Flipping the Switch

Posted on March 28, 2011

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Last September I wrote a post about a frightening feature available to listeners streaming music from Slacker Radio; an on-off swith for airtalent content.

Take a second to imagine terrestrial radio listeners having that option. I recommend breathing into a brown paper bag if you are starting to hyperventilate. I’ve never tried it but that’s what they always do on TV.

That post led to a brief emal exchange on the topic with Mat Bates, senior radio program manager at Slacker Radio.

Anyone from the alt-radio world may notice the distinctive first name with only one “t” and flashback to a smart young programmer and airtalent named Mat Diablo who spent some time at KRQZ in Reno and hosted mornings at 91X in San Diego.

It turns out that radio, even when you add in digital-only operations like Slacker, is still a small world; the two are indeed one in the same.

Finally, nearly six months later, Bates and I were able to get on the phone and shoot the proverbial you-know-what about the industry, on the condition that he was speaking only as a fan, and former member, of the terrestrial radio world, and not acting in any capacity as an official representative of Slacker Radio.

With that clause noted, I held my breath and asked him just how many people were exercising the options to turn off the talent.

 “The amount of people that utilize the DJ off option is negligible. Having non-musical content is beneficial beyond the shadow of a doubt. It provides context to the listening experience.”

Whew.

There is however one caveat. Isn’t there always?

He explained the content on Slacker Radio is carefully refined to fit the context of the service. He is very focused on making sure the content helps the listener enjoy and identify with the music. Having hosts who understand the music and lifestyle of the channel they work on is a unique competitive advantage Slacker has over services like Pandora that play music without quantifying it for the listener.

“There are no rambling three minute DJ cuts devoid of information and content,” says Bates.

So, once again the leson is, content matters. If your show is compelling the listeners won’t flip the on-off switch.

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