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1+1+1 = ?

Why do listeners choose to listen to a particular radio station?

It’s a slightly misleading question, as it can't be answered accurately without clarifying what daypart or format the question refers to. The shows on talk stations are, or at least should be, 'destinations' in their own right. And dayparts on music stations have different 'motivations' for choice.

On a music station, listeners choose a station at breakfast and afternoon drive because of the on-air talent. Whilst the music must ‘fit’, and be in the slot for the target, it is not the primary reason for choosing a station at breakfast. 

The music is, to a large extent irrelevant, it exists to complement the breakfast talent.

Conversely, listeners generally choose a workday station based on the music images, and the music, of a station. The announcers should complement the music. Essentially the reversal of the breakfast driver for listening.

This article is written with music dayparts as the focus.

As a broad observation some announcers in a music daypart, if not airchecked effectively by their programmer, have an unrealistic view of how much attention listeners actually pay to their content. There is often a disconnect.

This often results in long, unfocused breaks, with multiple elements contained in the break.

Put bluntly: it doesn’t matter how entertaining an announcer thinks he or she is in a music daypart (and I used to be a pretty average one before programming), the listener is more interested in hearing the current big hit, hot new song or great gold track for the format.

This is not to say the announcers role is not important, in fact it is essential to provide 'context' and a 'heartbeat' to the radio station - otherwise it would be a soul-less jukebox. However in the same way that breakfast shows have effective and clear role definition for the various characters, music announcers also require role definition. 

Their role is to keep the music flowing, and ensure that the content in their live breaks connects with what the listeners are doing, watching, talking about, thinking. To make the music, the format, and the station 'the star'.

To do so with an understanding that listeners are not hanging off their every word.

This means tightness. It means ‘one thought per break’. It means being able to inject personality and content in a focused way into a 12 second break with a caller over an intro. There is clearly a time and place for longer breaks, not all breaks can be this tight, however a highly crafted speed break is a fundamental tool of successful music announcers.

When we were launching Nova some years ago, I recall Dean Buchanan using the following equation, and I quite shamelessly pinched it and have used it for years since.

 

 1 + 1 + 1  =  1/3

 

Three elements in a talk break will have 1/3 of the impact. 

Many times announcers have told me that it’s impossible to have any personality and engagement in a 12-second speed break, and that requiring them to do so is robotic and sterile.

They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.

Successful music announcers understand that focusing on one element in a break, keeping the music flowing, whilst injecting personality, topicality and/or localism into a tight break is essential when conducting their show.

If you are good enough, you can do it.

If you are committed enough you can learn how do to it.

And if you think it can’t be done, then you’re not good enough.

It’s called crafting. And it’s what all the great music announcers have the ability to do.
 

Note: For the purpose of this article, when noting the reasons for choice, I’ve ignored the significant number of listeners who listen to a station in a workplace where the station is selected for them with no input.

 

Dan Bradley is Executive Director of Kaizen Media; a boutique international radio consulting and artist management company, working with radio stations, media talent and music artists.

You can contact Dan here.

 

Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 08:00



Anonymous(9:39am 27 Aug 2012)
What programming genius. I feel like we've been dragged back to 1994. 'No one wants to hear people talk during the workday', which is why 'Get This' was so popular at 11am in the morning on the M's. Their 'speed breaks' were legendary. Face it, there are no rules when it comes to success. Only egotistical PD's who were never great themselves but think they know everything somehow.
Jeremy(9:52am 27 Aug 2012)
Great piece Dan. It's not often the craft of the quick and effective break is recognised in these times of comedians and ex-BB-housemates.

Anyone can prattle on for 2min but only the highly skilled, well-planned communicator can cut through in under 10 seconds and make it memorable. It can be done and should be done more often.

Thanks for posting this Dan and (for still) considering it to be important today. I was beginning to think it was a lost art.
Peter Holden(10:57am 27 Aug 2012)
Good stuff from Dan.

It comes back to what we were all taught when we first began in radio... "If you ain't got something interesting to say, don't turn on the microphone".

That said, why do PDs always have their morning/arvo music jocks plugging what happened in Breakfast again, again, again and again????!!!

Do you hear the talk stations (who have the higher rating breakfast shifts) have their morning/arvo hosts plug breakfast at every chance? Of course not! So why does music radio feel they need to do it?
Anonymous(11:08am 27 Aug 2012)
The thinking around this has changed, this article would of been relevant in 2005.
Callum Jones(12:13pm 27 Aug 2012)
Great read, Dan, I'm intrigued as to why many disagree with you Dan? Thoughts?
Anonymous(13:33pm 27 Aug 2012)
I am a workday announcer, I have always tried to be tight. Listening to stations like Fox growing up, I knew that's how I wanted to broadcast, I worked hard to keep my breaks tight, to never let the music stop yet keep my break local/ 1 element per break etc.

At the station I currently work at:
- We only talk into commercials (no speed breaks, only stop downs)
- I've only been airchecked once in the 2 years I've been here

I agree very much with Dan's article, for someone in my position who wants to be the best I can be but being that the 'PD is always right', having to do it his way can be very frustrating. (At previous stations, I was able to speed break and hone in on the skills Dan talks about)

My question to PDs/CDs is how do I deal with this? Or do I cut my losses and move on (the PD is very headstrong and resists change, if it's not his idea he is very unlikely to go with it)
dan(14:51pm 27 Aug 2012)
Thanks for the comments, we always appreciate it. I would like to address two particular ones for now;

For the first commenter who has inferred something that I didn't actually say, let me be clear; I didn't say that 'shows' can't work in daytimes, and I didn't suggest Tony Martin do 12-second speed breaks. My point was that for 'music jocks', an understanding of their particular role is important, and the ability to craft speed breaks is a key skill of the role. Feel free to disagree with my view, but I would appreciate you not misrepresenting it.

For the comment regarding 2005 - I missed the memo that said crafting was an irrelevance. Whilst you may consider crafting 'old-school', I stand by my view that the art of crafting will always have an important role to play, in 2012 and beyond.
greg smith(16:18pm 27 Aug 2012)
Dan is spot on. I’ve always been a strong believer in music announcers crafting the sound of a radio station. If you don’t believe me just ask Paul Amos from Xtra Research
(www.xtraresearch.com).

Paul does ongoing research for radio stations in many different countries including Australia’s leading radio networks;

“While there’s no substitute for compelling content, the research I’ve seen on second by second content testing around the world all comes back with the same result. Less is more! Today more than ever, people’s attention spans have decreased. Greater choice has made them even harder markers. In our studies, every second counts.
The other part to this is how people actually use radio in certain dayparts. Breakfast and Drive, big on in car listening and more foreground. At work, less so.

“Anonymous” is using an exception to support his case. We have seen the importance of “warm & friendly announcers” grow in recent years, however the station that plays the best music for my taste still remains the top ranked priority. Oh, and you can do warm & friendly in 12 seconds”.

Paul Amos Managing Director Xtra Research
Jason Staveley(18:29pm 27 Aug 2012)
Dan makes some very valid points in this article (the comments on his own on-air work in particular) and it's great to see those comments confirmed with some 'science' (research) from Greg & Paul.

I spent a large chunk of 2011 researching the impact of Personal People Meters on programming, in preparation for their introduction into the German market in coming years. I spoke with programmers in Denmark, the US & Canada and each time the message was the same - keep it short and to the point in music intense dayparts (outside of Breakfast).

Sharon Dastur, the PD at New York's Z100 said that before they had jocks doing breaks over 24 second intros, they were now cutting them down to 12 seconds.......AND the content had better be pretty compelling.

In the busy, time stretched world Paul Amos mentions it's about earning the listeners ears.

Any DJ / Jock / Air-personality must understand the listener has the power to the push the button and change station....any PD with minute-by-minute PPM ratings understands this clearly. The only difference is, the diary system doesn't show what listeners are doing all the time.

Good article guys - perhaps some tips from 'the great music jocks' on HOW TO DO IT might be useful for your readers (jocks and PDs)?

Jason
Kate(20:24pm 27 Aug 2012)
I have two words for you Dan, Richard Stubbs.
jules(20:33pm 27 Aug 2012)
I have 3 words for you kate.
'read the article'.
Stubbs was a brekkie announcer and is now a talkback one, I think dans article is clear that his commenrts are directed at music jocks.
Anonymous(7:52am 28 Aug 2012)
I'm sorry, but this is all back slapping nonsense. 12 seconds? 13 seconds? These are the kinds of figures you guys are throwing around, then why was I listening to a high profile major metro station yesterday afternoon at 1pm where the former ACRA winning jock did a break that contained a music sweep, a promo and a breakie grab that all up took 45 secs or thereabouts? And shock of horrors, I didn't change the station either.
And for all your shattered little ego's over the 'Get This' reference - the POINT was that it's an exception to the rule. It rated it's tits off and STILL it was too new and weird for the powers that be that they took it off air. Australian radio takes very few chances with their content. Very soon we're all gonna be SmoothFM, airchecking every break before it goes to air.
Anonymous(8:23am 28 Aug 2012)
Anonymous enjoy your long career in what must be a non competitive regional market because if you dont think being able to do a tight shift/break is important then it's obvios that you dont work in syd, Mel, bris, adl or Perth. And unlikely in newy, Canberra, gc or cc either.
What chance you might share the market you work in with us?
squinty(8:44am 28 Aug 2012)
Yes, get this rated very well but from what I'm told, people would come to Triple M only to listen to that show and leave once it finished, while people who would listen to Triple M all day at work would change to another station.

Btw I loved Get This

Sorry, now to get back on topic
CB(8:55am 28 Aug 2012)
Anyone listened to 2Day or the Fox workday recently? You should be. Haven't heard too many '12 seconds breaks'. Hearing shitloads of creative phone calls, callers and ideas though. All of which go for longer than 12 seconds.

Have you guys heard of Tim Lee?

I agree with some of the comments on here, that this is now slightly outdated thinking. The concept of getting planning the break right isn't, but 12 second breaks with ridiculous word economy that stops you having a REAL conversation is done.
Anonymous(9:57am 28 Aug 2012)
Hi anonymous,

Why would I give away my market when I'm having an ANONYMOUS opinion? Don't you think that defied logic? And stop being butthurt, it's only an opinion you numbskull. I will say this. I take it personally because I'm on air and there's nothing more annoying than people carrying on as if they know more about your job than you do. It doesn't matter if it goes for 15 seconds or a minute and 15 seconds, if the content is compelling then people will listen to it. Now I'll go back to my long career. Lol.
Anonymous(10:04am 28 Aug 2012)
Oh and I also meant to say 'spot on CB'. Just watch out they don't all jump down your throat for daring to disagree with them.
Jason McLean(10:33am 28 Aug 2012)
Whether a break is 10,12 or 30 seconds, I think the best way to get a listeners attention is 'make it interesting'. For example, a tease where people will think, hmm...who are they talking about? Or an interesting thought/fact where they will go 'Oh really?' Make it original. How it's said helps too.
Anonymous(10:41am 28 Aug 2012)
CB is right,

The issue with your research Greg is that it assumes there is only in car listening worth going after between 6a-9a and 4p-8p, have you tried driving across town in Sydney or Melbourne on any given weekend or anytime of the day for that matter.

It also assumes that workplace listening only happens between 9a-5p. Workplaces just don’t work like that anymore and if they do where? Because I would love to work 9a-5p.

You could argue that this is where the majority is which is fair, but with the amount of entertainment options now available it is sometimes the better option to fish with different bait.

I don’t think anyone is arguing that crafting or brevity isn’t important, that’s a given. It is more about making that connection and making sure that listener doesn’t go anywhere and if that takes an extra 10 seconds and isn’t one thought then do it.

Good discussion
Mark Sales(10:42am 28 Aug 2012)
Here's a listeners' perspective: tight and bright is alright, but if it's compelling and offers something insightful, I couldn't care less how long it goes for.

Just don't make it hard to comprehend. :)
Anonymous(13:46pm 28 Aug 2012)
Tim Lee kicks 12 second breaks in the dick. Nuff said.
Jamie Meldrum(16:21pm 28 Aug 2012)
Paul Amos & Xtra have just done our Market Study & Music Research here in Singapore for our new station Kiss 92 which launches Monday, exactly the same results.

But the funny thing we both realized that made everything click was inserting the word "sh*t" into the responses, so when asking "Which Station talks the most?" or "Which Breakfast show talks too much?" if you added the word sh*t to the end then it became crystal clear what you were really seeing.

Which is why I'm not so anal about it being precisely X number of seconds, I like to give my guys flexibility. But in return they need to understand that it's got to be creative, it's always got to be tight, and it's got to add something, not just be an excuse for self-indulgent crapping on, because when it's stuff your audience isn't interested in even 2 seconds is too much, every syllable becomes sh*t.

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