(By Mike McVay) There was a time when common thinking was that local programming will beat syndicated/network programming every day of the week. Then Howard Stern, Tom Joyner, Delilah, John Tesh, Bob & Tom, Nights with Elaina, The Breakfast Club and many more showed significant successes.
What we learned is that listeners don’t judge if a show is local or not. They judge if a show is good or not. There are many examples of local shows that outperform syndicated programming and many examples of syndicated programming that outperforms local shows. One thing is for sure, fun – informative – engaging – entertaining wins.
What doesn’t win is when a radio station simply “flips a switch” puts on a syndicated/network show and walks away. Every moment that your radio station is on the air is important as it creates a lasting impression about your station and forms what could be a lasting image as to how a listener views your station. Because a network show runs outside of Monday-Friday 6a-7p doesn’t make it any less valuable to the overall listening experience that you should be trying to create for your audience.
The smartest programmers treat a syndicated show as if it is unique to their station. They ask the talent to update promotional messages weekly, they have the talent record liners that can be used to promote their contests, events and other shows that air on their station. They look for ways to connect the syndicated talent and their show to their market.
During my previous life, as a Corporate Programmer, it used to frustrate me greatly when I’d hear national programming that was poorly integrated into a station. Poor transitions into and out of commercial breaks, poorly written promotional messages or no promotional messages, occasional dead-air, and the inability to properly back-time to start the show on-time and without the previously played song having to be faded out early.
The conclusion that I came to was that those PD’s who didn’t want to air the syndicated show to begin with, simply didn’t care about it, and would prefer that it fail. Harsh words, and I am sure it’s an over exaggeration, but there’s no other logical reason to allow anything that sounds inferior to be broadcast.
Program Directors who truly care focus on the Best Practices previously mentioned, and they understand that programming a radio station should be about the complete body of work and not one daypart. Primetime is the most important window for stellar programming, but all other dayparts are almost as important. Listeners don’t use radio (streaming, over-the-air, smart speakers … wherever you listen) like they do TV/Video. Television is show-centric. Radio is station-centric. If you execute properly, you build an audience that starts using your station in the morning, and they repeat tune-in all day.
The way to win the ratings game is to increase the frequency with which a listener returns to your radio station. That includes weekday and weekend syndication and network programming.