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RU @Speed-of-Life?

| February 25, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Listeners are busy and radio talent is spooked.

• Listeners? “OMG,” they’re texting, too often while driving. Most of their other media activity is also interactive, on-demand, hit-and-run. Notice how you yourself use your smartphone.

• Radio talent? Doubly-spooked!

1. It’s official: “Job security” is now an oxymoron. No names, but a real talented guy who works for a great big company’s major station in a top 10 market tells me: “Every Friday that I’m not fired is the beginning of a good weekend.” Survivors are playing it safe, sometimes too safe.

2. Many still working are, with best intentions, over-reacting to PPM. Often, their doing so highlights a disconnect with listeners’ speed-of-life.

Hosts: DON’T begin your show by listing all the things you’ll be doing before it ends.
Mathematically, you may be the only person who hears your entire show. Note my first three words above. Tune-in/tune-out happens every…single…minute.

At 3:06, saying “…AND, COMING UP AT THREE THIRTY EIGHT” is naïve.  Few other nerds I know share my appetite for the nuts-and-bolts of ratings methodology, but I can’t explain the flawed conventional wisdom that PPM rewards “THREE THIRTY EIGHT” specificity.  If Twitter has taught us nothing else, it demonstrates another oxymoron: “attention span.”

PPM or diaries, fundamentals still apply.  If you’re a host, your job is still to get ‘em from 06 to 20.  And the way people now choose-and-use media, the way you do that is to engage ‘em with what-you-have-to-offer RIGHT NOW.

Got “a get” later this hour?  Yes, DO mention that it’s “COMING UP.”  TV news calls this deep tease.  But, at 306, “THREE THIRTY EIGHT” is too many numbers.

PDs: Tick-tock…

When does news hand-off to talent?  If it’s much past :06, you’re late.

  • If you take a network on-hour, dump at the first out in hours when local news is staffed.  Yes, the back-end-of that network ‘cast is darn good stuff too, but it unduly postpones local news, it costs the host more-valuable caller time, and it crowds commercials.
  • In unstaffed hours, take the whole network newscast.  That way, your on-hour is consistent and habit-forming.

And how many ways can you say goodbye?  Said-another-way: How many times does your format emphasize that the on-hour newscast has ended?

  • Newscaster teases traffic/weather into a spot.  Then another spot?  Ugh.  It’s a cinder block wall.
  • In consultant-speak, avoid “exit prompts.”  Why: Listeners believe your promos.  You train them to “CHECK-IN FOR A QUICK UPDATE, EVERY HOUR, ON-THE-HOUR.”  The music stations do news in the morning, but “WE’VE GOTCHA COVERED, THROUGHOUT YOUR BUSY DAY.”  Then you want to get ‘em to 20.
  • Another exit prompt is too many hellos.  Newscast ends.  Long, self-indulgent, over-produced host intro emphasizes that The Quick Update has ended.  Then, host repeats his/her name live, the information the reverb’d announcer just finished barking.

In the words of programming guru George Costanza, most stations should do-the-opposite: Instead of punctuating, sound seamless between news and host.

Most days, a talker’s best-bet will be inviting callers to weigh-in on a news story that just aired.  Engage quickly, before that listener who believed your “QUICK UPDATE” promo can reach the music button.  It’ll be 20 in no time.  Then 38.


See, hear, read more from consultant Holland Cooke at and follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke.  Meet Holland Cooke at Talkers New York 2013 on Thursday June 6.

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Category: Advice