Determining How Long It Will Take for a Radio Show to Succeed (and How Long to Give It)

| February 23, 2015

By Bill McMahon
The Authentic Personality
CEO

mcmahonbillEAGLE, Idaho — There are lots of variables to think about. Here are some questions to consider in order to come up with a realistic answer:

  • Let’s start with a reality check. How much time do you have to reach what ratings level? If you work for Bonneville or Hubbard you probably have more time than if you work for Cumulus or iHeartMedia? If you’re a GM or PD, it doesn’t really matter what you think is reasonable if your boss has other ideas. Find out what the bosses’ realities are. That’s your reality. If you don’t think the bosses’ ratings expectations are reasonable, better let him or her know up front. Matched expectations are good for job security.

  • How long has the show been together? How long have the participants been doing radio? Malcolm Gladwell and others who study success have found that it usually takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve greatness at anything. That would be 10 years for a four-hour per day show. How long did it take Howard Stern, Kidd Kraddick, Rush Limbaugh, and other radio stars to achieve greatness? Based on what I know, the 10,000 hour rule fits these stars pretty well.
  • Will the show receive regular and effective coaching from a coach who recognizes and can articulate the talents, strengths, and most appealing personal traits of the individuals on the show? Coaching focused on perfecting talents and strengths and highlighting appealing personal traits will significantly speed up the development process. Nothing slowed the development of the superstars of radio, true originals, like Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, and Larry Lujack more than bad coaching from PDs and management that didn’t recognize and support their unique talents and strengths. Each was fired multiple times. All were told to fit into some current standardized success model and be anything but themselves. They refused. Each had his own instincts and ideas about the kind of show he wanted to do.
  • How distinctive is the show, really? Be honest. Is the stuff it produces unconventional and memorable? Is it markedly more interesting, meaningful and fun than the alternative? Does it truly stand out from other radio shows and other entertainment options? Small differences get little attention and produce slow growth.
  • Does the show have intellectual and emotional range or is it a one trick pony? Does it produce serious and substantive content one minute and frivolous and funny stuff the next? Does it make you laugh and cry? Does it deliver real insight? Does the show make listeners lives noticeably better each day? How? The more the show matters and truly makes a difference in the lives of its listeners the faster it will grow.
  • How much of the actual content of the show is created by the show? In other words, how much time each hour does the show have to connect with its listeners? If the show is primarily music, it’s going to take longer for the show to gain traction.
  • How well is the overall station performing? Does it deliver significant cume to sample the show or will the show have to generate its own cume and sampling? Obviously, this will be a factor in the speed at which the show grows.
  • How well does the show fit the worldview, lifestyle, and sensibilities of the station’s audience? The better the fit the faster the show will connect with the station’s listeners. How well do you know the people on the show? How well do they know themselves? What do they really know and care about? What are their values and beliefs? How does the stuff in their hearts and minds match up with the stuff in the hearts and minds of the station’s listeners?
  • How long will you believe in the show and its potential? This may sound like a funny question, but it’s not. What happens when a couple of PPM monthlies don’t meet expectations? Do you stop believing? I’ve seen it happen over and over. When you stop believing, the show stops growing. I’ve yet to meet a radio personality that doesn’t sense the moment his or her boss stops believing. Fear takes over. Creativity suffers. Survival mode begins. The minute you stop believing, the game is over.

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Bill McMahon, CEO of The Authentic Personality, is a longtime talk radio station and talent consultant who has played a role in the development of the careers of many leading hosts over the past three decades.  He can be phoned at 208-887-5670 or emailed at Bill@AuthenticPersonality.biz.  Meet Bill McMahon at Talkers New York 2015 in NYC on Friday, June 12.  To register call 413-565-5413.

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Category: Advice