Emotionally charged content equals solid radio ratings

Successful radio connects with its listeners and applies common sense says Dean Buchanan in an opinion piece that first appeared in Encore.

Great talent and excellent execution will make the difference in 2013. The successful shows of 2012 all had top talent, excellent execution and high production values. My favourite example comes from TV. The Voice had great talent in the coachs’ chairs, great artists on and off stage and a great host*; all working together in a positive environment, brilliantly executed by producers Shine and Channel Nine. For radio, post the Royal prank saga, what presenters do and execution will be as important as great talent.

The meaning of entertainment is subjective. Ultimately, it should make the audience feel something. It is the shows that truly tap into the emotions of their audiences that will break through.

There are many emotions that can be explored: sympathy, empathy, outrage, shock, humour and challenging spirit. The one emotion that radio historically puts a lot of time, effort and resources into is the notion of being ‘funny’. But content doesn’t always need to be funny to be engaging. When executed well, emotionally charged content makes for compelling stories that get talked about and remembered. That equals ratings.

From a listener’s point of view, I want radio to make me laugh and laugh out loud. I’m over listening to radio shows that talk too much and laugh at themselves when something was not particularly funny in the first place. Can you recall any of the great movie comedies that had self-congratulatory laugh tracks plastered through them?

Apply common sense. Looking for ‘funny’ in other people’s misfortune will lead down a path that risks unforeseen circumstances.

Funny and other emotionally charged content often gets lost somewhere in execution by presenters gabbing on too long. Take a leaf out of Twitter’s book: 140 characters. Not four minutes of dribble, of which 30 seconds may be amusing. Authors of tweets have to edit their thoughts. Funny, entertaining and interesting authors get followed. Pretty simple.

Language on social media is generally real, to the point, and often emotionally charged in some way. Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking. Sometimes touching.

So if you don’t have something funny to say, a point to make or a story to connect and engage with your listeners emotionally, do us all a favour and play a great song (and that’s a whole other debate).

Great talent will always be the key ingredient, but it’s the talented individuals and shows that practice excellent execution and emotionally engage with their listeners on all levels that will be the winners.

* Darren McMullen, host of The Voice, is managed by Buchanan’s Plus1Talent.

Dean Buchanan is the former group programming director for dmg Radio. His latest venture, Plus1Talent, represents talent and emerging stars across the entertainment industry. 


This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.



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