Does the format clock restrict you from being able to entertain? Many say it is a barrier. But every radio personality in history, from Ryan Seacrest to Howard Stern, believes he or she deserves more freedom to talk longer and more frequently. Clock restrictions are real, but talent has to adjust.

Don’t let barriers become obstacles in advancing along the Personality Success Path, a natural and necessary process for building relationships with listeners.

The truth is: The format clock has nothing to do with the ability to entertain.

Format Clock Restrictions

Working with a morning show, the topic turned to familiar territory:

Our competition is allowed more freedom to talk for longer periods. Isn’t that an advantage that will be hard to compete with? What can we do?

It’s a great discussion, but one that usually ends in a chicken or egg debate:

Does talent blossom because restrictions have been lifted or does the clock loosen when talent demonstrates they are so compelling that changes are needed?

For the most part, air talent must earn the right to talk more. And permission comes from the audience. When it’s time to talk more, they let you know. And a smart manager responds by relaxing format clock restrictions.

To earn more time to perform, use every opportunity to entertain, no matter the length. The goal should be to blow the audience away every time the mic is on. Maybe you’re restricted by a short song intro. Figure out how to use it.

I’ll never forget a break on a pop music station in Miami. It was the middle of February. A lovely day in Miami, but a massive blizzard was slamming the eastern seaboard with ice, snow, and high wind. Listeners in Miami heard a song start. Then the personality said:

If you’re on social media today, invite your friends to come on down. It’s another day in paradise on South Beach.

It’s a simple break, but it’s brilliant.

  • It’s personal: He uses the most powerful word in radio twice during the break: You. Attention is focused outward, and he speaks one-to-one.
  • The content is topical: Everyone was talking about the blizzard. But in Miami, it’s 80 degrees and sunshine. This personality didn’t just say, “Hey, how about that blizzard? Our thoughts and prayers are with them.” And he didn’t try to explain the blizzard. He didn’t need to. That’s not what the break was about.
  • It’s local: The topic was a blizzard, but he doesn’t even say that word. Instead, he turns a national story into local content.
  • Community Pride: This causes the audience to feel a connection to the city with the essence of being in South Florida.

Break Length

The time needed to entertain has nothing to do with the ability to entertain. Don’t hide behind it as an excuse. Every artist has restrictions. A painter’s canvas may be the size of a postage stamp or the side of a building. Art is expressed within the boundaries of the media in which it is created.

You can do this. It hones basic performance skills and will serve you well when the leash is loosened because tight and efficient delivery is never out of style. If the format allows four 30-second breaks per hour and 3-4 song intros, more time in show prep is required to design content for a tighter window.

It’s still a show, not a shift. And it’s your show.

Write, re-write and work out how to make it fit.


I’ve been in many meetings with management discussing talk limits. Their goal is to keep the station moving forward. But “too much talk” is rarely because of too little entertainment. It’s almost always because there’s not enough great material to fill a break. It’s like jamming 3 minutes of content into 7 minutes.

I’ve heard thousands of 10-second breaks that were too long. And I’ve heard 11-minute segments that are too short! Your ability to entertain has nothing to do with the format clock. Rise above the restrictions and perform every break with flair and color. For inspiration, check out Broadway Bill Lee and JoJo Kincaid.

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