How to Format Your Radio Program

Mixed race disc jockey talking into mic in studio
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To some people, format is a dirty word. It evokes images of Program Directors or Radio consultants sitting in sterile offices and pouring over the structure of their radio station's typical programming hour.

An Era of Over-Formatted Radio

There is no doubt that Radio has been in an era of what some think is an over-formatted existence. The new JACK format which is being adopted across the country might be considered a reaction to that.

It's sort of an anti-format format—at least that's part of what programmers are trying to convey to listeners. Don't think of it as old radio; think of it as your radio "on shuffle" like your iPod.

JACK stations claim to have increased the size of their music libraries and thrown aside the usual rules about which song gets played next to another song, when during a typical hour it happens and even how often.

Like anything, formats have their place and although often vilified, they are not inherently evil. Formats give structure and are the skeletal basis for a station's sound or even a radio show.

How A Format Applies to Your Show

What does all this mean to you? Well, you may envision your own radio show to be a wild ride of outrageous proportion. Great! But, remember that people are still creatures that seek out order—even in disorder.

Let's say you've created a streaming Internet station featuring Turkish folk music and you will be hosting a show five days-a-week featuring the biggest names in Turkish folk music.

At a minimum, you want your listeners to know when your show is broadcast. If you decide it will be nightly at 10 p.m., you've just formatted your station. Actually, the first format decision was deciding on the Turkish folk music (good job!) and the second decision was placing your show at 10 p.m. At least now listeners will know when to tune in for your show.

Now, as for your show itself, there are certain conventions which can make listening to it easier whether it's on a streaming station or a Podcast.

It's not a bad idea to start with some kind of OPEN which explains what people are about to hear and who they are listening to. If you have a sponsor, this is a good place to mention them.

The same goes for having a CLOSE. For those who tune in during the middle or just miss the beginning, the CLOSE lets them know what they were listening to, who, and maybe how to email you or your website address.

These are basic formatics. Now, are you going to take breaks during your show to play a sponsor's recorded commercial or a commercial for your own product or service? If so, how many "stop sets" (commercial breaks) will you integrate and how long will they be? You might have a 30-minute Podcast and stop down for a commercial or public service announcement twice: 10 minutes into your program and then 10 minutes later. By knowing approximately when you will do these breaks you can better plan each segment of your show that surrounds them.

Already the format of our hypothetical show looks like this:

:00 OPEN
:10 Stop Set
:20 Stop Set
:30 CLOSE

Formatting a talk show is very easy and the structure helps you pace the program.

More Advanced Formatting

What if you've decided to do an Oldies show featuring music from the 1980s? Well, you're under no obligation to plan anything but you might want to set up a format that spreads the music out in a way that either:

  1. Allows your songs to rotate through the decade equally by year or...
  2. Presents music by tempo, creating "hills and valleys" so that the listener doesn't hear too many slow songs in-a-row or fast ones for that matter. This is the art of formatting.

And when you're not talking between songs, will there be production elements that tell listeners what station they're listening to? If so, where will you place them so that they don't interfere too much with the music or repeat too often yet play enough to be effective?

All of this is formatting and as sick of commercial Radio as you might be; don't ignore formatting simply because it's been overused.

It's not a bad thing to think carefully about your radio show and make constructive decisions on how best to present it.

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Your Citation
Deitz, Corey. "How to Format Your Radio Program." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2017, thoughtco.com/creating-a-radio-program-formatics-2843919. Deitz, Corey. (2017, July 31). How to Format Your Radio Program. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/creating-a-radio-program-formatics-2843919 Deitz, Corey. "How to Format Your Radio Program." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/creating-a-radio-program-formatics-2843919 (accessed October 18, 2017).