by Tracy Johnson
A popular tool for online publishers to attract clicks is making lists. They are everywhere: The Top 7 Reasons to Dump Your Mate or 14 Ways to Organize Your Life are great for an online blog. Lists work because they’re concise, easy to scan, focused and helpful. I use them in online marketing. But reading lists on the air is a waste of time.
Typically, a radio show finds an interesting list. It got their attention, so why not just read it, along with some comments on each item on the list? Some shows extend the topic and crowdsource additional items to add to the list.
Even if there are funny lines, it’s still a bad idea. It’s lazy radio. Reading lists is an example of settling for Low Hanging Fruit.
There are many problems. In fact, I have a list of problems with lists on the air here.
Lists are common. Show prep sites are full of them. But in personality radio? Lists produce a giant yawn. Radio is a unique medium.
A key principle in storytelling (and every break you do on the air includes storytelling principles) is crafting content in a way that gives listeners a stake in the story.
That’s rule #16 in Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling.
But with list-y content, stories don’t emerge. The segment just flows from one item to the next, never taking root.
As a result, it becomes hard to follow. There is too much going on, and listeners feel disconnected from the content. And when the audience doesn’t feel involved, they tune out. Without a stake in the outcome, the content isn’t sticky. And that’s recipe for losing attention, no matter how well the list is executed.
When a new list of the Top 10 Places to Live comes out in Money Magazine, personalities read the list and comment on each location. Nice content, but it’s not sticky. The conversation usually turns into taking shots at the magazine for getting the list wrong.
And who gets the benefit? Money sells more magazines or gets more clicks to their website. Even if listeners are entertained, they quickly forget where they heard it. They remember how cool it is to live in Savannah, and may even make a mental note to check out the list to get more details. In essence, it’s a free commercial for the magazine.
Why would you want to transfer credit for your content the original source?
That attention should be yours. Take an extra minute or two to generate an idea that shines the attention on your show.
Lists fail on the air because they’re designed as a collection of facts and listeners don’t react to information and data. They respond to emotion.
That’s why lists have a tendency to suck the imagination and emotion from a radio break.
The good news is that it’s easy to turn a list into an engaging story.
Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the Top 100 rock albums of all time is certainly credible. It may inspire great thoughts or comments. A personality could debate the merits of those albums in the Top 10. But the list is still informational and not emotional until it’s injected with color and emotion.
Wouldn’t it be more powerful to choose two or three choices from the Top 5 and ask the audience to choose one and throw away the other two? This changes the way they hear a break. It turns it into a personal, emotional break.
The art of content curation is to convert interesting topics (information) into stories that come alive through your personality brand. That demands more time in preparation to find the emotional essence of each topic.
Lists are a great source of topical content, but that’s where the show prep process begins. Mine that list for the most compelling aspects that fit your brand and turn it into unique content that shines the spotlight on your show.
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