Radio Shows and The Overnight Success Myth

Radio Shows and The Overnight Success Myth

by Tracy Johnson

We are all impatient. We want what we want when we want it. It’s part of contemporary life. And when we have an idea, it goes on the air right away. And naturally, we expect immediate results. We want to catch lightning in bottle. Overnight success is attractive.

Broadcasters make this miscalculation all the time. A new morning show is hired, and the next ratings period is down. They want to know why, and immediately start questioning the strategy.

The next book shows little improvement. Or maybe it’s lower again. Now management questions if this was a mistake, and think about looking for the next overnight success.

Personalities feel the anxiety. They sense when confidence fades.

Personality radio takes time.

The Overnight Success Myth

Whether you’re Elvis Duran, Ryan Seacrest, Howard Stern or Bobby Bones, winning radio shows rarely produce overnight success stories.

Personalities become successful by forming relationships with listeners. It takes time to find a position, develop a “voice” and attract an audience.

Relationships take time, and winning broadcasters understand the process. Audiences fall in love with radio shows in stages. I call the process the Personality Success Path. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Download the personality Success path Infographic Here

Download “Personality Success Path Infographic” Success-Path-Infographic-TJMG.pdf – Downloaded 584 times – 135 KB

Randy Lane shared a research project by Jeffrey Hall, a researcher in communications at Kansas University. Hall conducted a study to measure how long it takes for a friendship to develop from first meeting to besties.

His findings show that:

It takes 94 hours to go from acquaintance to casual friends.

Best friend status takes place at around 219 hours.Serious friendship happens at about 164 hours.

Think about that. Then consider how much time listeners spend with a radio show each day.

They listen for very short periods, usually around 7 minutes per occasion. The average P1 contributes about 6 quarter hours of listening per week to a radio show.

At that rate, it takes 62 weeks for a P1 to become a casual friend. That’s more than a year.

To become a fan (Best Friend), would take 146 weeks. That’s nearly three years.

You Can’t Hurry Love

It’s possible to accelerate the process, but as the song goes, You Can’t Hurry Love.

You might also like:  Personality Radio Lessons From Wile E. Coyote

When starting the Personality Success Path, I encourage talent to focus only on moving from the current stage to the next. The faster one can advance from Stage 1 (Introduction) to Stage 2 (Familiarity), the better. Growing into Stage 3 (Growth) is when real progress begins.

The sad thing is many personalities are stuck in Stage 1 or 2 for years or even decades.

That’s why it’s important to establish specific reasons to listen. The audience is first attracted to things you do. That’s why features are such a powerful tool for building a personality brand.

But they become fans because of who you are. Surrounding features with content that displays character traits through perspective, point of view and personal observations helps listeners connect with you.

Time Is Just One Factor

Yet performing a show and waiting isn’t a recipe for success. Just because a show has been on for years doesn’t mean they’ll advance through the 5 Stages of Growth.

There are many shows that have been on for years and are stuck in Stage 2. Listeners have heard of them, but don’t know anything about them or really care. They haven’t made an impact.

Great management teams are able to identify shows that need time to nurture an audience relationship and those that are doomed to Stage 1 or 2.

Patience with the right show is a virtue. If a show has potential, management’s role is to provide an environment that produces confidence. Help them stay the course through good times and bad (ratings period). Avoid over-reactions in both directions and stay off the emotional roller coaster.

Never Coast

But a frequent result of management exercising patience is ignoring problem areas. While it takes time for talent to develop, just waiting won’t cure problems.

Every show has growing pains and will fail to some degree.

Smart managers identify weaknesses quickly and are proactive to strengthen areas that need it.

Make adjustments, critique the results and study the most effective ideas. Evaluate the impact of tweaks, and build on positive adjustments while taking the next step forward.

This will accelerate the process as the building blocks of the show are forming a solid foundation.

Need help critiquing your show to find a strategy for growth? We can help with our air check coaching services.

You might also like:  The Personality Success Path: 5 Stages of Growth


Everyone wants overnight success. But it rarely happens.

Many stations start the process of building an amazing personality brand and make it through the first two stages of growth. Some are on the verge of their big breakthrough. Then, at the edge of great success, management loses patience. They pull the plug or change the show at just the wrong time. And the process starts over.

Building a successful personality brand takes courage, persistence and commitment.

If you’re a manager looking for help in knowing whether show has potential and how to get them to the top, let me know. I’d love to help.

If you’re an air talent looking for a breakthrough to find your voice and get on a Personality Success Path, check out my Audience Magnet Course. It has everything you need to succeed.

Just be prepared. Winning radio shows don’t happen as quickly as we would like or think they should. It won’t be an overnight success.

Lucky? No Such Thing. 5 Ways To Make Your Own Luck

Tracy Johnson’s Audience Magnet Video Course

Personality Success Path

The #1 Trait For Successful Talent: Work Ethic

Air Check Coaching Services

Personality Traits Every Radio Performer Needs to Develop

You Won’t Believe How Little Listeners Listen

Just Getting it Over The Net Won’t Win Wimbledon

Opt In Image
The World's Premiere Talent Coach!
Available Now In Markets Worldwide

Every performer needs a coach. That's where we come in.

The difference between good and great is personalities that relate to listeners.

Wanna win? So do we. We develop on-air superstars, and are ready to make you our next success story.


It’s All About The Hook eBook
Webinar, $19.00

If a radio segment gets off to a slow start, listeners tune out. And if they tune out, they miss that great payoff you spent so much time prepping. This eBook shows you how to hold listeners with killer hooks!  

The New Insiders Radio Network

Is This Really Radio's Most Valuable Resource For Personalities Programmers and Promotion Managers?