Inspiring Awe

Shaping content in a PPM world: Part 2…

PPM is exaggerating the negative consequences of a generation of liner-card readers and talentless “morning zoos.”

The truth is, in every measured PPM market in America and Canada, stations that have the most spoken content do very, very well in PPM ratings.

It’s not all content between songs that listeners are rejecting.

It’s content that isn’t relevant to their lives. It’s mindless happy talk, and boastful liners.


Recent research has discovered something that will help you shape content on your station.

U Penn’s Wharton School of Business, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world, wanted to find out what kinds of stories were most shared among readers of the NY TIMES. So, over 6 months, and thousands of articles, controlling for all sorts of variables, they did.

You might think it would be stories about sex, practical tips about money, nutrition or diet, even something outrageous and inflammatory, but you would be wrong.

Turns out people overall want to share stories with positive themes rather than negative ones. This replicates my own research from 25 years ago, when I tested morning show content with Owen Leach, using the little dial technology. The more heinous the crime story, the more negative the tone, the more the needle moved down.

And, emotional stories were more likely to be shared too.

But even more than positive vs negative, people wanted to share articles that “inspired awe.”


Awe was defined as an “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.”

It involves the opening and broadening of the mind. Seeing the Grand Canyon, standing in front of a beautiful piece of art, hearing a grand theory or listening to a beautiful symphony may all inspire awe.

So may the revelation of something profound and important in something you may have once seen as ordinary or routine, or seeing a causal connection between important things and seemingly remote causes.

This is significant, so take one second and read those definitions again.

But, and this is also significant to your content issues, what is the motivation behind sharing awe-inspiring articles? To impress others with our genius or sophistication?

To the contrary…

The research found people share awe-inspiring stories because they are seeking “…emotional communion.”

We all want to feel deep emotions, and most of all, we want to feel understood.

We want to feel less alone.

How can removing air talent from your station help that cause?

I am not saying producing this kind of content every day is easy. It’s not. But it can be done, and I can point you to air talent, on music stations, that are doing it.

We talked about your first steps in yesterday’s posting, Part 1 of this topic.

Look, if you’re tired of settling for being a music box, if you want to really be heard, to build the kind of loyalty and listener passion that the best radio stations in the world have, call me, and let’s talk about this issue.

There is another way.

And you will love the ratings results if you have the courage to try it.