Everyone on the planet is a sucker for new. Yet if you constantly present what you think is “new”, you’ll probably fail. That’s because, while listeners desire to be in touch with what is happening, we respond to the familiar. Programmers know that, when it comes to music, listeners don’t know what they like. They like what they know.  However, radio personalities can have it both ways by presenting familiar content in new ways. Old is not outdated.

Old Is Not Outdated

Understanding the art of recycling content uncovers a secret that can feed your career for decades. Dig deeper, and you’ll realize that reusing content is not only a smart idea but also provides a service to customers.

We can’t wait for the new Justin Timberlake song, but when he comes out with an unexpected new sound, we cringe with, “That’s weird”. New is often unfamiliar. However, when the artist releases a fresh song with a familiar sound, they succeed. This is at the heart of what makes a hit. The key is to avoid falling into a creative rut with an endless pattern of sameness.

The concept applies to all forms of entertainment.

Concerts: Watch what happens at a concert when the band plays a track from their new album. Fans head for the bathroom and concession stands. Play the hits, and they’re afraid they’ll miss something special.

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Movies/Storytelling: Star Wars VII is a remake of the story of Star Wars IV. The public loved it. It was familiar but fresh. Critics weren’t crazy about it, but they didn’t understand that old is not outdated.

Plays/Books: For hundreds of years, every Shakespeare play has been recreated with a new cast and setting. People still pack the theater for a familiar story with a fresh treatment.

It doesn’t matter that something is old. However, it must be presented in a new way. If the concept and content is relevant, your audience will lap it up!

How This Affects Your Radio Show

Many times, personalities and programmers tire of a feature long before the audience. Maybe you’re burned out on an “old” feature, but the audience can’t get enough.

An excellent show in a Top 20 market had been performing War of the Roses for seven years and was convinced the audience was “over it.” Before allowing the show to change the feature, the PD insisted on evaluating rating results.

That quarter-hour was the highest-rated quarter-hour on the entire station and attracted more than twice the ratings of any other quarter-hour on their show.

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They didn’t drop the feature. Instead, they doubled down by performing the show in two segments across two quarter-hours and programming the feature every hour. Many years later, the feature lives on and is stronger than ever.

It’s a familiar content container and the show has injected creative approaches to the storylines to keep it fresh. The familiar (old) container is still fresh (new) each day.


Recycling and repeating great content is a good idea. Most of your audience doesn’t hear your best material. Playing the hits more often will increase popularity and expose your “A” content more often.

Recycling includes several components, but one of the most overlooked is recycling past ideas into fresh episodes. Sitcom writers know there are only about 50 storylines. They simply rewrite the same plots with new situations and fresh characters. Isn’t that interesting? Think about that the next time you’re watching an episode of Big Bang Theory. You’ve probably seen the story before on an episode of Friends.

Yet each episode is different because of how the story is developed and how the characters cause the stories to take on a new dimension. Old is not outdated. It’s tested, proven, and experienced.

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As a show develops, it will find a rhythm. Some things work well, while others don’t. Trial and error can lead to a formula that works for you. The ingredients in the formula may change, but the formula itself is constant. That’s how sitcoms succeed by recycling the same storylines over and over in new ways.


Familiarity is important, but so is innovation. Every show should regularly retire or pause old elements to make room for new ideas, the way Disney manages rides. But be sure you don’t retire old features are replaced with exciting new attractions. That leads to a stale show.

It’s hard to find hits. When you have one, cherish it and keep it exciting and fresh. But don’t get rid of your best material just because you’re bored with it. Focus on the audience.

Led Zeppelin probably got tired of playing Stairway to Heaven at every concert. But don’t play Stairway, and there won’t be more concerts.

The best ideas have probably been done before, but old is not outdated.