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“And the 450th Caller wins…”

Once upon a time there was a Top 40 station in a very large market – a VERY, very large market.

And they were doing an on-air call-in giveaway of concert tickets.

I don’t know how many calls they took, but it doesn’t matter to my tale.

This station was doing this, obviously, to engage the audience and activate them. To create an opportunity to interact with the audience, one on one.

Now when the phone lines are jammed and the jock is punching one call after another you might consider this tactic a success, right?

Well guess what?

This station called the phone company after the contest ended, and they asked a simple question: How many different (i.e., unduplicated) people attempted to dial in to win that prize in that time window?

The answer was 200.

Yes, for one of the biggest stations with hundreds of thousands of active Top 40 listeners in one of America’s biggest markets there were a mere 200 people playing their game. But the phone lines were jammed! With the same 200 people calling over and over!

Just last week I heard the same kind of game on a satellite radio program, and the 450th caller would be the winner. It made me wonder how many times 12 people would have to dial before one of them is caller 450.

What is the point of wasting your time on something which motivates only 200 people to participate when your audience numbers in the hundreds of thousands? What do you think that does for the rest of your listeners, and how do you think it will affect you at ratings time?

This is not engagement, it’s delusion. It’s random motion.

It’s clutter.

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