10 Things I Relearned This Year

10 Things I Relearned This Year

by Tracy Johnson

Every experience is a learning opportunity. Sometimes it’s a discovery, but most of the time we are reminded of important concepts in new ways. Since this is the time of year everyone comes out with a list, here are 10 things I relearned this year.

Things I Relearned About The Radio Business

There are many opportunities for creative broadcasters. I covered some of the most immediate and easiest ideas in my seminar Take Charge Of Your Future, which is now available on-demand here. But, as research legend Jon Coleman points out, stations must start finding new solutions rather than continuing to operate as we have for decades.

It’s easier than ever to manipulate impact the rating system. The ratings system is badly broken, but it’s still the game programmers and personalities must play. Thanks to the way Nielsen credits online listening, smart programmers can enhance results by taking advantage of on-demand audio.

Contests still work to generate positive listening results. Kind of. The problem is that contests that work to manipulate ratings are not working with the larger audience. The problem is that chasing ratings respondents to drive share that feeds revenue is more and more incompatible with entertaining promotions that enhance real listening.

About The Audience

Listeners use the radio to escape and feel good. We have always known this, but this year puts an exclamation point on it. Smart programmers match this desire by creating a fun station that is not too heavy. Personalities should concentrate on developing a likable good nature in a positive environment. It has always worked. And it works even better today.

Feel Good/Good News features work. Related to the last point, specific features that highlight people doing good things for others has become one of the most powerful tools for personalities and programmers. If you’re not doing this in some fashion, you’re missing out.

Multi-platform is no longer a luxury option. The line between over-the-air broadcasting and content delivered on several platforms is blurred. And it will continue to become more important to have a dynamic and robust online presence. Every station must invest in on-demand and video strategies.

Personality Radio

Making emotional connections is the only way to resonate with listeners. Everything else is just noise. Stations can sound good technically without radio personalities. They can’t sound great without talent that tells stories, connects with listeners, and builds fans. Great personalities can cause listeners to experience feelings that can’t be replaced.

Promotion plus Personality wins. It’s not just about generating great content but standing out in a crowded market. That demands terrific performances, of course. But when combined with active and imaginative promotion, it’s a powerful combination. Check out how Dave Smiley ended the year with a flourish at WZPL/Indianapolis. In fact, promoting and teasing content may be more important than the content itself.

Personalities should build an identity apart from the radio station brand. The massive layoffs and furloughs should be all the inspiration needed for personalities to plan a future that doesn’t depend on the station brand. That may include podcasting, developing a presence on Twitch, building a personality website, and much more.

Gamify content to engage audiences. Listeners are more attracted to play-along games than ever. Games are addictive and fun to play on-air and off. There are dozens of ways personalities can take advantage of this. Some shows are even turning pre-promotion into a game.


It’s been quite a year, for sure. And one thing is certain: The future will continue to evolve and be different than the present. Let’s all learn from the past 12 months and enthusiastically forge a more creative and exciting path forward.


Contest Strategies For Radio Stations

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Take Charge Of Your Future Seminar on Demand

The Ratings Game eBook

Developing a Likable Good Nature

Good News Features

How To Connect With Emotions

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Get That Gig: Every Personality Needs a Website

Developing Play-Along Content

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