Can Your Managers Pass The Radio Survival Test?


(By Jeff McHugh) Could you survive in the wilderness? The How Stuff Works podcast recently featured a survival skills quiz, with questions like:

“What’s the single most important thing you need to survive in the wild?”

  1. Food
  2. Water
  3. Warmth

Correct answer: Water. Going only 24 hours without water causes serious problems. Three days without water and you might die. Three days without food and heat would suck, but you survive.

This idea of making difficult choices made me think of a radio survival test for AM/FM broadcasters. As you adjust to a new wilderness facing powerful digital competition for audience and revenue, you cannot have everything. Here is a quiz on what is most important to have for survival.

Radio Survival Test Question 1

“Which programming will appeal to the greatest number of radio listeners in 2023 and the years ahead? Choose one.”

  1. Favorite songs/artists
  2. Prizes and giveaways
  3. DJs Hosts and Shows

Correct answer: DJs Hosts and Shows. Year after year, Jacobs Media’s TechSurvey proves that listeners value personalities more than music (which they can get anywhere) and prizes are important to only 11% of listeners.

Many stations today over-hype music positions and giveaways. The stations that survive long-term will be the ones branded around personality and content.

Radio Survival Test Question 2

“Which of these tools is absolutely crucial for a show or station to survive? Choose one.”

  1. Logoed vans, trucks, and vehicles
  2. Luxury office space and studios
  3. Station t-shirts
  4. Jingle packages
  5. On-street promotions
  6. Station concerts
  7. None of the above

Correct answer: None of the above. Consider how much any of these have affected your listening to Spotify, Apple Music, SiriusXM, NPR, or your favorite podcast. Have you ever decided to see a movie because the studio has fancy branded vehicles? Ever attended a sporting event because the team has fancy offices and locker rooms?

Anytime management brings up the idea of talent layoffs, we counsel them to consider cutting extraneous expenditures like these from the budget instead.

Radio Survival Test Question 3

“Which of these voices is crucial for your show and station’s survival in 2023 and beyond? Choose one.”

  1. Professional voiceover/imaging talent
  2. On-air host

Correct answer: On-air host.  When given a choice between host-read ads or pre-produced ads by a professional announcer, 41% of podcast listeners chose the host according to a study from Signal Hill and Cumulus. Other evidence indicates the same preference among radio listeners.

Consider replacing some of your station’s professional voice-over imaging with the voice of your local host, infusing station promos with their unique enthusiasm, personality, and humor. Imaging adds pizazz, but listeners bond emotionally with their favorite talent.

Managing AM/FM radio companies these days – especially our largest US corporations – might sometimes feel like being stranded in the desert or lost in a jungle with no resources.

There is reason to hope for survival: all radio companies have money.

The revenue is less and corporate debt is more than is optimal, but there is cash coming in – we know because we hear the commercials. What management does with that money will determine survival.

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. Reach Jeff at [email protected] and read his Radio Ink archives here.


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