Using Learning Theory for Programming Features

Using Learning Theory for Programming Features

by Tracy Johnson

Your morning show has a great new idea. Now you have to figure out a strategy for programming features so it has maximum impact. Now, the hand-wringing begins. How often should you run it? Daily? Weekly? Once in awhile?

Most of the time, program directors go with what feels right. Their gut. But there’s a better way. Bring science into the equation.

Many good features fail because we don’t expose them often enough or promote them heavily enough. Think about it logically.

Learning Theory and Programming Features

Learning theorists (behavioral scientists who study how human beings learn new concepts) believe  it takes 12 repetitions to become familiar with, and learn, something new. Now think about how fans listen to your show:

  • They listen for about 10 minutes at a time.
  • They listen for 2-3 quarter hours per day.
  • And they average just over 2 days per week.

Remember, these are your fans. Secondary listeners and casual cumers listen much less frequently. In fact more than 50% of your audience tune in for a total of less than five minutes per day.

Implications For Programming Features

Now imagine that you have a variety of contests or games that are all at least average in appeal. Maybe you have five games that you play each game once a week. How long does it take to get traction?

  • Fans who tune in every single day figure it out in 12 weeks…if they happen to tune in at the right time.
  • Fans tuning in 3 days per week (above average) learn it in about 17 weeks…again, if they catch you in the right quarter hours every time.
  • If they tune in 2 days per week (just below average), it’s almost 20 weeks.
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Note that this is assuming you play the game at the same time, as listeners tend to be habitual, pattern listeners. If you rotate the game through different quarter hours and hours, it’s unlikely it will ever become familiar.

And, I would argue that finding that many features that fit your station, match your character profile, are strong in appeal and you’re really good at is difficult.

The Mind Clutter Effect

Add to that the mind clutter of managing so many different elements. The competition for attention adds another barrier to listener understanding. That’s why you should grow a show by adding one  element at a time and being great at it. It’s the concept of Concentration of Force.

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You may argue that your show becomes redundant by scheduling the same features at the same time every day. That’s a valid point only if the feature isn’t very good. That’s another reason to be selective and do fewer things better.

If you insist on rotating feature times, here’s how to do it.

If it’s really a hit, you won’t be able to burn it out. One client has been running a benchmark feature four times each morning for more than 7 years. It’s the strongest, most identifiable part of the show.

And, remember this: Features are merely content containers. It’s what you do inside the feature that matters.

Worry about burn in, not burn out. Great features can run for years. If and when fatigue sets in, create a new feature!

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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