Few listeners actually participate in radio contests on a regular basis. That’s OK…We’re in the LISTENER business, not the “player” business! And, fortunately, many enjoy listening to contests…

From our recent online survey on contests, we see that that the majority enjoy listening even if they don’t play:

You enjoying listening to contests, even if you don’t participate  
1: DISAGREE A LOT 10%
2: 21%
3: 37%
4: AGREE A LOT 24%
Don’t know   6%
AVERAGE: 2.8

What makes contests enjoyable to listeners???  For three-fourths of them, it’s the ability to play along

You enjoy listening to contests you can play along with in your head.   You enjoy listening to contests that are a mental challenge.  
1: DISAGREE A LOT   7% 1: DISAGREE A LOT   6%
2: 11% 2: 10%
3: 45% 3: 45%
4: AGREE A LOT 30% 4: AGREE A LOT 33%
Don’t know   5% Don’t know   4%
AVERAGE: 3.1 AVERAGE: 3.1

The option to participate vicariously in mentally-challenging contests is one big reason why shows like Jeopardy or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? have enjoyed huge success. Viewers can watch, challenge themselves and feel smarter than the contestants onscreen.  Given the right contests, the same principle can apply to radio!

But not all engagement has to be cerebral.  Listeners can also vicariously (or actually) compete for prizes that are outside the ordinary:

You enjoy listening to contests that offer fantasy prizes — like exotic vacations, shopping sprees, backstage passes, etc..  
1: DISAGREE A LOT   7%
2: 13%
3: 37%
4: AGREE A LOT 34%
Don’t know   6%
AVERAGE: 2.8

Contests like these tap the imagination, engaging the mind in an entirely different way.  Listeners can visualize escaping to a secluded tropical island, or hanging out with The Stones backstage, or having $20,000 to spend any way they want at Neiman Marcus, etc. etc. etc.

That’s the point: Just as successful talk show hosts focus on what will inform, entertain and engage listeners, rather than the callers, radio programmers need to take the very same tack with contests.  Make contests special…not perfunctory, routine or trite.  And when you do, think about how they’re going to engage the listeners, even those who never try to win!