End on A High Note

End on A High Note

by Tracy Johnson

No matter how good it is, if content doesn’t move forward, listeners move on.

Now don’t misinterpret this conclusion. Forward momentum has nothing to do with talking faster or louder. Momentum is all about energy, not shouting or hyping or rushing. Or even adding a music bed behind your break to artificially give the appearance of tempo.

It also has nothing to do with the length of breaks.It’s about efficiency.

Listeners get bored easily and quickly. The longer it goes, the greater the risk and the greater the pressure for higher quality content. As the break extends, you’re playing with fire because it’s harder to keep moving forward.

Remember the Seinfeld episode when George learned to take the first exit and get out on a high note? It’s the same with listeners. Each talent must develop an internal clock in the host’s head. This acts as the conscience of the listener.

Here are some common things that kill otherwise great breaks:

  • One too many punchlines.
  • One too many phone calls.One too many stories.
  • One too many topics stacked in a break.
  • Redundant punchlines.
  • Phone topics that feature listeners repeating similar types of stories.

Here’s an example from Content Kryptonite, Chapter 1 in the Content SuperHero series:

Break is too long

Look at the EKG of this break. This is an episode of a popular feature “What Are You Doing at the Courthouse?

It’s great, until it stretches for one (or two) extra punchlines.

  • This break has a quick hook.
  • It bogs down briefly in a bit of chit-chat, which you can see reflected in the diagram. They haven’t tuned out, but the storyline stops moving forward, and attention stalls.
  • When it starts moving forward, the break reaches a high point quickly, providing a perfect exit when a listener delivers a funny punchline (about 2:00 mark), and the whole show laughs. At that point, the break is over!
  • But they keep going! For two more minutes. And a potentially great break ends up flat.

What could they have done?

All of the content in this break is quite strong. The problem is that when they reached the high point, that first perfect exit, the rest of the break wasn’t as strong. This could have been three separate breaks, each edited into episodes. Each break could have featured unique content leading up to the common punchline-the great story about the guy buying cigarettes. Now they’d have three breaks to play in one show, each slightly different, but all with the same strong payoff. And, building even more equity for the feature.