As I talk to radio and television stations across the country, one of the things that I frequently hear is a concern about where the next generation of broadcasters will come from. Once upon a time, a career in broadcasting was coveted and the talent pipeline was strong. While there are still those who aspire to be sportscasters or news anchors, for many young people, a career as a podcaster or social media influencer holds more appeal. Whether these represent realistic career paths or not is beside the point; our industry is not as sexy as it used to be, and that’s reduced the flow of incoming talent.
As interest in these career paths declines, the number of places young people can get training for these careers has also dwindled. After all, when there’s no interest in a particular curriculum, schools stop teaching that curriculum. As a result, there are fewer places to get formal training in broadcasting.
Which leaves broadcasters with two pressing questions: How can we attract new talent? And how can we ensure that this incoming talent has the necessary skills?
Fortunately, both questions have the same answer: Digital content.
Just a few decades ago, reaching a mass audience required expensive, complicated equipment, such as a printing press, a radio transmitter, or a television studio. Today, anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection has the potential to reach a large audience. One of the major trends of the internet era has been the increased affordability and accessibility of content creation and distribution tools. As a result, millions of people around the world are trying to reach the audiences that could once only be reached by broadcasters.
In other words, lots of people want to reach the mass audiences that broadcasting reaches, but they aren’t looking to broadcasting as their path to do so.
Case in point: I am a radio broadcaster with, as the saying goes, “a face for radio.” I’ve seen me on TV, and it’s not pretty. Nonetheless, as video production tools have become more affordable, I have developed an interest in producing videos and livestreaming. Before long, I was teaching myself how to create graphic overlays and set up 3-point lighting.
I did not turn to trade schools or academic institutions to teach myself these skills; instead, I turned to YouTube and Facebook. On YouTube, I found video tutorials that taught me to how to soundproof my walls and set up the processing in my Rodecaster Pro. On Facebook, I joined communities where I could learn from fellow users of eCamm Live and the Mevo Start. Granted, I was teaching myself to use prosumer equipment, not the professional equipment that real television broadcasters use. But many of the skills are the same even if the actual equipment isn’t.
Strikingly, I was learning from others who are also largely self-taught, not professional broadcasters. This a missed opportunity for broadcasters on two counts: it’s a missed opportunity to be found by potential future broadcasters, and it’s a missed opportunity to find potential future broadcasters.
Today, young people who are interested in developing the skills required for broadcasting will identify themselves through their actions long before they are old enough to consider formal education in the industry. They will seek out ways to teach themselves these skills online. If we as broadcasters make tutorial videos or write instructional blogposts or offer guidance in online communities, the next generation of talent will seek us out.
NPR has realized this, which is why they publish resources online for aspiring content creators, such as “Starting a Podcast: A Guide for Students.” In doing so, NPR not only engages with aspiring talent, but also presents itself as an organization that offers future career possibilities.
Imagine your engineers posting TikTok videos that show off the radio transmitter; your production directors filming YouTube videos that offer audio processing tips; and your air staff offering advice in Reddit threads. Aspiring talent would seek them out.
But having this talent identify you is only half the battle; you also want to identify them so that you can nurture them for a potential career. If some of this content, most likely more in-depth versions, gated behind forms that allows you to capture email address, then you can build a relationship with future talent.
Moreover, you can engage with them early and often. Setting up an email nurturing campaign to drip out instructional content over time allows stations to nurture the next generation of broadcasting talent.
Of course, there are legal considerations when targeting people under the age of 18, but if done right, the internet offers broadcasters a path to groom the next generation of talent that is more effective than anything we’ve been able to do in the past. In short, there’s reason to be optimistic when it comes to developing the next generation of talent, but it will require a different approach.
-Seth Resler, Jacobs Media
The WBA Digital Hotline is a free service from Jacobs Media to members of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. If you have any questions about digital, social media, mobile and other areas please email us at email@example.com