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Talk Radio’s Dream Come True?

| November 9, 2016

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant


cookewriterNEW YORK — After nearly two years of campaign noise, many Americans were eager “for it to end.”  But November 8 was a beginning.  And with the manners our parents preached now scorned as political correctness, the noise will only get louder.  In the social media era, broadcasters’ challenge is to cut through that clutter.

Donald Trump will be President of The United States, and the implications for radio’s top format are profound.

Two things Trump got quite right:

Washington sure is broken.  Millions of GOP voters who couldn’t pick Mitch McConnell out of a police lineup resent the obstructionism he’s led, beginning with a just-say-no meeting the evening of President Obama’s first inauguration.  When The Donald shouted “Turn Washington upside down!” fed-up Republican voters were cheering against both parties.  Yet several GOP senators who had promised to “repeal and replace Obamacare” — then didn’t — got re-elected anyway.  Trump’s messaging was THAT effective.

“Make America Great Again” and other keep-it-simple bumpersticker speak was so easily digestible that voters were undaunted by a blooper reel which betrayed a shallow grasp of policy and a tactless personality.  Compromised by post-consolidation cutbacks, radio should image so effectively.

Even President Hillary couldn’t have rejuvenated a tired narrative.

One of my clients – a station owner who is a Limbaugh + Hannity affiliate – had feared that a Clinton win would clobber conservative talkers, because their listeners would be too dispirited.  I disagreed, reminding him that, historically, political talk radio has done best when its voices are the-party-on-the-outs.  Now, that’s moot.

Witness the power of radio.  Trump’s win should embolden sales.  Fuss over commercial copy, and – TODAY – remind advertisers that repetition works.  Reps: Stop reading this right now and put a new package on the street.

For hosts, the game now shifts from offense to defense, as the 2016 vote calls talk radio’s bluff.  Now we’ll build a big, beautiful wall and Mexico will pay for it, right?

After a giddy victory lap, radio righties need to incorporate Trump Technique.

I’m not saying talk like what we heard on the Billy Bush tape.  But it’s time to modify a method we’ve conformed to since the circa 1990 “Talk Radio Revolution,” back before the Internet.

Format Caricature Contemporary Preferences
I talk, you listen.

We all know — and tolerate – a family member or co-worker who has an opinion about EVERYTHING.  Would you want that joyless person in your car pool?


I hear you.

Talk isn’t just different than music radio.  It’s better, because it’s two-way radio, the dialogue to which people now feel entitled.

For the 22 years I’ve been consulting full-time, I have been nagging…er, “encouraging” hosts to aim for high call count.  This irks hosts who ape Rush and over-estimate listeners’ appetite for monologue.

The morning after Election Day, stunned MSNBC-ers said, in unison, “He listened to the people.”

Democrats bad, Republicans good.

The old “them and us.”

Democrats AND Republicans bad.

The new “them and us.”  Voters told us they want to “shake things up.”

I’m right, you’re wrong.

Oh yeah?

We’re right, they’re wrong.

WHO “we” are will now emerge, and Talk Radio should conduct that conversation.

I wince when I hear radio talkers deride “the mainstream media…”

…while their sales reps are on the street telling prospective advertisers that’s what the station is.  They’re sure not pitching radio as a fringe medium.

What didn’t change on Election Day is the importance of radio fundamentals.  Listeners’ craving to be heard is ravenous.  Earn their attention, by climbing down off the soap box and opening up the phone lines.

And, on a personal note: If you’re sitting on cash in your IRA, watch for bargains.  Wall Street fears uncertainty, and didn’t wait for the morning after.  As Trump’s Electoral Vote count mounted, Dow Jones Futures plummeted.  NASDAQ and S&P 500 Futures halted trading.  Reportedly, the Canadian Immigration website crashed.


Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke, and see his video “Make Money With Endorsement Spots” on TalkersTV.

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Category: Advice, Opinions