Author: Jay Nachlis

How to Bring Messaging to Life

The new “911” commercial for the Apple Watch 7 series is absolutely amazing.

From the outset, you hear audio of three actual calls to 911: a woman whose car has flipped and is upside down in water; a paddle boarder stranded in the middle of the ocean; and a man who fell 21 feet and broke his leg. After nearly a minute of listening to audio from the three scenarios, we learn that all three were able to call 911 from their Apple Watch (and likely couldn’t get to their phones). The takeaway? Apple Watch helped save their lives.

This is an extraordinary example of how to use messaging to sell a core feature of a product. Because if Apple’s focus was on functionality, it would have sounded like this:

“The Apple Watch Series 7. If you’re in an accident or in trouble, you can make a call right on your watch, and it could save your life.”

Which is more powerful and effective—telling us what it does or playing the 911 audio?

How would these approaches play out in radio and podcasting?

A news station could do traffic reports…or it could present the reports in a way that help you understand how long it will take to get to work and will affect your commute. It could do weather updates…or it could present them in a way that helps you understand what to wear that day and how it may affect your plans throughout the day and evening.

A hit music station can just tell you it plays hit music, or it can bring the position to life, affirming it as the source for new releases, updates about which artists are in the studio, and who’s coming in concert.

A sports station can tell you Tamp Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown left in the middle of the game, or it could piece together a moment-by-moment drama.

A true crime podcast can just tell you the story, or can it provide an immersive audio experience that includes scripted reenactments.

Although it’s been used as a pop culture joke over the years, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” is one of the most powerful taglines ever used in advertising. It was first uttered in a 1989 commercial for LifeCall, which allowed an elderly woman to call for help right from a pendant with a microphone that could reach a dispatcher.

Like you can do with your Apple Watch!

But what if LifeCall had just had a voiceover tell us, “Wear the LifeCall pendant, and you’ll be able to reach a medical dispatcher. It could help save your life.”

Would that have worked as well as, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up?”

“The Apple Watch. Now with life-saving technology.”

Or 911 audio?

What messaging will you bring to life today?

Coleman Insights Announces Leadership Team Promotions

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, January 6, 2022 – Coleman Insights announced today that four members of the media research firm’s leadership team have been promoted effective immediately.

Eileen Genna is promoted to Senior Vice President, Business Operations; David Baird is promoted to Senior Vice President, Research Operations; Jay Nachlis is promoted to Vice President/Consultant & Marketing Director; and Meghan Campbell is promoted to Vice President/Consultant & Director, Qualitative Services.

According to Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman, the promotions represent an investment in the company’s long-term health and its commitment to customer success. “Beyond the insights we deliver to our clients, I’m most proud of how we’ve built an incredible leadership team at Coleman Insights,” said Kurtzman. “Eileen and David’s promotions are a recognition of the enormous multi-decade contributions they have made to our success. In a shorter amount of time, Jay and Meghan have also had a tremendous impact for us and our clients, and I expect even bigger things from them with their new responsibilities.”

Genna will continue to oversee the company’s business operations, including finance, human resources, facilities, and information technology, while Baird will continue to head the company’s research operations, including study design, fielding strategy, quality control, data analysis, and software development. In their new positions, Nachlis and Campbell will take on more “point person” roles on client projects. Nachlis will continue to lead Coleman Insights’ marketing efforts, while Campbell will continue to direct the company’s qualitative services, including the CampfireSM Online Discussion Groups service it launched in 2021.

Brand Lessons from Desi Arnaz, Father of the Rerun

The December release of Being The Ricardos, the new film about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on Amazon Prime Video, spawned new interviews and fresh interest in the marriage and careers of one of Hollywood’s original power couples. You may already know some of the highlights:

…and that’s just scratching the surface of the innovations that broke ground and changed industry norms.

But did you know Desi Arnaz is the father of the rerun?

In 1952, when Ball was pregnant with the couple’s second child, it became apparent that not enough episodes would be able to be filmed before she would go on maternity leave prior to giving birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr. It was unthinkable to television executives at the time that anything but new content would be aired. As the legend goes, Arnaz was told, “Who would want to watch it after it airs?”

Of course, Desi Arnaz ends up winning that debate. “The Quiz Show,” an I Love Lucy episode that originally aired on November 12, 1951, re-aired on October 20, 1952, becoming the first rerun.

The effects of that decision can’t be overstated. Reruns paved the way for syndication, which made Lucy and Desi­–and countless of Hollywood stars to follow–millions of dollars. The decision to record on high quality 35mm film made it possible.

But one of the biggest, and perhaps most underappreciated effects of the rerun, is the perceptual change that needed to take place. And yet here we are, 70 years after Desi Arnaz was asked by a television executive why people would want to watch something more than once, the question still gets asked. To every general manager, program director, and talent that wonders why content should be “recycled” (as its usually referred to in audio), might I suggest posting the “Who would want to watch it after it airs?” quote somewhere in your sight line.

Reruns–or recycling–is one of the great tools in a radio station’s arsenal. Stations that consistently conduct research don’t guess which content is working–they know exactly what content is resonating with listeners and track it. Then, they recycle it so the best content airs most often. In today’s fragmented listening universe, it’s more likely than ever that recycled content will be heard for the first time by someone the second, third, or fourth time you air it. But the point really is, if it’s great content, who cares if they hear it again?

Consider that some 75% of the population that owned a television set watched I Love Lucy on a weekly basis.

Recycling worked just fine for them.






Best of 2019: Hey Radio! Science Says Surprise Your Listeners

This week, we continue revisiting four of our most-read blogs, one for each of the four years since we launched our weekly blog series Tuesdays With Coleman. Last week, we highlighted 2018’s “Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station” by Jon Coleman. This week, we fast forward to April 30, 2019 when “Jeopardy James” Holzhauer was in the midst of his record-breaking run of winning nearly two and a half million dollars in only 32 games, a feat we’d never seen before. Associate Consultant Jay Nachlis explained how it’s a really good idea to surprise your listeners by being unpredictable now and then, and not just because we say so…there’s science behind it.

“Hey, Radio! Science Says Surprise Your Listeners.” by Jay Nachlis

How predictable is your radio station? Have listeners “heard it all”?

That’s not necessarily a good thing.

There’s a region of our brain called Broca’s Area, and it is known to have multiple roles involving speech production.  It turns out that another function involves surprise. When we’re surprised, it triggers this part of the brain.

But Broca anticipates the predictable. It’s the part of the brain that literally tunes out what it already knows and expects.

Broca's Area

I once saw marketer Roy Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads, explaining the Broca lesson in terms of radio contesting. There was a time when winning 25 bucks was a big deal. Until listeners heard $100 given away, then $1,000, and so on.

Listeners had certain expectations for morning drive radio before Howard Stern. Howard shattered those expectations, thereby stimulating Broca’s Area and becoming a superstar.

I recently visited a friend in Las Vegas and experienced an example of Broca stimulation.

Go figure, it was a billboard for a hospital.

Hospitals used to only run basic billboard campaigns. Name, location, specialization maybe. Picture of a patient. “The cardiovascular hospital.”

Then, we saw billboards for emergency rooms with digital wait times.


Now it’s not quite as unusual to see those wait time billboards. Still neat and effective, but the element of surprise has passed.

The board for St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Las Vegas does something I’d never seen before.

It welcomes new babies in real time.

The digital message I saw welcomed a baby by first name that was born 15 minutes prior.

The hospital is even using a mnemonic device in the labor and delivery unit itself—they play a lullaby throughout the entire hospital every time a baby is born.

They stimulate Broca with the billboard birth announcement and reinforce it in-house with the lullaby.

Have you been watching Jeopardy! lately? Lots more people have, because contestant James Holzhauer is currently torching records left and right.

James Holzhauer Jeopardy! Broca's Area

Jeopardy! contestant James Holzhauer is stimulating Broca’s Area by doing things on the show we’ve never seen before

He’s a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas. Can’t recall ever seeing one of those (at least mentioned) as a Jeopardy! contestant before.

He regularly goes all-in or heavily in on Daily Doubles, betting 10, 20, $30,000 or more.

Never seen that before.

He’s broken the record for single-day winnings, then broke his own records. $131,137 in one game?

Never seen that before.

Jeopardy James is one big ball of Broca stimulation, and there are two ways to look at it from the show’s standpoint.

#1, We’re over budget!

#2, This guy is a marketing machine. It’s been great for the show. There’s great buzz. Our ratings are soaring.

I think the Jeopardy! folks are probably pretty happy right now.

Now, think about Broca’s Area in the context of your radio station.

Before you do, be careful not to confuse Broca with message repetition. Your listeners lead busy lives, have short attention spans and are not paying attention to your station like you may think.

Therefore, repeating the same positioner over and over again is important. Running benchmarks at the same time has value. You may utilize a mnemonic device, like a jingle, sound effect or voice that listeners associate with your station. These help build images through repetition.

So, what can you do to stimulate Broca?

Stimulating Broca can be additive to images, like the ones we track in strategic perceptual research.

The hospital billboard and Jeopardy James create buzz.

Buzz builds top-of-mind awareness.

If you live in Las Vegas, maybe you’re more likely to think of that hospital first—just as you’re trying to get listeners to think of your radio station first.

You’re very likely to think of them as the baby hospital, which I’m sure is an image they’d love to own.

But they simply could have put a tag line up on the board, right? “First for babies?” “The baby hospital?”

Would that build the image as fast as a real-time birth clock??

Sure, you can throw a tag line or an artist on a billboard. But I’ll bet you can come up with something we haven’t seen before.

KMET Los Angeles Billboard

And sure, Jeopardy James is lightning in a bottle. Contestants like him and Ken Jennings are once-in-a-blue-moon events.

But it is a reminder to seek out memorable talent and to find ways of presenting your product that the listener hasn’t heard before.

And those repeating messages I mentioned? Just because they say the same thing doesn’t mean they need to be presented the same way each time. When they are, they become wallpaper.

So think about your core messaging and the images you want to build with your listeners.

Think about all the ways you’ve relayed and presented the messaging up until now.

Then, think about the opposite. Something completely different. Something even you haven’t heard before.

Broca (and your listeners) will thank you.

Four Questions to Answer in Audio Brand Perceptual Research

Tuesdays With Coleman, our blog that offers tips and insights on branding, content, and research strategy, is now four years old. Over the next four weeks, we’ll reprint four blogs (one per year) that made the most impact through industry engagement.

This week, we’ll start our celebration of the number four by presenting four of the most important questions that can be answered in perceptual research–a type of study we conduct often at Coleman Insights.


Whether it’s a radio station program director poring over ratings, a podcaster dissecting downloads, or a streaming service examining the subscribers of one of its channels, there is a big question that these numbers don’t answer. When consumers choose an audio brand to listen to, is yours one of the ones they think of?

The measurement we use to obtain this information is called Unaided Awareness, and there’s a reason it is one of the first questions we ask in perceptual research. The goal is to learn the first brands that come to mind in your listening universe. For a radio station conducting a perceptual study, for example, we may ask respondents to name as many radio stations in their area as they can remember, regardless of whether they listen to them.

When it’s time to pick an audio brand to listen to, your target consumer is only thinking of three or four at any given time. How can you generate significant listening numbers if your brand isn’t one of those top-of-mind few? It’s no different from the exercise your brain goes through when you pick a restaurant to take a friend to lunch. If the restaurant isn’t top-of-mind, you’re probably not eating there. Radio is at a further disadvantage here, because while a consumer may use a tool like Yelp or Google to discover a restaurant or Apple or Spotify to discover a podcast, radio discovery tends to be more organic or reliant on paid marketing.


In August, Sam Milkman’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog “I Can Tell You How Healthy Your Brand Is With One Question” took a deeper dive into the “first thing that comes to mind” philosophy. Not only should your brand be top of mind, but your listeners should also be able to explain what your brand represents in a few words. “That station plays hit music.” “That station plays New Country.” “That station plays Hip Hop.” “That podcast is about serial killers.”

It seems simple, but you may be surprised how often listeners are either not able to answer the question at all or think of your brand for other things first. For example, listeners may think of your station for playing the most commercials or having too many contests before they think of it for its music or talk position. It’s a challenging but correctable problem, but research can pinpoint where the issue is.


For music radio stations, there is often no more important question than this but there are many ways to approach it. 1) Are you playing the most popular music? Not just with your current listeners; are you playing music that’s popular enough to attract new listening or have you maxed out available audience with the styles you currently play? 2) Are you getting credit for the right music? Are listeners thinking of your station for the music you play or is another station getting credit? Are they thinking of you for styles you don’t want to be associated with? 3) Do the music styles I’m playing work together? The reason why Pandora picks the next song for you and Spotify curates personalized daily mixes are not by chance. They are highly data-driven algorithms based on your music preferences. Radio stations can have a similar advantage by using Compatibility data to learn which styles are more likely to create tune-ins and tune-outs when played together.


Just as it is important to have a baseline of Unaided Awareness to learn how many consumers are thinking about your brand, it is also helpful to know how familiar your key personalities are in the market. In a Coleman Insights Plan Developer study, respondents only evaluate a personality if they have heard of them. Thus, you can see which personalities may not be very well-known but show a great deal of upside with a positive evaluation. Or vice versa, a personality that may have challenging evaluations that need to be addressed and coached.

While every perceptual study is customized based on the issues and challenges germane to each specific brand, these four important questions are the backbone of a great many of them and provide the stepping stones to actionable strategic plans.

From all of us at Coleman Insights, have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Next week we’ll begin sharing the most impactful blogs from the past four years – starting with 2018.

Where in the World is Mick Jagger?

On September 26th, the Rolling Stones kicked off a 13-date tour across America in St. Louis. Launching just one month after the passing of drummer Charlie Watts, the No Filter tour has played to full stadiums to generally positive reviews. Playing concerts at big venues isn’t what’s made this particular jaunt interesting. After all, the Stones have been doing that for more than five decades. What’s made this tour interesting is Mick Jagger “on the town.”

Do a Google search for Mick Jagger, and you’ll find stories that capture the frontman’s time spent in each city along the tour.

St Louis? Had a BLT at Crown Candy Kitchen and a custard at Ted Drewes.

Charlotte? Went unnoticed at a dive bar.

Oh nothing, just Mick Jagger hanging out by himself in a dive bar in Charlotte.

Pittsburgh? Smelled the flowers at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Nashville? Crashed a bachelor party and rode a mechanical bull.

Los Angeles? Posed in front of a Mick Jagger mural above a mattress store.

Right, that’s me isn’t it?

Minneapolis? Had a local favorite Juicy Lucy burger at Matt’s Bar.

Dallas? Showed up at the African American museum, which was closed. Knocked on the door. Let him in. Gave museum owners VIP tickets as a thank you.

Vegas? Checked out The Neon museum and took a pic in front of CJ’s Auto Repair.

Atlanta? Smiled on the Jackson Street bridge.

How many tours have The Rolling Stones done and concerts have they put on? How many times have they played “Sympathy For The Devil”? At some point, a new twist is just what the doctor ordered to grab attention.

There’s a scene in Rattle and Hum, U2’s documentary of The Joshua Tree tour, when The Edge says something to the effect of, “You’re on the road doing the same thing every night. Sometimes you’ve just gotta change it up.” That segues into the band playing a surprise free lunchtime concert in San Francisco. (Fun side note: I was a high school student in San Francisco at that time. Pre-internet or cell phones, the announcement was made on the radio at 10AM for a Noon show. Everyone in my school knew about it by 10:05. I decided to skip the show because I had a test. Can you tell I’m still regretting it?)

You likely present your station, podcast, or show in a similar way each time. And you should. Consistency can build habits and positive brand perceptions. But it’s also true that and your listeners may need more “scavenger hunts” and “surprise shows” in their lives.

If you’re in one of the 13 “No Filter” cities, what did your station/show/podcast do when Mick rolled through town?

What can you do to “change it up”? You may find some of the best ideas don’t break the bank.

Coleman Insights Promotes Kimberly Bryant to Newly Created Director of Client Services Position

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, November 11, 2021 – Coleman Insights announced today that Field Coordinator Kimberly Bryant has been promoted to the newly created position of Director of Client Services for the media research firm. Her promotion will be effective Monday, November 15th.

In her new role, Bryant will actively support the Coleman Insights consultant team on projects and serve as a central point of contact for the company’s clients. According to Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman, her new responsibilities will be integral to the company’s customer service efforts.

“We have created the Director of Client Services position to ensure our clients continue to receive the highest level of attention and service,” said Kurtzman. “Kimberly is the perfect person to handle this position and is well deserving of this promotion. She has always been laser-focused on supporting our teams internally and ensuring projects stay on track for our clients.”

In accepting the new role Bryant said, “I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to playing a larger role at the company, as I truly love being a part of the Coleman Insights family.”

Kimberly Bryant has a long history with Coleman Insights; she started as a part-time Research Assistant in 2004 and was promoted to Field Coordinator in 2018. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from East Carolina University.

ManningCast Your Brand

One of the biggest challenges the programmer of any brand faces is the endless pursuit of keeping it fresh and exciting. What can you do to attract new consumers and keep current ones coming back more regularly? Regular readers of our Tuesdays With Coleman blog know that behind the obvious potential perceptual and ratings benefits for audio brands, there’s science behind surprising your listeners as well.

For the radio stations, podcasters, and streaming services we work with, their listeners develop expectations of how the respective products are presented. For music stations, air talent introduces song. Talent plays song. Talent has talk content. Commercials. Repeat.

You could say the same thing about Monday Night Football or any sportscast. Set up play. Call the play. Talk about play. Other talk content. Repeat.

That is, until Peyton and Eli Manning.

Instead of the traditional calling of the game, Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli (also known as the “ManningCast,”) is an alternate version of Monday Night Football that airs on ESPN2 that features the former NFL quarterback siblings doing exactly what the viewer is doing – watching the game and making comments about it. The Mannings conduct A-list interviews with everyone from Jon Stewart to LeBron James. While the game is on. Star players like Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Buffalo’s Josh Allen (Go Bills) sit in on their bye week. You can really start to feel the viral and must-see nature of the ManningCast. You could tell former NFL Defensive End and current Good Morning America anchor Michael Strahan was exhausted when he started speaking in the opening of GMA last Tuesday. But, he admitted he had to participate. “It’s the Mannings!,” Strahan exclaimed before transparently sharing, “I was up past my bedtime.”

Tom Brady joined Peyton and Eli Manning for their Monday Night Football “ManningCast.”

This isn’t the first time Monday Night Football has tried something new. After a five-year ratings slide, the show teamed comedian Dennis Miller with Al Michaels and Dan Fouts in 1999. The ratings tanked, and Miller and Fouts were let go two years later. Bringing on a sarcastic comedian as a sports show co-host was risky. But the way ESPN2 is presenting the game on the ManningCast has been (kinda) done before.

Starting in 1988, Mystery Science 3000 turned the act of movie reviewing on its head. The viewer watched the movie along with the characters, as they riffed and cracked jokes along the way.

Beavis and Butthead turned music video watching on its head. The viewer watched the videos with them, as they riffed and cracked jokes along the way.

Ever watch a livestream of a group of gamers playing video games? (If you target younger consumers, you should because they do.) It’s got that same raw quality, abandoning the traditional play-by play for a more companion-style experience.

The Manning experiment has been a big success so far, growing from 800,000 viewers in its first week to a record 1.9 million. Overall viewership for Monday Night Football (including both broadcasts) is up 17% from 2020 and 15% from 2019.

There are a number of lessons in why it works: It’s unique, innovative, and unexpected. It has star power. But the Mannings also fit the Monday Night Football brand. There’s a reason you don’t put Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football and why you don’t play “Stairway To Heaven” on a Hip Hop station. Popularity isn’t everything.

Is there a way you can offer your product in a fresh way like Monday Night Football has done with the Mannings? Which of your star talent can present your content from the vantage point of the listener? How could this be used in a News show? Or a countdown? Or a behind-the-scenes podcast? Should it be a specialty show, a podcast, or both? How can you leverage it to lift the overall brand, like the “ManningCast” has for Monday Night Football?

Surprising your listeners is great. Surprising your listeners when it supports and lifts the brand is a home run. Err…a touchdown.

Is Måneskin Bad for Top 40 Radio?

Last week, someone posted about a new song in one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of that’s full of radio geeks like me. In short, this individual claims “Beggin” by Måneskin is a terrible song and bad for the CHR/Top 40 format.

Wait, what?

Of course, you don’t have to like the song. That’s subjective. But bad for CHR? That’s just plain wrong.

“Beggin” by Italian Rock band Måneskin is in the top five at Top 40 Radio

As timing would have it, I listened to consultant Loyd Ford’s interview with legendary programming guru Guy Zapoleon on the Encouragers Radio Rally podcast the other day. Besides being thankful that Guy hasn’t slowed down his pace of dropping  knowledge during his semi-retirement, I took note of this quote towards the end of the episode related to the role of crossover songs at CHR:

“As important as Pop is for Top 40, you shouldn’t be forcing mediocre Pop songs in the format. Billboard shows Pop is not more popular than the combined amount of Hip Hop/R&B, Country, AC, and Rock/Alternative added in together. There needs to be a better balance on Top 40 that includes the other styles.”

Media consultant Guy Zapoleon

Guy explains how some of the skittishness that the CHR format has in veering outside of Pop goes back to 1989, when the format leaned too heavily into Hard Rock, then overcorrected to the AC side in 1994, a shift that resulted in a third of stations leaving the format.

It was a classic example of Radio’s move from the Extremes to the Doldrums phase of the CHR music cycle, a concept Zapoleon pioneered. In Birth/Rebirth, CHR plays mass appeal music from Pop, Rock, and R&B. In the Extremes, core listeners adopt a trendy music style. Stations lean too heavily into that style, alienating Cume coming from other formats. In Doldrums, the format overcorrects and gets too safe. But, as Zapoleon says, a balanced current music mix can reduce the length of the Doldrums period. As this R&R interview with Joel Denver from 1992 would suggest, he’s been saying it a long time.

As it happens, the Top 40 chart today is looking more cross-format than it has in quite some time.

Kacey Musgraves, a seven-time CMA award winner, is about to crack the Top 40 with “justified”. Elton John has his first Top 40 hit since 1999, thanks to “Cold Heart” with Dua Lipa. Pop Country star Kane Brown’s team up with Blackbear is in the Top 20. “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes can celebrate with some Bourbon Street Steak as he heads from the Country chart towards the Top 10. And Måneskin –good ol’ “bad for the format” Måneskin–an Italian Rock band formed five years ago, is in the Top 5 with “Beggin”.

Is this good for the format?

I reached out to Guy a few days ago to discuss. While crossover songs can be very good for CHR, the answer (as you might expect) is way more layered.

Guy explained that the Extremes cycle, which leaned into Core Hip Hop in 2018 and 2019, gave way to the Doldrums in 2020. And while he doesn’t expect an overcorrection the likes of 1994 (“I think enough Top 40 programmers [understand] the Music Cycle and buy into [the fact] that Pop is the glue for Top 40”), he does think there’s a disparity between the most popular songs and the most played songs at CHR.

Check out this chart that Guy created and shared with me:

The top shows the percentage of songs by sound code in the Billboard year-end chart (which includes streaming and sales.) The bottom shows the percentage of songs by sound code in year-end CHR airplay. Note how in 2010, a year most would call a very successful one for Top 40 (think Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas), there was an 82% duplication between the most popular songs on the Billboard chart and the most played songs at CHR. The last few years, it’s closer to 50%, as stations force the two-thirds percentage of Pop airplay and underrepresent the combination of Hip Hop, AC, Country, and Alternative/Rock.

How long will the Doldrums last? Guy believes it could be until at least 2023 but explained there are a few key strategies CHR stations should focus on as they navigate the Doldrums phase.

  1. Stick to the basics. “Follow the Coleman Image Pyramid. Clear music position, great personalities, invest in marketing, [including being great at] social media.”


  1. Don’t lose the hits that are in front of your face. “Don’t overfocus on national charts and be patient. Last year, Top 40 had only 28 consensus powers, the lowest I’ve seen after studying radio for 60 years. This year there are 21 so far, and it is already mid-October.”

And, of course…


  1. Play a balanced music mix. “Top 40 has to be open to crossover hits from AC, Country, Alternative, and Hip Hop if its melodic and catchy.”

So yes, Top 40 radio should be playing Måneskin, but don’t lose sight of why you should… and remember to take into account Guy’s other elements required for format success.



How Local Radio Should Use TikTok

If you oversee the operations of a contemporary radio station in 2021, you’ve likely had a conversation that includes a line that goes something like this:

“Do we focus our strategy on younger, harder to reach people that we know aren’t listening as much to Radio? Or do we skew older to the upper end of the demo to reach those that we know are listening more and that Nielsen has a better chance of finding?”

It is a real challenge, and it isn’t going to get easier.

The fact that many younger listeners are more likely to consume music via streaming services like Spotify and YouTube rather than local radio stations more than older listeners isn’t a secret, nor it surprising. Now that most local radio stations are available on a multitude of platforms, programmers can reach younger listeners on their devices. The big question of course, is “Are they gettable?” That very question, while completely valid, is also a gateway to a very dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy for the industry.

First things first, make sure you’re not referring to your younger listeners as Millennials, because they’re not so young anymore (sorry, Millennials!). Born between 1980 and 1996, Millennials now squarely occupy the young and middle range of the coveted 25-54 demographic. (Side note: I’m in denial that us Gen Xers are on the older end, but I’ll get over it. ☹)

Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012, so today these 9- to 24-year-olds occupy that special area of influence (and it’s worth pointing out that, while they may both carry the same generational label, today’s nine-year-old and 24-year-old are hardly the same.)

Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were somewhere local radio stations could hyper target their marketing to Gen Z consumers?

If you ask Chipotle, Guess, the NBA, Levi’s, and The Washington Post how they reach them, TikTok is going to come up in every answer.

Wait, back up. Yes, I just said THE WASHINGTON POST.

You know, the traditional old guard media publication founded in 1877? The Washington Post adapts its content by platform. It posts serious journalistic content on Facebook and Instagram, but its TikTok page is filled with memes, skits, and behind-the-scenes videos. Dave Jorgensen, the man behind the company’s account and unlikely star of many of the videos, starts every day making a TikTok video. The Washington Post–THE WASHINGTON POST!­–has over one million followers on TikTok

Watch this interview during which Jorgensen discusses why The Washington Post invests so much time and energy on TikTok:

While we were all in stir-crazy mode during the pandemic, TikTok was experiencing a flamethrowing growth curve. This time last year, the platform had 667 million users worldwide, while today it reports over a billion. Leaning about 60% Female, 28% of TikTok users are under 18 and 63% are under 30.

One of the ways legacy brands have adapted to using TikTok is by specifically tasking employees with the responsibility. Chipotle has a team of “culture hunters” that seek out viral trends and turn them into social media campaigns. So many of these successful campaigns integrate music, like Chipotle’s Guac Dance Challenge. Used to promote National Avocado Day, the campaign resulted in a 68% jump in avocado usage at Chipotle locations. Holy mole!

Challenges are a core component of TikTok’s brand, and so often they use music that contemporary radio stations play. The “Beautiful People Challenge.” The “Old Town Road Challenge.” The “Blinding Lights Challenge.” The “Toosie Slide Challenge.”

If contemporary Radio’s biggest challenge is attracting younger listeners to the format, and those potential listeners are on a massive, often music-based, platform for an average of over an hour a day, shouldn’t strategic discussions involve that platform?

Here are six ways contemporary radio stations should incorporate TikTok into their strategic planning:

  • Designate a younger member of the team (and heavy TikTok user) as a “culture hunter.” Have them monitor trends on a daily basis and report to the team.


  • Create channels to regularly brainstorm ways to integrate the station into the trends. If there is no time for formal meetings, use tools like Slack, Chatter, and Teams to bounce ideas back and forth.


  • Find TikTok users that already love your station. You may have influencers with robust followings in your audience. Find them and find ways to use them. Include them in the previous idea. And pay them (use trade if you need to!)


  • Mobilize your personalities on TikTok. Personality has always been a key differentiator between local radio stations and streaming services. Make sure your talent is inviting TikTok users to your station.


  • Advertise on TikTok. Up until recently, advertising for local brands was a challenge due to the lack of DMA targeting. That changed this past May. TV and outdoor should not be the only media that are discussed when precious marketing budgets arise. Run some test campaigns on TikTok, track them, and see how they do.

Just because Radio is “legacy” or “heritage” media, it cannot be an obstacle to reaching younger consumers. None of the brands mentioned in this blog are particularly new (the newest is Chipotle, founded in 1993 – 28 years ago.) If The Washington Post – THE WASHINGTON POST! – can figure out a TikTok strategy, I feel pretty confident Radio can do it too.