Talk Radio, Recalibrated for The Trump Era? | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Talk Radio, Recalibrated for The Trump Era?

| January 17, 2017

By Holland Cooke
Media Consultant


cookewriterBLOCK ISLAND, RI — Radio’s top format now pivots, as the 2016 vote shoulders conservative talkers with the “mainstream media” mantle they have relentlessly disdained.

Positioning as fringe always seemed dubious, while station reps were touting radio as the #1 reach medium.  So take the win.  It’s a face-saving opportunity to tell listeners (and advertisers) things are good now.  There’s a psychological component to recession, and historically, we’re overdue for one.

In my December newsletter, I offered a format forecast for talk radio.  If you missed the download TALKERS offered then, help yourself at  No login or email required.  On the home page, scroll down to “Voices Radio Will Miss in 2017.”  As we prepare to witness history this week, an update…

In his farewell address, President Obama suggested that “if you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in person.” 

  • To their credit, some of radio’s more strident conservatives have been doing both: Using their social following to round-up the like-minded in town hall style meetings. I’ve heard hosts on some Cumulus stations invite listeners to “Politics and a Pint” dialogue at local watering holes, an opportunity to bond.
  • The opinion industry is thriving, even as social media end-run broadcast media. Listeners expect to be heard and no longer need radio to converse.  So hosts who overdo monologue and shortchange dialogue will suffer.

Because the opinion industry has spot avails, there’s punditry aplenty lately.  But… 

…don’t over-think the 2016 vote.

  • 25.6% of registered voters voted for Mrs. Clinton. 25.5% voted for Mr. Trump.  1.7% voted for Mr. Johnson.  46.9% didn’t bother voting.
  • Since FDR won four times, Democrats and Republicans tend to take two-term turns in the White House. Ike did 8 years, then Kennedy/Johnson, then Nixon/Ford.  Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Bush 43 and Barack Obama each served 8 years.  I was born during the Truman administration, and in my lifetime, only Jimmy Carter and Bush 41 were one-termers.
  • Trump won the nomination by doing well what-we-do-for-a-living: communicating. And for all the praise about besting 16 other GOP-ers: Did you really think Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsay Graham, or Bobby Jindal would win?
  • General election numbers point to tactics rather than strategy. Move fewer than 100,000 votes in just several states Mrs. Clinton took for granted, and she would be our 45th.  Trump worked the heartland and probably spent more on baseball caps than TV spots there.  Hillary’s (and Jeb Bush’s) message needed to be more than “I’m not him” while he was SO entertaining.
  • Coattails happen. Trump’s helped re-elect congressional Republicans whose gridlock infuriated the base.

The smartest thing talkers can now do is listen.

Read the room better than the media did in 2016.  As Election Day approached, Rush Limbaugh sounded exasperated and resigned to the inevitability of a Clinton win, while Michael Moore was telling anyone willing to listen that Trump had it in the bag.

Trump voters took him seriously-but-not-literally, and the media took him literally-but-not-seriously.

  • Our job is converting cume to Quarter Hour. Best way, as we know from heaps of ratings data: Get people who listen to your station most to listen even more times per week.  TRUMP’S STORY IS A GIFT.  Be known for sounding-on-top-of-it, and you’ll earn more occasions from those who are curious and enthused for the future…and from those who fear it.
  • Admittedly, curiosity seems less en vogue lately. Lots of the social media angerfest is defending predisposition, recreational acrimony.  We choose to believe what we choose to believe.

“Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.”

Also from the Obama Farewell

Safe assumption: No minds will change soon.  But stay tuned.


Holland Cooke is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke; and look for HC’s TalkersTV video “Choose Your Words Carefully” at

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Category: Opinions