By Walter Sabo
NEW YORK – Many FM talk stations starting this year are taking the tragic approach of moving AM talk shows to FM. Those shows are very good at appealing to an audience hard-wired to the AM band. The AM audience is attracted to shows featuring two topics: Democrat or Republican. Common sense suggests that very few of the people you know spend much of their day talking about politics. That’s why cable channels focused on politics have astonishingly low ratings. Lower than any radio station in your city.
What do you talk about with your friends? Your job, family, weekend plans, money, health. Fascinating fact: From the dawn of radio until about 1985, no successful talk shows talked politics, they talked about life. Their hosts were keenly aware of what two best friends would talk about on any given day and that’s what they’d talk about. That’s what Howard Stern talks about. To reach the crowd coveted by advertisers, working adults under 50, it is critical to mirror their interests.
All of our successful FM talk clients have been high cumers, drawing significant 18-49 shares, often #1 and they didn’t talk politics. They talked the food court, lunch room, social network topics. Not only has this proven to be a successful model for winning audience share, it earns significant advertising dollars. KLSX-FM as a talk station in L.A. was often the # 1 local biller. It won’t achieve that as a music station. Talk sells better than music because the retail response rate is higher and there are more elements to sell.
Many executives give a weird response when we outline an FM talk station that talks about personal relationships, health, workplace dilemmas, kids, beauty and celebrity gossip: “You mean that’s what would be talked about all day?” Well, yes that’s what people talk about all day. The question is usually asked by radio executives who run all-sports stations that talk about RBIs all day, and get a 1.8 share that management finds very satisfactory.
Your FM talk station is trying to reach an audience that is drawn to popular water cooler topics because that’s what they hear on all FM music personality shows. Political talk is what repulses most 18-49 year olds from the AM band. They are, instead, attracted to the topics heard on CHR, Hot AC and country personality morning shows. Hit shows. Those shows are your FM talk competition, not AM talk radio.
Failing to build stations that focus on populist subjects results in daytime TV running away with the multi-billion dollar revenue prize. Please review the topics discussed daily on “The View,” “The Chew,” “Maury,” “The Today Show,” “Good Day LA,” “TMZ,” “Entertainment Tonight,” and “Access Hollywood.” Those shows deliver women and they mint money. For an industry crying that its revenues are down, down, down, radio is oddly allergic to airing topics sought by major advertisers. Instead, radio airs millions of hours of talk radio topics that land them on the “Do not buy” lists.
How About a 10 Share? Market Dominance!
To reach an FM audience, talk about topics today’s FM audiences seek and embrace such as those heard on FM morning shows, daytime talk shows and magazines such as US, Entertainment Weekly and People. Did I say that’s all you talk about? No. But excluding those subject areas excludes significant audience appeal.
Study the imaging of music stations that hold the audience you want to reach with your FM talk station. That’s a good place to start to find the right sound. Do not be afraid to try something completely unique even though it will be derided by other people in radio and mocked by your bosses’ friends who will overwhelm him with pandering e-mails. The only way you are going to build a successful FM talk franchise is with a fresh, distinctive and memorable sound.
Production of the station overall must be as tight as a music station. FM audiences are working, mobile and busy. Sound as busy as they are and they will be attracted to you. Long monologues, dead air, taking forever to say the phone number and name of host, long phone calls simply signal to the busy 30-year-old that this station is not for him.
Sound as busy and topical as a 30-year-old and they will be busy telling their friends about your new station.
TOMORROW: Innovation is your way out. The secret power of innovation. How to sell the innovative idea.
Walter Sabo can be reached at Walter@sabomedia.com or 646-456-1000.
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