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The Stuph File Program – Episode #0509

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0509.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0508

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0508.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Science of Show Prep

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None of you got into radio or come to this site for a science lesson. But like it or note, radio performers can learn a lot from behavioral scientists especially when it comes to preparing content. The science of show prep can help you find a path to great success on the air.

Think about this:

Why does one painting become worth millions while another seemingly similar work sell for pennies on a garage sale?

What is the difference between a best-selling novel and one the author can’t give away to friends and family?

Why does one pop song rise to #1 while another with a great hook never cuts through?

What causes some online videos to go viral while millions of others are seen by only a few dozen?

When you arrive at answers, and while still thinking outside the box, apply it to radio.

Now ask yourself:

Why do some topics take off on the air, igniting strong response and word of mouth, but others do not? Every personality has had that feeling of disappointment when a can’t miss break ends up flat.

Yet other times, the simplest “so what” segments you never thought would resonate ignite.

In other words, what makes content work…or not? And how can you improve the “hit rate” of what is produced on your show?

The Science Of Show Prep

Behavioral scientists tell us that creating great content is not simply a matter of quality. The idea that the “best” art rises to the top and reaches the most people doesn’t explain it. It’s more than that.


 Jim Davies, a professor at Carleton University and director of the Science of Imagination Laboratory conduct a series of tests, resulting in his Theory of Compellingness.

Read all about it in his book: Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One with the Universe.

Davies answers questions such as:

  • Why do some things pass under the radar of our attention, but other things capture our interest?
  • Why do some religions catch on and others fade away?
  • What makes a story, a movie, or a book riveting?
  • Why do some people keep watching the news even though it makes them anxious?

For example, in a study about speed dating, people were asked about the type of partners they found attractive. Results showed answers before the exercise had no correlation with what they actually found attractive in person.

Davies explains:

We are beginning to understand just how much the brain makes our decisions for us: we are rewarded with a rush of pleasure when we detect patterns, as the brain thinks we’ve discovered something significant; the mind urges us to linger on the news channel or rubberneck an accident in case it might pick up important survival information; it even pushes us to pick up People magazine in order to find out about changes in the social structure.

That’s a clue into how listeners respond to radio shows.

Finding A Story In Topics

So how can you apply the science of show prep on a radio show each day? Mostly, it’s a matter of applying creative solutions to appeal to listeners on a personal, emotional level.

That’s the art of creating compelling content by finding stories inside topics. This may cause you to move beyond your comfort zone, but that can be a good thing. Many personalities get into a rut. This exercise will help shake you out of a routine that may have become ordinary to the audience.

Behind all of these concepts is a preparation technique I call TESOP: It’s an acronym for Topic, Execution, Story, Observation, Performance. It’s explained in detail here.

Whether the source of content comes from Harvesting Your Life or a show prep service, anything can turn into content if you mine it properly.

Here are some typical ways to convert ordinary into extraordinary.

Contrast

Create contrast to add drama in a storyline by putting a personality in an awkward or unexpected situation. Then exaggerate the story to bring out the suspense.

For example, a cast member with Claustrophobia is locked in a coffin for the entire show. Or someone with fear of heights goes bungee jumping. These stunts makes sense when there’s a story attached.

Resolve a Conflict or Dilemma

Some of the best relationship features work because each episode sets up a conflict that builds tension. Then the tension is resolved.

Set it up with a “what should I/they do” situation, and explore it.

This is the simple formula behind the success of may situation comedies on TV. A storyline is introduced and developed, conflict is raised to an extreme, then is resolved. You can do the same on the radio.

Seek The Extreme

Ordinary phone topics become storylines when the personality is on a quest or mission. Many clients organic these topics with a concept called the Book of Records.

Instead of an ordinary phone topic like “What did you eat when you were depressed?”, turn it into a quest to find “the most anyone listening has ever eaten in a depressed sitting”.

Just turning up the volume on it by going for the extreme (the most, youngest, oldest, farthest, etc.), a new layer of interest emerges.

Top 10 Lists

While using lists on the air is usually an example of lazy, uninspired show prep, there’s nothing wrong with turning unique content into a list. 

It’s a great way to compile a shareable, social media worthy segment. Start with an ordinary phone topic, such as “What excuses did you use to get out of Jury Duty?”. Then dramatize it by coming up with the show’s “Top 10 Excuses To Get You Out of Jury Duty.”

Make It a Game

Games are fun to play on the air, and add TSL by capitalizing on the play along factor. Some segments lend themselves to becoming a game.

At KLOVE, one of Skip & Amy’s most recognized features is a silly game they play on Fridays. Amy plays a musical instrument, and plays it poorly. She plays a familiar song, and listeners have to guess what it is. They call it Name That Toot. Isn’t that more interesting than a recurring segment that references her musical abilities?

 Add A Guest

Sometimes guests are weak on the air. In fact, that’s the case most of the time. But on occasion, the right guest can turn excite a storyline.

With a panel of experts, your show should have a choice of resources that fit various situations and topics. Or, use the feature Ask Me Anything. This is a terrific way to create something interesting out of nothing.

Conclusion

These ideas all apply art to the science of show prep, but understanding that science is a key part of the equation. Keeping both in balance can be an important key to your personal success formula.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0507

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0507.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0506

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0506.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:


  • Fernando Ruiz, Chef
  • Adam Sharp, President & CEO, National Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences46th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards
  • Stuart Nulman, Book Banter

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0505

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0505.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0504

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0504.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:


  • Dr. John Huber, clinical forensic psychologist — mental health & self deprecating humour
  • Mark Serritella, comedian
  • Stuart Nulman, Book Banter

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0503

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0503.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

Casting a Radio Show: Why 3 Is The Perfect Number

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Casting a radio show is hard. Managers and programmers invest a lot of time and energy into finding the perfect mix of personalities to attract fans and deliver ratings. While there’s no single formula that works every time, I’ve found a cast of three personalities is the ideal balance.

Three is the right number for many things. There were Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, etc. It’s usually the number of verses in a lot of popular songs. The Beatles sang She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah. Try it with two or four “yeahs”. It just doesn’t work. Pay attention and you’ll discover the Rule of 3 everywhere.

But three is also the perfect number of voices when casting a radio show.

Casting A Radio Show: Why 3 is Just Right

Many stations wishing to increase personality see the value of a team show. Pairing a couple of personalities can add interest. But a powerful dynamic comes into play when a third voice is introduced.

It takes shows to areas that a duo just can’t get to. But when a fourth or fifth personality is added, it can be much harder for listeners to figure out what’s going on. It gets confusing for the audience.

This isn’t to suggest that a duo can’t win, or that more than three is a mistake. Not at all. But three is usually the magic number.

Applying The Concept In 3D

You’re probably thinking about stations that have built shows around the concept of Radio in 3D: Dick, Dork and Dear. They try to find personalities that fit those three character types. This approach works!

Dick: This personality type is an antagonist, sometimes cynical or sarcastic. The “dick” seems to always say things that cause a strong reaction with the other cast members and with the audience. He or she is outspoken, bold and often referenced as the one who “says the things I’m thinking but am afraid to say it”.

Dork: The dork is a nerd, or someone who just doesn’t fit in conventionally. They are usually charming in their own way, but just “weird” enough to create friction between the players. The dork embraces and exaggerates their inner nerd qualities to add more dimension to the ensemble.

Dear: The third piece of the puzzle adds heart and soul to the show. He or she is warm, empathetic, sensitive and the one most listeners would say “would be a good friend”.

Imagine a show with just two of those three personality types. Isn’t it clear how three personalities can play off one another in many more ways than two?

Generator-Reactor-Instigator

But there is another way the Rule of 3 applies to casting a radio show. Every human being tends to fall into a classification as a generator, reactor or instigator. Three character roles. Imagine that.

Generator: They’re usually the driver of the show, able to start a topic and set a tone for a break. Put a yellow pad in front of a generator and they’ll fill it with ideas in just a few minutes. They don’t always follow through on those ideas, but they can sure get them started.

Responder: Put that same yellow pad in front of a responder, and three hours later it’ll be filled with doodles. They have been provided nothing to cause a reaction. But throw an idea, thought, topic or phrase their way and they light up with an instant response.

Instigator: An instigator is like an audio sniper, lying in the weeds for a great line to advance a break to places it would never get to without them. They are the rocket fuel that stirs things up and brings out more character and personality in the Generator and Responder.

Of course, human beings are not one dimensional. It’s certainly possible for each of us to demonstrate traits of all three categories. But everyone is naturally stronger in one of the three. It’s like being right handed or left handed. It doesn’t mean you never use your other hand.

A great radio show needs all three. Put two generators on the show, and it’s going to be chaos. You’ll hear a ton of talking over one another and nobody paying attention to what is being said. But two responders on a show results in nothing happening because there’s no stimulus that causes a response. And don’t even think about trying two instigators. That’s the radio equivalent of filling a room with explosives, matches, gasoline and a toddler and hoping for the best. Boom!

What If There Are More Than 3 On The Show?

Some managers reading this are probably thinking, “Wait a minute. We have 5 voices on our show. Tracy’s saying we can trim the budget.”. Not quite.

If a show has more than three personalities on the air, the rule of three still applies to each segment. It’s up to the show’s host to manage the traffic.

The two main personalities should always be featured (host, co-host), with one additional (a third) personality involved as appropriate. But when a new personality enters the conversation, another should fade away. That applies to listeners participating as callers, too. When the caller comes on, they’re effectively a cohost.

When everyone has an open microphone, chaos and confusion soon follow, and that will cause tune out.

Conclusion

Of course, there are many ways to win. Stations can (and do) succeed with solo shows, duos and casts much larger than three. But I’ve found that, as in many areas, three is the magic number.

In my seminar Casting A Radio Show, I go into much more detail on all of these topics and much more. You’ll learn the best ways to build a show, manage the personalities and put your station in the best possible position to succeed quickly.

 

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0502

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0502.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0501

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0501.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0500

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0500.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:


  • Jed Allen, actor, Beverly Hills, 90210
  • Clint Masse, creator — Guinness World Record Snow Maze
  • Stuart Nulman, Book Banter

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0499

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0499.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.

The Biggest Cause of Listener Tune Out Is Confusion!

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As human beings, we all respond to simplicity, clarity and familiarity. When we can’t understand what’s happening, we run for cover. Confusion is stressful, and we avoid stress. This has profound implications for radio shows.

Personalities and programmers agonize over cracking the ratings code, constantly seeking to find a magic formula that launches their station to new heights. The quest usually includes endless tweaking of clocks, adjusting format execution and building in hooks designed to keep the audience listening longer.

But the key to ratings success isn’t quite so complicated. There are six things that cause listener tune out. Eliminate or reduce tune out, and ratings go up. And the most common reason listeners tune out is confusion. And that comes from three sources.

3 Ways to Reduce Listener Confusion

The problem with confusion is that most broadcasters don’t realize the content is confusing.

First, they don’t listen nearly as much as we think they do. Recent studies show the average length of tune in has dropped to 7-8 minutes per occasion.

But even declining TSL isn’t the biggest contributing factor.  Listeners aren’t paying nearly as much attention as we would like. Listening to the radio is mostly a background experience. They’re usually actively engaged in many other foreground activities that take up more of their attention.

And they constantly button-punch. They jump from one station to another. Many times, they don’t even know what station they’re listening to.

When visiting clients, I usually Uber to and from stations. Recently, on a 30 minute drive from the airport to a meeting, the driver had my client’s morning show on. After about 20 minutes, I asked what station she was listening to. She gave me the wrong answer. I asked about my client’s morning show (the one she was listening to) and she said,

yeah, they’re okay but I don’t listen to them much. I like this show a lot better.

Okay! The listener was confused. Now you may not think that’s a big deal because it’s a PPM market and if the driver had a meter, they’d get credit. But here’s the problem. When listeners can’t recall the station, the chance of getting them back for additional occasions is greatly reduced.

That’s why it’s so important to reduce confusion. Here are three ways to do it.

Reset The Scene

Since the audience constantly tunes in and out, reset the scene as often as possible. You can’t possibly do this too much. It doesn’t have to be a long reset, but it has to be clear.

That’s why television shows often begin a new episode with highlights from earlier shows. It reminds viewers of what has happened in the story so the viewer isn’t confused. Television does it, and that’s a foreground medium.

Mojo in the Morning has been a market leader in Detroit for decades. His show is well constructed and easy to understand. It’s loaded with benchmarks and features that help with recall.

Mojo realizes that reducing listener confusion is a primary key to TSL. He understands the importance of resetting topics in each break so listeners can follow what’s happening on the air. He says:

You cannot rehash enough what you are doing at a particular time. As tedious as it sounds, it’s important to consistently re-explain your regular benchmarks. Re-explain who the characters are. It’s especially important to re-introduce characters and benchmarks after summer and vacations for new cume as well as for those who may not have heard the show for awhile.

Manage The Microphones

Another common cause of tune out is when voices compete for attention on the air. Listeners have a hard time sorting out who’s talking, especially when personalities talk over one another.

In the studio, it doesn’t feel like a big deal, but it’s a very different environment than listening to the radio. In the studio, we can see one another. Secondary and tertiary voices enter the conversation and it’s easy to follow because we can see it.

When the conversation starts to get animated, we can sort out who is talking because we have eye contact. But listeners are blind. They can’t see you. It’s an entirely different experience.

So when personalities talk on top of one another or an unfamiliar voice enters the segment,  the audience is confused. And when they’re confused, they tune out.

That’s why it’s important for the show’s host to manage the on-air traffic flow.

At KISW/Seattle, BJ and Migs have an eight person cast. Shea manages the show’s flow by applying the Rule of 3 to reduce the potential of audience confusion. Shea says:

WE USE THE RULE OF THREE, WITH ONLY THREE PEOPLE ON MIC AT A TIME. PLAYERS ARE SIGNALED OR INVITED IN RATHER THAN HAVING AN OPEN MIC. WE ALWAYS NAME CHECK THE PLAYER THAT COMES INTO THE CONVERSATION. HAVING NO MORE THAN THREE PEOPLE ON MIC AT ONCE PREVENTS TALKING OVER EACH OTHER AND BECOMING A CIRCUS.

If you’re on a show with a large cast of characters, try it. And remember that when listeners are on the air, they become part of the cast. So introduce them.

Many personalities have been trained to go cold into phone calls, editing directly to the listener’s first comment. That saves a couple of seconds but the audience is confused. Who is this person? Why are they on the air? Where did they come from?

Unfamiliar Voices

We like what we know. That’s a universal truth. It’s why we go to the same coffee shops, take the same route to and from work and listen to the same songs. Familiar is comfortable. Unfamiliar is stressful.

This is true with radio personalities, too. Believe me, your audience is not nearly as familiar with air talent as we give them credit for. And that goes for the main personalities that have been on for years as well as secondary and tertiary voices.

Whether it’s a big or small crew, be sure to name tag the show often. This is easy to do, but we overlook it way too much. It’s repetitive and tedious. It’s also critically important.

I work with a show that has five characters, all males. Their personalities vary but it’s very hard for listeners to sort the voices. Even with name-tagging, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who especially with the three guys that aren’t primary names on the show brand.

So in addition to following the Rule of 3, we’re working on identifying roles and personality traits in dialogue.

In a meeting, they asked how long we needed to go out of our way to introduce each character. The answer: It never stops. Ever. For one thing, we must constantly introduce new listeners to the show. For another, 50% of existing listeners tune in for less than 2.5 minutes per day. They know little about you. Introducing personalities and character traits never ends.

Conclusion

Confusion is a real thing, and it happens far more frequently than you think. It’s the #1 reason for listener tune out. It adds stress to the listening experience.

When there’s too much stress, buttons are pushed. And when buttons are pushed, TSL is lost. And the great danger today is that distracted listeners are less likely to remember to come back.

These are just three common causes for confusion. There are others, but fix these first. It’s a fundamental key to winning the ratings battle.

 

The Stuph File Program – Episode #0498

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Welcome to the latest edition of the Stuph File Program.

For a program list of the items included and all their accompanying links in this one hour show, you can find the information on my website in the Stuph File Program section, or just follow this link to #0498.



To download the podcast, right click here and select “Save Link As”

Featured in this episode:

Click logo for iTunes podcast subscription If you have any comments or suggestions, or items for the mailbag, feel free to click on the “Comments” link below to add your thoughts.