Short and Tight Are Not The Same

Short and Tight Are Not The Same

by Tracy Johnson

Programmers and personalities have the same goals: to capture listener attention and command more time spent listening. The problem is finding common ground in a strategy to achieve that goal. But here’s a concept that may help bring these warring factions together. Short and tight are not the same thing.

There’s a ton of research that shows listeners won’t put up with too much talk. It’s one of the biggest complaints in most research studies. And it’s true. The audience won’t tolerate personalities who talk too much. So PD’s place restrictions on the length of breaks. It’s another example of applying programming rules without thinking it through.

So personalities talk too fast and edit content. This results in a short break that stays within the time limits. But the content doesn’t connect. Breaks that don’t connect are too much talk, regardless of length.

So how long should talk breaks be? That’s a good question.

Short and Tight Are Different Concepts

Here’s the problem: Programmers think they can mitigate the “talks too much” complaint by shortening breaks. But that’s not the point. Creating tight breaks should be the goal, regardless of how long that break is.

This is about editing and focus.

I’ve heard many breaks that sound like 7 minutes of content crammed into 3 minutes.

And vice-versa. Sometimes, 3 minutes of content are stretched into a 7-minute break!

Tight and short are different concepts. Short can be measured with a stopwatch.

Tight means editing words for maximum impact. It’s a discipline that has nothing to do with the length of a talk segment.


  • Some great movies are over 3 hours long. But they’re tight. Nothing is wasted. Others are 90 minutes and seem like they’ll never end.
  • How many pages should be in a book? Enough to tell the story, and no more.
  • If it’s accepted that songs should be short, some of the greatest hits in history would never have been released. And aren’t you disappointed when you hear the edited version of some of those classics?
You might also like:  A Bad Day On The Radio

Coaching Tight, Not Short

I was in an aircheck session with a client. We listened to the first segment. The program director turned off the audio, looked at the talent, and said:

Do you know what I like about that break? It was short.

All the air left the room. That places the emphasis on the wrong syllable.

Coaching mechanics (How long is the break?) instead of performance (How good was the break?) drives personalities crazy. And rightfully so.

Maybe this will help. Here are guidelines for personalities:

  • A tight break starts with great show prep. Identify the essence of each break in the prep process and focus the segment (story) exclusively on it. Eliminate all details that don’t support the essence. There’s a great example with Louis CK here.
  • Learn to create great art (performance) on a small canvas (short break). It will serve you well when the canvas gets larger.

For programmers:

  • Focus on how breaks can be more effective. Chances are, it will naturally result in shorter segments. For help, check out my seminar on demand Treat Them Like Dogs.
  • Be flexible in execution, but rigid in performance discipline. Help personalities understand which stage they are in their Personality Success Path. Set up coaching sessions to help them advance to the next stage.
You might also like:  3 Programming Rules that Make No Sense


If you take nothing else from this article, remember this simple concept:

A break should be as long as it needs to be…and no longer. And it should be as short as it can be…and no shorter.



Treat Them Like Dogs ebook<

Treat Them Like Dogs Seminar on Demand

3 Programming Rules that Make No Sense

The 3 Ways To Increase Radio Ratings

The Importance of Word Economy

How Long Should Talk Breaks Be?

Louis CK…The Four Rules of Funny

The Art Of the Edit

Winning Recipe For Success: Prepare Tight and Perform Loose


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.


12 Step Program To Become An On-Air Superstar eBook
Webinar, $19.00

Many personalities have been on the air for decades without a plan. This 29-page eBook is designed to guide your career on a path of sustained success. A complete step-by-step guide that's ideal for new and inexperienced radio talent on the path to become an on-air superstar.

The New Insiders Radio Network

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