Sunday, 3 January 2010

Programmers Checklist 2010

Happy New Year everyone!

I'm now into my 4th year of blogging and I'm glad to say it's still really enjoyable to share my thoughts and opinions with everyone. Last year, you were one of several thousand readers from 85 countries aound the world. So thanks for reading and I'll do my best to contimue to write some challenging and thought provoking articles in 2010... and have some fun too!

Just before Christmas I was asked by the lovely guys at Blue Revolution to revisit an article I had written about a 'Programmers Checklist' for 2010. If you're a PD, here's a Top 10 of things you may want to think about on your way back to work tomorrow!

1. Music
Consumer choice in the field of ‘listening to music’ has never been bigger. There are more and more opportunities for people to listen to music aside from listening to it on the radio. Therefore it’s essential to make sure your offering is providing that something extra. Go through your core categories and to ensure that the big songs are still rolling round regularly, and that each category has not got bloated over the year. But also question whether you have got a structure for placing those ‘Oh Wow’ songs that make the listener turn the radio up and give an extra layer to your station. Is there a list of those songs you can draw on when you need to pull something special out of the bag? Having a ‘sound’ to your format is still important, but understanding that radio formats must evolve to still retain a sense of ‘stickiness’ with the audience is even more important.

2. Clocks
New Year is as good a time as any to refresh your clocks. If you have a good clock structure in place, the temptation is to leave it be. That’s not bad practise, but it’s always nice to refresh the order of things. Just by swapping around the openers or by changing the order of the first few songs at the Top of Hour can break the pattern of predictability. You’d be surprised at how your station can feel a lot fresher by making these simple changes. Also, does every ‘listening occasion’ (a sweep of around 20 minutes) really represent the sound of your station? Now’s a great time to check!

3. Production
Consistency in production is a good thing, but be careful not to use consistency as an excuse to allow things to get stale. Is it time to write some new liners? How about changing those ‘vox-pops’? Have the music imagers been running for too long? If your station has limited production resource, as many do, then the temptation is to leave things on air a little too long. But try and find a way of doing a refresh. It might not only be in the content of the production, but also in the style. For example, topical production (writing and producing cuts that are applicable to current events or the time of year) can really add a positive dynamic to the sound of your station.

4. Feedback
One of the most common complaints that DJ’s have is that they don’t get enough feedback or that the PD never has enough time to spend on them. All presenters have an ego, and it’s part of the PD’s role to attend to that regularly! Not only does it make for happier DJ’s but it’s one of the most effective ways of improving you product. The talent that you have is the single biggest category investment your station makes, and leaving ratings success down to between 5 and 10 people who don’t have regular feedback is a gamble you shouldn’t be prepared to take. When staring at the diary for 2010, blocking out regular weekly sessions for giving feedback will be time well spent.

5. 2010 Activity
The arrival of a new year is good time to look ahead and start to put together all your on-air activity. It’s a really useful tool for programmers and will guide you through the year ensuring there’s always something on the table for listeners. Not only can you plot all your station led activity and major promotions on it, but you can plot all sorts of things that might appeal to your listeners and have an on air angle to it. Lady Gaga’s coming to town? The station can ‘Go Gaga’ for the day. Valentine’s Day? Plan something different than a Love Songs show! Use it as an excuse to stay connected and topical as well as control over your content.

6. Cross Promotion
How well do you let your core audience know about all the other great shows and activity on your station? I believe it’s always easier to get an existing listener to listen longer than try and get someone to switch to your station in the first place, so investing time in a plan for 2010 to cross promote more effectively might be a good idea. Morning Shows always get good cross promotional airtime but what about all your other shows? Put together a schedule where you plot in some airtime to promote other shows. You can’t always promote everything all the time… but you can put a great plan together to make sure you’re recycling listeners back into the station.

7. Online and Digital
Every year ‘online and digital’ becomes more of an integral part of the business of a radio station than the previous year. Make 2010 the year that you invest time, energy and (if you have any) money into this area! How good is your website? Is it content rich? Is there exclusive content? Are your DJ’s blogging? Is there a great photo gallery your loyal fans can visit to see all the good guests that have stopped by? And can visitors to the site find out how to ‘listen live’ really easily? Having a social networking strategy is now essential for any station. You need to bring content to where your listeners are congregating. And, you need to work out how you can monetise all of these things.

8. News
The bits in between the records are now as important (or even more so, some would argue) as the records themselves. And news is a vital part of the mix. Revisit the news strategy. How can you make your stations news an ‘event’ every hour rather than just background? Radio news has sounded the same for far too long and listeners can now access news anytime and anywhere, 24 hours a day. So, be bold. Make changes and provide radio news that jumps out of the dial!

9. Target
The first programming meeting of the New Year is a good opportunity to gather your team together and remind them of the focus of the station. You are we targeting? What are these people like? What do they do with themselves? What kind of content are they interested in? Ensuring everyone understands exactly who they’re talking to will really help the on air team to focus on your audience.

10. Sponsorships & Promotions
Schedule a meeting as soon as you can outside your normal ‘promotions’ meeting to talk about your expectations and ambitions for your on-air sponsorships & promotions in 20010. Was the prize level last year a little on the low side? Did you carry some promotions with no brand-fit whatsoever? And did the sales guys agree to a really long tag line without getting programming approval first? New Year is a great moment to wipe the slate clean and lay out your vision for how S&P will integrate into the product in 2010. Sponsorship and Promotions is an increasingly significant revenue area so getting it right is now a crucial part of the mix. Start the year off on the right S&P foot!

So there we have it! That should keep us all busy for the first full week back in 2010!

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