Live, Local and Interactive By Andy Meadows

Since becoming a full-time consultant a few years ago, I’ve been asked to do market reviews for a wide range of markets across the country. While analyzing all that data you can’t help but see patterns emerge. Back in 2019 I wrote an article about one of the those patterns, the direct correlation between how many live and local on-air personalities a station has and how well they consistently perform in the ratings. In that article I touched on the third component, being interactive, but I wanted to expand on the interactive part because it’s even more important now since the stats I mentioned on the number of live shifts have certainly gone down. 

Let’s face it, what’s the point of covering a shift with live and local talent if they’re not going to engage and interact with the audience? If we’re just going to have one-way conversations with the listener, we might as well use out of market voice trackers or syndicated shows. I always put it this way, if we’re doing a live shift and we’re not doing anything that couldn’t be done if we voicetracked it ahead of time, we’re doing it wrong. The real value of local talent is their ability to tailor things to that specific area and the best way to do that is by starting a conversation and then bringing the listener in on it through on-air, on the phone, online and on-site engagement. When we don’t do that it’s virtually impossible to broadcast externally instead of internally content-wise. 

But, getting an audience that’s been trained not to interact within a specific daypart for years to begin engaging takes time. It’s a slow build that starts with contesting and relatable/interesting phone topics (That are usually faked or at least pre-loaded by banking a few ahead of time in the beginning). Then builds to appointment setting benchmarks and features that have engagement elements. Finally, we can put it over the top by incorporating digital into our prep process to strategically use specific social platforms and our station website/apps to pre-promote, promote during the show and get more life from our content after the show. 

When I start talking about all the different digital content shows could be creating I usually get this kind of pushback, “How am I supposed to do all of that stuff without my on-air content, the most important part, suffering?” But, ironically, the shows that are creating the most digital content are typically also doing the best on-air content. That’s because they’re doing their long-form stuff, (benchmarks, features, contests, local/topical/relatable content and celebrity interviews) to video, podcast/video or blogs first and then using the best bits on-air while they push traffic to the other sites for the longer-form, exclusive versions. 

So going forward, when looking at a market, I won’t simply analyze how many shifts stations are live and local, but how many are live, local and interactive. Because that third part is the secret sauce that leads air talent, and ultimately their station, to win the ratings battle book after book. 

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