Five Benchmarks For New Shows

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(By Jeff McHugh) You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Many shows ultimately succeed or fail based on their first 60-90 days. For a brand new show, benchmarks are a clear, simple way to introduce the players and what the show is about. The best benchmarks are based on relevant, common-ground subjects that the audience is already interested in.

I generally recommend that new shows come in with benchmarks in heavy rotation, repeating many of them hourly, then easing off after the first two to three months and eventually giving a wider variety of the content.   Every situation is unique, but if we got an emergency call to suddenly launch a show tomorrow, here are the five most reliable, easy-to-execute benchmarks that we would unpack to get a show off to a good first step.

  1. Top Three Things You Need To Know. The formula is the three biggest water cooler news stories that your audience is thinking about that day, emphasis on local news, brief interaction and discussion where appropriate, and as much audio that goes with each story as possible :60-120 seconds.
  2. Entertainment news. Put the priority on the crazy behavior of celebrities and fill in with announcements and audio. Also, replaying late night TV monologues are a great way to cover the day’s news with comedy. If you mention a singer, play a song clip. If you mention a TV show or film, play trailer audio.
  3. News of the weird/dumb news. If you can find great local/regional stories, that’s great, but tales of idiot criminals and thoughtless dummies work regardless of geography. Mancow does Redneck News on Chicago’s Loop with one story in about 45 seconds.
  4. Good news story. Chet Buchanan does Good Feeling Story Of The Day on KLUC Las Vegas, and George, Mo, and Cowboy Dave do Can I Get An Amen? on KILT Houston. Stories of good deeds, unexpected kindness, and surprise happy endings score well in PPM.
  5. Interactive Games. Any contest where commuters can play along in their heads as they listen. Some good ones are:
  6. No Time To Google: Five rapid-fire trivia questions with five ticking seconds on a stopwatch to answer each.
  7. Battle Of The Burbs: Pit one side of your market against the other with a two-player trivia battle and keep a running score.
  8. Can’t Beat _____ . Fill in the blank with one player on your show who is an expert in trivia, music, movies etc., and challenge listeners to a 3-5 question test to get more correct answers.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.

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Jeff McHugh
Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.

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