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SYNDICATION 101... Using Vignettes to Boost Barter Growth

When talking about barter, what is the power of a vignette when compared to a full length one or two hour program? Why push such a short show when you are already in the studio making a full program? The answer: Faster growth. Remember, you are not doing syndication because you like studios... you are doing syndication because you want to reach more people.

Putting a long-form show on radio is like arranging to put a restaurant in a mall... except that you'll be telling the mall owner that you won't be paying for the space... you'll be giving him a percentage of the revenue that you make instead. If this is your very first restaurant, and you are talking to the Mall of America, then this is probably not going to happen.

But why? Why would the mall make the MISTAKE of not taking a quality restaurant like yours (which, without a doubt, will bring in more dollars than any other restaurant that could be put there)? The answer: He does not want to take a chance on a new show with his prime space.

After you figure out that your long-form (like a restaurant) is not going to be accepted by the mall (like a large radio station), you have two options: Forget the mall and try a little shopping center (like a small station), or else maybe offer the mall owner a smaller package... like maybe a hot dog stand (a short form.) If you have only been successful bartering your full-length show at lower-level stations... and every time you try the next higher level you get shot down... it's because the importance of their prime space (an hour or two) is too much to be chanced with a not-proven-enough show. But, the hot dog stand (the vignette) approach might work.

In radio terms, if a station gives you their prime space, they have to make room for it by either firing a local host (or at least keep him/her off the air longer), or eliminate a syndicated program that they have contracted to carry. Either way, some contracted entity has to be taken off the air, and this is a big step for a station to take.

That is why you barter using vignettes. They allow you to grow your call-letter list faster, with bigger stations, and with better dayparts, since you are taking up less prime station space and you will not be requiring other entities to be removed. Whatever you have been able to barter using a full-length show, you'll be able to double or triple this using vignettes. And best of all, your show-name stays (basically) the same, so you finally get to reach all those extra people that your full-show couldn't.

So what, you say? What good is the extra audience if you only have a minute or two of goods to work with? Answer:

1. Larger stations that would never before talk to you about a full show will now take a look at what you have; once they try and like the short, they may take the long. Plus, one avail in a short (on a large station) could be worth ten avails in a long (on a small station.)

2. Your job of selling-out a short is much simpler; you now have to make just one (easier) sale, using your larger reach, instead of several more difficult smaller sales that it would have taken to fill your long. And "sold out" is a powerful thing to say.

3. Your growth pattern will impress the people you need to impress: Buyers, guests, prospective stations, etc. Getting your hot dog stand into 200 malls (with full signage avails) in one year is more impressive to most folks than getting 20 full-size restaurants into small shopping centers in the same time period, especially when you are asking people to buy advertising with you. The speed of the growth, and the total growth, will get people to respond much better than "well, growth has pretty much been level nowadays."

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