The nighttime slot in the Christian format tends to be the most underutilized for the purpose of growing audience, and it also misses the mark in its natural ability to allow someone to learn how to be one of the best, most impactful communicators, while sustaining audience — only to be one of the stations’ burgeoning opportunities for long term committed audience growth.
When I arrived as PD of WAY-FM, there was a young kid filling the night slot on the network with voice tracks from Nashville TN. His talent was green, voice unsure and future unstable.
The higher ups were quick to impose their views that, at best, this kid was filling space, like a cereal box in the wrong spot on the shelf in the pantry.
I saw something so much different. Despite the things that would change with time, like his confidence and experience, I knew we could put tools around him to excite, incite and sustain new audience while giving him time to find what made him unique. He had the only skill needed for this to come true, passion.
Knowing that the smaller but more loyal audience at night tended to stick around instead of changing the dial with every song or talk break, we put some old rock radio tricks in the game like Monday night’s album feature, where we’d take a new release from a “known” artist and play every track back-to-back hosted by our talent and the artist themselves. We began a nightly song-against-song battle like the old Top 40s used to do and it was the hosts idea to make this feature a social media feature instead of just on air; and that notion would skyrocket both this feature and his audience.
Like a Glove
When you fill the right slot with the right kind of show, with the right kind of host, even in a time when radio listening was beginning to decline you can see significant increase in listening and that is exactly what happened when Justin Paul became WAY-FM’s night jock.
Ratings book after book, Justin became #1 in the market in West Palm Beach, then Huntsville, then Louisville and across the network we began seeing major time spent listening in a slot that was just being used to fill space in the most recent years prior.
Click HERE for Justin Paul video.
While the tools and benchmarks helped the host, benchmarks and tools alone can’t win if not in the right hands, and Justin began to reveal his life on air with heart, humor, transparency, and authenticity. What comes to mind now was when he talked about how his wife’s dog hated him and the relationship he and the dog had when his wife was out of town. Real life.
I had crossed this pattern once before in my career when I hired CJ Lusk to be my night jock in Charlotte at a Top 40/Hip Hop hybrid from 2004 – 2009. He was young, green, and hungry. He did a benchmark bit called “The Booty Attack,” that several night jocks across the Top 40 format did, but the twist he would add to it, would separate his talents from the rest of the game. And CJ was already revealing his life on the air back then, boldly proclaiming his love for Jesus on a secular radio station owned by iHeartRadio. He was the number one rated jock in the market and that continued when we moved him into PM Drive.
Christian’s Loch Ness Monster
I knew CJ would be effective in the Christian format in PM Drive at WAY-FM, but his abilities and execution far superseded the speed in which I thought he’d adapt, as I thought he’d have to get his sea legs first, but I now believe in his proclamations of faith on the mainstream side, he came fully readied.
Beyond his humor, creativity, ability to be transparent and his heart for people and God, CJ would shine most during Pledge Drives, which in our format is a make it or break it moment.
Click HERE for CJ Lusk Audio.
Our format will thrive again, beyond its music offering when we put the right talent in the right places with purpose and great expectation to draw an audience in, while sharing with them the joy that is the fruit of our Holy Spirit inspired relationship with God the Father, through Jesus his son.
Instead of using the night slot as a place holder to find a good enough voice tracker, I would hope that these words would be proof that you can use one of the naturally weakest dayparts, the night slot to renew hope to the entire station, but to do that you’ll have to set out to grow it with purpose. That can be done by growing that youngster internally or setting out to find the talent or talents that can fit in with the mission of growth and God’s goodness.
If You Can’t Do It, Locally, Do It Fairly Local
I was blown away by the initial demo circulating from the Fairly Local Show, a syndication offering from Chad Bradley (recently hired by WCVO 104.9 The River/Columbus OH), Angela Schweinitz (former PM Drive Host NGEN/Houston) and Jill Mikkelson (Mornings on Life 97.3 KDNW/Duluth).
What was being told to me was that this was a show for young Christian stations, the ones that feature Top 40, Rap and Hip Hop, but that’s not what I heard on the demo. I heard real life. If you’ve ever experienced a mission trip with youth, there is a joy that permeates on those bus rides, rich in humor and revealing as time generally lets you experience who they really are, versus who they are trying to be, and it’s in that breakthrough that friendships are made.
Spend time in Nicaragua on a bus with youth and by what they say, you’ll learn everything about them, from their homelife, faith, strengths, weaknesses, and their passions. This is the essence of what The Fairly Local Show brings to the table daily, not being a voice tracked show that gets lost in between the music barely noticed, but instead one that elevates the music and everything a station has to offer, while having rich content takeaways that you’ll remember long after you’ve experienced them in real time.
They were right that The Fairly Local Show was a great offering for the Top 40 Christian format, but what they missed is that it’s a perfect show for the Christian Contemporary format.
As a consultant, I have stations that ask me to help them find the next CJ Lusk, Carlos Aguiar or Justin Paul. I knew I found the what’s next the day I first heard Chad, Angela and Jill, and I have been recommending them to stations I work with, ever since.
Click HERE to listen to The Fairly Local Show audio