There are two types of personalities. Those who are in the entertainment business and those who have a job on the air. There is nothing wrong with either. But one is more valuable. It’s okay to work a shift. But the future belongs to those performing a show. So which is it? Are you performing a show or a shift?

This has nothing to do with the amount of music on the show or how long content breaks are. It has everything to do with impact.

A personality performing a show is designed with the goal of becoming a primary reason to tune in, attracting listeners beyond the format’s appeal. They attract listeners because of who they are (Stage 5, the Love Stage in the Personality Success Path).

Shift workers enhance the listening experience for the audience tuned in for other primary purposes, but will never be the main reason to listen.

A Show Or A Shift?

Here are some of the signs of whether you’re working a shift or performing a show:

Frequent Presence: Shows are on the air frequently. Personalities can’t disappear for 15 minutes to make way for music, commercials, and information elements. The average tune-in occasion is around 7 minutes. Many listeners tune in and out and never hear personalities on some stations. Without a frequent presence, a show will never develop. The talent will always be performing a shift.

Stop Sets & Imaging: Shows don’t segue into and out of commercial sets. I understand the programming strategy to get into commercials without talk. But if a programmer considers talk into spots a barrier to listening, the personalities are working a shift. Not a show. Another sign: Playing produced imaging between songs that reference the personalities but don’t demonstrate character.

Every Moment Counts: Personalities performing a shift see a 7-second intro and shrug their shoulders as if there’s nothing they can do in such a short amount of time. Shows figure out how to turn that into entertainment, like the amazing Broadway Bill Lee.

Promotion: Stations committed to developing on-air stars promote the personalities as spokespeople for the brand. A morning show promoting the at-work music mix or contest is an effective way to accelerate familiarity (Stage 2 in the Personality Success Path).

Demonstrate Character Traits: Shows are bold, revealing character traits identified in a Character Profile so the audience gets to know them through content. Talent executing a shift is happy talking up ramps of songs but remains basically invisible. They may sound great, but they don’t allow listeners to know them enough to become interested.

Shows connect with listeners. Shift-workers not so much. Here’s more detail in my two-minute drill:

The Future Of Radio Is Developing Shows

There’s mounting evidence of radio’s declining influence. Broadcasters know it, even if they pretend it’s not happening:

  • The average TSL per tune in occasion has declined to 7 minutes.
  • Weekly and daily cume has plummeted, particularly with younger listeners. Don’t believe it? Dig deep into Nielsen reports and badger your ratings rep for detailed information. It’s alarming.
  • P1 listening is declining. Sit in on focus groups with “fans” of a radio station without strong personalities. They may have a favorite station, but it’s not nearly as “favorite” as you think.
  • Stations hoping to survive with a music-intensive format are fooling themselves. Listeners are fleeing for streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Prime. Do you really think this trend will reverse?
  • Look at the raw AQH trend at your station, competitors and in the market over the last five years. It’s going down.
  • And when radio stations face new performance fees for artists on top of paying publishers, the cost of programming music will skyrocket.

There is one solution. Personality.


Upper Management: Please think about the future, and how to revive a declining audience base. What will sustain a revenue stream? It’s no longer about getting a larger percentage of radio listening. That’s fighting a battle where every broadcaster eventually loses. Change the game. Fight for a larger share of attention.

Programmers: If you’re counting on talent that performs a shift to be “good enough”, rethink your position. It’s not going to work. Many stations are getting caught between show and shift. If you don’t have the talent that can get you there, find them. We can help you with the Media Talent Pool.

Air Talent: Stop thinking about how to sound better. Start thinking about how to become personalities that impact listeners, even if that means starting in small ways on a small canvas.

We can help in all of these areas. Contact us to find out how we can help develop a show.

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