Wring Final Cash Out Of 2023 As You Ring In 2024


(By Charese Fruge’) With only days until Jan 1, radio is again facing the industry’s most challenging month of the year regarding ratings and revenue. It’s the time when sales inventory is low and the odds of negotiating decent deals are stacked against Q4 spending. At the same time, programmers struggle to pull listeners back into a regular schedule of radio listening, which is even harder to do if you were one of the many stations that played All-Christmas music for the last two months.

Don’t forget, in many instances, talent, sales talent, and listeners are also still vacationing the first week or two of the month, depending on what part of the country you live in (Snow season) or just the fact that New Year’s Day is on a Monday. 

To be quite honest, as a programmer, I dread this time of year just as much as sales executives do. The stations sound boring because nothing is going on and we’re running no charges, and bonus spots, and condom commercials in the middle of the day on AC stations because we’re so desperate to put money on the books. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Sales Managers and Programmers (or Brand Managers) can put their heads together and prepare ahead of time, to create opportunities to drive occasions of listening and specialty sponsorship opportunities, making January a decent contributor to Q1 success. Otherwise, it’s an absolute tune out which creates a ratings issue, and a missed opportunity from a revenue standpoint. It’s hard enough trying to get your clients and listeners back into a regular pattern, much less give them a reason to tune out. And there’s nothing worse than a station that sounds like the lights are on, but nobody’s home. 

So, I’ve put together a list of content features that are much more engaging than 12 minutes of low budget commercials airing just to fill inventory, which also creates an opportunity to generate revenue with sponsorship opportunities. These are features (mostly for music stations) which will separate your brands from the competition at a time when getting the audience’s attention is much harder than usual. It’s a “win-win” for both programming and sales. 

These ideas aren’t groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and customize your approach in a way that’s beneficial for all parties involved. Here’s your head start on Q1:

  • If your station has a strong and consistent morning show, you should be running best of bits while they take their vacations over the holidays. The bits should be no longer than 4 minutes running in between the hits, and at the most, 4 times an hour. The sales angle: “The Best of Mercedes in the Morning is made possible by (Insert Sponsor Tag Here).” Do not try to replace your morning show with anything else. No celebs, no other talent, and no “nothing but the hits.” Unless it’s Taylor Swift, it will not help your ratings or maintain listener loyalty, which does nothing for your client.
  • If you are running a one man or woman show in the morning and playing the hits, there are so many year-end “Top 10 Lists” your talent can do live or even record ahead of time to insert into the log that make for great content. But make sure you don’t go longer than Top 10, and those bits should be about two minutes at the most. Also, do everything in your power to make sure the bits are localized. Look for Top 10’s in your city, before you start using national lists and don’t do the same ones at the same time every day. Switch it up. The sales angle: This hour of (Insert talent or station name here) made possible by (insert sponsor name here).
  • This takes us to year end countdowns: Mediabase has already put out there lists of the Top 50 songs of 2023 in multiple formats. You should also be able to pull your station Top 50 from your music software if needed. If you are a current based music station you should be airing a Top 50 Countdown regardless. But even non-current stations can get creative with these shows. It could be your morning shows Top Favorites or “Cleveland’s Top Favorites” for 2023. This is something you could air multiple times, for at least three days, starting with New Years Eve. But again, make sure it’s localized, and if you have multiple jocks, have them each record one full show so it’s different every time. 
  • Both current and non-current stations can do a New Years Eve Mix with a countdown to 12a. First, do everything you can to sell a live show at a major club or NYE location, but even if you can’t, you can still do a NYE Mix Brought to you by (insert sponsor here). 
  • And the biggest opportunity for both ratings and revenue in January is adding longer music sweeps to your clocks instead of trying to fill up empty commercial inventory. The sales manager and Program director will have to work hand in hand, but playing the hits is the fastest and best way to bring people back to the table. Sure, there has to be an understanding that the bonus music sweeps or hours won’t last forever, but prepare ahead of time, and see if you can sell them to a client like the lottery, or things associated with the Super Bowl (without breaking the rules). Get creative! “This Bonus hour of music is brought to you by the Louisiana Lottery where you can get your bonus scratch off yadda yadda yadda!!!” (You know what I mean).

These features will allow you to build creative packages for clients including promos, creative spots and mentions during each feature (Not to mention digital opps). But make sure your production sounds creative and your promos sound like the personality of your station and your digital is visually stunning. Make them sound big! And short, sweet and to the point. It doesn’t matter what the copy is, or what the banner ad looks like. If it isn’t eye and ear candy, no one will see or hear it.

Charese Fruge’ is an award-winning Content, Broadcast, and Marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. As the owner of MC Media, she works with radio brands and individual talents, especially young women, helping them grow their brands and negotiate on their own behalf. Find her at @MCMediaOnline. See more Women to Watch here.


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