PEOPLE | Nov 10, 2016

How does radio broadcasting change with data? Interview with Cerofolini

The conductor of Eta Beta, noted Italian broadcast on Digital Transmission, talks about how the data have changed his profession

“If I think about how digital and the availability of data that goes with it has changed my work I can only list positive elements,” says Massimo Cerofolini, radio host of one of the best known and followed digital transmissions: Eta Beta, aired from Monday to Friday on Radio Rai 1.

In addition to the extraordinary possibility of having information available in real time, something which is no longer thought about but is a major asset for those going a job like mine,” continues Cerofolini, “what we value most is the availability, through social media for example, of an immediate feedback and confirmation of whether or not the topics we propose are appreciated.

Speaking with Massimo we learn that the system of monitoring system radio audiences in no way resembles television’s Auditel (an Italian television audience measuring system): surveys carried out every four months on a sample of listeners contacted by telephone at home (when most of those who listen to the radio now do so on the move and outside the home) and for a time slot that is perhaps too extended of 15 minutes which does permit clearly defining whether a transmission is more listened to than others. “Unfortunately,” says Cerofolini, “these numbers do not tell us much about what listeners expect from us. We know we have 600-700 thousand listeners, but until the advent of social media we completely lacked the comparison with people.

cerofoliniAnother advantage of digital is undoubtedly the lowering of what are called degrees of separation, namely the possibility of easily reaching the people we want to be in contact with. “Today it’s easy for me: I just have to send a message on Facebook to have a guest on the transmission the following day. Having lived the era of “when it didn’t exist”, this is something I really appreciate greatly. Like the ability to be able to check the radio performance, rhythm and fluency of language of people to invite in no time at all by simply taking a look on YouTube.

By entering radio, digital even supports the construction of a larger community, made up of people who would never be reached in the traditional way. “Putting podcast online,” continues Massimo, “also allows those who are unable to connect to listen to us when we go on air to ‘replay’. With podcasts, for which we record more than 3 thousand downloads every day, we are able to reach people who do not usually listen to our station but who are interested in the topics we deal with. In addition, thanks to the system of sharing, we can reach even those who have never listened to Radio 1.

Which topics are most appreciated on digital?

Definitely those that we manage to propose in a simple way and for which people find a match in terms of usefulness. Certainly the broadcasts that have gone down best have been those on cyber security and home automation, as well as those in which guests are able to demonstrate competence, preparation and ability to communicate directly and simply in a matter of minutes. In addition to through internet, we receive a lot of feedback through more traditional systems, through SMS. And this medium betrays a public less open to innovation. In fact, through text messages we receive especially the voice of the overly critical, of those opposed to all forms of modernity, those who believe that artificial intelligence, the sharing economy or robotics only cut jobs or in any case represent dark threats. The comments of people who are frightened, who express a nostalgic rejection in defence of what no longer exists, are the ones we most often find ourselves “listening to”.

How do you talk about big data in a transmission like Eta Beta?

Big Data is a cold, abstract term which, on its own, certainly arouses no interest. For this reason, to talk about it, we have to seek something that can as as a “bridge” with listeners, something that “warms up” the experience. Like when, in order to propose it, we talked about the possibility of improving the performance of football teams through Big Data, or when we said that precisely through data available it is possible, for example, to treat a person not by using a medical protocol but through a personalised  – and therefore undoubtedly more effective – approach.

In practice, to reach people and make them understand how much data can now improve their lives, you need to pass through their histories. And speaking of this, one of the things that strikes me most in my programme is observing how, behind almost every startup, almost every innovation, there is a personal problem to be solved that is more or less serious: the illness of a relative, not a taxi to be found at night, the threat of a stalker or an illegal dump of food scraps can create pessimistic views and complaint, or can give life to technological solutions, apps or digital services.

What is important is that there be eyes capable of looking at the world with confidence, passion and a laical sense of spirituality. And for me this is the most beautiful part of the world that we try to recount every day.