(By Jeff McHugh) You often hear radio features named Trending Now or Trending Topics with a mix of breaking news, entertainment updates, fads, weird news, and so forth.
A trending story benchmark can make your show topical. It can also open floodgates for a rush of weak content and stories that your audience already saw two hours ago on Instagram.
It has become our regular practice to find out what time our client’s competitors air What’s Trending, and we sometimes get ratings results counter-programming it with killer content.
You can make your trending-stories feature a strength instead of a weakness. Here are guidelines to consider for content, execution, and infusing your character through the segment.
Choose universal stories that work regardless of celebrity. There are more “who-cares” stars than ever. A news story about robbers stealing two dogs and shooting the dog walker is universally compelling even if you do not care about the people involved. That breaking news involved Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs but the story would still be A+ if the dogs belonged to Snoop Dogg, AOC, or to an average person in your town.
Audio is non-optional. Computers and the internet make adding a clip to any mention of a movie, tv-show or performer quick and easy. Use sound effects too. Audio is worth a thousand words and serves as a pattern disruption to reengage attention.
Insert focused point of view. Listeners enjoy brief host banter expressing emotions and observations around the stories. Your stories should be so strong that the banter is the icing and not the cake – otherwise, why air those stories in the first place?
Choose stories, not announcements. An announcement is, “Country singer Kacey Musgraves is recording her new album.” “Country singer Kacey Musgraves bought her grandmother’s old house and painted it pink” is a story.
Be flexible and improvise. Some days you have too much content, other days not enough. Some days your trending feature is one minute and another day it runs four. (Hint: shorter is usually better.) Some days you might skip the feature altogether. The one thing that you are never flexible on is keeping your content filter high.
How important is being relevant for your market really? Some cities are thirsty for current events and others not so much. In this month’s Portland ratings there are two news stations ranked in the top three while St Louis has no news radio anywhere in the top ten. Maybe your audience wants trending content occasionally, not hourly.
Consider super-short bulletins. Audiences have a strong interest in local news, but the stories often do not need much airtime to tell well. We worked with a Victoria, BC show that aired News In 140 Characters hourly. Three headlines in 17 seconds – with production and sound clips — and it was great!
A trending topics feature can be good for your show if you take all the steps to make it entertaining, emotional, and relevant.
Reach Jeff at [email protected]