If you are looking to create a popular morning show for your AC radio format, check out this inspiration and advice from some of Europe’s most successful radio programmers.

Even in this ‘not too lite, not too loud’ format, listeners appreciate engaging radio. “If we don’t have personalities, it’s gonna’ be my Music Master versus your Selector versus your Powergold for Personality of the Year.” This was said in a Radiodays Europe 2012 session about the future of AC radio, and best practices for morning shows on such a station.


“Focus on the quality, not the quantity”


Francis Currie, Hans van Rijn, Christian Schalt, Kevin Palmer, Ivars Embrekts, Radiodays Europe 2012

From left to right: Francis Currie (radio consultant), Hans van Rijn (SBS Radio), Christian Schalt (94,3 rs2), Kevin Palmer (Cadena 100) and Ivars Embrekts (Radio Skonto) on stage at Radiodays Europe 2012, discussing radio programming strategies for AC stations and morning shows (photo: Thomas Giger)



Look for structured creatives

As Group Program Director for SBS Radio, Hans van Rijn has overseen 27 radio brands in 7 countries, targeting all kinds of different age groups. Apart from the format for now, what do the best morning shows have in common? “To start off with, a passion for radio. We look for hosts that are good storytellers and real people.” The ideal talent gets that building a morning show also requires a certain structure. “That can be a challenge sometimes…” In addition, breakfast presenters need to “truly understand the target group and respect that when we filter the content.”



Radio Norge, Morgenklubben med Loven og Co, Øyvind Loven, radio studioConsider personalities outside radio

There’s an interesting phenomenon in radio. It looks like more and more stations hire a TV personality or a popular comedian to be the central person on the show – instead of a typical radio guy or girl. Listeners of Radio Norge wake up with the Morgenklubben med Loven og Co (Morning Club with Loven & Co.). It features stand-up comedian Øyvind Loven who still performs on stage for 2 or 3 nights a week. What lessons have they learned from it?



Build your show gradually

Hans van Rijn thinks that it requires a good team around the host, and commitment from the talent to stick to radio – not just seeing it as a launch platform for television ambitions. And especially if a morning team not entirely consists of radio-experienced people, it’s a good practice to start with lesser, but all high-quality talk breaks. “Focus on the quality, not the quantity, and play a little more music to start off with.” The better the content gets, the more the music can be decreased. Here’s a TV commercial that promotes the Radio Norge morning show:





Differentiate your morning show

From Norway, we jump to Berlin. Germany’s biggest radio market where Arno und die Morgencrew (Arno & The Morning Crew) on market leader 104.6 RTL is top of mind. It goes to show that consistency pays off in radio, as main host Arno Müller is waking up Berlin since RTL signed on in 1991. In a situation like this, it does makes sense to let your morning show sound clearly distinctive from the one of your main competitor. It might be the reason why 94,3 rs2 relaunched their morning show as Mein Morgen (My Morning) in 2010. What’s his philosophy behind the show?



94,3 rs2, Mein Morgen, Katrin Schifelbein, Alexander PurruckerBalance your morning team

“The most important programming target for an AC station is balance”, says General Manager Christian Schalt. This principle applies not just to the music, it’s also very relevant for the morning show as “the team composition is really important. You have to find contrasting personalities that create balance, but also reflect your target listeners.” He prefers to have a combination of males and females, and younger and older hosts, works best on the air.



Create social & lifestyle events

While 104.6 RTL has one main host, 94,3 rs2 has two; Katrin Schifelbein and Alexander Purrucker. They recorded a video for this session, in which they speak about doing morning radio. Katrin thinks that today’s audience desires “event and lifestyle radio”. People want to be part of a “social network” and either passively listen, or actively participate. Alexander says that authenticity and having real fun is key. They also leave their studio the studio to have fun with listeners outdoors – like doing an ice skate- or car park competition. Alexander feels like it’s hard work to engage your listeners each and every day, but also a lot of fun. Here’s the video with English subtitles:





Engage your audience constantly

How important is personality for an AC station? General Manager Ivars Embrekts of (Soft AC leaning) Radio Skonto in Latvia calls personalities “a cohesive part of the radio station’s fabric”. He thinks it’s important to engage the audience, both in the morning and during the day. “Look, folks: we’re radio stations. If we don’t have personalities – maybe not overnights, but pretty much all day – it’s gonna’ be my Music Master versus your Selector versus your Powergold for Personality of the Year.”



Midnight Caller, TV series, Jack Killian, The Nighthawk, Gary ColeDaypart your personality factor

Personal comment: I’m totally for having intelligent, interesting and natural human beings on the air 24/7. But the ‘personality dose’ should be ‘prescribed differently’ for every daypart. You want to be more music-driven during office hours and personality-rich at night, a great time to have callers on the air. People who work during nights and overnights often desire company and entertainment. (Plus, these shifts are perfect to develop new talent.)



Fill interviews with emotion

Radio Skonto deliberately stays away from having many guests on the morning show. Ivars Embrekts: “I was just reading a memoire from a journalist who covers Washington politics in the United States. He said that, in his experience, politicians and people in general are only interesting to interview if they’re really, really pissed off. If they’re not angry about something, then the interview pretty much becomes a commercial. In my experience, most guests – most – are pretty dull on the air.”



“We’ve got just over a million people

working on our morning show”


Francis Currie, Hans van Rijn, Christian Schalt, Kevin Palmer, Ivars Embrekts, Radiodays Europe 2012, Mix Megapol

The AC 2.0 panel in front of the screen on which a TV spot for Mix Megapol is being shown (photo: Thomas Giger)



Introduce a market-first format

Promotions Director Kevin Palmer of Cadena 100 in Spain mentions another key element, and that is: have a lot of live interaction with your audience. “We’ve got just over a million people working on our morning show – only eight of them are on the payroll and come into the radio station every day” (audience laughs). “This was very much an entertainment driven, big production, big spectacular morning show market, where lots of people perform in the morning show.” He claims that when Buenos días Javi Nieves (Good morning (with) Javi Nieves) came along, it changed everything.



Cadena 100, Buenos días Javi Nieves, Javi Nieves, Mar AmateBe real, authentic & interactive

“This show is about real life, it’s authentic. It’s not a traditional, old school, big entertainment value show.” Palmer adds that some listeners didn’t understand at first why there was a show on where hosts and listeners just share stories and that’s it. But it turned out that the listeners are making the difference. “With phone calls, via email and more than ever now on Facebook, they are building the content of the show. It’s a big success story because it’s different.”



Visualize your morning show

Many radio stations spend hundred thousands or even millions on TV campaigns to launch and promote their morning shows, but it helps if you’re part of a media group that owns its own television channel. Then you can even do more than just airing spots and simulcast your morning show live on television. SBS Radio does this in Sweden with Mix Megapol’s Morrongäng (Morning Gang). The national AC network runs a separate, local morning show for Gothenborg (Sweden’s second-largest city). This is what the morning show there sounds (and looks) like:





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