Only Non-Music Elements Can Grow TSL

This is a shocker because traditional radio thinking for over two decades is that focusing on music and its presentation is the path to increasing a station’s time spent listening (TSL).

But not one year since Arbitron / Nielsen started keeping these figures has radio’s TSL increased.

And in recent years competition from iPods, personal downloaded music and streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify have all but made it impossible for radio to gain listening time from audiences through music.

Now, the focus is on new listen longer strategies.



Try offering to pay next month’s college loan payment and see how fast listeners will stay glued to the radio. But making it sound like an old throwback radio contest won’t work.

And there are two other irresistible ways to force listening – you should master all of them.


Even straight cash can no longer force radio listening. Before state and national lotteries and casinos just about everywhere, money was a big lure. As silly as it sounds money ain’t what it used to be when it comes to TSL at least.

But you might, say, Jerry – didn’t you just say to pay down a listeners college loan? Isn’t that money?

Believe it or not, no.


This is the gaming generation – what a bad time for radio to stop doing contests.

But the contests that will work are things most radio people cannot think up. Brainstorm with actual people in your station’s target audience. They are wired differently.

The new app Trivia Crack is wildly profitable for its owner and so popular with players that it has been downloaded over 130 million times – it is indeed addicting.

The secret is that Trivia Crack is user-generated content where the users make up the questions and test them. It’s bottom up not top down like radio contests.


Radio people think long music sweeps are to die for which is why they jam all their commercials into two unfortunate quarter hours each hour.

But today’s audiences have attention deficit – all age groups. And they like interruptions which mean the station that interrupts the music and programming elements the most has a better chance of keeping listeners tuned in.

It’s right there in front of us but few stations see it – what is even better than long uninterrupted music sweeps.


From my work as a USC professor: Millennials prefer live-read radio commercials that are authentic – that’s the hard part. What advertiser wants you to say, the appetizer at a restaurant client sucks but the chili is a killer. I’d like to find one – they’re out there. How to find this type of advertiser and get them to up their spend.

It would be another element in radio’s hour that listeners would be hard put to tune-out.

And who would have thought a commercial could have this impact.


Making stop sets occur in the same quarter hours all day and night is killing TSL.

Rotate where you place commercials and the better strategy is to – and I don’t believe I’m actually saying this – schedule more, very short stop sets.

Actually, the Drake radio format of the 60’s which contained 4 short stop sets every half hour (at most) would be a hit with short attention span listeners.

And you’ll see, the evidence now shows that PDs are making two major mistakes in trying to expand TSL. Long commercials breaks placed in the same quadrant and long music sweeps that today’s audiences tune out as they would a commercial.

There are reasons for this and we’ll discuss one which is the effect their iPods and streaming music services have had on audience expectations when it comes to music radio formats.


Radio PDs want to play the hits – it’s in our DNA.

Today’s audiences want to find new music, genres, artists that are off the mainstream making it tough to be a consensus radio station playing a few hits.

I’ll show you a typical hour a radio station can put together that would keep young listeners riveted to radio – we’re not doing anywhere near this now. But you will be tempted, I promise.

I’m not buying that radio cannot grow its TSL – not with presently accepted strategies but the new techniques you are about to discover.

Here’s the rest of the program content:

  1. Attracting More Website Visits. WTOP in DC does 2 million every month and 31.8 million page views. So we’re bringing PD Laurie Cantillo in to sit with us and discuss. We can question her together.
  2. Solutions to Commercial Clutter. Look, running 8-minutes of unlistenable commercials every hour is a suicide wish.  I know, they pay the bills. I’m going to present you with 11 ways to make this problem get better.
  3. How Much Radio, How Much Digital. I can tell you right now I am going to show you the digital initiatives that have no payoff. But you’ll be impressed by the few that do and you’re going to want to jump on them. One costs under $1,000 and is pretty impressive.
  4. Listen Longer Strategies. Radio TSL has been dropping every year since the early 1990s. This calls for disrupting the way we build our hot clocks. I’m going to show you how to throw that hourly clock out and replace it with something better.
  5. Eliminating 2015’s 3 Biggest Listener Objections. Outdated morning shows, too many commercials and repetitious music. Do even one thing on these three listener objections and you’re ahead of the market.
  6. Effective Ways To Compete With On-Demand Content. I am going to play dirty with Millennials developing content they cannot possibly resist about employment, college loans, themselves. We can do this – as you will see.
  7. What Millennials Want From Radio. This list has seven things on it and I can tell you I live by this list every day whether I am talking to Millennials or not.
  8. Selling Against Programmatic Buying. This is essentially bidding down rates so it’s time to have an action plan to combat it. How to walk from a deal that media buyers ruined by bidding down the rate on a competitor. The secret to getting longer term contracts. A few very smart stations are way ahead of the industry on this.
  9. Start Your Own Short-Form Video Business. Digital shouldn’t be an add-on to what you do on the air. Do the best on-air radio you can possibly do and a separate stream of revenue from the hottest digital project ever. Let me play some short-form videos for you that are being done by young people who are making more money than most stations do from all their digital initiatives.
  10. Beyond Clicks – Listener Engagement. Social media is changing rapidly from mass audience to small groups of participants. Radio must rethink using social media to promote what’s on the air. It’s a waste. Let’s talk about what your listeners who “like” you really want.  Which social media site is ascending at the pace of YouTube?
  11. Telling Stories – the New Spoken Word Radio. You don’t have to run a talk station to cash in on storytelling.  And it is highly saleable.
  12. Why You Should Take a Pass On Podcasting. Podcasting is another form of talk radio. It may appeal to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers but it sure hasn’t made any real money. Ask me about storytelling and how it could find its way onto your station – even a music station. Especially, a music station.
  13. 8 Millennial Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make. There are 95 million Millennials out there – the largest generation ever, even larger than the Baby Boom generation. Here are the 7 things Millennials want most from radio.

This is a collaborative environment in an atmosphere of approval and acceptance. We work together, learn together and explore.

I’ll play video, give you resources, come up with a plan of attack to get out ahead of the most critical issues affecting the radio industry in the year ahead.

March 18th – a day of information and inspiration where we work together. I’m putting lots of time aside for your questions.

This event will not be available by stream or video – only live and in-person.

Just 2 weeks until conference day.

Independent broadcasters and digital entrepreneurs are invited to the 6th annual Media Solutions Seminar at the Hub Conference Center March 18th in Philadelphia, walking distance from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and 20 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

Buffet breakfast, lunch and all breaks prepared by James Beard award-winning chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, former executive chef at The Four Seasons included.

Reserve a seat.

Inquire about group rates here.

Look through the online program brochure here.