how we got there.

A few years ago, I took stock of “what is wrong with radio,” and came up with this list:

  • Block programming — the same programs at the same time every day.
  • Same voices — the same people saying the same things every day.
  • Same music — country, Christian, hip-hop, AC, urban, whatever…
  • Choked with really crappy, locally-produced advertisements.

Sidebar — Does this sound familiar?

“We offer fast, friendly, reliable service at affordable prices.  Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is here Monday to Friday, nine until six, Saturday, ten until four, for your shopping convenience.  Quality and selection — GUARANTEED low prices — are just SOME of the things you can depend on AND TRUST from your locally-owned and operated value center.  Convenient payment plans available, some restrictions apply on limited time offer, so call, drop-in and experience the difference that service, selection, and quality makes.”  (Thank you, Gair Maxwell — yes, I bought his book.)  Radio ads in Delaware just ROT.

Sorry for the sidebar.  Back to the list:

  • Bad juvenile humor.  Pick any morning show.  Hey, I’m not against juvenile humor, but when it’s predictable or rude, it’s stupid.  That’s not who I am.  You’ve lost me and most of the people I know.
  • Automated, satellite-based music and hosts.  (Hurricane Sandy hits and Bill-FM is still playing “It’s a Beautiful Day.”)
  • Super-narrow music playlists generated in New York, Nashville, or Los Angeles.  Yes, Delaware has LOCAL music.
  • The left bashing the right, and the right bashing the left — both with their ears stopped up.
  • Shows that start just after the news and end about an hour later, or three hours later.
  • Same programs in the same markets all across the dial.  It’s like Subway has franchised radio.
  • One hundred, three-hour baseball games in every market, every year, all across the entire country.  Come on — can’t you come up with ANYTHING better than that?
  • Then there’s what we DON’T hear — medical breakthroughs, scientific achievements, new research, local organizations sponsoring local events and activities, STORIES not just news.  On and on.

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Now, before the wrong people start taking this personally (like they’re really going to care what I say anyway…), you need to know that quite a bit of the above DOES NOT APPLY TO WDEL-AM.  This is the one shining ray on Delaware’s radio dial.  WDEL has a great staff, understanding executives, great support from businesses and the community, and a full complement of listeners.  Peter, Mellany, Allan, Al, Rick, and Pete (the boss) really do great radio — day in and day out.

Science Radio Station

As a SCIENCE radio station, Radio Newark takes the above programming guidelines and blows them up.  Wrecks ’em.  Breaks every rule that’s up there.

Except for the common theme of entertainment, education and inspiration, we have no single topic and no real schedule.  News at the top of the hour, and around half-past too, but there is no pattern to the programming in between.

We have no host.  At all.  Not even robotic ones.  (We hope to, soon, though, because we feel this is important.)

We don’t do block programming — we do the opposite.  Our snackable content varies in length from one or two minutes up to ten or twelve on average, but each piece is different from the next.  From a different producer, on a different topic, with a different story to tell.

And we search out every possible program of interest, from whatever network or organization it may be produced.  We have as of August 18, 2014 signed, formal and informal rebroadcast or affiliation agreements with sixty-two networks, producers, and content sources.

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Our Style Guide reads like this:

  • You are not likely to hear our programming on another radio station anywhere on Earth.  We are unique.
  • We broadcast science stories and science news, so we many not be the radio station for you.  In fact, we’re probably aren’t.  We’re OK with that.
  • Our segments are short because we’re busy.  Perhaps you’ve got the time to sit and listen to something for hours.  I don’t.  Neither do most of the people I hang out with.  We’ve got stuff going on.
  • Because of all that stuff, our M-F schedules are pretty similar.  Breakfast, school, work, home, etc.  I listen to Radio Newark at about the same time every day, but I don’t want to hear the same stuff.  So we play different stuff all the time.
  • Spoken word programming, because we get the other kind in different ways.  (Pandora, probably.)
  • In addition to entertainment, we want to educate and inspire.  We think those are worthy goals.

This post isn’t finished, yet, but I’m going to make it public anyway.  There’s much more to say on this topic.

Steve Worden, General Manager

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