Does Your Show Need a Fast Forward Button?


(By Jeff McHugh) Your audience is in a damn big hurry. Their content filter is higher than ever, and their attention span is lower than ever. Consider these new realities and what they mean for your radio show or podcast.

Shorter hit songs: The average pop song length is now 3:15. In 1975, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was six minutes.

20-Second clips: Executives I work with at Instagram tell me that while video posts can be as long as one minute, hardly anyone watches anything past twenty seconds.

Skip and speed-up buttons: Podcast listeners are accustomed to players that can zoom around boring parts. Many run the playback button at 2X to get through the podcast faster.

Book summaries save time. Many people buy book summaries that can be read or listened to in as little as fifteen minutes.

Low tolerance for commercials. Most people hit “skip ads” online within seconds. Numerous studies find a low tolerance for long commercial stop sets on radio.

Today’s top media performers bond with listeners through authenticity, personality, and emotion, but they execute concise content with urgency. The question is what and where to cut. To keep your show on pace with today’s impatient audiences, consider these execution tweaks and content updates.

  • Go long on stories, short on information: Stories command the attention of distracted short-attention-span listeners. Information illustrated with a story or delivered in the form of one connects and sticks with listeners.
  • Cut reiterations, zigzags and circular conversations: Talk hosts sometimes make a statement and then re-state using different verbiage. Practice making your point once, then illustrate your point with stories and examples. Allow for team improvisation but get the conversation back on track before the conversation meanders or becomes circular.
  • App-proof your show: Most consumers wake up and immediately reach for their mobile devices. They have weather, traffic, and sports scores long before they turn on the radio. Consider limiting that info to a couple of sentences unless there is breaking news.
  • Segments and sub-segments: To more effectively hold the audience’s attention, established shows with longer talk segments are now switching topics approximately every five minutes.
  • Headline your setup: What you say in the first few seconds of a segment — is crucial. A headline teasing upcoming dramatic audio, funny stories, or a confrontation can intrigue audiences into staying through to the end.

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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