Radio Drama Returns!!

Jan 12, 2015 | Everything Else

Last week, James Atlas’ article, “Hearing Is Believing,” in the New York Times led with this paragraph.

“THE thriller writer Jeffery Deaver has released an original work called “The Starling Project” as an audiobook — only it’s not what we think of as an audiobook: a printed book read aloud that you can listen to on your laptop or phone. Featuring 29 actors in more than 80 speaking roles combined with “state-of-the-art sound and music design,” Mr. Deaver’s “book” was conceived as an audio drama for Audible. There are no plans to turn it into a traditional text-based book, either on paper or digitally.”

Several things are overstated here, but this article will get you thinking. Could audiobooks spark a revival of the radio dramas I used to listen to as a kid?

Radio drama

There were two great things about radio dramas. They were personal. I would listen to them on the radio by myself, not like television where you watched with others. Radio drama was personal in another way: you created the images to go with the story.

Radio dramas began in the 1920s and by the time I was growing up in the Fifties, they were a mature form. There were full length plays, shorter plays, and ongoing serials, called “soap operas.” Jeffery Deaver’s book length audio drama may or may not catch on, but the short form of audio drama has some real possibilities.

The promise of the short audio drama

The big promise of audio drama is the short form, twenty minutes or less. It’s perfect for training, explaining, and telling your story.

It’s a great medium for training. People prefer to learn from a concrete example followed by teaching points. They love stories. Tell a story to provide your example and follow it up with learning points.

It’s a great medium for explaining. Instead of just telling an explanation, audio drama can show it.

It’s a great medium for storytelling. Tell the story of your business. Turn your testimonials into stories. Then present them in dramatic form.

Think about a new kind of podcast

Today there are basically three kinds of podcasts. Some have just one person talking. Others have one person interviewing another. Some are panel discussions. Those are all audio forms of “talking heads.” Drama could make things more interesting and effective.

Podcasting has already created a familiar delivery channel. Why not use it to improve our training, explaining, and storytelling?

More resources

I was a big reader of science fiction when I was growing up. The science fiction radio drama, “X Minus 1” was on my must-listen list every week. That was then. Here are a couple of sources who are doing things with radio drama today.

Radio Drama Revival

Stories for the Ear

“Radio drama, audio theater, audio drama, audio fiction–whatever the moniker, we’re talking about stories told with the power of sound alone. Calling on a history pioneered by the likes of Orson Welles, Norman Corwin, and Arch Oboler, FinalRune’s modern audio dramas honor the tradition of the 40s and 50s while propelling the art form into the 21st century”