(Randy Lane) As a talent coach, I’m often asked, “What are the key ingredients for a great radio show?” The short answer is sticky content, HD characters, and excellent execution.
Reflecting back over the years, I’ve observed that winning shows are typically content or character driven.
What’s the difference between content and character shows?
Content-oriented shows rely more on benchmarks, features and comedy. They frequently have one or two features that they are known for. Content shows draw much of their material from external topical stories and less from the character’s lives.
All shows flourish on the content premises of humor, storytelling, drama/conflict, and audience interactive topics and games. The difference is content shows express these attributes more impersonally, and character shows express them more personally.
Character shows form a personal relationship with listeners by sharing their life experiences. Much of the content is built around the characters, including benchmarks like Love Letters to Kellie on The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show.
Although I’ve long believed in the power of authentic character-centered shows, when my friend and client Kidd passed, I was certain the show would too. I totally missed that call. Not only did it survive, it continues to thrive seven years later because the other characters on the show are so well developed.
Which type show succeeds more often?
- Content shows tend to get off the ground more quickly because their material is usually universal, and water cooler oriented. The emphasis is on Mind Mapping what the listeners are feeling, thinking, talking about, concerned about and care about. They score ratings faster when the content is funny, fresh and different for their target market.
- Captivating character shows take longer to move the ratings until the audience becomes familiar with the characters. When listeners become invested in the characters, they create long-term loyalty. A prime example is Seinfeld. The ratings were sluggish the first year, then…you know the rest of the story.
The bottom line is both are capable of being successful as long as they incorporate all three key ingredients.
Execution is the catalyst that propels content from good to great. However, perfect execution will not matter unless the content is exceptional, and the characters are relatable.
Red flag cautions
- Content shows will become predictable and lose ratings by relying on benchmarks alone. It’s crucial to periodically freshen features AND surprise listeners with original content. They will also benefit by sharing a bit more of their personal lives.
- Character shows must be careful not to share irrelevant life details and make sure their personal stories relate to listeners. Too much content about themselves will turn off the audience. Be conscious of the inward-outward balance by including listeners.
During this pandemic, familiar long-running shows will win the day whether they are built on character or content because people are seeking comfort and connection.
Randy Lane launched his media talent coaching and personal brand development company in 1996. He can be contacted by phone at 805-497-7177 or email at [email protected].