Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Remaining relevant: the challenge of radio

In an age where radio audience numbers are falling, Taiwan’s only English-language station is turning to podcasts for inspiration

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Keith Menconi, left, and Terry Engel on the Morning Show at ICRT.

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

Growing up in the digital age and digesting most of my news and entertainment online, radio seems like a relic of the past. I owned a bright red radio in elementary school that mostly spewed out static and my family sometimes turned on the car radio to listen to Backstreet Boys and Celine Dion when we went on trips in the ‘90s. That was pretty much all I knew about it.

Earlier this month, I received a Twitter message from Keith Menconi, a producer at the International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT) asking if I was interested in being interviewed by him and Terry Engel on the Morning Show about my experience covering Taiwan’s craft beer scene as a reporter. The idea was for us to hit up a couple of bars and talk to the brewers. The clips would be interspersed throughout our live segment. Of course, we would have to sample some of the beers while chatting with the brewers.

Drinking on the job? Obviously, I said yes.

Graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011, Menconi previously worked at San Francisco’s KQED News before moving to Taiwan. Part of his job at ICRT is to find interesting angles to frame his shows.

The goal of the Morning Show, he tells me, “is always to give our guests a chance to goof off on air.”

Sometimes, they’ll also incorporate games and skits, though Menconi says that most of the time, it’s just him and Engel making fun of each other.

“When you want to make things fun, your greatest friend in radio is banter,” he says. “If you get a good back-and-forth going between interesting people, you can make almost any topic interesting.”

INSPIRATION FROM PODCASTS

In order to help me prepare for my radio debut, Menconi asks if I ever listen to podcasts. Radio and podcasts are essentially the same, he says, whether it’s audio being broadcasted over airwaves or downloaded through the Internet.

While the popularity of radio may have plummeted, the number of people listening to podcasts has steadily increased. A study published by Pew Research Center last year (www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/podcasting-fact-sheet) showed that one-third of Americans aged 12 and over had listened to a podcast, as opposed to one-tenth in 2006.

While Menconi admits that he rarely listens to the radio, he says he’s “a big podcast guy” and draws inspiration for his radio shows from what podcast producers are doing. A lot of popular radio shows in the US such as This American Life and Planet Money are also available online as podcasts, and Menconi believes that ICRT should be following suit in order to remain relevant.

Engel, a Canadian native and 16-year Taiwan resident, agrees. He believes that Taiwan has yet to catch up with the US when it comes to exploring new mediums and being on multiple platforms. While radio stations including ICRT are maintaining an online presence through their Web sites and social media, it’s simply not enough.

“In Taiwan, the industry at large has to change to capture the younger demographic through doing podcasts and videos,” Engel says.

Currently, Engel stars in Wow Taiwan, a video series where he travels to a different part of Taiwan every month and talks about the things you can do there.

While ICRT does not technically do podcasts, their interviews are posted online and Menconi makes sure to put out content that is tailored to online listeners.

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