Category: Opinions

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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