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Listeners Prefer Humans To Machines

Every morning in 6th grade, I listened to Monty DuPuy, Greenville’s favorite on-air personality on WFBC-FM. Monty had a jabbering myna bird named Moe, who interjected frequently.

But at 10 AM, WFBC went dead. You heard mechanized time checks and canned “hosts,” saying, “Here’s Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce” exactly the same way every time it played. I later learned this was Drake-Chenault automation. Even as a child, I sensed a robot and tuned out.

I heard that sound recently while coaching a midday deejay. She did fun, well-prepared voice tracks, but management allowed her only four breaks an hour. The station ID voice talked 3x as much as her!

Research has proven that “DJs, Hosts and Shows” are a stronger attraction for radio listeners than music alone. Personalities are even more crucial during the pandemic as socially distanced people are desperate for human connection.

Even if your station is voice-tracked or under-staffed after layoffs and furloughs, here are ways to add life and personality after morning drive.

  • Do not stop music sweeps. We have seen PPM evidence of tune out on some stations where jocks and overlong IDs delay the next song for more than 2-3 seconds.
  • More frequent, short DJ breaks. Add quick content over song intros. Consider removing a few canned IDs or segues to make room for personality. Remember: there is no listener benefit in a station ID.
  • Use your personalities in station production. Listeners connect with your on-air presenters more than your station voice. Use their names. Also: consider using more local listener voices in IDs.
  • Games instead of giveaways. Random text/caller giveaways are generic. Listeners prefer playing along as your host interacts with callers on interactive games like trivia or secret sound. Many hosts solicit contestants online and pre-record games for later broadcast.
  • Focus on stories, not stuff. Some stations gave away toilet paper when the pandemic began. Toilet paper is a thing. Instead, focus on people doing something like Dave Ryan running a 5k on the KDWB performance stage for Minneapolis Humane Society. It takes mere seconds to share happy stories like, “a six-year-old boy opened a drive-by joke stand while quarantined.”

Next to being free, human connection is radio’s competitive advantage. Authentic, entertaining personalities — throughout the day and night — are key to radio’s survival.