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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.

On smart news/talk stations, weekend programming is appointment listening, and VERY sales-opportune.  But “smart,” as so-defined, has nothing to do with market size.  On stations in shockingly big markets, lots of weekend programming is downright embarrassing.  Meanwhile, plucky indie owners in small markets are cleaning-up, and creating what the lab-coat guys at Arbitron call “occasions of listening” by doing weekends right.

That’s the short version of a longer rant I shared a while back, of-which I’m still asked for copies.  Here’s yours: getonthenet.com/SolidGoldWeekend.pdf.

And here’s one thing you can do, right now, to mitigate tune-out, sound LOTS less like “your father’s Oldsmobile,” and help sales attain the digital revenue that’s radio’s #1 growth opportunity:

Drag “Swap Shop,” kicking-and-screaming, into the 21st Century.  In 2012, it makes zero sense to do a weekend hour of live classified ads by phone.

1. It’s an inefficient marketplace.  Only those listening in real-time can participate.

2. It’s gawd-awful programming which otherwise-prestigious stations continue to tolerate, often crowing, “It’s one of our most popular weekend shows!”  When you hear what else passes for weekend-programming, you’ll hear why.

3. It’s leaving digital money on-the-table.

21st Century Swap Shop?  Make it an eBay-type section of the station web site — or a non-station-branded stand-alone site, promoted on all your cluster’s stations — using off-the-shelf software.


1. Doing this rides the horse in the direction he’s facing.  People use the internet for consignment shopping.

2. It will produce better results.  Rather than using one-time/real-time/off-peak-time long form, produce :60 short form spots, featuring callers’ item-and-price pitches, culled from a voicemail number announced in the spot and in promos and online.  Those spots run ROS, so offers are exposed to the station(s)’ entire cume(s), not just those listening in real-time.

3. You never have an unsold avail.

4. You sound lots less antique.

5. And I saved the best for last: You derive more revenue from that hour by brokering it smartly.  Your station has more 60-second avails than 60-minute avails.

Oh, one more aspect that’s particularly tantalizing: Your FREE classifieds are a-dagger-through the newspaper’s heart.

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

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Category: Opinions