(By Jeff McHugh) Whether starting a new show or maintaining an established program, heritage is an underestimated consideration for media personalities and media companies.
The effect of heritage is often misunderstood. Here are four universal secrets about heritage and how it affects the success or failure of a radio show or podcast.
- A New Show is Not an Old Show. Imagine that you just moved into a new house and encounter a neighbor at the mailbox. Your first conversation will be light, probably about the weather or the neighborhood. Your deeper conversations involving life goals, family history, and career challenges will come later, if at all. Beginning personalities often make the mistake of diving into the same intimate content and long-form execution as a heritage show, and they fail because the relationship with the audience is not yet formed.
- There is No Substitute for Time. I once explained to an impatient senior executive that a new show would take 12-18 months to bear ratings results. His response was, “We don’t have that kind of time.” That was seven years ago, and that fellow has changed shows repeatedly searching for a quick win. If he had taken good advice, hired solid talent, and given them time to gel, he would more likely be a winner today. The audience can form a powerful relationship with on-air talent, but love does not happen overnight. It is the long-time San Diego personalities Jeff and Jer often advised young broadcasters to “marry the market.”
- Heritage shows sometimes succeed despite bad content. If you have ever eaten at Atlanta’s Varsity Drive-In or Imo’s Pizza in St Louis, you know what I mean. Natives of these cities love these traditional local institutions, but newcomers do not taste what the fuss is about. It is the same with heritage shows. When you choose to go head-to-head with an incumbent institution, even one with bad content, know that it will likely take much longer than you think to unseat them. Also, when facing the choice of coaching a heritage market personality whose ratings have slipped, versus bringing in an unknown to replace them, I usually recommend the former.
- Heritage can lead to overconfidence. Like a spouse who takes their long marriage for granted, heritage shows can become complacent. After years of accolades from your P1 fans, it is easy to overestimate your strength while new challengers are robbing you of P2 and P3 listeners. Innovation, evolution, and making a show accessible to newcomers are important touchstones. Remember that in 2006 the Motorola RAZR was the long-time winner in the mobile phone market. Then came the iPhone, and by the end of 2007 the RAZR was kaput.
An audience’s relationship with heritage talent is many times more powerful than their relationship with a station. More tears were shed when Lujack retired than when Music Radio WLS went away for News/Talk.
Consumer passion does not come easily or quickly, but the financial reward that comes from building a relationship with heritage talent will determine the future winners in radio and podcasting.
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.