What is a Content Director? Many producers and hosts in commercial radio will tell you that the Content Director is the person who stops them from getting their best ideas on air, but to be fair, the Content Director is a pivotal role, and depending on the person in the position, it can make or break the quality of radio shows (and the careers of hosts!).
From the style of content and the music format to promotions and commercials, everything you hear on radio has been vetted by a Content Director. Think of them as air traffic control for a radio station. Content Directors and content creators, whether they’re producers or hosts, usually have a love/hate relationship.
As listeners, you don’t get an insight into the many struggles that typically happen behind the scenes in a commercial radio station. The Content Director is there to keep the machine running but some of the best ideas may never see the light of day if a negative or unqualified CD is making the final decisions. Alternately, a great Content Director can get behind a challenging concept and give it the resources and energy to develop.
Personally, I’ve had 15 Content Directors in my time in the radio industry. I’ve been lucky. Only a few of them have created major difficulties for me, and most of them are either no longer in those roles or they’re not a part of the industry at all. Nobody takes pleasure in seeing people moved on or pushed out of roles, but as you learn how damaging a bad Content Director can be for the staff of a radio station and the effectiveness of its content, you’ll realise why most people at a thriving station breathe a sigh of relief when a destructive CD leaves the building.
Like any industry, as you navigate your way up the hierarchy during a career, you hit your hurdles, and the worst barriers are usually personnel. Sometimes you can’t shift the obstacle. You must simply work out a way to lessen its impact on your career. The people who don’t deserve their positions will eventually be exposed, but until that happens you need to play it smart. As anyone in the industry will tell you, it takes every ounce of your patience to be coached by someone who doesn’t have the expertise or experience to provide meaningful advice. Probably the worst consequence of a poor Content Director is the fact they can turn promising young people away from the industry.
But lately there’s been a noticeable shift in the way Content Directors are working. Creators have much more control now and modern CDs are there to facilitate and support good ideas. This is probably due to an important factor in successful radio performances that is one of our key themes here at The Audio College: authenticity. Audiences want to hear the most authentic content from their radio hosts.
Regardless of the changing roles in modern radio, you’ll still encounter people that may hold you back. Whether the Content Director is doing it for the good of the show or not will be something you have to objectively determine. It also pays to be transparent with your Content Director and understand each other’s goals and boundaries. Always be aware that the CD has a different set of key performance indicators. They may be more accountable for things like ratings and sales figures, so while you’re trying to pitch a risky idea that will wow audiences, the Content Director may be more concerned about answering to the executives.
A good Content Director provides constructive feedback on how your show is sounding and how you can improve. They should be developing the best parts of your on-air delivery by playing back audio of your show that resonated and popped. It’s not their role to mould you into a younger version of themselves. You must remain true to your own character, style and career goals.
Six years ago, a Group Content Director told me I should start considering a role off air, which was exactly what he’d done when he transitioned from announcing to being a Content Director. Imagine if I’d listened to him. I certainly wouldn’t have travelled the world hosting a radio show, hosted number one shows in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, or worked alongside some of Australia’s most prominent on-air talent. I also wouldn’t be in a unique position to coach the next generation of talented radio and podcast professionals.
That’s why transparency is the key. Let Content Directors know you have a clear career path and ambitions. Tell them you have a distinctive style and character. You may even occasionally need to provide the CD with a bit of feedback because at the end of the day you’re both trying to collaborate to create the most popular and profitable content possible.