I’ve been listening to Vinyl Cafe, broadcasted on CBC Radio, for a long time now. Each week, Stuart McLean illustrates the power of spoken word by telling us simply–without any fuss–a story. There’s Dave, Morley, the dog, and the kids, of course, but also the “Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange”, the annual “Arthur Awards”, and anecdotes from McLean on tour.

Everybody’s talking about video, immersive experiences for this or that webdocumentary, but often, a well narrated story can inspire as much emotion, and draw in an audience far more by letting people create their own images.

That was actually our approach for the Twenty Voices project addressing the Armenian genocide–which worked splendidly. And that works just as well with fiction as with documentary.

the Fiction Episode

Stuart McLean has imagined this family we follow through each episode. Dave and Morley make up a typical couple, with two kids and a dog. The way, though, that McLean tells their stories makes us laugh, lets us relate to the characters, and so on. He has successfully created a singular universe, and feeds our imagination just enough. The September 26, 2009, episode took us on Dave and Morley’s Laurentians holiday week. 28 minutes that breeze through.  (P.S.– If you liked the Laurentians bit, listen to the Thanksgiving episode, that’s all I’ll say.)

The Documentary Narrative

Today, I listened to October 8, 2011 Vinyl Cafe program. The last 20 minutes were really emotional. This story of three men and how they saved a fourth one is brimming with imagery, emotion, and winter. If you can, listen to the whole program. It lasts 40 minutes, but you’ll see what I mean. 

Radio and transmedia?

In developing certain projects, I often ask myself if there isn’t something to be done for the radio. In many cases, it can be interesting, seeing as radio:

  • is cheap to produce
  • can reach an audience which wasn’t on the other platforms
  • offers content readily transferable to other platforms (podcasts, etc.)
  • can reach people in places where other media is not really available (e.g. the car)

In short, radio holds great potential.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Last March, I spoke about it with Patrick Beauduin, head of radio services at Radio-Canada. He told me that in his position, it’s hard to submit a project without it being hosted by someone who’s already on the air. Then again, he had not yet heard of multiplatform projects with a radio component to them.

I’m sure there is room for fiction on the radio. It just needs the right broadcaster, the right content, and the right audience.

Do you have some good examples of radio storytelling? Share them with me, please, I’m really curious.