How To Encourage “Binge” Listening
If you've ever gorged yourself on multiple episodes of Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, or House Of Cards, you know the power of a dramatic storyline involving compelling characters with cliffhanger endings. Suddenly, you're "bingeing" on entire seasons on Netflix in one weekend.
Those same principles are equally effective in driving ratings on your radio show. It's very tough to execute, but the high-performing shows that we work with eventually graduate from doing single-segment content shows to mastering the art of multi-day serial content.
As you kick around large-scale ideas for serial content that might lead to "binge listening," it's helpful to review some basics of what makes episodic content work.
First, there must be a character (or characters.) Whoever it is, the audience has to know them and care about their motivation, their fears, their passions, and their flaws. You must know that Joffrey Baratheon on Game Of Thrones is a bastard child to understand why he is so cruel.
Then, we have to know what the character wants. In the case of Frank Underwood on House of Cards we know that the only thing he cares about is power, and we know that there is nothing that he's not willing to sacrifice to become the most powerful man on earth.
Finally, we have to understand why the character can't have what he or she wants. That's where the drama comes in. If Walter White were rich and respected as a high school science teacher, and if he didn't have cancer, there would be no Breaking Bad.
Consider how those basics are at play in these examples of multi-segment, multi-day, episodic radio content.
Relationship Report Card: On The Bert Show in Atlanta, a single woman wants to learn why she is un-datable and submits to daily reviews from the last five guys who broke up with her in an effort to learn how to be in a relationship.
Road Trip Challenge: On the Kidd Kraddick Show in Dallas, five listeners would set out on a cross-country journey to a big event like the Grammys or the Super Bowl with Big Al Mack. A listener is sent home each day until the last remaining listener gets to attend the event.
5 Dates In 5 Days: Like the title says, each morning for a week a single man or woman reports on the previous night's date and listeners get involved in hearing the evolution of new relationships, dating disasters, hopes, anxieties, regrettable decisions, and attractions.
Adopt A Family: Jack Murphy at WKZL Greensboro adopted a Hurricane Katrina family that lost everything. With listener and sponsor assistance, the show got them a house, car, jobs, private school, clothes, and moved them from New Orleans to North Carolina.
The Cheating Expert: Another idea from The Bert Show where a serial "mistress" comes on each day to explain why she liked dating married men, how she lured them into bed, and wives could call in with their questions and stories.
Dating Olympics: Ten single people who all date each other once (five dates each x five nights) and rate/review the dates. Best "dater" overall wins, and the stories can quite compelling.
Stand-up Stand-off: Set a date where a listener or a member of your show will go onstage and perform stand-up comedy in front of a live audience. Between now and then, listeners hear the terror, the attempts at comedy that fail, and hopefully a decent onstage debut.
Beyond those scenarios, the very best episodic content on your show comes from you. Take your listeners with you on your journey and share what's going on in your head, heart, and life as you play radio action hero in a drama that compels listeners to tune in again tomorrow.
Jeff McHugh is a 30-year broadcaster with a background in marketing and talent coaching. Jeff is a media talent consultant with The Randy Lane Company, working with radio and television personalities, public speakers and presenters to add storytelling, drama and character to their content. Visit the Randy Lane Company website at www.randylane.net and contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.