How to Win the Ratings – The Breakfast Show Blueprint – Part 4

Greg Smith is a Director of Radio Today.

In this series of articles I wanted to explore the key ingredients of a top rating breakfast show.

I’ve enlisted the help of prominent programmers & researchers, people much smarter than me, to tell you how to win the ratings in radio’s most important daypart.

You can read part 1 with Jon Coleman, part 2 with Todd Wallace and part 3 with Randy Lane. Today we get insights from our own Brad March (left).

In competitive radio markets there are three key areas of focus – Music, Marketing and Mornings.

Winning breakfast (mornings) is the most important factor to winning ratings. Great breakfast shows give listeners a compelling reason to listen to a station every day. A listener’s loyalty is as much to a top breakfast show as it can be to a station brand or its music format. Here are the key considerations for winning breakfast.


The single most important factor is to get the right people. They need to be able to relate to the listener, be different, interesting, complement each other, be unique and have something to say! They can come from radio, comedy, sport, TV or anywhere.


The show needs to be on target, on brand and 'fit' the station. For instance there’s no use having a bunch of sport guys on a female target CHR station. The show needs to be attractive to the stations target and depending on where it is in its growth cycle, also to a wider audience.


Radio, is an ‘authentic‘ medium. It doesn’t have the lights, backdrops and pre recording that Television does. Listeners can tell the difference, whether a talent is authentic or not. Breakfast reveals a talents true character. On air talent need to be themselves and need to be authentic.

What do they talk about?

A show should cover subjects that connect or resonate with the audience and press listener’s hot buttons. Topics like last night’s hot TV shows, relationship issues, key sporting events, gossip and hot news events, the stuff everyday people are talking about when they get to work that day.


The great breakfast shows engage their audience further by airing lots of listener calls. Great phones should not be underestimated in this social media age. Today, great shows also interact with listeners via social media, Facebook, Twitter etc.


Comedy works well in breakfast. But if your breakfast team isn’t funny, don’t try and make them funny. There is a big difference between fun and funny!


New shows need to have enough time to 'gel' and build chemistry, usually taking longer than you think. They need to establish a ‘relationship‘ and trust with the audience. Often it takes up to 2 years to build a following.


A breakfast show needs a great PD and a great EP or coach who can be authentic with the on air team, facilitate discussion, provide feedback & direction, support them and ensure they have the right resources and team around them.


Leading breakfast shows need strong promotional tactics, community involvement, great on air promos (better than the show itself) TV & billboards, strong social media & digital content.


The great shows are generally local, not only reflecting the local community but being part of it and involved in it. A great local show often will make no sense to a listener from another market.


Breakfast is the first thing listeners will hear each day, so it has to be topical. Competing with TV, online and digital media breakfast shows have to remain current and up to the minute.


Talent need to be great storytellers. They need to be able to tell stories about themselves, they have to be able to articulate what’s going on in their life and what’s going on in the world around them.

Word of Mouth

The great shows generate the best marketing possible, word of mouth. Listeners should be talking about the show and what was on the show each day.

Drive and Determination

Without the drive and determination to create great radio and win ratings the rest doesn’t matter. The on air talent and off air team must have the desire and determination to win, be resilient and be prepared to do whatever it takes.

There are very few, if any stations that win without a great, winning breakfast show. A low cost model radio station without a strong talent based breakfast show can do well financially, but will usually do much better with a strong breakfast show and the subsequent strong ratings.


Brad March is a former CEO of the Austereo Network and is Managing Director of Marchmedia.


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