Planning Your Sequel

 In Blog

Last week, we discussed how radio shows and podcasts benefit from following the movie industry’s practice of producing sequels to keep audiences coming back to popular storylines. Once the public is emotionally invested in a character and storyline, they want more.

Conventional shows follow a one-and-done philosophy with content, airing a single segment on a topic then moving on. But for building time spent listening, nothing comes close to content aired in multiple segments, like chapters or movie sequels. The “Serial” podcast is a perfect example.

The keys to building your successful sequel franchise are planning and teasing. One goes hand-in-hand with the other. There are two kinds of serial content that work beautifully in building out multiple segments.

Theme. This is when you air multiple related stories under an umbrella story topic. An example is Ace and TJ’s topic “When Did You Feel Like A Horrible Mom.” (See below.)

Many shows air phone topics, but here is the pro tip: After a segment with 2-3 stories, end the segment with a specific tease for the next segment.  In six minutes, we will hear from a mom who accidentally knocked out her 5-year-old’s tooth in the most embarrassing public place …”

In order to tease well, have a story lined up for segment #2 before you begin segment #1. Otherwise, your tease will not be specific. “More of your calls coming up” will not keep the audience listening.

Storyline. This is a single story with multiple chapters. The storyline can come from life transitions like a wedding or a new baby, or from life’s smaller dilemmas, like a series of Tinder dates, or an ongoing disagreement with a neighbor.

Years ago, Jack Murphy at WKZL did serial segments on how he bought a brand new Hummer vehicle, flipped it while off-roading foolishly, and updated listeners with the ordeal of repairing both the vehicle and the relationship with his angry wife. Each new chapter of the drama/comedy came to listeners in a new segment.

You can also do a combination of a storyline and a theme. Mookie and Billie Jo at Kiss FM Calgary, followed the storyline of Billie Jo’s wedding with tales of rehearsal dinner planning and dress shopping. Simultaneously, they planned  Wedding Week, with topics like “Honeymoon Disasters,” and “Quirkiest Marriage Proposals.”

Another pro tip: The best way to execute sequel content is to reveal past stories as if they are happening in real time.

For example, if you are sharing your first week of a new fitness program as a storyline, consider doing your gym workouts, take daily notes and reveal the storyline the following week.

You will tease the coming episode more effectively if you know what is happening next, and telling the story out of real time allows you to embellish and rearrange the drama to make it more entertaining.

With sequels you can produce vertical content, which carries listeners from one quarter hour to the next on the same day. The big win is in horizontal content, where the storyline carries listeners from a quarter-hour on one day to hear the next episode the same quarter hour on the next day.

Check in with Randy, Michelle or myself to learn specifics on producing franchise sequels, so your show can become the radio or podcast equivalent of James Bond, Star Wars or Harry Potter.

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