6 Programming Tips to Add More Listeners

Recently, I was asked to review a benchmark survey regarding clutter on Radio stations and post key findings. While, it would have been awesome if all the responses were positive and supportive about our radio stations, it seems as if many listeners not satisfied with what traditional media is offering.

Meanwhile, here are 6 ways based on the verbatim responses to help keep your listeners happy AND add more interest, ratings and revenue to your scorecard.

1.) Know your media brand position...and promote it clearly.
One mom lamented “Too much trash talk! It is nearly impossible to listen to radio with kids. I have stopped (listening) to music stations pretty much altogether for this reason. It´s all boobs, sex, shallow subjects, and generally speaking, trash.” Obviously the station(s) referred to cannot be intended to provide a ‘family friendly’ listening destination. Yet, one must question, does anyone ‘own’ the ‘family friendly’ position in her market? If so, how and where are they promoting it? Know who you are targeting. Create a product that will exceed their needs and wants. Then tell them you are providing this product, through simple, clever positioning and creative marketing. Stations who follow this plan will find it more difficult to fail.

2.) Don’t waste your consumer’s time.
If radio as an industry invested as much time, effort and energy on creating valuable, targeted CONTENT as cutting CLUTTER, we’d all be better off. One listener noted “too much talking”, and significantly, “most of the time it is stupid things they are talking about”. Clearly, the content is not well positioned for this listener. “There is too much redundancy,” another noted, “...announcing what they are GOING to do, what they are DOING, and then what they DID!” Hitting a nerve noted by many who took the survey, another articulated this pet peeve, “Long ads with a lot of repeated phone numbers.”

3.) Watch the spot load.
By far, the number one complaint is “too many commercials”. In this new media world, broadcasters are foolish to ask “where else are they (listeners) going to go?” Savvy media consumers are only too happy to provide the answer, voting with their ears. As one respondent put it, “I realize the need for the provider to increase cash flow by the means of commercials, but as usual the greedy bastards have created an overkill atmosphere”. This can refer both to length of stopsets and total hourly commercial load. A 12-minute spot load = 20% of that hour. Are your commercials as well-conceived, written and produced as the rest of the hour? If not, fix them now. After all, effective commercial messages are the foundation of “commercial radio”.

4.) Embrace new distribution platforms.
Consumers are acutely aware of the many alternatives to traditional radio. “You can always go to SiriusXM to get rid of commercials.” observed one respondent. Ipods and streaming audio such as Pandora were also mentioned as increasingly popular options. Can it come as a surprise that smart advertisers are also finding alternative places to attract consumer attention as well? Smart broadcasters are finding that the evolving mediascape can work to their advantage when they embrace digital opportunities. From simple databasing, to secondary and tertiary streams, on-demand podcasting and vodcasting (video podcasting), text alerts and WORTHWHILE apps, stations are finding ways to provide targeted, tailored content without creating unwanted or unneeded intrusion into the broadcast day. Smarter broadcasters are learning how to sponsor these assets

5.) Don't neglect "traditional" distribution platforms
In the era of tight budgets, it's very easy for owners to cut technical needs first.  As one mentor pointed out, "you can't fight physics".  While the world (and Wall Street!) may currently be more enamored with silicone than rust, it is important that proper maintenance be done to 'old school' transmission systems.  A bad ground system, or neglecting the audio chain can easily cost audience share -- at a time when other devices are no longer waiting in the wings -- but flying off the shelves!

6.) Keep looking through the windshield, but be aware of the rear-view mirror.
To see where we’re going as an industry, it can be helpful to know where we’ve come from. One person noted “Local radio has gone from the best form of personal entertainment to corporate sanitized notes on a ledger.’ Another commented “sometimes I can drive all the way to work without hearing one song”. Revenue challenges are nothing new to the industry. However, the opportunities ahead can far outweigh the challenges – IF we’re smart enough to embrace them.