recordsI find these days that university students have more to say than ever before.

Between the babblings that get posted on social media, to the general discussions those students partake in during seminars—the 20-somethings of the 21st century have a lot to say, and they want people to hear it.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that programming at Trent Radio is such a rewarding process. You have something to say, and in many cases, people are listening.

But this leads to one of the most difficult challenges of a programmer’s week: What do I want to say? The key to good radio can be rooted back to the programmer—their voice, their enthusiasm, their cadence—but if they aren’t saying anything worth hearing, it can excruciatingly difficult to listen to.

With this in mind, what I believe to be one of the most important things in radio comes to light: Content. In my four years of student radio, I have often experienced that jabbing headache of the weekly reminder that I have left 15 minutes of my show un-programmed, and might end up babbling.

tapesSo, what can I talk about? What songs should I play? When you’re just trying to program via the clock, it never leaves you feeling like your content is particularly fulfilling, and this can present a challenge.

Last year, I had the brilliant opportunity to attend the UK’s Student Radio Association’s annual conference in Leicester, England. Throughout the conference, my fellow programmers and I sat in on keynote speakers from some of the most prominent broadcast networks in the UK and heard a plethora of great ideas from these stars of the industry. However, to this day, one particular presentation sticks out in my mind.

The panel was packed in this discussion. Graham Albans and James Walshe of BBC Radio 2, and Simon Hirst (Hirsty) of Capital FM presented the session simply titled “Content is King”. Buried in the entertaining stories of their years in the industry and some of their on-air blunders, one main theme rang through everything they said: Everything is content.

They pointed out the importance of timing, and how you should leave on a high note, tell a story, show a bit of vulnerability to your listeners. However, most importantly, remember that everything can potentially be content, anything from the girl you saw fall in a puddle on your way to the studio, to what you were doing the first time you heard the song you’re about to play on-air.

Hirsty mentioned during his portion of the discussion that yes, style can be important, but it is never style over substance.

You could be the most brilliant announcer, but if you’re spouting rubbish, would you even listen to you?

This particular point spoke to me. Too many times in the booth, you are left thinking, “Well, I know people are tuned in… that’s good enough,” simply because you are preoccupied with what you are doing. But are you really doing your best job, simply because people are listening?

After a hilarious sound clip from Albans and Hirsty’s collaboration on the Capital Breakfast Show (involving a traffic report, a helicopter, and bagels, amongst other things), it was incredibly clear that collecting content is one of the most important thing you can do in preparing for a show.

Sound clips, songs, stories, ideas—anything. If you can make it relatable to an audience, then you have content.

Though my own show on Trent Radio has a rather direct form of content (being that I only play European rock/metal), it is still important to remember that, regardless of how much I have to say on the topic, it needs to be entertaining, it needs to be new, and it needs to entice my listeners into wanting to listen.

Content, my friends, content.

Many of you students can relate this to writing papers: it’s not just how you say it that’ll earn you the marks, because what you say is more important.

Programming with Trent Radio, or with any station for that matter, is no different: Content is king.