Go Long on Stories, Short on Information

 In Blog

By Jeff McHugh

You may perceive 60 Minutes to be a news magazine TV program. The creator of 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt, said that the show doesn’t cover issues, it covers stories about people swept up in issues.

After nearly 50 years on the air, 60 Minutes consistently ranks in the top ten TV shows. It was number five in last week’s Nielsen ratings. Jeff McHugh makes the case for the power of story over information.  – Randy Lane

Time is money. Think of each minute of airtime on your show as an investment opportunity. Your ratings are your return-on-investment. How do you invest heavily in the right places and become a millionaire in listeners?

Recognize that some ideas are worth more airtime, some are worth less. Your show’s longest segment might be four minutes, while your shortest might be sixty seconds. If all of your segments are currently about the same length regardless of content, consider this guideline on planning…

Go long on stories, go short on information.

Let’s break it down. Let’s say you have a news statistic. Airfares in your city have risen by 20% this year making it more expensive to travel. That’s good, relevant information that affects your listeners. You might air that information and give an example, like, “Flights from here to Florida have gone up from $400 to $500!”

You could cover that content in a few seconds with a headline sentence. Or, you could interact with your co-hosts about it, offering your point of view (“…with three kids and a husband that’s costing me five hundred dollars more to get to Disney World!”) That airfare statistic is good for one of your shorter segments, perhaps a minute or so.

The 20-something listener recently moved to Seattle for a job opportunity with a great future but low initial pay. After she relocated, four of her best girlfriends got engaged and planned weddings for the coming year. All four friends want the listener to be in the wedding party, but she calculates that she can afford to attend only two of the four ceremonies. The listener must now choose which of her friends get priority.

Suddenly, the statistic on airfares becomes drama. Listeners will feel emotion, heartbreak, angst, and empathy. They will be compelled to know what happens next. Some may call in to share similar experiences. You could easily spend three to four minutes delving into the history of these friendships, what the decision could mean for the future, and perhaps even plan a follow-up segment to get the resolution.

In short bursts, statistics, information, scores and data can be good content, and so can interactive contests and audio clip segments. Execute those quickly and cleanly for best results.

Stories are powerful, memorable and universal to everyone. If your premise contains a story about a person, a bit about that person’s point of view, their struggle, their behavior and what they are doing about their situation, double down your airtime on that – especially if the story is funny.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/sidelong/

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