Good radio, just not on the air

Today our farm network did a live webcast from the Nebraska State Fair. It was a 90 minute panel discussion on technology in agriculture and it was great radio. Except I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on the radio. Just our website. In fact, the last eight or ten ag events we’ve covered have not even been put up on our satellite channel and offered to our affiliated radio stations. We’d love it it they would air these long-form programs but program directors are less and less willing to air more than a short ag report in the middle of the day. And I’m not sure they’re wrong.

Are we (the network) wrong to produce this programming? We’re pretty sure Nebraska corn farmers are interested in anything having to do with ethanol. But if you’re the program director of a radio station in the middle of Nebraska, you ask yourself what percentage of my listeners want to listen to someone talk about corn for an hour. Wouldn’t our listeners rather hear some good country music?

Probably. But, as a former small-town program director, I’m convinced there is a “cool factor” at work here, too. It just isn’t cool to air all that farm stuff. Country music is cool. And everybody likes country music, the people in town and the people on the farm. It’s the safe call.

This is where we encounter the long tail of ag programming. While there may be only a few hundred people that care about the future of ethanol in Nebraska, they care very much. And it’s getting harder and harder for them to find in-depth, real-time programming on their local radio station. Enter the web with streaming audio and podcasts all the rest. You want an hour on sugar beets in southern Indiana? No problem, click here.

Radio stations could have it both ways. Put the longer, in-depth programming on their web site and promote same on the air. But radio station owners do not perceive the need. And they no logner have the staff to do much of anything “extra.” At the same time, their listeners are just a Google search away from that they want. And they don’t care too much about where they get it.

Once upon a time, the only place a farmer in Ogallala could get farm news and prices was on his local radio station. Advertisers who wanted to sell stuff to those farmers only had to advertise on that station. It was the natural order of things. The good old days.