Subliminal Content in Air Breaks in Broadcast Radio

For several years, I worked as a consultant in the field of communications training, focusing on the structure of verbal communications to maximize audience impact. Given my background in this field, I’m amazed by how few broadcasters have no idea about how an on-air break should be structured to achieve maximum impact with the listener. This is a very complicated discussion, comparable to Football great, Coach Vince Lombardi, who actually ran 3-day seminars on how to execute an end run, so for brevity in this video, we will consider only three different on-air break styles and consider what they are, why you would use them and their impact on the audience.
Irstly, identifying the breaks themselves: the first would be up to four seconds; the second, breaks between four and seven seconds, and thirdly, brakes longer than seven seconds. Let’s start with the easy one, breaks, less than four seconds.
It an established fact that it takes about four seconds for an individual to actually hear that an on-air personality is doing a break, and process the content, so brakes that are less than four seconds are simply too short to have an impact to be considered a factor in listener retention, and fall into the subliminal category because it’s highly unlikely that the listener will have any conscious awareness as to what the content of the break was. This has several advantages in the world of broadcasting, because you can use it to deliver your message without interfering with the station flow. When I was running CJRP. We use this technique to brand the station. Most the time that was delivered over the fadeout from one song, tight to the intro of a second tune, so from the listener’s perspective, there was no break in the musical flow, yet we were able to deliver powerful branding messages.
The second length of break, between four and seven seconds, is the tool that should be the mainstay for any on-air personality working in a music format. Regrettably, most stations today have chosen to deferred this critical task to packaged jingles, removing the personal contact that a host brings and losing potential current information which listeners are striving for. The advantage of the break running longer than four seconds, is that the listener becomes consciously aware of the content and can react to what is being said, offering the broadcaster the opportunity to pass on information that you want the listener to respond to, maybe something like “Fred will be here at four this afternoon with more great music”. This style of break has a very specific and important role in today’s media. The critical component here, is to keep the break to less than seven seconds because at the seven second mark, the listener has had enough time to determine whether they want to continue to listen to the break or to dial out to another radio station or audio source. The longer you go, the more likely you are to erode listener retention. This 4 to 7 second break is ideal when you’re looking for longer information pieces which are still short, like a brief weather forecast, a short promotion for something upcoming or any number of other topics which the station needs in its overall branding package.
The third length of break that stations use, are brakes that are longer than seven seconds. I know that in some stations, it’s routine for some air staff to talk on for lengthy periods of time, and certainly this style of break has a place in personality radio, but not in a time slot that is striving to brand itself as a music platform. The key component of running a break longer than seven seconds, is that the listener will hear the content, determine whether they’re interested in the content, and possibly make a choice to move to an alternate audio source, because of they either were not interested in the topic or, even worse, it’s too complicated to remain meaningful for humans, who have an incredibly short attention span.  This means that if you’re going to use longer breaks, you have to be very careful about your choice of topics and phraseology. Staying on topic, in today’s talk-radio environment, it’s standard formatting for stations to deliver six detailed weather forecasts an hour. Compare that to music formats, where the number drops to two or three, and in some time slots vanished entirely. It would seem to me that if a music based station wanted to pull a larger audience, it would make a lot of sense to attack the talk radio format by introducing more frequent, occasionally longer weather forecasts. I’m not suggesting here that a 30 or 40 second weather forecast is a good idea at this rotation, but rather that a 15 second summation of what the weather of the day is going to be, certainly would be a huge asset to the surveillance information the station is offering. One of the concepts that we introduced at CJ RP, about five years ago, was the concept of using the intro time on the music for the delivery of this sort of information. The good news here is that your break can be longer, because when it’s over top of the music, the listener absolutely knows that your host will have finished their break, hopefully, before the vocals hit on the song. Again, when structuring a balanced clock for music-based radio station, this technique offers the opportunity for increased surveillance information while maintaining a high music count through the hour. Be warned, It takes a little bit of time to get announcers to develop a feel for this sort style of delivery, as most of them have been trained on much more relaxed formats.
Overall, time spent with your on-air staff, either as a group or individually, is well spent when you focus on breaks, their position and content. I remember way back when I was first in radio, and we were junior announcers, trying to figure out what the optimum way to deliver information was, we were told by our Station Manager that that the best approach was to do the expected thing in the unexpected way. Words that appeared to have vanished for most broadcasters today.

Thank you very much for joining me for this video, it give any comments about this video, where the so-called fourth wave of radio, feel free to drop me a note to

The Impact of Downloading on Radio

One key element of the Fourth Wave of Radio, or if you will, how the Internet is going to impact the broadcast media, is the download phenomena which is sweeping the world. Notice that it’s not the downloading of music, but rather the overall act of downloading which is re-defining music, video and software.  Life in today’s radio stations is very hectic, meaning a lot of broadcasters don’t have time to really sit back and have and consider what this is really means to our industry, and may have assumed that it’s just a matter of downloading music to augment some people’s libraries. This is not the case. What’s happened is, the internet community has taken the time to compile collections of their favorite music and make those collections available on the Internet. For example, if you take something as simple as downloading and a song, as you possibly may have done through iTunes or from some other recognized source like your own radio station website, you will find that today’s net savvy users are operating at a whole new level. In the spectrum of peer to peer downloading, users are grabbing entire discographies, libraries which contain not only every album released by any specific band, but also additional material like un-released concerts and bootleg albums. . For example, I saw a Rolling Stones collection which not only had every album that the band had ever released, but it also had a about twenty concerts, all in a new super high quality format, well beyond what radio stations are able to deliver today. The net outcome, if you are listener looking for Rolling Stones music, you can have a better collection than any radio station on the planet in under 1-hour at no cost. Another collection I saw contained Elton John music.  Again, an interesting twist, in that it had every album, every concert, every bootleg, and everything was available in three different versions. The first version was taken from vinyl, appealing to those who p[refer the sound of records from the 70s;  there was a rip from a CD, as well as a new high-end audio rip, so that whatever level of music  you are looking for, It was available in the download. When you consider today’s  internet connectivity, and then look at the way storage platforms have expanded over the last three or four years, with the proliferation of small thumb drives which are now capable of supporting upwards of 64 GB of music, or if you will, about four times the size of an average radio station’s library, you would have to recognize that massive personal library are a reality today.
The outcome is that we are seeing empowered users who have no need to go anywhere, but to the local computer store to pick up a cheap memory stick and then copy their files onto it. To give you an idea of costs, an eight gigabyte thumb drive can support something in the area of 150 albums at a cost of about five dollars, and based in what we’re seeing in the download speeds on the Internet, the cost of the music would be zero. The one component that is still lacking at this point to develop this segment is a lack of music playlists, leaving a gap for broadcast radio to retain portions of the music listening audience, but everyday that gap is closing with car manufacturers leading the way with dramatically flexile, high quality music playback installed in even entry level cars and trucks.
Remember, if you have any comments or thoughts about our article on the fourth wave of radio are about this particular video, please drop me a line to Thank you very much.

Text to Speech Applications in Broadcast Radio

I wanted to share with you some of the researching we found for the article on the fourth wave of radio. One of the most striking advancements we found was the growth of avatars. Avatars would be computer generated animations that deliver text to voice, and are approaching a quality that can be used for various functions in a radio station. Clearly, no station wants to have an announcer who sounds like a computer, but in certain areas, where the break is short and the voice is clean, you can replace the announcer with many advantages including dramatically expanding the number of voices available on-air, and also additional cost reduction as a junior production person can generate voice tracks on their own. I can just hear the wheels turning now as managers question the quality of the voice and the best applications to apply it to. Let me show you how easy it is to locate and use an avatar.
I don’t think that avatars are quite ready for as they say Prime Time, but they certainly are approaching a level that in some stations should guarantee them a place in the on-air sound. If you consider one of the key styles of air brakes in radio, that being a break of more than four seconds, but less than seven seconds, which in verbal communications terms would be a break long enough for the listener to process the information being delivered, and short enough that the next element, probably a song, is being played before the listener could make the decision to stay with you or sample another station or audio source. This becomes a key factor I n listener retention and building hours tuned. Seven seconds is enough time for an announcer to deliver a branding break with station ID or deliver surveillance information, like time or temperature with branding. Let me show you, using an avatar with royalty free music our library.
Given a bit more time for software to evolve, computers to become more powerful, and what you will find is that these voice to text applications will take over increasing amounts of a station’s voice work and dramatically expand the voices available to production. Even with the current level of software, avatars are well positioned for things like automated time and temperature breaks which would require an announcer to read upwards of a thousand voice tracks.
If you have any questions about this video, where the article or any of the other areas we would looking into. Feel free to drop me all of an email to Bob@Radio Insider. net. Thank you very much.