What exactly is a “Live Read”? How is it important to modern audio/visual media? How can modern podcasts and on-demand radio take advantage of the live read? That is the subject of this quick review and explanation about just why it is that we do what we do at Student of the Gun.
A live read, when it comes to sponsored content and promotions is simply the host reading or delivering the material directly to the audience in his own voice, live. Pre-recorded commercials are produced in contrast to the live read.
Traditional Radio Commercials
Pre-recorded commercials and sponsor acknowledgements were the norm for the traditional radio format. The audience, if they wanted to continue listening to that show or station, had no real choice other than to stay tuned and listen to the commercial.
In an effort to prevent the pre-recorded commercial from becoming a type of white noise the listener tunes out, commercials were altered frequently. A dedicated employee had to be present to update and alter the material which made the technique naturally labor intensive.
Failure to modify or alter the commercial limits its effectiveness over time. The listener tunes out and stops paying attention because they have already heard it a hundred times. That is until their ears notice the sound of the host or different audio such as music.
The pre-recorded commercial short-comings have been magnified by the advent of the podcast and on-demand audio format. The listener is tuning out commercials faster and with more efficiency.
Podcasts and On-Demand Radio
Modern technology has altered, probably forever, the way the audience consumes content. Gone are the days of teens sitting around on their bedroom floor just listening to whatever was on their favorite station.
The choices available to the modern adult have multiplied year after year. At least when it comes to podcasts and on-demand audio. Twenty years ago a listener might have had two or three favorite stations from which to choose. Today, there are dozens upon dozens of options available for every music or talk radio genre. More and more producers are vying for the attention of the audience.
The listener can consume the modern podcast by streaming or downloading to be played later. Naturally, the listener finds this medium to be the most convenient. Whichever way the listener chooses to consume the audio, they always have the option to skip ahead by placing their finger on the screen and sliding to the left or tapping a button that jumps the audio track ahead 15 or 30 seconds. Two or three taps of that button and they have skipped right over the pre-recorded commercial.
The Live Read Solution
With the understanding that the traditional radio listener learns to tune out commercials they have heard before and the modern podcast or on-demand listener will actually skip ahead and eliminate the commercial altogether, where does this leave the potential advertiser regarding radio?
Talk Radio or On-Demand Audio shows, such as podcasts, are either host driven or guest driven. The guest driven format works if a regular battery of popular guests can be tapped. Consider the Tonight Show. The ratings rise or fall depending on the guests for that week.
Host driven shows attract the audience because they have made some kind of a connection with the host. Regardless of the use of guests, the audience wants to hear what the host is saying.
By utilizing the technique of the live read, the host is able to deliver the invaluable sponsor message to the audience without the normal tune out factor. This is particularly true if the host adlibs the message rather than read a stock script over and over.
The audience, even though they understand that sponsor messages are forthcoming, stays tuned and listens because they do not want to miss what the host has to say about the topic. Naturally, the listener will be more heavily influenced by an honest/forthright host, who is viewed as a subject matter expert, delivering the live read.
The Audience Relationship
Every kind of media delivery inspires a certain type of audience relationship at varied levels. People have favorite television shows and movies. Devoted readers, particularly fiction lovers, will have a favorite author or two. There is a similar situation with talk radio and that translates to the podcast/on-demand format.
Compared to all other forms of media, the delivery method of radio inspires an extremely devoted and loyal audience. You will find this particularly true with host driven program formats. Rush Limbaugh single-handedly saved the AM radio format. AM radio was a near-dead medium when Rush started his national broadcast. Many others have followed, but Limbaugh was and continues to be an innovator.
Some radio colleagues and I recently had a lengthy conversation. We discussed the phenomenon of radio listeners being far more loyal and active than those who view TV or Internet videos. A hypothesis that was put forward, and one that we believe to be true, is that the radio listener develops a relationship with the show, and subsequently the host, because it seems as though the host is speaking directly to the listener.
Unlike music radio, that can be simply put on in the background, with talk radio, the listener is actively engaged in hearing and taking in the message that the host is delivering. For this reason, audiences tend to be much more loyal and dedicated to their favorite talk show than to a video program.
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Professor Paul Markel
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