Now that you have my first recipe items in your mixing bowl and have stirred well, add some others you'll hear on country's perennial award-winners:
* They use several funny, informative, entertaining prep services, but LOCALIZE everything. The very best stations, out-of-towners don't immediately 'get' everything, but local people do, immediately.
* Name the morning show something out of the ordinary, reflecting its character. Benchmark all service elements too: Timesaver, Highway Patrol Traffic, Doppler Radar weather, etc, etc, etc.
* Production. Morning show jingles in addition to 24/7 cinematic/brief stationality positioners. Lots of music hooks, listener voices, artists, jingle elements and sound effects, to keep momentum moving. They don't artificially limit length of anything, but keep it high energy and self-edit to one fully developed punch line per set/element. Produced intros (short and a BIG variety of them) on everything. Production inside news: intro, punctuators before spot, weather and traffic sounders.
* Involvement. Many listeners on the phone. At least one such phone bit per quarter hour, tightly edited to conveying a feeling about an artist, a song, using the station.
What's in your programming wallet? What else needs to be in the formula?
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