Show Prep


(By Mike McVay) Today’s technology, and services available to allow for a talent to prepare for a show, is significantly better and more abundant than at any time in our past.

Earlier in my career, I hosted several different Morning shows in several different markets. I was acutely aware of the need to spend time daily preparing for my next show. There was no internet, no apps, no opportunity to record a video or TV show and only two show prep services that I can remember. They were monthly. The newspaper was printed and not on-line. TV Guide was how you found out what was on TV. Magazines delivered elements of pop culture once a month.

Whoever refers to such times as “the good old days” is a person who doesn’t want to know what was going on and doesn’t have an insatiable appetite to create content and entertain, inform and engage an audience. Maybe it’s the high level of competition for the audience that scares them, but someone who believes it was better before has taken an ostrich-like approach to reality.

Today’s talent has so many resources from which to choose and use. Daily prep services, audio resources, social media where you can see what’s trending in real time, programs that capture video audio, voice actors, writers on-demand and content aggregators that enable a show to see what’s happening across many platforms at once be it local, national or international. There is no excuse to be unprepared for your show, and yet despite all of these resources, some talents continue to be unprepared sounding.

There are those that think that being surprised by seeing prep content for the first time is the right approach. To me it’s always felt wrong. Why wouldn’t you want to enter the studio with more content than you need, knowing all the content you have to choose from, and throw out or save what wasn’t used? This increases the odds of having a show that creates day-to-day tune-in.

Those personalities who are the most successful for the longest period of time, are those that have the ability and talent to be extemporaneous, and yet they continue to do show prep daily because they know it makes them even better.

My belief is that high content morning shows, and those other daypart shows that have a high content count, perform best when they create content that goes into specific containers. That enables you, the talent, to more easily prepare content for each daily show. When you know what you need, it’s easy to find it.

Systems and programs exist to research what you’re doing that the audience likes and what they dislike. That comes from Nielsen and it also comes from all of the national media research companies that have the ability to capture the responses of listeners, noting what makes them tune-out and what makes them want to tune-in. Knowing their likes makes the show prep process much easier. Give them what they want and you’ll build an audience that will give your show a try daily.

My recommendation to stations has always been to build Hot Sets and Cold Sets. Hot Sets are those breaks that are the most topical and perishable. Cold Sets are those sets that are non-perishable. Perishable content has to be used today-tomorrow or it’s outdated. Non-Perishable content can be used today, tomorrow or a week from now and it’s still valuable. Some non-perishable content includes a benchmark, a contest or another feature that airs daily.

Construct your content/format clock to air your Hot Sets in the first and third quarter hour. The cold sets go in the second and fourth quarter hours. That’s because most people wake-up at the top or bottom of the hour. You want you audience to hear what’s hot when they first start listening. If what’s hot is really hot, then you bump your Cold sets so all of your sets are Hot for that day.

The bottom-line; Read or watch everything that you can get your hands on, considering the value of each piece of content, so that what’s used is of the most value for your audience. What you put into your show is what your audience will get out of listening to it. That’s how you win. Be overprepared.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. “Perishable and Non-Perishable Content” That is GENIUS Mike. For someone who was taught to make the best of things with a reel to reel, a cart deck, cassette player and the morning paper this is …reviving. What would you do if you could take today’s technology back to the mid-70s? I have content meeting tomorrow morning and I’m so stealing this article!!


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