Morning Show Spotlight: Dave Ryan, KDWB/Minneapolis

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The Dave Ryan Morning Show, going on 18 years on 101.3 KDWB/Minneapolis, had regularly outperformed KDWB in the diary days.  Now, in PPM, the show dominates all female demos 18-54.  Why is this so unique?  Counter to conventional PPM wisdom, the Dave Ryan show plays only two songs per hour.  On a Top 40 station.  In these times, that’s unique.
Randy spent an hour with Dave to give you some insight into how his show runs.

Randy: Tell us about your show’s regular features and benchmarks.

Dave:  The show’s biggest benchmark is War of the Roses.  The show is tired of it, but everyone wants to hear it and we are proud of how it turns out. It plays out like a movie script or soap opera. To make these great, we ask ourselves what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to this couple.  We answer that question then work backward from there.  War of the Roses airs every Thursday morning.

The second most popular feature is Dave’s Dirt, an interactive entertainment feature with lots of audio, comedy and commentary from the cast. A different story runs every hour unless the item is a really big story. It airs every hour, every day.

Anything that pertains to relationships works great for us, and the weekly feature, The One That Got Away capitalizes on this. Ironically, the harder the scenario is to believe, the more realistic it sounds. The premise is that everyone has a lover they’ve lost track of. We take entries from listeners with tragic and heartwarming stories about love lost. 

In Cheater’s Club, we solicit listeners who dumped their ex because they caught them cheating. They give the name of the exes and a unique physical characteristic (like a mole on his left butt cheek, for example).  We challenge other listeners to call in if they have cheated with someone who fits that description.

Listener dilemmas, usually a relationship or parenting issue, are resolved in Group Therapy. The situation is presented, each player on the show gives their advice, and then listeners chime in with their opinion.

A rotating feature is “How Will They Take It?” A listener has big news to break to someone; the show gets the two parties on the phone and helps break the news.

Those are our features, but we are constantly creating a lot of original, topical content that only runs once. Many of our phone topics with listeners begin with a personal story from someone on the show. Storytelling is an important part of our content, especially from the main players. Sometimes the stories are set up for interaction with listeners, other times they are there to make an impact and spark emotion.

One thing we love to do that we learned from you, Randy, is this: If we find we’ve done too many phone topics or too many relationship-oriented bits, or if I think I’ve talked too much about my kids lately, we STOP for a few days and purposely stay away from those topics. I think that’s one thing that keeps our listeners engaged; we just keep changing things up. Too much “kid talk” or too much “relationship drama” gets tiresome. Flip the script, keep the listeners guessing, keep them interested, yet keep the “vibe” of the show just where they like it.

Randy:  What about listener interaction?  How do you like to use phones vs. texts.

Dave:  Listener interaction is a big part of our show and texts are key in providing instant feedback. Although everyone texts today, it’s important to maintain a lot of listener voices interacting on the air. That’s why we’ll often call those who have great texts to get their voice on the air.

Additionally, I personally answer all emails from listeners, about 25-30 a day. It usually surprises and impresses the listeners that the host responds to them, instead of someone else.

Randy: Is your show content driven or character driven?

Dave: The makeup of the show is a tight balance between content and characters, with about 51% of it content-driven, and 49% based on strong characters.

Randy: Describe all the characters on the show.

Dave: The cast is the key to the show’s success. Obviously I’m the host, and my role is as the opinionated, conservative, smart ass with a soft side. I don’t pretend to be 26 years old. I’m the dad figure, and the show pokes at me for being older than the rest of the cast.

Lena Svenson is the co-host. She’s a strong character and different than most women. She’s vulnerable, naïve, dirty-minded, sexy without knowing it, gullible, funny and always in a love crisis. She’s also kind and sweet, and a bit flaky. She takes risks on the air and listeners love her for that. In essence, she’s the loveable flake.

Steve is the producer. He doesn’t care what others think of him. He has no filter and is a bull in a china shop. He’s a stumbling, bumbling dad and husband, ignorant, often inappropriate and arrogant, but also loud and likable.

Crisco is the utility guy. He is the loveable loser. He’s a fat, smelly, lazy dropout who can’t read, lies and is unreliable. The listeners love him.

Intern John screens the calls and is on the show occasionally. He’s the overly hormonal frat guy.

Randy: How has the show changed, if at all, since PPM?

Dave: Well to [KDWB Program Director] Rob Morris’ credit, we really didn’t change anything until we saw some numbers.   

The biggest change has been that we do a lot more pre-promoting, as well as appointment listening, which you really helped us with.  And we could still do a better job with the day-to-day lateral teasing. 

One major element that did not change was the song count, which averages two songs an hour.

Randy: How do you plan the show?

Dave: We take a break after the show to grab a snack and check email, and then we all meet at 10:30, from an hour to as little as 15 minutes some days.  We also text each other throughout the day. Then from six to eight o’clock at night, a flurry of emails starts among all the players. Producer Steve finalizes the show sheet that night, and in the morning we check in with each other before the show starts in case we need to revise anything.  Every break is planned out, but we don’t always follow it.  If something better comes up, we go with it.

Q: Any advice to pass along?

A: So many people do just enough on a morning show to get by. Put more time into it, work harder, come up with content that you are really proud of. Don’t stop when it’s good – keep going until you make it great.


Check out a demo of The Dave Ryan Morning Show

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