Figure 11.5 A Sample Format Clock
Radio programmers and disc jockeys use a format clock like this one to program what will be played in one hour’s time on their station—from local and national advertisements, to news, to songs, to station jingles and promotions—all to keep the listener tuned in.
Intro jingle Local weather drive time early weekday mornings and late afternoons, when people are driving to and from work; this is the time during which radio stations expect to capture their largest audiences
No matter what their format, programmers work hard to please the largest possible segment of the station's target audience. To hold the interest of those who fall within the target audience but rarely listen to a particular station—that is, fringe listeners—the programmer wants to play only the most appropriate songs. Otherwise, when these fringe listeners tune in, they will quickly tune out again because the station is playing something they do not know or like. But the core audience—listeners who spend a lot of time listening to a radio station—quickly tire of hearing the same songs over and over. A programmer must carefully balance the desires of the station's fringe listeners and its core audience.
To strike this balance, most radio stations create an hourly format clock (also called a format wheel). This circular chart divides one hour of the station's format into different, timed program elements (see Figure 11.5). The clock helps the programmer to maintain stability while making sure that key service elements show up at specific times. For example, a radio station may schedule its news at the top of the hour, followed by a hit song. To help listeners remember which station they are hearing, the clock instructs DJs to broadcast the station's call letters and frequency often. Stations may also use jingles to improve their listeners' retention of the station's identity. Perhaps most important from the station owner's viewpoint, the clock also dictates when air personalities play those vital commercials.
The clock also provides the framework for the scheduling and placement of music Many stations use complex music-scheduling programs to make sure that individual songs are properly spaced and balanced. The clock guarantees that the most popular records are repeated more often while less popular records air less often.
The approach may vary somewhat during different times of the day. In radio drive time—or the period when people are driving to and from work during early weekday mornings and late afternoons—is when radio stations expect to capture their largest audience. Given the large audience during drive time, advertising rate> are also at their highest during these time slots. The morning shift is especially important for the station, and finding the right person or team to handle a station's early morning shift is often a great challenge. Funny morning personalities can command large salaries. It is well known in the radio business that a good morning personality will keep listeners tuned in to the station for the rest of the day.
Because so much listenership (and advertising money) rides on drive time, program directors cannot afford much risk in terms of what is aired. During times wher. there are fewer listeners—like late at night or on weekends—program directors can be more adventurous, using these hours of lower listenership to introduce new music Through its request lines, a station can hear from members of its audience about whether they like a new song or not. That might affect whether the program director will slot it in drive time.
It is interesting to note that most air personalities have little input into what music they play. Program directors and their general managers believe that the stakes are too high and the risk too great to allow a single DJ to decide what music to play based on his or her mood. In contemporary radio, a carefully crafted format must be consistent throughout the broadcast day.
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