Category: Opinions

Headlines

| September 9, 2014

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

neerwriterNEW YORK — We’re all trying to find our way in this new digital world of ours. Conventional means of promoting our ideas may no longer work. Everything needs to be fresh, immediate, provocative. The attention span of our audiences have shortened and I’m not just talking about millennials. With the constant bombardment of information that we are under, even the most patient of us has a hard time giving every issue the attention it deserves.

Instead, we are expected to have instant reactions — black or white with no shades of gray. There is little time for deep discussions. There is no tolerance for asking questions that have no easy answers. Certain stories are reported from only one angle. Anyone who carefully parses a statement that the press declares politically incorrect is defined as supporting the dark side. Forget nuance, once you are attacked by the consensus bullies, you can only surrender and apologize, lest you lose your livelihood.

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Solutions to AM Radio’s Problems: Here’s How the Industry Can Revive AM and Make it a Viable Force Again

| September 3, 2014

By Bill Brady
Futures & Options, Inc.
President/CEO


bradybill
JUPITER, FL — There is nothing fundamentally wrong with AM radio.

AM stations that offer quality programming that effectively serve listener’s needs are doing just fine.  There is no problem at WLW, WTMJ, KNBR, the CBS all news stations and many other well-programmed AM stations.

There is a problem at the many stations which have “run up the white flag” and surrendered to paid programming, wall-to-wall syndication, religion, or my personal favorite…drumroll please…the irresistible opportunity to become the fifth sports station in their market.

The two biggest issues for AM radio today are the commitment level of corporate owners, and the congealed nature of the syndication marketplace.

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AM Radio is the Future of Radio!

| August 28, 2014

By Susan Nilon
WSRQ, Sarasota
Owner/General Manager

 

nilon susanSARASOTA — Time and time again, the question is asked, “What does the future hold for AM radio?”  Articles are written with predictions of AM’s demise due to the lack of interest of the “Millennials,” or how the internet and satellite radio will make it almost impossible for AM to compete in such a fickle industry.  While these predictions seem to make sense to the untrained ear, it reminds me of a time several decades earlier when experts attributed the demise of movie theaters due to the advent of the video cassette recorder.  Or the slow death of vinyl records, due to the portability and popularity of the compact disc.  Well, here we are 30 years later, and the US and Canada box office revenue in 2013 was $10.9 billion with 68% of the population in attendance and “vinyl sales hit their highest level since at least 1991, with six million units sold” according to industry data.  While it’s fun and sometimes smart to try to predict the future, if these “predictions” impact the decision makers of this industry by encouraging them to enter into a self-fulfilling prophecy of AM radio, then they are not only short-sighted, but are foolish as well.

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The Best Talk Station Ever: What the Radio Industry Can Learn from WMCA, Circa 1980

| August 25, 2014

By Bill Brady
Futures & Options, Inc.
President/CEO

 

bradybillwmca - oldJUPITER, FL — WMCA was the “little engine that could.”  In the 60s, it battled WABC for “top 40” supremacy in New York.  By the 70s, WMCA was “New York’s Conversation Station” and was giving legendary talk and variety station WOR a run for its money.  As a 5,000 watt station at 570, WMCA was always punching above its weight class against 50,000 watt flamethrowers WABC and WOR in the sprawling New York metropolitan area.

In 1980, WMCA had assembled a veritable All Star team of talk talent in the prime of their careers.

The irascible Bob Grant did mornings followed by Sally Jessy Raphael (9:00 am -12:00 noon), Barry Gray (12:00 noon – 2:00 pm) and Bruce Williams (2:00 pm -4:00 pm) middays, Barry Farber in afternoon drive (4:00 pm – 7:00 pm), the CBS Mystery Theatre early evenings, Candy Jones, Mets baseball and Islanders hockey at night and Larry King overnight.  Art Rust, Jr. hosted Sports Talk on weekends.

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Man Myth: “Ours is a Very Big Sports Town”

| August 25, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

sabowalterwriterNEW YORK — As a globetrotting consultant there is noticeable bravado in every city about the local level of sports fandom.

When the topic of sports coverage and sports interest is discussed, the local media mavens always say the same things:

*  “This is a very big sports town.”

* “Even women here are nuts about sports.”

*  “You’ve got to understand that this is the biggest sports town.”

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When Talent wants to do MORE than radio – say, THANK YOU!

| August 21, 2014

By WalterSabo
Sabo Media
CEO

NEW YORK — When star radio talent wants to expand their horizons and perform on other stages, most radio managers try to kill that ambition. Thinking analog, radio managers want their talent, preparing and performing shows on their stations — period.

The key to success in a digital world is affiliations and partnerships. That tends to be hard for radio vets to accept, it’s counter-intuitive.

A survey of major digital industry publications such as Media Biz, Bloggers, Mashable, and Media Post Publications reveals that a majority of the news covers partnerships, affiliation agreements and asset sharing. Most online companies understand that they cannot grow on their own, they require partners. The deals involve sharing revenue, views or promotions or all three. Those partnerships are how digital businesses can beat proven TV/AM/FM for audience and dollars.

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Questions We Should Be Asking About Political Correctness

| July 31, 2014

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

neerwriterNEW YORK — I rarely have a problem with “political correctness.”  I believe that avoiding words or phrases that even a small minority find offensive, is a good thing.  Why hurt people because we are insensitive or too lazy and set in our ways to change?  It’s easier just to amend our vocabulary and apologize when necessary.  Using racial or sexist epithets to make a point is not acceptable and these words should bear consequences.  WEEI and Sirius have recently dealt with those situations.

What I do fear is that a “gotcha” mentality is running amok, looking to punish anyone who has the temerity to take an unpopular stand.  Recent examples are Mark Cuban and Stephen A. Smith.

In Cuban’s case, he was honest about his own shortcomings, illustrative of the fact that we all have prejudices.  He made it very clear that he thought society would be better off if we could rid ourselves of these destructive impulses but that we are not there yet, despite all the progress made so far.  He used himself as an example, citing how out of concern for his safety, he would avoid characters who dressed like thugs.  He implied that if we are honest with ourselves, we might all admit to the same feelings.

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Five Quick Steps to Managing a Bad Event

| July 23, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

 

sabowriterNEW YORK — The purpose of talk radio is to entertain through extreme opinions and reaction to those opinions.

Keyword: Opinion.

“Opinion” covers a lot.  Read the fine print in the Nielsen ratings: “This an opinion of estimates.”  A guess.

Even precise professionals are paid for opinions.  “Doctor’s opinion.”  “Legal opinion.”

When a host offers an opinion in anger or humor and the result is a negative, threatening response from advertisers or listeners there are five steps to sanity:

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Bricks and Bouquets

| July 17, 2014

Al Herskovitz
H&H Communications
President

 

herskovitzwriterBRADENTON, Fla. — Topic A in all conversations I have with broadcasters is about radio’s pending doom.  The woe-is-me and the finger pointing invariably aims at our new-tech world where anybody can be a talk show host if they possess one of the many available space-age devices… and anybody can listen to an infinite number of unlicensed shows and networks on a variety of readily available “devices” that are not AM/FM “radios.”  I hesitate to name these devices because by the time I finish this sentence there will be a new one.

This is the easiest way to cast blame without looking into our own house.  I listen to a lot of radio and have a whole bunch of radios around my home and office from big, boxy ones to a couple real tiny ones that’ll fit into my pocket as I do my exercise hike around the neighborhood.

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The Times They Are a-Changing…

| June 26, 2014

William O’Shaughnessy
Whitney Media
President

 

oshaughnessywriterNEW ROCHELLE, NY – As you have no doubt read in the public press, our colleagues at WFAS-FM are pulling up stakes and moving to the big City with a different name and changing to an “urban” format.

WFAS-FM has served Westchester and environs as a locally based suburban station with various music formats for years and we wish them well as they now turn their focus to the highly competitive New York City market.

Longevity

During our own 54 years of serving the County, we’ve always had cordial relations with the 17 (count ‘em!) absentee owners of WFAS-FM … and, indeed, with many among the dizzying parade of 43 hard-working general managers who tried mightily to give the station some meaning and purpose and at least a semblance of local involvement despite the many corporate changes and turmoil in their front office.  

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If I Owned a Radio Station Right Now

| June 17, 2014

By Jerry Del Colliano
Inside Music Media
Publisher

delcollianoSCOTTSDALE, AZ — This is a question I get all the time especially because I have devoted my career to generational media.

When 95 million millennials are rejecting radio, music, network television and disrupting everything they can, operating a radio station for profit seems like a bad business.

One thing I can tell you upfront.

I wouldn’t run my station the way the biggest majors run theirs.

Nor would I go brain dead not knowing whether to go or grow.

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Taking Care of Our Own

| May 21, 2014

oshaughnessywriterNEW ROCHELLE, NY – Dick Foreman, our dedicated and dynamic vice chairman, recently dispatched a powerful, timely and rather pointed note (it didn’t pull any punches!) to a fellow broadcaster who had turned a deaf ear to our recent pleadings and importunings on behalf of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.

Foreman’s good letter got me to thinking about how to reach those who haven’t yet gotten the message.

“Don’t let us forget who we are…and where we’ve come from.” 

                                                                 – - – Mario M. Cuomo

Through our work with the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, we’ve encountered many generous individuals, some now retired with their glory years behind them, and many still in the arena, who have unhesitatingly responded with remarkable grace and becoming generosity to our entreaties on behalf of those hurting and almost forgotten broadcasters we serve all across the country.

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An Open Letter to Talk Host Michael Smerconish

| May 13, 2014

By Lars Larson
Compass Media Networks/Alpha Broadcasting
Talk Show Host


larsonlars
PORTLAND, OR — Michael, I know you’re trying to squeeze some lemonade out of your career prospects but bashing fellow talk hosts as routinely and regularly lying to listeners isn’t the best way to sell a book or get more audience to a cable news network.

You went on the CBS morning news show last week (documented by the Media Research Center) to hock your wares (a book and a satellite radio show and your new show on CNN) and accused those of us still working in terrestrial radio of LYING to listeners while declaring that you ALWAYS tell the truth.

(CBS host) Gayle King, “I used to listen to these guys, Michael, and say, ‘They can’t possibly believe what they’re saying. It’s just is a way to just rile up the crowd.” (Smerconish) “…yes, that’s exactly the way that I believe that it is.” (Q-King) “Did you always believe what you were saying?” (Smerconish) “I believed what I was saying at all times.”

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First We Entertain: You’re Here Because of Ben Hoberman

| May 6, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

sabowriterNEW YORK — In the 1970s and early 80s KABC-AM, Los Angeles was the number 1 or 2
biller in America.  From its inception it was run by Ben Hoberman.

Meeting Mr. Hoberman was an event.  You made an appointment, no one just
walked in to his office.  The GM down the hall at KLOS made an
appointment.  Mr. Hoberman’s office was different than yours.  It was
crisp, immaculate and no-nonsense.  Just like Mr. Hoberman.

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The Introverts are Quietly Taking Over the Business World

| April 2, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

“Quiet people have the loudest minds.”  – Stephen Hawking

sabowalterwriterNEW YORK — Better cash bet? Telephone or telegraph? That was the debate among investment bankers at the turn of the 19th century. A significant portion of the population preferred the written word. They liked the formality, pause and thought of composition. Telephones didn’t let you take back or erase words you regretted.

As the telephone was funded and adopted, extroverts embraced the technology. Extroverts enjoyed talking for hours. They prefer to express themselves spontaneously, passionately. They love group think, brainstorming, team playing, drama in the conference room, public speaking and spontaneity. The phone is made for them.

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Civility

| January 28, 2014

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

 

neerwriterNEW YORK – Would you bet your career on winning the lottery?

Unfortunately, that’s what many of us are doing. Let me explain the analogy.

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks won the lottery.  His rant after the NFC championship game hit all the viral markers: it was loud, it was outrageous and it reached a huge audience at exactly the right time.  Sherman went from a fine-but-obscure cornerback to a national figure literally overnight.  Blogs, tweets, Facebook pages and every other form of social media either supported or vilified him.  The fame he achieved might last the traditional fifteen minutes, or with clever marketing, catapult his off-field career to new heights.

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Eight Realities of 2014: Perspective and Predictions

| January 16, 2014

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
CEO

sabowalterwriterNEW YORK – Here are some thoughts that I hope you find useful as we begin another pivotal year:

1. HD radio is going to explode. The management of iBiquity has achieved remarkable acceptance for HD by the auto industry with over 16 million installs.  HD is radio’s best real estate grab for the connected dash. The key, as always, is the show. (Sorry, the word “content” remains disgusting. It’s a show.)  HD is not about fidelity or graphics – it’s a new stage for new, audience captivating shows.

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Millennials, Music and Radio

| December 17, 2013

By Jerry Del Colliano
Inside Music Media
Publisher

EXCLUSIVE TO RADIOINFO AND TALKERS

delcollianoSCOTTSDALE — There are over 80 million “Millennials” coming of age the oldest of whom are already 30-years-old – 12 years older than the youngest 18-49 money demo cherished by advertisers.

Millennials have their own technology just as baby boomers had records, radio and TV.

Except technology has very little to do with the impact that “Generation Y” is making on media and just about everything else.

Sure there is Facebook that they went to college with, and Napster that helped disrupt the record business, iPads, apps, smartphones, Instagram and their latest devilish work – to unbundle cable and make Netflix the new standard for the on-demand content they, well – demand.

Radio consolidated about the time the first Millennials were in grade school and the industry just assumed that young listeners would always be there to like radio.

The music industry that consisted of old white men who were lawyers thought Napster needed to be sued out of existence – and they succeeded.

But the damage was already done.

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CEOs Mouth Off and Word-of-Mouth Mojo

| December 13, 2013

Nielsen Client Conference Day 2 coverage by Talkers contributor and media consultant Holland Cooke

 

cookewriterBALTIMORE — The Nielsen Audio Client Conference & Jacobs Media Summit wrapped Thursday, but not before sustained applause for four group heads who decried what’s become radio business-as-usual: too many commercials, and too little programming diversity and innovation.  Their unvarnished comments echoed a surprisingly candid CEO roundtable at the recent NAB/RAB Radio Show.

“The status quo is like a shark.  If you’re not swimming, you’re not breathing.”

NRG Media CEO Mary Quass and fellow panelists run mid-size companies, and all described the opportunities they seize being more nimble than bigger companies’ “paralysis” and “short-term thinking.”  Connoisseur Media CEO Jeff Warshaw reckons that “This is the most opportune time for entrepreneurs in radio that I have seen in a long, long time.”

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Women’s Talk Radio: The 1.4 Billion Dollar Mystery

| December 12, 2013

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

NEW YORK — Smart operators have said that radio should tap more TV money, they are correct. The challenge is that radio offers less and less of what buyers seek from TV.

Today, radio turns down $1.4 billion in revenue that goes to TV because it has no place to go on radio.  The 1.4 billion is specific dollars that are invested in daytime television aimed at women. Talk shows for women on TV.

The TV shows winning these dollars are Judge Judy, Kelly and Michael, Ellen, The View, The Chat, The Chew, Extra, TMZ Live, The Talk, Maury Povitch, Jerry Springer and a few game shows and day time dramas like The Price is Right and General Hospital.

judgejudyThe highest paid performer on Daytime TV is Judge Judy earning over $40 million a year. (For one month of taping!)  She has 7.5 million viewers. What does she talk about?  Relationships.

“No sir, you are not a good husband or roommate and you owe her the money,” Judy bellows from the bench to the delight of all.

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Why I Went to Dallas

| November 25, 2013

By Tom Becka
KOIL, Omaha
Talk Show Host

 

beckatomwriterOMAHA — I know that every consultant and general manager in the country would look at my broadcast from the grassy knoll on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK as an unnecessary expense and programming that only interests listeners over the age of 60.

I disagree on both accounts and let me explain why…

We are in the process of trying to rebuild KOIL radio as a viable radio station.  After years of being nothing but syndicated programming we are now working to have a local presence.  The time spent listening during my show has been great but the cume is not what it should be.

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Veterans Day Thoughts

| November 11, 2013

By Duane Doobie
RadioInfo
Music Editor/Director

 

duanedoobie graphicSPRINGFIELD, MA — Although it is difficult to quantify these things, it seems that the importance of Veterans Day, as it is reflected and acknowledged in our popular culture, has grown over these past years – although those of us at RadioInfo and our sister publication TALKERS are indeed working today and I see our fellow online radio trade publications are out there in full editorial bloom as well.

I also observe that most radio stations’ offices are staffed and running today in business-as-usual mode.   So Veterans Day does not fall into the same category of holidays as the other federally-demarcated 24-hour periods that warrant universally acknowledged “day off” status such as the “Big Six” – New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (unless you work at the post office, a bank, or government agency).

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The Return of the Neat Idea

| September 25, 2013

By Walter Sabo
Sabo media
CEO

NEW YORK — This is my experience. In my work, I have seen businesses grow and prosper when they embrace new, daring ideas based on marketplace demand. The winners are nimble organizations that jump on the neat idea and focus on the product, not organization politics. When fear of new ideas sets in and a business allows staff positions to grow too big and powerful, those businesses implode.

The current economic depression celebrates “operators” — executives with shrewd “operating” skills who are known for their ability to cut costs, cut staffs, sell their story to Wall Street and keep their company within its COMFORT ZONE. They do not have nor are required to have vision. Knowing what’s next is the key to growth in any industry. No vision, no growth.

Today, media businesses are excited when they show quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year growth. But this is false growth. Compare any media business with 2007 revenue figures and business is down. Five years after the depression began, revenue is still down.

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The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is… Ourselves.

| September 13, 2013

Jason Bailey
Sun Broadcast Group, Inc.
CEO

baileyjasonNEW YORK — It was another sad week for network radio as more great people: mothers, fathers, sons and daughters… dreamers of great ideas, writers of great content, communicators of the stories that shape our world, were sent to the unemployment line. Was it greed? Was it failure to evolve? Was it competition? Maybe. But in my humble opinion it was something simpler yet more devastating… Fear. Fear to be bold, fear to take risks and most important, fear to defend.

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Memories of Joe Somerset

| September 3, 2013

By Curt Hahn

 

hahnwriterPUERTA VALLARTA — My friend and mentor Joe Somerset passed away Thursday night due to complications following a fall Sunday night at home.

It was 1958 when Joe and I met.  I was a Brown sophomore, he was the program guy at WPRO radio, which had just been purchased by a new company out of Albany, New York — Capital Cities Television.  Joe had joined the company in its infancy and brought his radio knowledge to this young TV-oriented company.

WPRO took the Providence market by storm with its top 40 format.  I worked weekends, overnights, snow days and holidays.  Rarely did I hear from Joe, unless I’d done something remarkably stupid.  He was certainly the most non-directive program director I ever worked for.  The instructions were simple: follow the format!

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The Smartest Programming Move I Ever Made for My Radio Stations

| July 31, 2013

By Michael L. Zwerling
KSCO/KOMY, Santa Cruz
Owner

zwerlingksco (2)SANTA CRUZ — It was February 2009.  KSCO-AM 1080, Santa Cruz-Salinas-Monterey-San Jose was being called by every radio syndicator in the country trying to bend our ear about taking their program to replace The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly who was terminating his daily syndicated radio program on Feb 27.

I had instructed our staff to inform such callers that the replacement would be live and local, which they did.

This information was met with both surprise and disbelief, because that was (and IS) certainly not the trend for local radio stations; in fact just the opposite was and is true.  But at KSCO, we like to be different; and it helps to be located in a part of the world with more unusual, interesting, and FASCINATING characters per square inch than in any other part of the planet.

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How Liberals Have It Wrong About
Rush and Sean

| July 30, 2013

By Alan Colmes
Fox News Radio/Fox News Channel
Host/Commentator

colmesalanNEW YORK — Headlines have been blaring all over the digital universe about Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity being tossed off the air by Cumulus and losing 40 stations in key markets.

However, in the words of the legendary Paul Harvey, readers are not being told the rest of the story. Cumulus and Clear Channel have been buying up stations in major markets. Limbaugh and Hannity are syndicated by Premiere, which is owned by Clear Channel. Rather than pay fees to Cumulus to carry these shows it makes more sense to put them on their own properties, reduce local talent costs, and save those fees. The two top-rated talkers aren’t going anywhere. They’re just changing dial positions and, in many cases, to better signals.

Seeing liberal bloggers declare victory about how a boycott of these shows’ sponsors led to this makes my hair stand on end for four reasons.

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How to Be a Talk Show Host

| July 22, 2013

By Bob Lonsberry
WHAM, Rochester/WSYR Syracuse
Talk Show Host

lonsberrybobMOUNT MORRIS, NY — Let me tell you how to be a talk show host.

Step one: Ignore anybody who tries to tell you how to be a talk show host

This is fundamentally a solo business and the more you try to be like someone else, or the more closely you follow the consultants and the bosses, the less effective you will be.

Certainly, there are general rules of the business, ways to hold listeners and maximize ratings, to move through a clock and broadcast professionally. You must know and execute the formatics, but you must be their master, not their slave. They give you structure, but you give yourself voice.

Somewhere, down deep, you either have it or you don’t, and the key to your success will be being true to yourself. Likewise, the key to the continued success of the form will be the quality and variety of rising hosts.

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‘The Future of Radio in the Car?’ Too Late

| June 26, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

 

NEW YORK — Because radio depends SO much on in-car use, you’re probably intrigued by various reports from the Consumer Electronics Association’s Connected Car Conference.  Maybe you’re even feeling info-overload about the techy mobile future.

Here’s the bottom line, from four-and-a-half-hours of thoughtful discussion, research, and prognostication by automotive, electronics, and media thinkers:  Whatever the dashboard is about to morph into matters less to AM/FM radio than what’s already happened.

It happened several years ago, when I bought that cord at the Apple Store.  Plug one end into what we used to call “the cigarette lighter,” plug the other end into iPhone, and whatever’s on the phone comes out the speakers.  Still-to-come hardware and software evolution will merely help drivers sift.

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The Radio WHOOSH is Dead (Or at Least It Should Be)

| June 19, 2013

By Michael W. Dean
Freedom Feens
Co-host

deanmichaelwCASPER, WY – I’m pretty new to doing radio. Well, new to being syndicated. But I’ve been doing episodic spoken media almost daily since 2006, was a college radio DJ in the early 80s, and was into ham radio as a kid in the 70s.

More importantly, I’m not new to listening to radio. As a listener, I’d be willing to bet I could do better than 80% correct at predicting today who’s going to be out of business in five years. Anyone want to take me up on it?

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Arbitron Ratings for All Would be Good for All

| June 17, 2013

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

 NEW YORK — Please take a moment to click through to this website:
tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com.

TV By the NumbersYou see TV Nielsen ratings. Nielsen as you know is the TV and radio (in Australia) ratings company that is merging with Arbitron and has cool offices in lower Manhattan.  TV BY THE NUMBERS breaks out the TV ratings any way you could imagine: By demo, show, cable, syndication, network. If you want a number you don’t see, simply email the site’s founders and they’ll get it for you.

What is the source of their information? “Various data sources” it says in their ABOUT section.

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Musings on the United Nations

| June 10, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

 

NEW YORK – When you step-into the United Nations compound, you, legally, step off American soil.

The security shakedown is akin to boarding an airplane, but those in uniform wouldn’t be mistaken for TSA agents who sometimes seem to loiter.  These foreigners aren’t quite as stony as Customs officers, but the process has the same vibe.

Once inside, it’s welcome-to-the-1950s.  Not in an unkempt way.  Our guide explained that areas we were passing through had recently been renovated, and the “after” was deliberately reminiscent of the “before” look.  Until recently, we were told, smoking wasn’t prohibited.  Travel abroad, and you quickly realize how American “No Smoking” is.  Narrow escalators pre-date and, legally, needn’t comply with, the Americans with Disabilities Act specs we’re now accustomed to.

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My Professional Opinion: Do NOT Run the FEMA/Ad Council PSA!

| June 3, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

Ad CouncilFEMANEW YORK — You may have seen my warning in Friday’s edition regarding a PSA that was released by the Ad Council, under the auspices of FEMA, extolling the virtues of the emergency alerts the public can now receive on their cell phones.  A great idea.  Worthy of getting the word out.  Even if the PSA promotes a service available on cell phones.

Only one problem.  The PSAs (there are several, and they are also available for television) use the EAS two-tone alert tone as part of the message.

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An Open Letter of Advice to Rush Limbaugh

| May 20, 2013

By Dr. John Tantillo
Branding and Marketing Group, Inc.
President

tantillodrNEW YORK – A Letter To Rush Now!

Dear Rush,

We need to talk.

Why?

Because many out there hate your brand (and you) and if nothing is done proactively in the short run, failure is assured in the long run.

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IRS Scandal: Time for Talk Show Hosts
to Come Forward

| May 14, 2013

By Phil Valentine
Cumulus Media
Talk Show Host

IRSvalentineNASHVILLE — The revelation on Friday (5/10) that the IRS was targeting conservative groups came as a shock to much of America, especially those on the right side of the aisle.  Once the story broadened on Monday to include more groups and more abuse it became apparent that there’s something big going on here.  For me, it was all simply a confirmation of something I’ve been experiencing for some time.  In fact, I’ve been chronicling the experience on my radio show.

A couple of years ago I began getting inquiries from the IRS.  They wanted me to explain certain items I’d taken as deductions.  I had the same experience back in the mid-‘90s when I first moved to Philadelphia.  I’m sure this isn’t the technical term for it but for lack of a better label I was “mail-audited” three times in 18 months.  This was during the Clinton administration and I figured when I landed in Philadelphia to do talk radio I also landed on the administration’s radar.  Again, it was petty stuff like making me dig up receipts from prior tax years and fill out all sorts of annoying forms.  Once I satisfied the requests for one year another inquiry for another year would begin almost immediately.

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RIP Al Neuharth: He reinvented the only medium older than radio

| April 22, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND — Especially after last week, talk radio should heed the words of a media giant we now mourn: “They want to trust whatever voices they’re listening to.”

Allen H. Neuharth was the Gannett chairman who founded USA TODAY, and later helped create a The Newseum, the museum of news, which warrants adding an entire day to your next trip to Washington.

His 1989 autobiography “Confessions of an S.O.B.” is still canny advice.

Al was a bigger-than-life figure, always influential, often controversial.  He died Friday at his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, 89.

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Dead, or Online?

| April 22, 2013

By Chris Miller
Chris Miller Digital

SHAKER HEIGHTS – Have you ever read something that just freshly fired up your motivation?  That happened to me recently.  It was a piece at SocialMediaToday.com by content marketing specialist Barry Feldman titled, “Social Media Doesn’t Really Connect Us. What Does?”

To sum it up, the proclamations that radio is dead, news publishing is dead, books are dead, mail is dead, and so on are wrong.  The media we’ve known for years are not dead, they’re just online.  Furthermore, media isn’t the issue.  Content is.

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Smerconish: Canary in Talk Radio’s
Coal Mine?

| March 11, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND — To local radio talkers, syndication is The Promised Land.  So when an accomplished, high-profile personality relinquishes his hard-won 80-affiliate roster to migrate to satellite radio, my phone rings.  I’m being asked:

  • Should I pitch his affiliates?  Should I pitch his network?
  • Should I try to get on SiriusXM?
  • IS it over?

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Endorsements Should Be Interesting

| March 4, 2013

By Michael Berry
Host
The Michael Berry Show

berrymichaelwriterHOUSTON — All I ever hear radio industry execs talk about is ratings and revenues, as if the two go hand in hand.  With music stations, that may be true.  But talk radio’s future will be determined by our ability to get results for our advertisers.  That includes, but is not limited to, ratings, and it probably has more to do with ratings in categories currently seen as less, or altogether un-, important; namely, 55 and up, or 35-64.

Ratings are not an end in themselves, but rather a pricing mechanism by which advertisers determine the rates they will pay.  In an industry which measures itself primarily, indeed almost exclusively, on the 25-54 demo, it’s good to remember how many people are active consumers who don’t fit into those niches.  Twenty-five-year-olds don’t buy houses, or improve them.  Their bodies aren’t breaking down, so they don’t need all the medical advancements of companies willing to advertise those services.  They are not investing, banking, exercising, losing weight, restoring vision, or maintaining a house that needs everything from new pipes to electrical to roofing to driveway pavers to a pool.  In short, radio can still be very profitable as our society ages by appealing to direct-buy advertisers.  But only if radio can yield results for the client.  Think about it: listeners tune to music radio to zone out to music, and when someone talks it’s a distraction.  Listeners tune to talk radio to be engaged, and the talk by the host is what they sought.  If the host’s endorsement of a product could be as compelling as his discussion of Obama’s hypocrisy, imagine the boon to advertisers.   Winning the ratings war for most listeners under 54 does not necessarily yield financial returns to the people who pay for advertising.  It is not the size of the audience, but rather the size of the response for the advertiser, that will build loyalty in clients.  So how do we get results for clients, especially live, direct clients? Read More

Five Impact Trends to Help You Reach the Future Safely

| February 21, 2013

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

NEW YORK – The challenge of working at most radio stations or broadcast companies is the staff is pre-occupied with job security. As a result, trends that should be noted and discussed are dismissed in order to prepare the weekend schedule and worry about corporate.  As the CEO of an executive-on-demand company, Sabo Media, we are presented daily with new products, talent and ideas. Here are five that are interesting and may be helpful in growing your business:

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If I Were the CEO of YouTube

| January 28, 2013

A modest proposal by Walter Sabo

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

NEW YORK — First, I will never be the CEO of YouTube because I could not pass the battery of Google employment tests. Math was not my strength. Also, based on a visit to their NY offices, their hallway labyrinth would keep me lost all day.

But here’s why I should be CEO:

Why do you look at YouTube? The primary reasons are to see cats, music videos, your kids and “web stars.” I am perfectly comfortable with these crowd pleasers. Why? Because they please the crowd.

About 18 months ago YouTube announced a multi-million dollar initiative to pay for premium video content created by “top producers” and Hollywood stars. At the time I explained to my annoyed relatives and friends that this was an insane waste of money and it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work because it violated a key axiom of show business:

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Radio’s Biggest Star: Baseball

| January 25, 2013

By Holland Cooke
News/Talk/Sports Radio Consultant

St. LOUIS — Do the math. For six months when habitual listening dips as listeners vacation and otherwise alter their lives, baseball brings:

• Long-TSL tune-in (“vertical maintenance” in Arbitron-speak), to…

• 162 three+ hour shows (“horizontal maintenance”), by…

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Radio Makes it Real…if, We’re Keepin’ it Real

| January 14, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

WASHINGTON, DC — If you’re a broadcaster, you probably found this story remarkable. If you’re a podcaster, you probably found it relatable:

“By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.”

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Eight Reasons Cain Will Click

| January 3, 2013

By Holland Cooke
Talk Radio consultant

cainhermanBLOCK ISLAND, RI — January 21 is Inauguration Day, for both our president, and his outspoken campaign opponent Herman Cain, whose nationally syndicated radio show debuts that morning.

Here’s why I predicted Cain’s success oh-so-publicly at the recent Arbitron Client Conference:

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As Goes the Nation, So Goes the Station: Scenes from the WOR Front Line

| January 2, 2013

By Robbie Student
Radio Talk Show Host/Record Producer

studentrobbieNEW YORK – Here’s some context: I’m a small businessman.  In addition to being a talk show host, I run a small, modestly successful music and entertainment production company.  Because of the Cliff, the Ceiling, and Obamacare’s paralyzing lack of clarity, I’m not spending one dollar more than I have to on salaried staff, independent contractors, and infrastructure/equipment.

This stingy posture isn’t because I’m a greedy bastard.  It’s because neither I (the producer of goods and services), nor the consumers I sell them to, know where our next batch of greenbacks is coming from, or going to.  And clients, those a rung above me on the ladder, are behaving in kind.  We’re like kidnap victims who’ve had black hoods pulled over our heads, while the van we’re in careens through a sketchy neighborhood of miserably thought out economic policies.

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Will Nielsen’s Acquisition of Arbitron Benefit our Industry?

| December 20, 2012

By Fred Lundgren
KCAA Radio, Loma Linda, California
CEO

lundgrenfredLOMA LINDA, CA — The inaccuracy of Arbitron surveys have been a pet peeve of mine for many years.  So, when The Nielsen Company announced the purchase of Arbitron, I decided to celebrate the event with a little punditry.  Initially, the announcement made me think of this quote by Winston Churchill…

“The only recorded instance in history of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship.”

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Talk Must Expand Beyond Politics to Survive

| November 19, 2012

By Doug Stephan
Stephan MultiMeda

 

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Reading the statements by Spencer Brown at Dial Global about what has happened to the advertising agencies’ attitudes toward controversial programming gives me cause to want to add my perspective as an independent producer with almost 25 years of syndicated radio experience…pretty much the same amount of time as Rush Limbaugh.

First and foremost, I’m a champion of and cheerleader for the format.  But what is represented here is the same quandary that faces the Republican Party…relevance.

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Five Trends About to Make a Buck

| November 13, 2012

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

NEW YORK — Daily digital newsletters suggest that there are hundreds of hot new “platforms” and “monetizations” and “disruptors.”

There aren’t. A quick walk from the gourmet water cafes of lower Manhattan or Palo Alto to the food court at Mall of America will clarify the efficacy of many digi-theories.  Remember, fiber optics (Lucent!) were ready to go in 1962, as were Picture Phones, but AT&T waited until they depreciated all the copper wire to roll out fiber.

There are at least five new business ideas that are close to the event horizon for profits.

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Talk Renaissance Requires Open-Minded Ownership

| November 12, 2012

By Tom Becka
KRWK, Fargo/KOIL, Omaha
Talk Show Host

FARGO –  I’ve been reading with great interest the comments about the future of talk radio.  During my career I spent a number of years on the road as a stand up comic.  It was during this time that I developed my love of talk radio.  Each night after a show I would talk to members of the audience.  I would speak with bankers, construction workers, nurses, and people that make sausage casings for a living.  I noticed one thing about these conversations.  What the people were talking about was not what the talk radio hosts were talking about.  They had more personal concerns on their mind than the inner workings of Congress.  We can debate whether that’s good or not some other day.  But that is the way it is.  The truth is what is important to most talk show hosts is not important to most people on the street.

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Today, Talk Radio Will Vote

| November 7, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Yesterday, voters chose.  Now it’s our turn.

Smartest thing I heard early this morning: Local hosts, many of ‘em righties, asking callers “What happened?”  Today and tonight, we’ll hear if national hosts smell the coffee as well.

We’ll spend days — and books are already being written — analyzing the 2012 vote.  And beyond politics, there are radio programming implications, actual Average Quarter Hour consequences.

What’s already apparent is that voters didn’t conform to the prevailing talk radio narrative:

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Now That You’re in Sales…

| November 2, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Oh! You’re on-air? Not in sales? As Cher’s character hollered in Moonstruck, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”

Now more than ever – with 2013 budgets in umpteenth re-draft – tough decisions are being made, in meetings you’re not invited to. Possibly in meetings your boss is not invited to. So, as local talent, are you merely what bean-counters call an “expense?” Or when they read your name on The List of Endangered Employees, does it spell “revenue?”

Local DJ? That’s dang-near an oxymoron now. Talk show? That’s something from a syndicator, right? Not if you are responsible for what the sales department calls “local direct retail.” Translation: do-re-mi that’s not stepped-on by an agency; ads that tell shopkeepers’ stories, and bring cars into their parking lots.

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New Jersey Broadcasters are Ready for Whatever Sandy Throws at Us!

| October 29, 2012

By Paul S. Rotella, Esq.
New Jersey Broadcasters Association
President/CEO

MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ — Are we ready? Of course; that’s because we usually stand ready, often prepared for anything—that’s what local radio is all about: being prepared, being nimble, and being informative, with real information our listeners need. It’s amazing how dedicated local broadcasters are, especially in New Jersey where local radio means so much to our state!

We’ve been preparing since Friday. As you know, our great NJ broadcasters have responded to extreme and hazardous weather events magnificently in the past and we expect them to continue this fine tradition of selfless service in the face or Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Read More

Obama/Romney III: 7 Talk Radio Takeaways

| October 23, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Last night’s winner now enters the ultimate contest with renewed confidence.  But enough about the Giants’ National League Championship win.

Even after months and months of primary debates  (“NINE…NINE…NINE” was THIS year, right?), Americans were engaged by the presidential and VP debates.  Both sets of ratings prove it.

  • TV had a hit mini-series, and any news or talk station that didn’t air the debates was MIA.
  • And this years’ did something debates don’t often do: change minds.  Debates tend to be a Rorschach test.  Your guy always wins.  But this election will be decided by very few Undecideds.  Romney’s first-debate performance turned-around his poll numbers, and stemmed the bleeding of campaign contributions to down-ticket races.  Now watch the president’s numbers after what are being scored as back-to-back comeback wins.

Are you a “Sneezer”?

| October 22, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — With colds and flu season approaching, umpteen PSAs have trained us to sneeze-into-our-elbows.  Because the last thing you want to do is spread a virus, right?

Only literally.  Metaphorically, you DO want to be what author/entrepreneur/marketing guru Seth Godin refers to as a “Sneezer,” someone who spreads ideas.

When others “catch” what you’ve put into the atmosphere, it becomes what he calls an “IdeaVirus.”  And peer-to-peer sharing is an endorsement more powerful than advertising.

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Obama-Romney Rematch: 10 Takeaways for Talk Radio

| October 19, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — 1. In broadcast editing parlance, this second presidential debate was “easier tape to cut” than the first one, which didn’t produce any bumpersticker-quality sound bites.  Lines like Obama’s “ONE-point plan” and Romney’s “binders full of women” went skidding all around Talk Radio and social media and cable.  Day-after, smart hosts used sound bites aplenty to light-up the phones.

2. This debate re-energized the contest, for both sides.  If Obama had disappointed again, listeners would be less-engaged generally. The USA is better-off if the electorate is “into it…”

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Is God Listening? Thoughts from a Talk Show Host Who Happens to Be Catholic

| October 4, 2012

By Johnna A. Pro
Talk Show Host
KDKA, Pittsburgh

 

PITTSBURGH —  I never expected to have a crisis of faith.  During my college days and early 20s, I did that which many young adults do when they find the lure of modern society far more alluring than Sunday Mass.  I set religion aside except for Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals.  I took communion; I skipped confession.  I questioned the existence of God in a world filled with violence.  It was all quite typical.

Such youthful folly ended on my first trip to Italy, the home of my heart and my family.  In seeking my roots, I rediscovered my religion.  One can’t explore the ancient churches in tiny towns and not see their beauty and architectural magnificence were inspired by the Divine.  The poorest of the poor scraped together meager funds and collective talents to construct the buildings that would carry the faith through the generations.

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Upgrade to FREE

| October 3, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI –  Even pre-recession, before The New Normal taught us all to work smarter, my TALKERS coverage of the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show reviewed that year’s Shiny New Object, the under-$300 netbook computer.

It was smaller/lighter than laptops/notebooks, and had longer battery life.  And back when many Windows users were cursing Vista, those new machines came pre-loaded with trusty Windows XP, since netbooks’ processors couldn’t run memory hog Vista.

“But,” I cautioned, netbooks were “light on word processing, spreadsheet, and other productivity software that comes pre-installed as MS Office on notebooks and desktop computers.  Even some low-end notebooks give you Works instead of higher-octane Office.”  Not to worry.  As I also discovered at CES2009, “before you spend for the Office upgrade, at least try out the same functionality FREE, by downloading the suite of look-alike programs from www.OpenOffice.org.” Read More

We Have Been Terrorized

| September 27, 2012

By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
Cumulus Media Networks

 

NASHVILLE — We should’ve seen it coming but it was so insidious that we hardly noticed it.  We had our antennae up for political correctness.  I guess we never even factored in being afraid for our lives.

The recent events in the Middle East have given many of us pause to scratch our heads and marvel at the utter naivete of an administration whose embassy in Cairo issues a preemptive press release condemning a movie no one had ever heard of in hopes of appeasing the barbarians at the gate.  Surely, we thought to ourselves, the Neville Chamberlain Society wasn’t running the whole country.

It’s one thing to fear for your life in the midst of radicals who would just as soon slit your throat as look at you but here in America?  More specifically, in Sacramento?

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Can Terrestrial Radio Thrive in the Digital Era?

| September 19, 2012

By Michael Harrison
TALKERS Magazine
Publisher

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Survival is not enough.

Survival is already happening and it isn’t as much fun as it’s cracked up to be as a spectator sport on the Discovery Channel.  In the reality show called terrestrial radio, sooner than later, survival will run out of gas.  For terrestrial radio, “survival” is simply a slower form of imminent death.

It should be the goal of terrestrial radio to thrive in the digital era.

Thrive?  Is that even possible?

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Say WHAT? Arbitron and advertisers will punish you if you don’t choose your words carefully

| September 18, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — At the risk of validating the worst consultant stereotype, here’s a whole list of don’t-say-this-don’t-say-that.  And the first one’s big…

Please don’t say “PISSED OFF.”

Why?  Picture the listeners your advertisers want to meet the most: parents with children living at home, retail super-consumers.  Sure, soccer mom and her mister might talk to each other differently when the children aren’t listening.  But when kiddos are in the car, potty mouth like “PISSED-OFF” is an AQH-killer.  Instant tune-out, stimulus-response.

As for potty mouth generally, you’ll never get hurt erring on the side of prudence.  Why say “ASS,” when “KEESTER” or “BEE-HIND” makes the same point, and sounds more memorable?  If you’re in a diary market, ratings are a memory test.  If you’re in a PPM market, awareness drives use.  So, either way, being thought-of as R-rated will cost you what Arbitron calls Occasions of Listening and Time Spent Listening.

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Please Stop Copying

| September 17, 2012

By Walter Sabo
Sabo Media
Chairman

NEW YORK — Each talk host has a unique set of life experiences, opinions and feelings. When a host is encouraged and allowed to express their unique world view, the result is compelling radio and the cume grows. Tragically, and it is tragic, at some point most hosts are told to “sound more like…” or “did you hear so and so today?”

The reason Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura have been so successful is that they copy no one.  You may be surprised to learn that Howard Stern has never listened to most of the other hosts he’s bashed.

When working with talent it is never wise to encourage them to listen to other hosts because it destroys their internal navigation system. Each host has stories they want to tell, ideas they want to present and blessed opinions that must be heard. When they are forced to monitor other hosts, their own instincts soften and ultimately crumble.

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Talk Radio Weekends: 2 Sure Shots

| September 13, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. — With radio so financially challenged, continued employment is earned by leveraging your personal craft skills and your station’s assets.  Want to keep working?  Be revenue, not expense.

Thus my recent TALKERS column “21st Century Swap Shop” (http://www.talkers.com/2012/08/14/21st-century-swap-shop/), which acknowledged three realities:

  1. Antique and/or tedious programming is toxic when we share listeners’ attention with new-platform competitors.
  2. Stations are under hellish pressure to monetize the new platform.
  3. Stations have lots more 60-second avails than 60-minute avails.

Keep thinking of ways to connect those dots, and (forgive me) “do more with less,” and you’ll be handy to have around.

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Can Twitter Help Save Your Job?

| September 6, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, R.I. — The turning point in my own career came in 1974, when WPRO, Providence program director Jay Clark hired me…just so I’d stop calling.  Ask him.

Like many of today’s other news/talk AMs, WPRO was then Top 40, and I did 7:00 pm to 12:00 midnight.  And it was a real street fight.  At one point back then, five of the stations in market #29 — two of them new FMs – were playing the same songs.  All staffed by local DJs 24/7.

“So keep it moving,” Jay winked.  Meaning: DO be a personality, but try to get it done over the music whenever possible.  Segue THEN talk, so channel surfers didn’t infer talk-over-the-fade-at-the-end-of-the-song as here-come-commercials.  ‘Made sense.

And I noticed that the big guys making the big money in big markets took only nine seconds to say what minor league DJs took 19 seconds to spit-out.  So we would concoct (or steal) succinct DJ quips that’d prompt a listener chuckle, and, hopefully, make a deposit in the diary keeper’s memory bank.  Introducing the Elton John song as “Someone Shaved My Wife Tonight” was win-win kitsch.  Those who got it got it; and those who didn’t heard non-stop music.

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Movie Review: Obama’s America 2016

| August 27, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

EAST GREENWICH, RI – Regardless of how you feel about President Obama, SEE THIS MOVIE.

If you’re an Obama-hater, you’ll sure feel as though you got your money’s worth.  It’ll validate the memes that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh dispense so relentlessly.

If you support him, you’ll see what he’s up against.

If you work in talk radio, you owe it to your audience to understand what all those network commercials in your show are selling.  The conspicuous lack of previews for major motion pictures implied theatrical “infomercial,” a rented theater…an inference quickly corrected by a Washington-area PR firm representing the producer.  There was one trailer, for an “Atlas Shrugged 2″ flick due in October.

If you’re a content creator, you’ll find the production techniques instructive.  The soundtrack was largely funereal strings that sound a lot like the Schindler’s List soundtrack.  And to reinforce that he’s-NOT-one-of-us, there’s sitar music underneath the lengthiest sound bite of the president speaking.  Most of the lengthy credits were for “Re-enactment Cast,” actors in various scenes seeking-to-dramatize various of the film maker’s points.  The propaganda-film look of these scenes was like slick, modern-day “Reefer Madness,” and detracted from the film’s overall credibility and important points it made regarding mounting debt and nukes.

Despite reports of throngs elsewhere, our all-white matinee audience numbered about 40, several of whom left muttering.  This may differ from your experience; since I saw the film in deep-blue Rhode Island, which Republican presidential candidates have only carried twice in 40 years.  Both of the exceptions were incumbents (Nixon and Reagan), and this film’s mission seems to be to undermine the power of such incumbency.

Public Speaking 101: At the end of the speech, what do you want ‘em to remember?  In this case, two things:

1.  He is NOT one of us.  Most of the film was travelogue of places-you-never-want-to-go.  The president is damned for not choosing his father more carefully.  And despite the interviewer’s three attempts, Obama’s African half-brother denied feeling unprovided-for.

2.  The only thing film maker Dinesh D’Souza seemed to say more-often-than “I” was “anti-colonialism,” which we’re told animates Obama.  Although Anti-colonialism was the spark that ignited America, we’re told we should now be wary.

The word “Romney” was never uttered.

 

See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.

 

21st Century Swap Shop

| August 14, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — You can tell a lot about a news/talk station from its weekend programming…or lack thereof.

If you’re affiliated with a couple of the biggest syndicated shows, you’ve already relinquished 6 hours of beach-front real estate to crammed-down re-runs that radio is naive enough to call “Best of…”

Arbitron diary comments I read and focus group comments I wince-through affirm that “Best of” fools nobody; and sends the dangerous message that nobody’s home.  But you may have no choice.  So at least make-the-most-of weekend hours you CAN control.

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Dead Air: A Dynamic Reminder for Talk Show Hosts

| August 7, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

NEW YORK — While growing up listening to fast-paced Top 40 stations like WABC in New York, and WLLL in Lynchburg, Virginia, it seemed even a split second of silence was anathema. Something had to have gone wrong on the control board or transmitter – or the deejay must have fallen asleep. Resumes for job seekers typically included “tight board” to indicate there would be no dead air during their trick.

High energy was also a must. For motor-mouthed jocks, the goal was jamming as many words as possible in before hitting the post. A few of the greats managed to add humor or pithy commentary; many more resorted to gimmicks and “schtick.” They lived in fear of “flubs” or mangled verbiage.

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Five Easy Fixes to Improve Your PPM Numbers

| July 30, 2012

By Walter Sabo
Chairman
Sabo Media

NEW YORK – You’ve heard the horror stories about talk stations losing a third of their audience when measured by PPM.  There are talk stations that have gone up in PPM and other formats have benefitted from the new measurement technique.

After tracking the stations that have done better and formats that have improved while being surveyed by PPM, here are simple techniques for you to use today that will boost PPM-measured cume.

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Your Target Demographic: Not a Number

| July 23, 2012

By Holland Cooke
MCVAY/COOK & ASSOCIATES
News/Talk Specialist

BLOCK ISLAND, RI – FAQ from talk talent: “What’s our target demographic?”

Two-part answer:

1. NOT 25-54.  Recently-published Nielsen data affirms what you may have suspected all-along: The vaunted 25-54 demo is malarkey:

• Although only 5% of ad dollars are aimed at ‘em, 35-64 accounts for half of product purchases.

• Baby Boomers – 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — account for roughly half of all packaged-good sales, almost $230 billion.  In five years, they’ll control 70% of the USA’s disposable income.

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Merlin Meltdown: Lessons Learned

| July 19, 2012

By Holland Cooke
MCVAY/COOK & ASSOCIATES
News/Talk Specialist

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Admittedly, I had a tough time hearing these stations objectively, for two reasons:

• By the time I heard ‘em in-car, I had been predisposed by terms like “abortion” and “crib dead” in published reviews.

• Having programmed WTOP, Washington for seven years, I’m an aficionado, a tough grader for this format.

These conspicuous flops should NOT suggest that news doesn’t belong on FM, where some 80% of Time Spent Listening now occurs, and with music radio’s days now numbered.  Heck, WTOP is the USA’s top biller, something no other station outside NY/LA/Chicago ever accomplished.

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Why Not Just Say, “Don’t Listen?”

| July 11, 2012

By Holland Cooke
MCVAY/COOK & ASSOCIATES
News/Talk Specialist

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — I’m NOT making this up.

On July 5, a sidekick filling in for the regular talk host opened the show by explaining, at length, that, and why, “this is one of the two worst weeks of the year to do talk radio.”

Oh, and that other week during which too many hosts project dread?  The week between Christmas and New Year’s, which, like The Fourth week, I’ve heard COME ALIVE on talk radio.  All it takes is an imaginative host, seizing the opportunity to attract callers and engage listeners by relating to – grab the arm rest – WHAT THEY’RE UP TO.  Rather than musing about the host’s self-inflicted dilemma.

Alas, too many talkers feel naked when, mercifully, holidays pause the tired political narrative and the excruciating minutia of government process.  And new data demonstrate peril…

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Let the Talent Be Talent: 10 Things You Need to Know About Live Endorsements

| June 10, 2012

By Michael Berry
Talk Show Host
KTRH, Houston

HOUSTON – When I listen to Rush Limbaugh, I zone out during the commercials. Except, that is, when the “commercial” comes from Maha-Rushi’s lips. I’ve never heard anyone deliver a better live endorsement than El Rushbo. It doesn’t feel like advertising at all. He makes me feel it’s his personal opinion, which is why I tuned in to him in the first place. I want to know his opinion of Obama’s latest move, and I’ll listen when he tells me where to shop.

Clients pay a premium for live endorsements on radio. It has been my experience as a talk show host that they then sometimes do everything possible to undercut the effectiveness of it. So, here are my list of suggestions to ad agencies, sales reps, and yes, even clients (the people who pay our bills) as to how we, the talent, can get better results for you. Help us help you. To sales reps and talent: I wrote this in hopes you could send it to your clients, whether direct advertisers or ad agencies. Let me be the bad guy and this can be your conversation starter.

  1. Don’t write a script. Any talent that needs a script isn’t worth the fee you pay for his endorsement. If all he’s doing is reading a script, have someone else read it. Hire a professional voice, or produce a better spot. Listeners can tell when a talent is reading your ad. You won’t get results. But if he uses your good or service and believes in it, you will get results. We can sell what we like because then it’s not “selling.” It’s simply sharing what we like and it’s what we do. Make sure your endorser understands you, the individual who owns the business. If you started the business out of your garage; if you are there every single day; if you answer when the phone rings to the main line, he should note that. People want a personal touch. He should share that you have it. Read More

Radio Thoughts from Streaming Media East

| May 17, 2012

By Holland Cooke
News/Talk Specialist
McVay/Cook Media

NEW YORK — Streaming Media East, and its six-months-offset counterpart Streaming Media West, are conferences about “the business and technology of online video.”  Undeniably, that’s a business radio needs to be in, to the extent we can be, and because NO – repeat, NO – other companion medium can drive internet traffic better than radio.

Keeping current about adoption of other media helps us better understand how listeners use our medium, as consumption habits are changing so radically.  That said, most of what’s on this convention’s agenda doesn’t directly pertain to radio, and much of it is real nerdy stuff, internet nuts-and-bolts.  But one of the sessions I found darn pertinent to radio people was “Building Media Brands on Facebook.”

  • “Facebook has now become Times Square, with 900 million users.”
  • “It’s not how many Friends you have, it’s how many are talking about you.”
  • Topics and keywords drive engagement.
  • Facebook is now used more on phones and tablets than on computers.

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If Every Station Was a Talk Station

| May 14, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

NEW YORK — Radio’s original programming slate was completely random.  As a new, experimental medium, all radio stations aired a vast array of programming from operas to farm news to live music.  Until 1940 there was an actual legal debate about whether or not recorded music could be aired on the radio.  See it here.

Every Station is a Talk Station.  Now What?

Imagine if every radio station, except one, in every city was programmed fulltime as a talk station.  How would those talk stations differentiate themselves to the listener?  They couldn’t all take the same approach.  They would have to appeal to different demos and psychographics. There would be talk stations for teens, 18-24 men, 25-34 women and 35-54 year old professionals.  You would hear talk stations just for parents, singles, sports fans, all news for people over 50 and for people under 25.  In L.A., New York and San Francisco there are over 60 viable signals; the possible format iterations would match the scope of human interests.

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Innovation Sets You Free…to Make Money

| April 27, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

NEW YORK — What a great idea!  The Commercial Broadcasters of Australia give out awards for: Best New Manager.  Best New Program Director.  Best New Station.  Best New Format.  They celebrate the “new.”  They encourage it, reward it and showcase it with a black tie dinner.  I had the privilege to attend that dinner in Melbourne and you would not believe the passion and pride in the ballroom.

Sadly, in American radio, we tend to find ways to mock the new and celebrate contempt prior to investigation.  As a business we have set ourselves up for a tough, very risky and vulnerable existence.  No laboratory.  If you come up with a new format or promotional idea, where and how do you test it?  Success in a live medium depends on a specific dynamic with a live audience.  As a rule you can’t ask people how they want to be entertained.  You can present them with entertainment and see if they applaud.  Television tests pilot shows, not show concepts. (How would the Kardashians have tested as a concept?)

When presented with new ideas, most programmers ask, “Where else is it being done?  Who else is doing it?”  They will ask that question while proclaiming, “Our market is different.”  Different than where?  A town that doesn’t have McDonald’s?

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Targeted Topics Are Vital to FM Talk Success

| April 26, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

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.

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Walter Sabo: FM Talk — Finding and Inspiring Great Hosts, Part 2

| April 25, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

NEW YORK – “Talk” is not a format.  It’s a means of communicating.  Talk radio could reach any target demographic that management thinks it can sell.  Your station could be #1 in your city with talk targeted for teens.  Your station could reach the GOLDEN DEMO — Women 25-44 — all day with talk aimed to serve them.  It’s up to you.  My colleagues and clients have been successful in reaching any demo with talk.  Pick your demo.  Design your format, then select the hosts.

Every day I am asked for host recommendations for talk radio.  It’s flattering that we have earned a reputation for finding good hosts.  Direct recommendations are usually reserved for clients because the talent pool is limited and the process of selecting the right host is profound.

Overall, here are some of the steps we take in finding a good host, regardless of their background.  The brilliant Mickey Luckoff, lifetime general manager of KGO, said, “I like DJs to become talk show hosts because I can teach them how to do talk but I can’t teach them how to do radio.”

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Walter Sabo: The Gold is FM Talk, Part 1

| April 24, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

NEW YORK – Right now there are a significant number of stations switching to FM talk.  There are many good reasons to do this.  The top line is:

• The #1 biller in America two years in a row is an FM all-news station, Jim Farley’s WTOP FM.

• The #1 biller in many top 50 markets is a talk station.

• High-listener engagement with talk programming means greater response for advertisers.

• The drain of early-adopter music listeners from FM to SiriusXM and online music services such as Pandora and iTunes.

Through trial, error and success, our company has lead many FM talk conversions in cities such as Los Angeles and Orlando.  This four-part series will reveal vital facts about the relationship between talk programming and the audience on the FM band.

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Mr. Neer Ignores the Constitution

| February 28, 2012

By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
Dial Global 

NASHVILLE – In response to Richard Neer’s column published below, I’m sure Mr. Neer of WFAN is a well-meaning gentleman who doesn’t want to offend anyone, but over on my side of the talk radio business – issues-driven talk – that attitude is lethal.  If Limbaugh or Hannity or any of us cracked the mic worried about offending someone we’d never utter a word.

That’s exactly the goal of the politically correct and the thought police.

Understand, there are now professional victims out there waiting to be offended.  There are even whole organizations poised to pounce at the mere utterance of anything that sounds offensive.  And that’s the clear distinction here.  Nobody would be defending ESPN if they called Jeremy Lin a chink but they didn’t.  The headline had nothing to do with an ethnic slur.

THAT’S THE POINT!

We are now being told we can’t even talk about anything that sounds offensive.  Take the Asian American Journalists Association.  These people have lost their minds.  They actually had the gall to issue a set of guidelines to follow when covering Jeremy Lin.  WHO ASKED YA?

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Mr. Valentine Ignores History

| February 27, 2012

By Richard Neer
WFAN, New York
Talk Show Host

NEW YORK — First, the advice I’m giving is pretty simple: In this day and age of instant communication, it is downright foolish to risk your career over what in the past might have been considered a harmless ethnic joke.  As to whether lifetime banishment is appropriate for a thoughtless remark, that’s another discussion.

Many factors go into what an employer should do in such cases.  It’s a judgment call as to intent.  Once a firestorm has been created around a specific comment, rarely will anyone admit that they deliberately put something out there that could be construed as offensive.  Excuses can be quite legitimate.  I very much doubt that everyone under 30 is aware that the word “chink” is a derogatory term for Chinese.  And the offending phrase including “in the armor” has been in usage for centuries in warfare and for decades as it pertains to a perceived weakness in an athletic sense.  We might be on a dangerous road that eventually will forbid the term “Achilles’ heel” as insulting to Greeks.  Not understanding every archaic phrase of the English language should not rise to the level of firing offense.

It would be great if the old adage that “words can never hurt me” could be applied in all cases. And if we could magically erase all bigotry from the world, there would be no need to take offense at any expression.  But sadly, we have not reached that point and I doubt we ever will. Therefore, any use of words that implies that my heritage is inferior to yours will be hurtful.  It’s easy to tell someone they shouldn’t be offended.  In practice however, it dismisses racial history. Would that we could all adhere to the philosophy expressed in the GEICO commercial and merely “skip the pancake social.”

The group identity question raised by Mr. Valentine ignores history as well.  In earlier times, how many Italians took pride in the accomplishments of Joe DiMaggio; or Irishmen with a number of champion boxers; or Jews with Hank Greenberg?  People vote for candidates for president sometimes on the sole basis that he’s “one of us,” even though his policies may be antithetical to their interests.  Why deny the same rooting interest to the Chinese or Taiwanese? Ethnic pride is raised by overcoming the negative stereotype – after years of being told that you can’t do something, people take satisfaction in proving that they can, thus putting the stereotypes to bed, at least temporarily.

I would agree that when the usage of a term is clearly unintentional, a reprimand and a warning about careless use of language should suffice.  It’s hard to read the dismissed ESPN employee’s statement that his actions should outweigh his words and not sympathize.  Employers should show more courage and loyalty toward their workers when an honest mistake has been made. And in the case of the suspended anchor who is actually married to an Asian, good sense should prevail over the expediency of punishment for the sake of public relations.

But until we reach that time of enlightenment, my original point stands: DON’T GO THERE. And educate yourself about which waters are perilous to tread and avoid them.  If that fails, pray that you have a supportive employer.

But what we can’t defend is if a media figure deliberately ignores sensitivities for the sake of a cheap laugh line.  In that case, beware the righteous wrath that will be unleashed.

 

Richard Neer is a sports talk host at WFAN, New York, an anchor on A Touch of Grey, and sports editor of TALKERS magazine. He can be e-mailed at info@talkers.com

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Controlling the Language

| February 24, 2012

By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
WWTN-FM, Nashville/Dial Global 

NASHVILLE — I read Richard Neer’s piece. (“When it Comes to Ethnic Slurs, Just Don’t Go There” 2/23/12) and, quite frankly, it frightened me.  Somehow too many people have succumbed to the notion that something doesn’t have to be offensive, it just has to sound offensive.  Case in point?  ESPN.

ESPN editor Anthony Federico found out the hard way.  His headline on ESPN’s website got him fired.  The egregious headline was as follows: “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets.”

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Ah, he should’ve known better,” but Federico says the word “chink” as a slur against someone Chinese never entered his mind.  “This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,” Federico told the New York Daily News.  Doesn’t matter, Anthony.  It sounded offensive to the self-anointed oversensitive media watchers and you were sacrificed at the altar of political correctness.

What really bugs me is how the mainstream media have portrayed Jeremy Lin as Chinese.  He’s no more Chinese than I am.  He was born and raised in California.  He’s as American as me yet he’s offered up as some kind of Chinese sensation.  They even show large groups of people gathered back in Taiwan crowded around big screen TVs.  Sure, his parents are from Taiwan, but he isn’t.

I wonder if these same media types ever talk about black athletes in terms of being “African.”  They indeed use the PC term “African-American” but not in their wildest dreams would they cut away to some folks in Nigeria watching NBA hoops.

Portraying a guy who ‘looks’ Chinese as being from China is as stereotypical as it gets.  It’s like all this glory in which Lin is basking is being piped back to the motherland.  How about some speculation that Lin is so hot right now because he’s able to calculate the trajectory of the ball in some freakishly difficult math equation because we all know Asians are great at math.

The week prior to Federico’s headline, ESPN anchor Max Bretos used the same term, “chink in the armor,” when asking a former Knicks player about Lin on the air.  It wasn’t until the Federico headline that Bretos was called on the carpet.  (I’m sorry.  Is that offensive to Arabs?  Carpet?  Did I mean flying carpet?)

By the way, Bretos was suspended for 30 days.  No word from ESPN as to why it is that saying it is less offensive than writing it.

So, let’s just strike the phrase “chink in the armor” from ESPN’s lexicon.  Forget that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone Chinese.  Doesn’t matter.  You think anyone else at ESPN is going to ever utter that phrase again, to anyone about anybody or anything?

See, this is what political correctness does.  Moreover, this is exactly what political correctness is designed to do.  It’s designed to control the language and as I wrote several years ago in the book The Conservative’s Handbook, controlling the language ranks right up there with controlling the currency.  In fact, it can be said that language is the currency of thought.  So now we have the very definition of the thought police.  Each and every person who writes or reports for ESPN will forever edit themselves before they ever let that term move from their mind to their mouth.  Mission accomplished.

The politically correct have a long list of words and phrases they want stricken from the language because they’ve managed to become offended on behalf of someone else.  Need I bring up the whole ‘Redskins/Braves’ brouhaha?

The folks at ESPN are now on notice.  Even the most innocent slip of the tongue can get you fired.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Indianapolis 500 is begun with, “Gentlemen, start your native Americans.”

 

Phil Valentine is a Dial Global nationally syndicated talk host based at WWTN-FM, Nashville.  He can be e-mailed at phil@philvalentine.com. 

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Overnight: The Underexploited Daypart

| February 2, 2012

By Walter Sabo
President
Sabo Media

NEW YORK — Overnights is the default win for talk radio.  Every format has a default time period when its format is used for  entertainment and functionality.  For example, Lite ACs excel in middays because they provide ambient sound for businesses.  Oldies are strong on weekends when people have parties and want to escape from weekday troubles.

The Media Audit reports that 8.2 million people regularly listen to the radio between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 5:00 am.  Talk radio has the biggest overnight audience — reaching 2.7 million people — followed by news/talk with 1.7 million.  CHR is the leading music format (and third overall) with 1.5 million overnight listeners, followed by sports (1.1 million).

Nearly one-third of 12:00 midnight to 5:00 am listeners (31.8%) are between the ages of 18 and 34 and nearly half are between the ages of 18 and 44.  The survey of 104,127 respondents finds more than one-third of night owls are single, which gives them more free time for leisure activities and a higher disposable income.

These listeners are students, third-shift workers like doctors and nurses, and people walking babies.  They are alone.  It’s quiet and they seek the companionship of a voice on the radio.

A live, local talk show will always be the #1 show in the city — often having more actual listeners than the same station has in morning drive.  30- and 40-shares have not been unusual.

Talk Radio’s “Big Game”

Live, local talk radio is largely a victim of the illusion of economies and cost cutting.  The statistics released this week by Media Audit are not new.  An Arbitron Run at any point in history would show the enormous appeal of local, all-night shows.  But the worthless, slimy idiots who are supposed to study numbers for companies and make objective recommendations imagine that since overnight brings in little revenue, all costs could be cut.  They fail to factor in the cross-promotion value for audience building and the introductory pricing that is appealing to new advertising.  Cutting local, all-night shows is cutting out the “Super Bowl” of talk radio — the audience and revenue feeder to the rest of the station.

Since all-night local, live talk has a default audience of people of all ages who need companionship, it brings in discreet cume to the stations.  That cume can be drawn to other dayparts.  All-night listeners represent an attentive, engaged cume that moves product off the shelf.

The keys to making money with all-night talk radio are a host who loves to read live copy and a sales person who believes in the daypart.  All nights — 1/4 of the broadcast day — will deliver results for any retailer because 100% of the audience is listening without distraction.  The voice and the listener, one-on-one; the most powerful communications dynamic in media.  Radio under the pillow.  Earplugs in the silent dormitory.  Glowing dial in the dash as the neon goes by.  The best medium.

Read responses to Walter’s piece from readers in our Letters section.

Walter Sabo can be reached at Walter@sabomedia.com or 646-456-1000.

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Doesn’t Anyone Remember the Creative and Exciting Insanity of Talk Radio?

| January 18, 2012

by LIONEL
Talk Radio Insanity Historian & Authority

 NEW YORK – As I’ve written before, talk radio was fun as a caller and even more so as a caller who got to “commit radio” himself.  I know, I realize that there’s the romanticization part of memory and recall in general that may and might certainly contaminate my recollection(s), but screw it.  It’s my memory and I’m sticking to it.

 The Prolegomenon

 I read every day of one dour story after another about my beloved radio and granted, there’s good reason for it. And it’s sad because at the rate things are devolving, I’m not sure if there will be new generations of talk radio folks in mainstream, conventional, terrestrial stick radio.  Or talk radio stations.  Or radio stations.  Period.  But I’m talking about the WKRP-esque environment that all of us who had the privilege of working in remember so fondly.

And simply put, there was an unregulated fun about the industry that went the way of the turntable.  I can’t remember any other time when I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my “job.”  Where folks were crazy, and I mean whacked. There was no HR department.  And, granted, there were at times no civility, comportment or maturity.  But too bad, Sparky, those were the breaks.  Folks were raunchy, very un-PC, crude, brash and unapologetic.  There was instead an unbridled creativity that I loved thoroughly.  And enough can’t be said about fun.  This crazy idea of fun that has been interpreted today as unprofessional.  And, there may be something to that . . . but I digress.

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Birth of an Online Media Station

| January 16, 2012

By Tom Gordon

MANALAPAN, NJ – Over the years, I have read many great articles in TALKERS that, as a talk show host, gave me countless ideas.  Some of my talk radio peers have been asking about the launch of my live, internet-based, New Jersey-oriented, drive time talk show.  So, I figured: what better place to answer those questions than right here, in TALKERS?

In April, 2004, I was hired to do a four-hour, late-night show at the nation’s number one FM talk station, New Jersey 101.5.  The hardest part of the job was getting used to the hours (11:00 pm – 3:00 am Sunday through Thursday) and the lack of calls. It was rough during those first three months, but, eventually, I was able to tap into Jersey’s busy late-night culture and build an extremely loyal following able to jam the phone lines for all four hours each night.  As the years flew by, I started to do more events with the wildly popular Jersey Guys, Craig Carton (currently doing mornings on WFAN, New York) and Ray Rossi, which boosted my name recognition and exposure by leaps and bounds.

Fast-forward to 2009: the show was as busy and popular as ever. I had even won multiple awards for helping the police in Old Bridge, New Jersey save a lost, elderly man on a freezing night when one of my listeners managed to spot him.  Yet, shortly after walking my daughter down the aisle that July, I was told that, because of financial difficulties, the live, late-night show was being cancelled; my position was eliminated.  After sending out resume after resume and talking with radio executives who explained to me that local talk radio is an expensive format, it became apparent that live and local talk radio was going the way of the dinosaur — toward extinction. So, after more than five years of working at least eight hours a day in order to build such a loyal audience, it was over.

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