Get Off The Grid
April 26, 2011
There really is no job in show business quite like a morning show. Four to five hours of live performance, five days a week, 50 weeks a year.
Leno and Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart all have that daily content pressure, but they each have a large, well-paid staff of writers and producers to help them.
Radio is the only entertainment medium where we expect our performers to also be the writers -- and often now, the producers of the entertainment ... by themselves.
Most morning shows attack this problem by laying out a version of the Content Grid. The Grid shows each break that needs content, and many shows feel their prep work is done once they have every slot filled with an idea.
I think The Grid is responsible for most of the mediocrity I hear in most markets around the world.
Please don't misunderstand: I know how brutally tough your job is if you're a morning show talent. The hours alone probably take years off your life, and the truth is, you do need to find a way to get from 5a or 5:30a to 8:30a or 9a, every day. And you have no staff of writers and producers. It's just you. I get it.
What I'm saying is that once you start thinking of your content as slots to be filled on The Grid, you limit your creative horizon.
You start relying on "Battle of the Sexes" as your "creative" break of the morning. You start believing you've prepped a great show once you get the last slot filled. You can relax. Tomorrow's show is ready to go.
Here's what I'd like you to try...
Think of the people who listen to you ... then think about your own life.
What are you talking about with your friends? What story catches your attention when you hit Google News, or Drudge, or Huffington Post? What discovery have you made -- shopping, eating out, reading, on the web, traveling -- that you can't wait to share?
Now think how you can approach this topic on your show in a way that maximizes what I -- as the listener -- will feel when I hear it.
Does it need sound? Does it need a second human voice, and does that need to be pre-recorded and edited? Does it need co-host reaction? What twist in the narrative will help generate audience emotion? How will it end?
Can you summarize this topic in one attention-grabbing headline? If not, keep thinking until you can.
You'll know you've found the right topic, and handled it really well, when every other break that morning ends up right back here, when you have to throw out The Grid and still can't handle all the listener reaction.
Don't fill grid slots.
Don't settle for another two minutes of inanity.
I'd much rather see you spend today's morning show meeting coming up with one great topic and thinking through how best to deal with it so that every person who hears it turns up the volume.
I'd much rather hear cold segues fill every other grid slot, if that's what it takes to produce one break so compelling every person who hears it can't wait to share it with their friends.
And next week, we'll walk through a specific topic and the detailed preparation required to reach this goal.