NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Sands Report on October 4, 2012. It has been updated and modified.
Airchecking is like flossing: we all know we should do it on a regular basis, but somehow we can never find the time. As Program Directors find themselves drowning in phone calls about the upcoming holiday concert or hip deep in a debate with the Sales team over car dealership remotes, one-on-one time with the jocks tends to fall by the wayside. Yet we all know that giving the DJs feedback is crucial to maintaining the quality of your station’s on-air product.
When I first I began podcasting, I found myself in the same situation as many jocks: I was investing a lot of effort into my shows, but without feedback I had no idea if they were resonating with the audience. I was flying blind. Then I discovered a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get meaningful feedback on my shows. This enabled me to figure out what was working and what wasn’t, and to dramatically improve my podcast at a accelerated rate.
I’m now going to share my secret with you.
You’ll need two things: First, you’ll need the ability to upload an aircheck audio file to a place where it can be accessed through a web browser with the proper link. Your webmaster can set up a special section on your website, or you can use a cloud storage service that enables public links like Dropbox or Evernote.
Second, you’ll need an Amazon.com account. We’re going to use a little-known product by Amazon called Mechanical Turk. Mechanical Turk was designed to enable companies to hire people to perform small repetitive tasks that can’t be easily done by computers. For example, say you have a list of local businesses and you want to find the website address for each. Instead of looking them up yourself, you can upload the list to Mechanical Turk and pay workers 5 cents for each address they find. Mechanical Turk allows the job to be divided among different people, ensuring a speedy turnaround. One worker might look up 20 addresses, while another might look up 200. To ensure the quality of the work, you can ask that each address be looked up multiple times. When you calculate your hourly rate, you can see why it’s much more cost effective to use Mechanical Turk to look up 1,000 addresses than it is to do it yourself.
We can also use Mechanical Turk to get feedback on airchecks. We’ll post an aircheck online and pay five people $1 each to give us 200 words of feedback. We’ll ask them to tell us what they liked and disliked about the show, and to give us three specific suggestions for improving it. (Note that Amazon has two sites for Mechanical Turk: one for workers and one for those posting assignments. We want to use the Requester webpage.) Within 48 hours of posting the assignment, you will obtain actionable feedback for less than $6.
Aircheck Yourself: Video Tutorial
“But wait!” you cry. “How can a few online strangers who aren’t in broadcasting possibly tell me anything useful?” The truth is, some of the feedback you get will contain brilliant insights, and some of it will be crap. It’s up to you to sift through the critiques and decide what is most valuable. That’s why we ask for five reviews. We’re looking for recurring themes in the feedback. If one reviewer pans your Justin Bieber fart joke, it could just be a fluke; but if three of the five say it’s in poor taste, this may be a valid criticism. I find that the most useful feedback falls under the category of “Things I Knew Deep Down Inside But I Needed To Hear Somebody Else Say.” Sometimes, the obvious needs to be stated.
I recommend using this technique any time you want feedback on a new feature or bit. Mechanical Turk isn’t a replacement for aircheck sessions with an experienced Program Director, but getting external feedback can be a very useful supplement. Sometimes, it’s helpful to get opinions from outside of the bubble. Moreover, this is a technique that DJs can use on their own.Please share: