Monday Memo: Pay Attention
(They Don’t)

| January 6, 2020

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — New Year’s Resolution: Presume minimal listener attention.

Broadcasters have never had more competition for it; and listeners have never been more distracted, by daily stress, Trump Tweets, new audio and interactive competition, and overstated media noise (to which talk radio is a conspicuous contributor).

Ask for attention.

Idea program directors* hate: Leave one full second of silence on the front of station promos.  Yes, this sure will make your on-air staff* nervous.  They’ve been trained to avoid dead air.  But pauses attract attention.  This is a powerful technique.

When you put promos into the system, watch the clock and wait :01 as you upload or dub the final mix.  Don’t let your software auto-trim the pause up front.  And tell your on-air staff NOT to hit the promo early.

Are you really teasing? 

Getting listeners to “STAY TUNED” — even just a few more minutes per sitting — can yield big TSL dividends.  So talent* should constantly tease ahead, plugging upcoming service elements and features.

  • Not a tease: “SPORTS IS NEXT!”
  • Better: “DO THE RED SOX HAVE A GREAT BIG TRADE OFFER FOR MOOKIE BETTS?”

Recommended technique: Whenever possible, pose teases as questions, if possible, including the words “YOU” and/or “YOUR.”

Boil-it-down.

Familiar HC lore to client stations, and hosts and DJs who send me airchecks: Delete verbal Styrofoam such as “hump day,” “just around the corner,” “let’s go to the phones,” and “Let me ask ya this…”

Highly-recommended reading, after all these years, for news people:* “Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger,” by Mervin Block.

  • He pleads that “One cliché is not worth ten thousand pictures.” Phrases like “A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH,” or “PINS AND NEEDLES” are extra baggage.  And saying that “THE POLICE HAVE THEIR WORK CUT OUT FOR THEM” postpones the essence of the story.
  • Most-cliché-ridden story he can remember: “[Candidate] DROPPED THE OTHER SHOE TODAY AND THREW HIS HAT INTO THE RING FOR PRESIDENT, AND NOW IT’S A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME.”

Humans vs. Robots

* When I say “program directors” and “on-air staff” and “talent” and “news people” above, I mean “remaining.”

As radio’s bloodbath continues, most AM/FM broadcast hours are now automated, and our robotic audio competitors do-robotic better than we do.  Ask Alexa to play “Don’t Stop Believing” and she will.  What nobody has ever asked her is “play six commercials, several of which are fast-talking blah-blah-blah.”

What the digital interlopers aren’t (yet) doing-better is local.  If you can, do.

Happy NEWS Year!

Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Read HC’s Monday Memo each week at Talkers.com, and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice