Every time I work with an air personality that insists on creating original material that has never been done before, a shiver runs through me. They’re almost certainly going to fail. Not because they aren’t capable, unique, or talented. The problem is the emphasis is on the wrong goal. They should be focusing on unique performances, not original content.
And yes, there is a difference.
There are few truly original ideas that nobody has done or is doing. Yet many personalities are convinced they can do something that has never been done. They immediately reject sound ideas because they’ve heard another show something similar sometime in the past.
Imagine if Jimmy Kimmel were to tell his Executive Producer he didn’t want to do monologues with jokes because other late night talk shows do that. He wants to try something nobody else has ever done.
Most content comes from an idea that’s been done before. It looks different, sounds different, and feels different because of how it’s performed and who’s performing it.
Getting hung up on being completely original causes personalities to miss great opportunities. Original material doesn’t matter. Unique performance does.
Original Material vs. Unique Performances
Seth Godin discovered that original material is a dead end to obscurity. When looking for ideas for a book, he was looking for a new topic that had never been done. He says:
Every time we had an idea, every time we were about to submit a proposal, we discovered that there was already a book on that topic. Someone else had ‘stolen’ my idea before I had even had it.
The idea doesn’t matter if shows focus on delivering unique performances.
Even Fans Don’t Expect Original Content
Content becomes unique when personality is added. As Godin says:
No one expects you to do something so original, so unique, so off the wall that it has never been conceived of before. In fact, if you do that, it’s unlikely you will find the support you need to do much of anything with your idea.
Instead of obsessing over original material, focus on how to perform in a way only you can do it. Hijack ideas and figure out how to connect with a unique style. Listeners don’t become fans because of the information, topics, or even ideas. They become fans because of the performers.
There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from, or even stealing, an idea. There’s a lot wrong with simply performing someone else’s content exactly as they did it. That’s why we recommend the TESOP method of content curation during show prep.
Be smart about choosing the right ideas to adopt as your own. Then make those things stand out. Original content doesn’t matter. Unique content delivered in your character voice does.
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