by Tracy Johnson
Every time a radio personality turns on a mic, they start over. It’s a new challenge, and a new opportunity, to build audience attention starting at zero. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. Because that’s how radio listeners actually listen to the radio. And it’s also the reason programmers and air talent should study ways to reduce tune out.
Think about the target listener, who is most likely listening to the radio in the background. It’s not an immersive entertainment experience like reading a book, going to a movie or watching a TV show.
The audience chooses a station based on what suits a current mood. But more specifically, they listen for what satisfies them immediately. Think of her as listening with the radio on scan. They’re constantly looking for something that catches their attention.
This may be the greatest common ssense lesson a programmer can learn. It has profound implications that inform each decision and every break. By reducing the number of times a listener is compelled to reach for that scan button, the more quarter hours are earned. And that results in higher ratings and more fans.
So doesn’t it make sense to focus more time and attention on transitions from one type of content to another?
This short video demonstrates how the audience thinks when they listen to the radio.
Notice how quickly decisions are made.
Of course, you probably will argue that this is a dramatic re-enactment and is not the real world. Fair enough. Listeners may not literally listen on scan, but their brains are on scan, seeking engagement. Capturing (earning) their attention is just as difficult as if they literally listened on scan.
The fact is that you have just seven seconds to get attention, whether they physically tune out by pushing the button or just stop hearing you. Physical tune out is the worst possible outcome. But when listeners stop hearing you (mental tune out), they’re a step closer to physical tune out.
There are many reasons listeners tune out. The most common is commercials, of course. They also leave when a song comes on they don’t like. And when a contest they don’t care about is hyped too much.
Air talent is another source of tune out. We’ve conducted a lot of time and resources into researching how personalities can reduce tune out on their shows. The results are presented in the seminar on demand Avoiding Tune Out 101 here.
Don’t think it’s all that important? Maybe you’re one of those that doesn’t believe each break is important.
Think again. Radio personalities lose up to 40% (and sometimes more) of the audience to tune out in a short period of time. And commercials are not the only source of tune out. Imagine if you can reduce tune out by even 25%. How would that increase your ratings?
Knowing this, how will you change your approach? What adjustments can be made to cause the audience to become interested quickly?
How can you start faster and get into the content quickly? If a personality has only 7 seconds to capture or lose attention, the hook is critical. Maybe you could devote more preparation time to finding one that will work best?
Doesn’t it makes sense that the best way to get earn quarter-hour credit is convincing existing listeners to stay a little longer? They already like you. They’re already tuned in. Just hang onto them for one more segment.
This can have a dramatic ratings impact. In fact, it’s the most important ingredient in my Double Your Ratings recipe.
Attracting a larger audience is hard. When you have them, keep them. You’ll be amazed at how it raises audience levels.
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