Serial Content – a How-To

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The Randy Lane Company has always advocated the value of serial content. Serial content is a proven technique to maintain time spent listening, and more importantly, to get listeners to come back to your show. Jeff McHugh illustrates how serial content separates good shows from great ones.  – Randy Lane

Capture Your Audience with Serial Content

Imagine that you are dining out at a new restaurant. The waiter will try to get you to extend your dining experience by suggesting drinks and appetizers. You will be handed a menu full of enticing options and daily specials. At the end of the meal, the dessert menu arrives. If your experience has been memorable, you will already be anticipating your second visit before the check arrives.

Successful radio shows are constantly working on two similar listener variables:

  • Stay longer
  • Come back again

Audiences are captivated when content comes in episodes, like on the dramatic TV series Game Of Thrones, series books and movies such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and in successful podcasts like NPR’s “Serial.”

On Serial’s first episode, host Sarah Koenig promises that every episode brings you back to the same story and tells you the next chapter in that story. Sarah shares the story of Adnan Syed, a high school kid accused and convicted of murdering his girlfriend.

Each episode brings answers to questions from the previous episode and raises more questions for the next installment. In one episode, you might be glad that Adnan is in jail and on the next feel strongly that he should be freed.

On commercial radio, a common example of serial content is “War of the Roses.” In the first segment listeners are introduced to a woman who suspects her man is cheating. In the second segment the show calls the guy to offer a free flower delivery. Tension is created as the audience waits to hear who will get the flowers.

Serial content on radio shows takes two forms; vertical content and horizontal content.

Vertical content introduces the segment and follows up with the next segment a few minutes later in the same hour.

Horizontal content goes from one segment on one day to another segment at the same time the next day.

Segments you do every day on your show can easily become serial content. Creating your own serials means you need a storyline that can be broken down into chapters or episodes. Create scenarios and look for opportunities to entice listeners to stay longer and to come back again.

Bottom line:

Listeners who tune in to your show for just one segment are not captured. They may have been tuning in to hear the music and just happened upon your show. To be valuable to your station, you must create serial content to keep them listening longer and to keep them coming back.

Topic follow ups: On “Decision Day Friday,” the Pepper and Dylan show on The Bounce in Edmonton air listener dilemmas and collaborate with the audience to give advice. The show follows up every Friday at the same time to learn how the situation was resolved.

News: With a breaking story at 7:00, promise an update at 7:30. Also, promise to follow up “at this same time tomorrow” with updates and resolutions of ongoing news stories. (This also works with entertainment, sports and “stupid” news.)

Contests: Every show gives away concert tickets. Plan to give away tickets on the day of a concert, then ask the winner on air to come back on the show tomorrow with a review.

Interviews: Pre-promote your guest by inciting a drama. We will ask this personal question. We will try to get them to play a game. We will confront them about an issue. Then resolve the drama when they appear on air.

You can read my previous article on serial content entitled “How to Encourage Binge Listening.”


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