Monday, October 25, 2010

How To Do Traffic Reports

Westwood One's Metro/Shadow Traffic is a trove of research on what listeners want from radio's traffic reports over the many years they've been doing them.

The #1 complaint? Folks hate it when a radio reporter describes a terrible tie-up in great detail and strongly recommends avoiding the huge bottleneck and only at the very end mentions the place where it is.

The radio listener's ears perk up, suddenly realizing that is the route they drive, but also very annoyed that they missed the information.

Ask any listener who relies on traffic reports: mention the place where the jam you're about to describe FIRST and THEN give the details.

Smart traffic reporters even promote that they always do it that way so that listeners always know they won't miss anything important.

Incredibly, the majority of traffic reports are still not done this way in spite of the fact that it has been conventional wisdom for many years, driven by Metro research presented in city after city over the years.

It's still possible to stand out as the most user-friendly traffic reporter in your market by simply giving the location first and then the details of the jam. Every time. No exceptions.


John Windus said...

It's like a news story: NEVER BURY YOUR LEAD. You can also make your reports stand out by being very specific: "There's a little blue sedan poking into the right lane..." puts you at the listeners eye level.

Back in my K103/Portland days, Minckler encouraged me to be as visual as possible.

Liked it when I could refer to a woman trying to change a tire on the Banfield in Portland when she was dressed for work.

Always encouraged me to be on the lookout for an accident with "the fight" between motorists. Happens more often than you think...

Dan said...

Thanks for posting this Jaye... I sent it along to our traffic reporters with the preface that I wasn't offering any critique of their performance.

Got this response back:

'Thanks for sending this out to everyone. This is the kind of stuff that we start to take for granted and it is always good to be thinking about how we sound to our listeners.'

It's good to keep these things in mind!

Gary Evans said...

I thought I’d toss in my two cents worth and stir the pot a little.

Most often THE most important slice of information to the listener is missing from any given traffic report.


Joe Commuter is heading down the I-75/401/whatever and calls his wife : “Honey, it’s really moving slow…bumper to bumper”

Wifey: “How late will you be?”

Don’t tell me traffic’s congested or moving slow or whatever unless you can give me a number to quantify how congested it is and how it’s going to affect me. Good god, traffic’s congested EVERY morning and afternoon.

Am I going to be 30 minutes late? Or just 10?

There. A mini-rant from me.

Hope you and your family enjoyed the holidays.

- gary
a friend of mo'm's
stuck in traffic in windsor/detroit