Moneyball: A New Tool to Make Better Radio

Two bored and uninterested Poodle puppies with two plates of kibbles on the table

We’re showing off programming and marketing micro-tactics from NuVoodoo Ratings Prospects Study 23 in a second season of Moneyball for Radio. You can find new videos every Thursday at We’re focusing on the incremental things you can do that can add up to the additional tenth of a rating point that is the goal for stations in rated markets.

NuVoodoo is seeing an increasing number of morning show benchmarks that are recalled with strong affection when listeners are asked about them in perceptual studies, yet those same features connect with subpar results in PPM. We’re labeling it YouTube Syndrome. Audiences are becoming accustomed to getting just the content they’re interested in, without having to consume an entire episode of any show. This leaves precious little leeway for radio morning talent, particularly in PPM markets.

A tracing from a recent NuVoodoo Media Pulse Predictor Study for a client station shows an example of YouTube Syndrome. In the chart below you can see the reactions of a screened panel of in-demo station listeners hearing a benchmark morning show feature from that station running just over two minutes long. The name of the feature tested well with their listeners and listeners even mentioned the feature unaided as a reason they enjoy the show. Yet the first minute of the segment doesn’t test well with listeners, giving them ample time to consider switching stations.

In the tracing above you can see the initial pop when the feature name is mentioned just a few seconds in, but the line then sags while the hosts enjoy themselves performing the feature’s theme song. The line starts to head to greater enjoyment as the theme song comes to its end, near the end of the first minute of the segment. Once the game is underway, interest stays high for the remainder of the game and peaks as the winner is named at the end.

Contrast that benchmark feature above with a relatable, well-told story between the hosts from that station. Listeners were hooked within the first few seconds and got more involved with the story clear through to its conclusion nearly two minutes later.

We have great respect for the decisions morning talent must make moment by moment live on a show. Ideas that seem great in the planning stage can connect brilliantly with listeners, as in the example above, or fail to connect as in the example from another station below. In this one, a host described a theoretically colorful character encountered in his daily life … that clearly never connects with listeners.

NuVoodoo has been executing content studies to help clients with talent, promos, and other imaging using an online version of the rheostat tests that used to be conducted in hotel meeting rooms and focus group facilities. In those settings, respondents were given handheld devices with a knob they could turn up or down to register their feelings about what they were hearing. These days respondents use a virtual slider on their smartphone screen or computer screen.

While the screenshots show the concept, the real magic is watching the lines trace out on the screen while listening to the audio; you see clearly what connects and what fails to connect. It’s eye opening for talent and almost always supports the coaching efforts programmers and consultants have been making.

Radio didn’t create YouTube Syndrome, but programmers and talent need to adjust their thinking and practices to deal with it. Just because we’ve always done it this way, doesn’t mean we should continue doing it that way. A link to a four-hour “podcast” of today’s morning show will get fewer downloads than separate links to the funny, entertaining, or informative “bits” from the day’s show. People want to get to the good part right away, especially when it’s live on the air.

With 100 screened respondents and up to ten segments as long as two minutes and thirty seconds (2:30), these Media Pulse Predictor studies go for $4800. We should probably be charging more, but we think this is a tool the radio business needs to be using more often. Need a bigger sample? Longer audio segments? Hit up me ( or Carolyn ( and we’ll tailor something that fits your exact needs.