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If The Audience Is Hungry, Don’t Make Them Wait To Eat

One of the biggest challenges sports radio shows face on a daily basis is maximizing air time and diving into valuable content. When you’re on the air for 3-4 hours a day, it can be really hard to create one powerful segment after another. But with audiences on the go, and looking for an immediate return on their time invested, a host must always be dialed in and ready to share a unique opinion and perspective to keep them engaged.

Scott Seidenberg understands that challenge based on his experience working for 98.7FM ESPN New York and hosting a national overnight show for NBC Sports Radio where audiences are much lighter. It may seem smart to sell an audience on returning later for something of quality, but too often we worry about what’s happening later in the show, rather than seizing the moment right in front of us. If we prioritized our content and treated the audience to something of substance, they might spend a few extra minutes with us, and in this radio game of inches, that can make a world of difference.

I asked Scott to put together a few of his thoughts on a subject he was familiar with and passionate about, and I’m happy to share his perspective on the importance of diving into content and avoiding laundry lists. Enjoy!

If The Audience Is Hungry, Don’t Make Them Wait To Eat

Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. It’s an old cliché but a good one. Every good radio host knows the importance of preparation. Some like to outline their thoughts. Others prefer a strict rundown, timing out each segment and topic. We’ve even seen TV shows find success by putting an actual rundown on the screen (think PTI).

But does that mean we should give the radio audience a script to follow? The answer is no.

There’s no need to provide the listener with your “laundry list”. In fact, I would argue its counterproductive. The average radio consumer more times than not, is doing something else while listening to you. They may be driving their car, walking the dog, running on the treadmill at the gym, etc. It’s rare nowadays to find people who just sit down and listen to live radio and give it their full undivided attention. Podcasts, maybe, but live talk radio, not as much. Throw in the fact that time spent listening gets shorter and shorter as attention spans get shorter and shorter and what you have is the cold hard truth – no one is listening to your show in its entirety from start to finish.

It is with this understanding that you must approach your airtime wisely. Every second counts. I think every program director in the country has uttered those words at some point and it’s because it’s absolutely true. I’m not saying this for PPM sake here, but for keeping your audience engaged. You need to hit them with your strongest take right away. No delay.

Why do hosts waste precious seconds (often minutes) providing a list of topics they will eventually get to later on in the show, when those listening to them at that very moment, won’t be around later in the show? I know what you’re thinking, teasing. No! There is a difference between a tease and a “laundry list”. Teasing should only be for what comes up next. Think in terms of the quarter hour. Tease what will come up within that time frame, nothing further. The goal of any tease is to keep the listener hooked so that they stay in their car when they pull into their driveway or think twice before closing the app on their phone. Thus the payoff is equally as important as the tease.

For lack of a better term, you need to instill fear in the listener that they will miss what you have to say on a certain topic. This is why you tease, and then pay it off. Rinse. Repeat. The listener gets used to the pattern and soon trusts that the wait will be worth it.

What happens more times than not with “laundry lists” is that certain topics get lost in the shuffle or get pushed aside due to a lack of time. We’ve all been there. When a topic is good you ride it and sometimes you don’t get to things you planned on during your pre show preparation. The one exclusion to immediate teasing would be appointment listening. If there is a certain time you will have a big name guest on, or a popular show feature, feel free to push that. Other than that, keep your rundown to yourself.

Theres another aspect of this that I want to mention. When providing a list of topics at the beginning of your show, you are delaying the audience from hearing your opinion. After all, thats why they tuned in to hear you right? Every show talks about the same topics, but what separates you is your opinion and personality. Why push that off?

Let me share with you an example.

I was listening to a sports radio show recently, and the top of the hour imaging hit, followed by a series of sound bites. The host then came on, credited the audio sources, and followed up by identifying themselves and throwing out the call in number and their twitter handle. After that, the host announced the list of topics that would be discussed on the show, followed by once again throwing out the number and contact information. When that was over, the host starting giving background information on the first topic.

I looked at my clock and it was 8 minutes past the hour. That means that 8 minutes had gone by and nothing of substance had been said. Meanwhile on another network, after the top of the hour update and the opening imaging, the host immediately dove into the lead topic. 3 minutes past the hour and I was already hearing an opinion.

Ask yourself, which show are you more likely to listen to when those two options are available? Of course, you’re going to choose the 2nd one.

Why should I or any listener wait 5 more minutes to hear an opinion when we’re only in the car for 10 minutes? The first host could have been way more entertaining than the 2nd, and maybe they would’ve had a more interesting take on the same topic. But they hurt their chances of getting me to listen again, because they wasted my time.

Lists are great. They are important to help you prepare for a show. It helps serve as an overall guideline. But for the listener, they don’t care about that. They also don’t care how you prepared for the show. No one wants to know how the sausage is made, they just want to eat it. So feed your audience. Give them your best right away, and you’ll keep them coming back for more. The more you waste their time, or lose their trust, the more you’ll be talking to yourself.

Scott Seidenberg is the host of “Overtime w/Scott Seidenberg” 1am-3am ET on NBC Sports Radio. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottsOnAir or reach him via email Scott.Seidenberg@gmail.com.

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