Clock Theory and Management

As I’ve said in the past, I listen to a lot of different shows across the country, and I often find myself astounded by poor clock management.  A bad clock or bad clock management is essentially stealing from yourself.

But a great clock can help show build momentum while holding audience. Before I launch into this, let’s talk about my belief system in regard to clocks…

…presuming you have 15-20 minutes of spots, promos, etc. per hour, in a PPM world, you need 10 consecutive minutes of GREAT content every quarter hour to give your show the best chance to win that quarter hour. Again, this is simply my learned perspective, and not a hard, fast rule.

Take a look at the spread-sheet below. Column 1 is your usual talk-clock. Column 2 is what hosts usually do. Column 3 is the result of poor clock management.

USUAL CLOCK CLOCK IN HOST’S HEAD RESULT
0:00 – 1:30 (NEWS UPDATE) 0:00 – 1:40 (NEWS UPDATE) ANCHOR GOES LONG, MISSES STING OUT
1:30 – 12:00 (TALK CONTENT) 1:40 – 14:00 (TALK CONTENT) HOST GOES LONG
12:00 – 17:00 (SPOTS- PROMOS) 14:00 – 19:00 (SPOTS- PROMOS)
17:00 – 25:00 (TALK CONTENT) 19:00 – 29:00 (TALK CONTENT) HOST GOES LONG
25:00 – 30:00 (SPOTS- PROMOS) 29:00 – 34:00 (SPOTS)
30:00 – 31:30 (NEWS UPDATE) 34:00 – 35:30 (NEWS UPDATE) SET APPOINTMENT
4-MINUTES LATE.
31:30 – 42:00 (TALK CONTENT) 35:30 – 47:00 (TALK CONTENT) HOST GOES LONG, WASTES 2-MINUTES OF TALK OVER QUARTER HOUR
42:00 – 47:00 (SPOTS- PROMOS) 47:00 – 52:00 (SPOTS) SPOTS NOW NOT OVER
QUARTER HOUR
47:00 – 55:00 (TALK CONTENT INTO
HARD OUT)
52:00 – 55:00 (TALK CONTENT INTO
HARD OUT)
8-MINUTE SEGMENT IS NOW 3-MINUTES LONG, THUS NO WAY TO GET CREDIT FOR THIS QUARTER HOUR
55:00 – 59:50 (SPOTS- PROMOS) 55:00 – 59:50 (SPOTS- PROMOS)
59:50 – 60:00 (STATION I.D.) 59:50 – 60:00 (STATION I.D.)

Think about what happened above…

  1. Host went long every segment.
  2. Bottom of the hour update, an appointment, was missed by 4-minutes. This means that when the audience showed up, expectations were not met. In all likelihood, they left quickly, for the competition, and worst of all, may never come back. I’ve seen studies that show that if you keep doing this and they will not return.
  3. Seg 3 talk content spills over quarter hour.  Huge pet-peeve of mine as I do not think you can win the quarter hour with split content, i.e., that last two minutes is not part of the first 9-minutes and hard to attach to seg 4’s minutes.  IMO, no matter what misleading studies tell you, listeners DO NOT stay through those breaks and thus you are wasting valuable content.
  4. Seg 4 was 8-minutes long…now it’s 3-minutes long.  You’re giving away a quarter hour, every hour, 5-days a week.  THIS IS A DISASTER.

Although many think you should roll spots over the quarter hour (:13-:17, :43 – :47, etc.) my preference is to find ways to roll that 10-consecutive minutes into the next quarter hour, thus creating 20-consecutive minutes…

New clock idea:

0:00 News update w/ great host tease into content at 5:00

2:00 Spots

5:00 Begin seg 1 (19-straight minutes)

24:00 Spots

30:00 Update

32:00 Spots

36:00 Seg 2 (19-straight minutes)

55:50 Spots

59:30 :30-second promo w/ embedded
station I.D.

Recap: I’ve gravitated towards this idea of consecutive content because…

  1. I think (and I’ve seen it in studies) that less breaks feels like more content while more breaks (including updates) feels like the show is constantly going to break.
  2. People tune in when they have time, not when we start a segment, thus I want to be on as long as possible to win quarter hours.
  3. As I’ve hired GREAT talent, I know that they are able to create entertaining and insightful conversations that will hold a listener over 20-minutes, thus I am giving the show the best chance to win BOTH quarter hours.

Do not throw away minutes…you’re killing your ratings.