Every morning you work hard to entertain fans and attract new ones. It’s a grind, day after day. Each and every quarter-hour is a battle. Teases and features are delivered with precision. Your heart and soul go into the show every day. But here’s a reality check. It’s amazing how little listeners listen.

It’s disheartening. Or at least annoying. Personalities put so much into every show, and what’s the reward? Those greedy, self-absorbed, me-first listeners tune out. They actually turn to other stations.

How dare they? Don’t they know how hard this is? And how important it is to us?

But that’s not even the worst part.

The Distracted Listener

Most listening takes place in the background, with attention focused on something else. Like talking to their spouse or kids. The radio may be on, but it’s in the background. They never hear the best moments.

It’s just rude.

Then they take a call from the boss or turn down the radio to make lunch plans instead of paying attention to the 7:10 feature. They pop into a convenience store for coffee. There goes another quarter-hour. And when they come back, they may forget about what or who was on the radio.

Back on the highway, they’re stuck in traffic. So they tune out to get a report from the station that gives traffic every 8 minutes. Will they remember to come back?

At work, everything changes. Will they tune in for the contest we promoted all morning? Maybe. But an email comes in with a link to a cute video on YouTube. So that comes first. And then another video. And another.

How Little Listeners Listen

This pattern repeats day after day, hour after hour. It’s true for causal listeners and fans. Even passionate P1’s aren’t listening as much as we would like. Analysis shows how little listeners listen. It’s sobering.

The Math (Sorry)

Here are the facts:

  • Assume a radio show is on the air 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. That’s 20 hours or 1,200 minutes per week.
  • Listeners tune in their most-listened-to radio show an average of 3 times per day.
  • Each occasion is about 7 minutes.
  • And they tune in an average of just over two days a week.

That means morning shows receive about 21 minutes of actual tune-in per day for about 2 days per week.

That means each week they hear 21 minutes x 2 days = 42 minutes per week. 

Remember, the show is on for about 1,200 minutes per week. So here’s how much they actually hear:

  • 42/1200 = 3.5%
  • 100%-3.5%=96.5%

The average P1 misses 96.5% of your show.

Ouch. That hurts, doesn’t it? Oh, I forgot to mention that this is just the amount of time the show registers on a meter. It doesn’t take into account whether or not they’re hearing anything you say. They’re usually listening in the background.

Double ouch.

Relax. Step back.

What To Do About It

Listeners aren’t going to change listening habits.

The only way to respond to this data is to find ways to fit into their lifestyle and become more important to earn more quarter-hours.

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Radio shows don’t start when personalities first go on-air. They start when a listener first tunes in. Every time the mic is turned on will be the first break of the day for a large percentage of listeners. Every break requires “A” material.
  2. Talk about today’s hot topic multiple times in a show. Saving a topic for 7:40 because “more people are listening” means the 6:15 and 8:50 audience thinks you’re out of touch. To them, you didn’t even reference it.
  3. Stop saving the best topics. Learn the art of repeating, repurposing, and re-performing great content with a recycling strategy.
  4. Listeners tune out, and nothing can prevent it. Embrace the art of teasing and pre-promotion. It won’t keep them from tuning out, but it will increase the chance of a return engagement.


Are you surprised at how little listeners listen? Isn’t it amazing how much they actually (don’t) hear?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Maybe it’s time to rethink the show based on how radio is being heard.

Is your show optimized to appeal to the audience? Let us help. We can redesign the show and put you on the path to success. Contact us.


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