Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

August 20, 2020

Radio 101: Radio "Dictionary" for National Radio Day

     Today (August 20th) is National Radio Day! This day always manages to creep up on me for the past few years, and I've never managed to celebrate this properly on the blog before. That's changing today! I'm sharing a radio "dictionary" of sorts- I thought it would be fun to share common, everyday words that have a different meaning for those of us who work in radio.

     Working in radio was one of my dream careers as a kid, and I'm always so happy to say that's my full-time job now! It definitely wasn't an overnight journey to get to be on-air everyday. I had a lengthy radio internship in college, attended a 10 month intensive broadcasting school after finishing my undergrad degree, moved all the way to Burlington, Vermont for my first full-time job, to Charlottesville, Virginia for my second job (and first time working in country radio), and then got promoted less than a year later across the hall to one of our other stations to be a morning show co-host. Whew! I've now been a morning show co-host for just over a year and a half, and sometimes I still can't believe all that's happened career-wise for me in the past few years.

    Anyways- now that you have my little career backstory, here's the post I actually want to get into for National Radio Day! One thing that I always find so fun about radio is that there are several words in the English language that have a totally different meaning for those of us working on-air. I guess that's probably true of other industries too- I'm sure lots of types of jobs have special terms that only mean something to those working in that field. But for today- I wanted to share a mini-glossary of these unique radio terms! They're everyday average words that mean something totally different to us on-air. Some of these I thought of myself, some of these my co-host Marc helped me with, and some were suggestions from awesome women in radio from a Facebook group I'm in!

Radio Dictionary: 
Bed: Referring to a music bed- instrumental music you'll play underneath a talk break or something like a phone call or game! Beds are also the music used for putting together commercials.
Board: The radio board is the main piece of equipment (aside from the microphones) that makes radio happen! It's the large, flat light-up sound mixer that's found in every radio studio. In the older days of radio, there was one person who was a board operator, and the on-air person doing their show. These days it's common to be both on-air and running your board at the same time. I actually run the board on our morning show! (Marc does the live social media.)
Book: Short for the "ratings book," this refers to the old-school style of media ratings that many smaller cities and towns across the country still use for their local radio and TV. (Large cities use a different type of ratings format called PPM, which happens year round.) Markets that use "the Book" typically do ratings twice a year- spring and fall. Winter and summer are the off times. Saying you're "on the book" means you're in a ratings period- this is when on-air talent try to do their very best shows, and there are typically bigger contests!
Break: The time when an on-air personality is talking! Dry breaks mean just the person's voice, or you can have a break over a bed.
Cans: Nickname for headphones- a necessity to being on-air!
Copy: A script or information for a commercial.
Diary: Another name for the Book, which we talked about above! This is all about ratings. Markets that use this type of ratings system (spring + fall) are also called Diary Markets.
Gig: An on-air job! Personally- I've never understood this term, haha! When I've gotten a new job I say just that, not that I have a new gig. But most people in radio say gig! 😂
Gold: An older song from past years that previously did very well on the radio charts, and is still getting some airplay today! I explained more about this in this Radio 101 blog post from a few years ago.
Liners: Also known as a sweeper or jingle- this is a small piece of audio to promote the radio station or company! These play in between music and out of commercial breaks. Legal IDs also fall in this category (something you hear near the top of every hour that announces the station's call letters and city of license).
Market: The city or region that you're broadcasting in! These are ranked by size nationwide- ranging from NYC being the biggest to some tiny rural towns in various states being the smallest. Fun fact: my first job in Vermont was actually in a bigger market than here in Virginia, even though by population Charlottesville is a larger city than Burlington! That's because the Burlington/Plattsburgh market comprised most of the state of Vermont and parts of Upstate New York- so way more than just tiny Burlington. Charlottesville's market on the other hand is really just the city of Charlottesville and a couple neighboring counties, so it's considered to be smaller.
Personality: This is what us on-air folk are! A few still refer to ourselves as DJs, but to me DJ implies someone in a night club mixing music. On-air personality is someone who talks to you on the radio, so I always refer to myself as that and many of my coworkers prefer this term too.
Post: The term "hitting the post" means you perfectly talked up a song's intro, ending talking exactly when the singing begins!
Pots: An abbreviation for the word potentiometer. It's one of the a round controls on the board which increases or decreases the volume to a specific channel. Different pots control both the music on the radio and the personality's microphones! 
Prep: Where we get our topics and show content to speak about on-air! Prep typically refers to a prep website, which are curated membership sites for radio stations that highlight relevant news stories and pop culture in one easy place. But prep can also mean doing research online and finding your own stories for the show!
Production: This can encompass both commercial production and imaging production (station liners and other audio), but typically when someone says production or "prod" they're referring to all things commercials!
Remote: A radio event off-site with a live broadcast! An appearance is a station event with no live broadcast.
Rotation: How much a certain song is getting played on a station.
Spots: Commercials! These include both paid advertisements and brief PSA messages.
Stiff: A song that is expected to do well on the charts and at radio stations but bombs and falls pretty quickly.
Tease: When you preview your listeners on what's coming up on the show! You can tease a discussion topic, song on the way, time to call in for a contest... it's just getting people excited about what's to come.
Traffic: This has TWO meanings! Yes- it can mean the local on-air traffic reports about what's happening on the roads nearby during popular commute times. But traffic also refers to the continuity department of a radio station, which makes sure commercials are running when they're supposed to run!

     Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the terms that comprise every day of my job! I'd love to hear in the comments about a common, everyday word that means something else in your industry.


     xoxo Annaliese



  1. FUN!
    I would have never known.

  2. This was so interesting. I loved learning more about your day job. :)


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