Is Your Radio Show In The Business… of Business?


(By Jeff McHugh) I got kicked out of business school for a semester. “Academic suspension” was Lander University’s way of saying I should have spent less time at the local radio station and more time studying.

I stuck with radio but eventually graduated from the University of North Carolina’s Bryan School of Business. In my work as a talent coach, I have found some dull business school ideas that are surprisingly helpful in the crazy, fun process of creating a successful show. Here are a few concepts to consider:

Process Management

When Ford Motor Company made the Model T, Henry Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants so long as it is black.”

Why black? Because black paint dried four hours faster than other colors. Do the math: In 1923 Ford could produce two million Model Ts eight million hours faster than their competitors. Black paint made each Model T cheaper to build and more profitable to sell.

Think of your show as an assembly line, where ideas come in one end of your factory and go out the other as assembled radio/podcast products. That is process management.

Consider the daily process of producing your content and look for ways to save time, increase reliability, and improve quality. Identify problems, try small experiments, and measure improvements.

For instance, save three minutes daily loading audio in a new way. That equals fifteen minutes a week and 12 hours annually. What fun could you have with an extra 12 hours?


When you invest money in your 401K, you hope it is in a fund that grows in value and gives you back more than you put in. This is ROI or return on investment.

Just as you never throw away dollar bills, a high-performing show is careful about where they invest every second of airtime. Like investment funds, certain content produces better returns in Nielsen ratings, and podcast listens.

This week, I heard a show spend three content segments discussing a stalled car causing a freeway backup. That day, I also heard Big Boy’s Neighborhood invest three segments in listener stories about uncovering infidelity on their partner’s mobile device.

Between the two content choices, I bet Big Boy’s investment of airtime had a much higher ROI in time spent listening, emotional impact, and bringing listeners back to the show again later.

“Time is money,” and return on investment applies to off-air activities, too. Investing an hour in delivering doughnuts to the office of the week likely has a negative ROI compared to an hour spent creating great on-air or digital content.

Opportunity Cost

You have probably heard of FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. In business, we think of FOMO as opportunity cost: comparing the cost of choosing one opportunity against the benefit of the best alternative opportunity that you might miss out on.

Spend $100,000 on a new Tesla, and you have missed the opportunity to invest that cash in an index fund, contribute to your kid’s college fund, or start a small business. Which would be the most impactful opportunity for you?

I coached a talented radio duo in Canada that spent hours on brilliant daily sketch comedy videos for social media. They rented costumes, built props, and wrote jokes. Disappointingly, few of the clips scored more than a hundred views.

In the meantime, their show ratings in Numeris were good and improving, with hundreds of thousands of listeners. The team realized that the videos were costing them the opportunity to have a top-ranked radio show. They cut back on video, focused on the show, and began winning consistently.

I notice that many successful shows and smart hosts combine fun, spontaneity, and creativity with some consideration toward ROI, process management, and opportunity cost – and they did not even learn it in business school.

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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