You Won’t Believe How Little Listeners Actually Hear

You Won’t Believe How Little Listeners Actually Hear

by Tracy Johnson

Every morning you bust your hump to create great content, and bring your “A” game to entertain your fans and attract new ones. You’re grinding it out, day after day. You obsess about each and every quarter hour. You’re promoting, teasing and executing those features with precision. You pour your heart and soul into the show every day. Yet when you analyze audience behavior, it’s amazing how much they actually hear.

It’s offensive, in a way. You put so much into it, and those greedy, self-absorbed, me-first listeners reward us by tuning out. They turn on other stations, including our arch rivals. How dare they? Don’t they know how hard this is?

The Distracted Listener

Or they are focusing on something else, like talking to their spouse or kids. Our station may be on, but it’s in the background, so they miss our best material. It’s just plain rude.

Then their phone rings, or a text comes in and they take that call from their boss, or turn down the radio to make plans for lunch with a friend instead of paying attention to our 7:10 feature. Come on, today’s episode is awesome. What’s wrong with you?

And they stop their car to run and errand or run into a convenience store for coffee. There goes that quarter-hour. They’re not even available to listen. And when they come back in, they may forget about us for the rest of the show.

When they get 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. They’ll certainly remember to come back right after they get the traffic-won’t they?

And then, when they get to work, they plan to turn on your show to hear that feature you’ve been promoting all morning. But a friend emailed a link to a cute video on YouTube. So they do that first. And then watch another video. And another. Soon, they forget all about your well-planned and prepared feature.

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How Much They Actually Hear

This pattern repeats itself day after day, hour after hour, with all listeners. It’s not just those causal comers that tune out. It’s also your fans. Those passionate P1’s that spend more time with your station than any other forget about you, too.

When you analyze how much of your show they actually hear, it’ll be shocking. Then sobering. Then hopefully, it’ll prompt you to do something about it.

The Math

Assuming you are on the air 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.

That’s 20 hours, or 1,200 minutes per week.

We know that listeners tune in to their most-listened-to morning show an average of 3 times per day for about less than 10 minutes per occasion.

And they tune in an average of 2.3 days a week.

That means you get 30 minutes of tune in per day for 2.3 days per week. 30 x 2.3 = 69 minutes per week.

And you’re on 1,200 minutes per week. So here’s how much they actually hear:

69/1200 = 5.75%

The average P1—your biggest fans—miss 94.25% of your show.

What To Do About It

Wow. Ouch. That hurts, doesn’t it? Oh, I forgot to mention that this is just the amount of time your radio show registers on their 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.

They aren’t going to change their listening habits, so you have to change to fit into their lifestyle. What does that mean for your show? Here are 3 key things:

  1. Your show doesn’t start when you go on the air. It starts when they tune in. The same is true for the end of your show. It ends when they tune out. So forget about that first break in the morning when you’re just warming up and teasing all the great content you have planned for the next 3 or 4 hours. It doesn’t resonate. Instead, start fast. Start strong. Launch with great content that attracts and engages your listener. And promote what you’re doing in the next few minutes to improve your chances of getting them to come back for one more occasion today.
  2. If you aren’t talking about today’s hot topic when they happen to be listening, you didn’t talk about it. At least to them. When you “save” that topic for 7:40 because “more people are listening”, your 6:15 and 8:50 audience thinks you’re out of touch. To them, you didn’t even reference it. Stop saving your best topics. Learn the art of repeating, repurposing and re-performing truly great content with a recycling strategy.
  3. When you accept the fact that listeners do tune out, and there is nothing you can do about it, you’ll embrace the art of teasing and pre-promotion. You may not be able to prevent the button-punch, but you can make it worthwhile to tune back in. This is one of your most valuable weapons, but you must learn to use that weapon in battle: The battle for attention.
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Are you surprised? Isn’t it amazing how much they actually hear?

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Re-think how you perform your show. Put some urgency into making the show stand out with truly great material.

Are you evolving your show to fit into your audience’s actual listening habits? To a more distracted audience? To fans who aren’t as loyal or passionate as they were in the past?

Is your show optimized to appeal to your audience based on how much they actually hear?

Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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