Nearly every time a mic is turned, we start over. The challenge is to attract, earn, and hold the audience’s attention. And we start at zero. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. That’s how radio listeners listen to the radio. And it’s why talent should study ways to reduce tune-out.

Most listeners use 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. They choose a station based on their current mood, constantly looking for instant gratification.

Medical students are taught the foundational rule of becoming a doctor: do no harm. In radio, the equivalent is to reduce tune-out. This common-sense lesson has profound implications that inform each decision and every break.

So, doesn’t it make sense to focus more time and attention on transitioning from one type of content to another? That’s why building a strong strategy for creating powerful hooks is essential.

How To Reduce Tune Out

Listeners tune out for many reasons. The most common is commercials, of course. They also leave when a song they don’t like and a contest they don’t care about is hyped too much.

We’ve invested a lot of time studying how personalities can reduce tune-out. The results are in the seminar on demand Avoiding Tune Out 101 here and in the Content Superhero findings based on research conducted by Strategic Solutions Research.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • When programming changes (a song ends and talk begins), we enter a High-Risk Zone of losing listeners.
  • Personalities lose up to 40% of the audience – actual tune-out – if attention isn’t captured in the first few seconds of a talk break. The 7 Second Challenge is real.
  • Listeners evaluate (and re-evaluate) what they hear every 20-30 seconds.

What To Do About It

Knowing this, what adjustments can cause the audience to become interested quickly? Here are four tips:

  • Acknowledge the listener’s experience with an audio handshake that connects with what they hear now (likely a song). Many shows sound ignorant of the listening environment. This is also a great way to demonstrate that you have something in common with the audience.
  • Invest time in developing solid hooks. If the beginning of a segment isn’t compelling, listeners won’t be there when the “good parts” happen. Write a creative hook for each segment in the daily show prep meeting. And while you’re at it, write a tease or two for each segment!
  • Edit! Learn to perform with an economy of words. Successful communication isn’t about reducing the length as much as increasing efficiency in breaks. Visualize the segment and organize thoughts before turning on the mic.
  • Design each segment to keep moving forward with mini-payoffs every 20-30 seconds. Segments that stall cause boredom and encourage them to leave. Think of it as the way a comedian has punchlines during a monologue that leads to the conclusion. I call it dropping audio breadcrumbs that lead listeners through a segment.


Doesn’t it make sense that the best way to earn TSL is to convince existing listeners to stay? They already like you. They’re already tuned in. Just get rid of the things that cause them to tune out.

This can have a dramatic rating impact. It’s a key ingredient in the Double Your Ratings recipe. You probably have enough listeners. Let’s keep them. You’ll be amazed at how reducing tune-out can increase share.

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