In the latest episode of the excellent Re/code Media Podcast, host Peter Kafka (who will be onstage talking media with me at hivio in June) interviewed Peter Gould, the co-creator of TV’s Better Call Saul, a terrific show and the spinoff to the amazing Breaking Bad.
One thing Peter said stuck with me:
“The job of each episode is to make you want to watch the next episode.”
You bet it is.
But if you’re a DJ, do you see that as your job? Is it the job of every break to make listeners want to tune in the next break? Or is it the job of every break to sell some stuff and get back to music before the PPM meters slap you upside the head?
Well we need to be great all the time, you may say. This is about much more than great performance in the moment, because there’s nothing about great performance in this moment that assures folks need to listen to the next moment.
This is where all your granular ratings analysis trips you up. Failure to retain audience is not just about what you’re doing now – it’s also about the fact that listeners don’t expect that what you’re doing next is worth listening for. If the last thing they hear doesn’t make them want to hear the next thing you do, you have failed.
And when folks tune away, what is supposed to make them come back? Either they’ll return because of random button-punching or because of your consistently solid performance (your “brand power”) or – and this is the biggie – because you have made them want to listen to what happens next.
It’s common for radio broadcasters to use tricks to “extend time spent listening.” Well, the best trick is to use every break to make listeners want to tune in the next one.
Ditto for morning shows.
Obsess about extending time spent listening all you like but if a commute is only 20 minutes long it’s your next episode you should be worrying about, not your next quarter-hour. What have you done that makes me want to listen again during my next morning commute tomorrow?
Too much of radio happens in what I call the “eternal now” – with no emphasis on the past or the future. But stories that matter to us build over time. They’re dotted with peaks and valleys, with moments of great suspense and great relief. And the greatest stories spin off in multiple directions, whether we’re talking about a story universe set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, or one set in Albuquerque in the the early 2000’s.
If the job of every morning show is to make you want to listen to the next day’s show, what are you doing every single day to propel that story forward and make tomorrow a must-hear?