A TJMG show analysis is intense. It’s a deep dive into every moment of a full show from beginning to end. In a recent session, we started analyzing a show’s first talk break, as usual. The segment was four minutes of nothingness:
- Good morning. Hi. How are you doing? (Okay. How are you?)
- What did you do last night? (Nothing much. How about you? Ordered in.)
- Let’s see what we have going on during the show later today (A generic list of all the regular features we always do with no specifics or excitement.)
- Have you checked out how hot it’s going to be today? (No, not yet. Is it going to be bad like yesterday? Probably. We should update the weather.)
And so on. For four minutes. It was a complete and total throwaway at 6:07. This was followed by six minutes of commercials, a recorded imaging piece, traffic, and two songs.
Here’s what the show said about it:
Oh, yeah. That’s just our warm up break. We’re just getting the show started and kind of getting it off to a start.
As if that reasoning made it okay to put no effort or attention into the first 20 minutes of the show. That’s 33% of the first hour. And in a three-hour show, it’s almost 10% of their total content for the day. What a waste.
The First Talk Break Of The Day
To make a point, I asked a series of questions:
- Imagine popping into McDonald’s 10 minutes after they opened. You order coffee. They say they haven’t gotten around to making it yet because they’re just getting started.
- Disney World’s gates open. The crowd pours through. But Mickey and Donald are wandering aimlessly on the lawn. Goofy hasn’t put his head on yet. It’s just the guy in the costume getting ready to go. Hey, the show has started but they’re just warming up.
- On the first play of the football game, the quarterback doesn’t call a play. He just tells everyone to do what they want and we’ll figure it out later. It’s just the first play. No big deal.
- It’s 7 am on The Today Show. Hoda and Jenna and Al and the gang are sitting around desk looking sleepy. Hoda is adjusting her mic and Al is still putting on his tie. Someone asks what is coming up on the show and Hoda says, “We have a bunch of things happening later including the latest news and weather information. And we’ll be talking about all the big events of the day.”
In each case, the customer would be disappointed because they don’t get the expected – or deserved – experience.
Why should a radio show be any different?
When Does The Show Start?
Broadcasters think a show starts at the time they are assigned to be on-air. But that’s not how listeners use radio. The show starts when they first turn it on because that experience is all that matters to them just as the only thing that matters to a customer is what happens in the restaurant while they are there.
Every break is important because:
You’re making an impression. Or not. This may be the only time that day listeners hear you. It may be the only time this week. Is this how you want your personality brand remembered?
It’s your first talk break. Not theirs. The time you report to work is irrelevant. Imagine ordering a beer at the bar and the bartender says, “Hey, hold on a minute. My shift just started. I’m not ready yet.” The start time of his shift is irrelevant to a thirsty customer.
You’re leaking ratings. Competition for audience attention is intense. Can you afford to lose a quarter-hour when it only takes one more occasion per day and one more day per week to double your ratings? Winning radio is a game of inches. A mail-it-in break is practically inviting the audience to tune out.
How To Fix It
I used to schedule the morning show to start at least 30 minutes before I actually wanted them. That was a sneaky way to clear the first talk break of the day and get the warm-ups out of the way. But that’s not a good solution because shows are making an impression and retaining or repelling listeners 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There are better ways to fix the first talk break of the day:
- Get there earlier. Actors don’t rush in the back door of the theater a couple of minutes before showtime. The band doesn’t show up at the venue as they’re being introduced on stage. Shows should be in the station an hour or more before show time. Never less than 30 minutes. This should be a basic rule that cannot be violated. Ever. Remember, you’re performing a show, not a shift.
- Prepare to play. Athletes don’t spend the first quarter of a game stretching. They do it before the game. Get ready to perform. Some shows spend 10-15 minutes playing Improv Games together. It’s a great way to get on the same page and wake your brain up.
- Prep that first break. Start fast with great content. Plan it. It will energize the team and the audience will feel the momentum.
There are limited opportunities to excite and delight listeners each day. Don’t waste a single moment.
Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Dimaggio was known for giving 100% every day. He was once asked what motivated him to play so hard every inning of every game. He said:
Because there might have been somebody in the stands today who’d never seen my play before, and might never see me again.
Play hard. Even in that first talk break each morning. Don’t be lazy. You’re better than that.