CURIOUS ABOUT… “Best Of” Shows, by Paul Kaye
by Paul Kaye
July 30, 2018
CURIOUS ABOUT… “Best Of” Shows.
I often find myself curious about why we do things in Radio. I often worry that we’re just doing things without stopping to evaluate the strategic value gained from our actions. I am sceptical that sometimes we put programming tactics onto our stations because we’ve seen other stations of significance (in market size or reputation) do it. I decided that instead of simply being curious I should proactivity seek to understand. I should go in search of answers, and then share those insights with others.
To help me explore one of my curiosities I have enlisted the help of some smart media people from around the world. In this edition of “Curious About…” we welcome the insights of JJ Johnson (JJ International Media), Eriks Clemins (Third Wave Media Ltd), Dirk Anthony (Dirk Anthony Consulting), Kent Phillips (TCCP), David Lloyd (David Lloyd Consulting) and John “Simo” Simons (John Simons Consulting).
Currently, I’m curious about ‘Best Of’ shows. You know the shows I’m talking about, the repackaged morning show. Every radio station seems to do them. You can’t help but turn on the radio at the weekend and find pretty much every station replaying the so-called “best bits” of their morning show from the week gone by. It’s a conversation I have frequently with PDs and Morning Shows, “Should we put on a “Best Of” show?” Where in the Radio handbook does it say that you must run a “Best Of” show? I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I am equally not sure that you always should.
There is no doubt that running a “Best Of” show comes with some significant opportunities. “One is the exposure to a potential new audience that might not normally listen, but cross cumes on the weekend” says Eriks. We know that radio consumption is habitual and people are meticulous with their daily routines, especially during the work week, so maybe a “Best Of” show airing at a different time such as the weekend helps or as Eriks puts it “you may not get a crack at them until they’re outside of their working week.” Dirk agrees: “It can provide greater exposure (reach) to an audience that may not usually get to experience the show in its usual time slot.” However, not everyone is so optimistic about the “Best Of” approach: “I think it’s lazy programming. If they are edited well, with some additional narrative to sign post when the bits were originally broadcast and given some sort of context, that can help. As they are repeats, they may touch people who missed the show when it was live… but the content has to be outstanding to be worthy of repeating” says Simo. JJ weighs in and offers the counter argument that running a “Best Of” can “theoretically provide better programming in a given slot.”
Before you decide to run a “Best Of” show on your station, you should evaluate why you want to do it. What is the benefit of running this type of programming? “Is this to help build the breakfast brand and tempt new listeners to the show it showcases? Is this to build the reputation and recall of the show? Is this to build the personalities? Is this just simply a highly entertaining show in isolation? Is this giving more to loyal weekday listeners to the show to tempt them to the weekend to hear bits again- or pieces they might have missed? If you cannot work out why you are doing it, it’s probably the wrong solution.” says David. There is also an argument that running a “Best Of” show before the morning show is ready is a potential mistake. A “Best Of” show is like an extended promo for a show. You want it to showcase the very essence of what makes your morning show special: to clearly define what makes the show different. A “Best Of” not only needs to deliver high entertainment value as audience’s consume it but it must also create enough enjoyment and intrigue that an audience may choose to seek out the morning show again. Kent has a simple philosophy about when a “Best Of” approach doesn’t make sense, “Stations should not air a “Best Of show” if the show under-performs the station, or is not marquee.”
Be mindful that putting a “Best Of” show on your station simply to add the perception of content and humans on the weekend is never the right strategy for running this type of programming. Dirk cautions that if the motivation is to “Fill a slot and save money on a live presenter, it will make for a less than exciting listening experience.” I have to agree. The right intention would be that you believe the “Best Of” helps your station strategically and adds more entertainment value to your product. Running a canned “Best Of” to save money on live talent doesn’t help in the long term. It stops you being able to reflect the moment and the lifestyle of your audience but also takes away an opportunity to develop more talent – and our industry is going to need to find, develop and showcase talent to survive the future that is rapidly coming into focus. Simo warns us that the show must be worthy and ready to have it’s own “Best Of”, saying that “When the original show isn’t up to standard or is finding its feet” it is not appropriate to run this type of programming. JJ echo’s these sentiments; “In music you don’t put a showcase on for a band until they are ready. People will see them and make up their minds on the spot, same thing with radio shows.”
You do want to be careful though. Simply telling a new or under performing morning show the cold truth about why you’re not running a best of has the potential to bring a devastating blow. Eriks cautions that “Telling a new show they’re not good enough yet, or don’t have enough listeners for a Best Of would be soul destroying.” It has always been my belief that managing expectations early on in any relationship is the key to its success. You should be open with your morning show about what it would take for you to consider the show ready to run a “Best Of”. Maybe the research indicates that the show has gained momentum signifying the show is ready for more exposure. Maybe it’s when the show’s share consistently outperforms the station share in ratings. Decide on your criteria and set those expectations early on.
The same level of attention and scrutiny of a live show should be applied to the production of a “Best Of” show. Lazy editing, out of date or out of context content can be the downfall. There are tricks to make this type of programming strong. Dirk suggests that a “best of” should contain “The same as live content. Content that creates an emotional connection with a listener.” It’s essential that time is spent as a team, and often with the involvement of the PD, ensuring the content selected is truly worthy of repeating. David offers that a great “Best Of” “has well-selected pieces, edited as needed, and set up sufficiently well. In addition the characters are clearly established even in the content of this show alone”. However, there are equally some areas you need to be mindful of; “Beware inside thinking vs outside thinking when selecting best of content. Is this really strong enough for the listener? Sometimes the need to fill the time means content goes in that isn’t up to par, let alone best of. It’s rare as great producers always maintain a high level of objectivity, however sometimes a producer loves the team so much they may lose a level of objectivity to what is Best of” says Dirk. Simo also flags the importance of the producer’s role in compiling the “Best of” and warns of two potential pitfalls, “Continuity and editing. I’ve heard so many Best Of Shows being played out on a Saturday afternoon with references like Tuesday morning, which just sounds stupid. You also need to be aware of stories that may be featured having moved on since the original discussion earlier in the week.” Wise words. There is nothing worse than listening to out of date information or a story that has since taken a notable change. It’s not enough to simply choose clips from the week and load them into the playout system, “The trick is in the set-up. Call attention going in to the repeated segment to something that happens in the segment to highlight the emotional point for the listener. Basically don’t just re-play a bit, give it new context and the reason you are repeating it.” says Kent. The key message here is that content selection for a “Best Of” is essential, “Lots of morning show producers and performers insert less than “best of” material because they either don’t have anything to play with or are lazy. When this happens listeners hear the dreadful reasons to NOT tune in, not exactly the strategy!” says JJ. JJ goes on to urge teams to really ensure nothing but the very best makes it onto a “Best Of” show, “Only the best, if you’re not sure play them for other people and gauge their reactions. Is this really going to make you listen to the show, and worrying about what you may have missed?”
Let’s spend a minute on the name or branding of these shows. I have always been curious as to whether the name “Best Of” sets a high bar. Maybe a bar that is very hard to achieve. I think it’s reasonable to assume that every time a listener tunes in to your station they will instantly decide if the content you are offering them is good or bad. If you brand a show and/or content as a “Best Of” are you simply setting yourself up for additional judgement. You are making a proclamation that what is about to be heard is going to be great; of higher quality than normal! Kent and I seem to be aligned “I detest using BEST OF. If the content is not great you set up a false expectation.” David warns about the tone associated with the phrase. “Even if your show is top of the stack, what might be seen as self aggrandizement can be off-putting. There are more creative labels. After all, you may also want to include some bonus material too – custom-made or from podcasts; or, dependent on scheduling, some ‘unplugged’ material which might not have been aired when the show usually is.” Eriks suggests that using more creative, podcast language like ‘Catch-up’ maybe an opportunity as it talks to the psychology of what you might have missed. Kent offers an entirely different perspective saying that these types of shows often don’t need to be branded at all; “just run the show without reference to best of. 50% of listeners will think you are actually there!”
I’ve often been curious about when to run a “best of” show. Is there a better day to air a “Best Of” show on the weekend? “Saturday morning can be a great time to have your breakfast show match the up-tempo, weekend kick-off mood. Sunday morning feels like a different bio-rhythm for many listeners where a more cruisy, chilled-out, morning-after mood is a better fit, than a full-on show” offer Eriks. David poses a question that stopped me in my tracks, “Is there a risk it reminds people of ‘work days’ when you want them to feel revved up for the weekend?” There seems to be no consensus on when is the right time, but there is a feeling that Saturday seems more intuitive and likely earlier in the day than later. After all, the vibe of a morning show “Best Of” contains content created for the morning in the first place.
And there you have it. My curiosity around “Best Of” shows has been satisfied. I wanted to leave you with these words from Simo as I wonder how many of us would answer this honestly: “How many of these shows are done for creative reasons and how many are just fillers?”
Paul Kaye is Vice President, Product and Talent Development for Rogers in Canada. Paul spends his days working with stations and talent across all formats with a sole focus on helping improve performance and growing the business. Prior to being at Rogers Paul held the role of National Talent Development Director for Newcap Radio and also a Group Programming role in England. Paul is a certified coach and is passionate about helping individuals, teams and organizations reach their greatest potential, which is the fuel behind his other project The Talent Lab. Paul lives in Toronto with his wife, 2 dogs and a cat – life is never quiet!
You can reach Paul at [email protected]