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Monday Memo: Sulking? or SHINING?

| April 6, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Radio’s group owners continue to announce talent cutbacks, the bigger the company the worse the bleeding.  Not a happy time.  And not just for the on-air side.

Sales is scrambling too.

  • I continue to be impressed by pandemic-pertinent messages from nimble advertisers who understand that NO other medium can match radio’s ability to tell lots of people something quickly.
  • Glenn Beck asked: “You know the difference between what’s happening now and ‘Mad Max?’ Omaha Steaks!”  Had I, personally, not just taken delivery of two of those big Styrofoam containers, I would have picked-up-the-phone.
  • Last week here, I listed some smart local sales tactics I’m hearing. ICYMI:

This is radio’s time to shine.

Stations that do will be conspicuous.

  • Like their lives generally, listeners’ media consumption habits are now radically atypical, will be for the foreseeable future; and when the pandemic has passed those habits will be forever changed.
  • Assume that people are sampling content and dayparts – and using devices – that they don’t usually. You never get a second chance to make a first impression; and you’re making yours right now.  “Discovery” in consultant-talk.
  • Music stations: You HAVE killed those listen-at-work liners, right?

 “Great days” for News/Talk?  Maybe.

  • Housebound listeners are watching TV. Roku’s chief marketing officer Matthew Anderson tells The Wall Street Journal: “Traditionally, you’d have TV viewing that was very heavy in the morning and very heavy in primetime.  We’re seeing that between 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm is showing the largest increases.”
  • And quarantining has whacked TSL in-car, where the format thrives. So Alexa matters a LOT.
  • But however they hear you, are you merely beleaguering the business-as-usual format caricature political narrative? Or are you an empathetic companion, sharing solutions?

 “Greetings, virus people!”

PD and host Ken Freedman calls his WFMU, Jersey City “your station from the epicenter!”

Interviewed for The New York Times report “Community Radio Fights to Stay Live (and Weird) Despite Coronavirus,” Freedman call this “the situation that so many broadcasters dream of!  You have a global, captive audience, and everyone can share and commiserate their experiences.”

Or to quote Brittany Madera, morning host at client station ConnectFM: “What an honor it is to be able to do this.” Supportive simpatico means a lot to stressed listeners.

Hey, times were tight – and tightening – even before the pandemic.  “Local talent” is dang-near an oxymoron.

But, clearly, it is radio’s future, if radio is to have one, with digital use so heavy and growing.

  • Otherwise, are music stations just Pandora-with-too-many-commercials?
  • And as Rush tells us he’s needed a wheelchair lately, talk stations built-around plug-N-play syndicated long-form need to innovate a new business model for The New Normal.

Stay safe.

Holland Cooke ( is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.

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Category: Advice