Thursday, November 4, 2010

PPM and Mornings - The perfect union of music and entertainment

One of the biggest reasons PPM is good for CMR: Morning radio. Where hack Country morning men and women have dotted the landscape like push pins in a U.S map. We have all heard so many of these kinds of morning shows that it deafens us to the future of personality injected radio. Morning shows where the talent talk about golf, lunch plans, reading a station liner for a remote (and thinking it's a creative break) and hopelessly chatting to the co-host about nothing.

Arbitron's Portable People Meter has made the morning shows become what they should always be: The foundation of the Country Music Radio station. Consultant Richard Harker in January 2010 said this: "As the role-out of PPM continues, morning drive people have reason to be a little nervous. Is PPM anti-personality? Did PPM just reveal the weaknesses of the sacked morning personalities, or does PPM unfairly punish morning personalities?"

Here's some of the programming attributes that smart programmer's are employing on their morning shows:
  • The art of using song intros for information, entertainment and service elements in morning music sweeps between stop-sets.
  • Quick contests over song intros without turning them into games, bits and hype. Take the 25th call and be done with it. 
  • News and traffic elements need to be quick and part of the linear programming. All at the front of the stop-set.
  • No more :55 or :00 news, these need to be music sweeps, news and traffic into :20 and :40 stop-sets as quick information elements.
  • Appointment setting for power songs and big contests. Don't promote non-music features even in mornings, just let them happen. You are promoting possible tune-out if they don't love WAR OF THE ROSES or WEIRD NEWS.
  • Interactions with other morning show members need to be quick and concise. No long winded, going nowhere breaks. 
  • Music breaks over intros should consist of title and artist after the information, entertainment portion of the break. You are wasting the listeners time with big breaks about the artist or CMA's. 
More fun facts from Harker: "The first challenge PPM presents is lower morning drive listening. Diary TSL in most markets runs about five to five and one-half hours. The markets that have switched to PPM now have about three to three and one-half hours of listening. Two hours of morning drive listening has evaporated with PPM."

Harker goes onto say: "On the other hand, our research shows a change in the patience of listeners. Today they are less tolerant of self-consumed talent that wastes a listener’s time. Today listeners are less likely to sit through a rambling pointless story. Today’s listener demands interesting relevant entertainment."

We need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Small and medium markets need to work on these points as if they were PPM markets. They are the stars of the future unless they are self-absorbed morning hacks talking to listeners about ego-driven nothing. "Morning shows of the past just aren’t going to cut it." Harker concludes. 

Harker's recommendations:

Here are the changes that personalities must embrace if they are to survive:

1. Shorten bits. A wandering five minute story was never entertaining, but now we can see it in the numbers. If panelists aren’t listening to morning shows much more than a few minutes, there has to be a pay-off every few minutes.

2. Ruthlessly edit your material. Now every word counts. Bits need to be shorter, but equally importantly, they need to get to the point quickly.

3. Talk to the listener. Teams must avoid the temptation to focus on each other. Talk about things that touch everyone. (Hint: most people don’t play golf.)

4. Constantly create surprises. Reoccurring elements made sense with longer listening spans. Today’s drive-by listening demands change and surprise.

5. Balance entertainment with information. Tell the listener something he or she doesn’t know but should.

6. Understand what is important for your listeners. Be in touch with what they are talking about, what they like and dislike, and the things that get their attention.

7. Be honest with the listener. Today’s listener has a very sensitive B.S. meter and we can no longer fake interest or relevancy.

8. Don’t “break” for news and commercials. Weave all elements on the station into a single cohesive product.

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