It’s no secret that I believe radio stations should shorten their stopsets to fit listeners’ changing habits and advertisers’ expectations. Here’s the ‘Making the Case for Shorter Stopsets’ article I wrote for Radio Ink laying out my thoughts on break length.
However, I certainly understand how challenging that can be. When a station is closed to sold out it’s virtually impossible to cut forty percent, or more, of available inventory on the assumption that the new limited inventory will demand a higher rate. So, I've mainly suggested the minute model for new market entrants, format flips or underperforming stations.
Then a global pandemic changed everything. Now, unfortunately, almost everyone has a lot of unsold inventory. Most are choosing to just run their normal traffic clock with fewer spots or loading up some hours and doing other commercial free hours. But, this would be a great time for stations to consider making the switch to the minute model. That way when the ad dollars do return they’re better positioned to hold their rates and they’ve already trained their listeners for the adjustment.
The minute model I’ve used gets a maximum of seven minutes of inventory into the hour. Traditional wisdom says that stopping down for spots that often would kill pacing. But, it doesn’t have to. Strategically placed imaging throughout the hour, and going into each break, lets the listener know that the station will never stop down for longer than a minute. Pairing that with commercial production that sounds more like entertainment elements creates a station that has even better pacing then one with a traditional three break clock. With the minute model ads are woven into the programming more seamlessly and don’t seem like an unwelcome necessity to listeners or a forewarning that it will be awhile before the content they came for returns.
The listeners are an easy sell though, convincing the advertiser to pay a premium for it is the challenge. The first step is educating the sales staff on positioning the inventory as exclusive, because if someone buys a sixty second spot within the minute model they’re the only commercial in the break and they’ll be surrounded by entertainment elements. Then, teaching them to explain how radio ads are traditionally scheduled with only the biggest advertisers, or ones that pay a premium for fixed position spots, getting the coveted first slots within a long-form break. While others can get buried behind upwards of twelve or more units.
The goal of the minute model is for our listeners to stay with us throughout our commercials as opposed to bailing because they know they’re several minutes from more music or content.
It also pairs well with branding advertisers as partners on the air, and the website, instead of commercial advertisers. Especially if other stations within the market are running any imaging that makes commercials sound like a nuisance.
If seven minutes an hour isn’t enough, that inventory can also be paired with a handful of sold imaging pieces per hour and a sold live mention without overwhelming the listener.
Plus, it obviously translates much better to streaming online and competing with Pandora and Spotify.
A variation would be for a station to just run their breaks as scheduled but cut them to two minutes to set them up for transitioning to sixty second breaks later.
If you’d like more info on the minute model, including clocks and imaging, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pic designed by www.freepik.com.