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Monday Memo: Emulate Success

| August 17, 2020

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Not an opinion: One voice sustains attention less than two.

  • Philadelphia radio maven Jerry Lee invested good research money learning that two-voice commercials produce better results that single-voice spots.
  • And music stations’ remaining local morning shows tend to be multi-voice.
  • If you’re a local host at a Rush Limbaugh station, and you reckon that his lengthy monologues entitle you to drone on, run the numbers and compare his Time Spent Listening to yours. Keep it moving.
  • Whether you’re an ask-the-expert show or a political talker, one-caller-after-another make you sound popular and authoritative, and certainly habit-forming.
  • Podcasters: Because simply acquiring your work asks so much of the listener, this matters most to you.

Well-chosen, well-conducted interviews can MAKE news, and help sound more local (more important than ever with all the cutbacks).

Emulate the success of top talkers.

Tip, based on decades observing Larry King’s technique: The shorter your question, the more interesting the answer is likely to be.  I remember him asking Bob Hope “Who do YOU think is funny?” And he asked David Duke “Don’t you ever get tired of hating?”

 “I never learned anything while I was talking.”

— The King of Talk, Larry King

“What do I like in an interview? I like it when the host asks a question and then listens to the guest’s answer and then reacts to that answer with an amplification through the next question.”

 — Dennis Miller

 “My basic approach to interviewing is to ask the basic questions that might even sound naive, or not intellectual. Sometimes when you ask the simple questions like ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What do you do?’ you learn the most.”

— C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, describing a technique that was also the hallmark of the late, great Tom Snyder.

 “Most people aren’t really listening and have no idea how to carry on a conversation.  They’re waiting for people to stop talking so they can start.  I’m generally interested in what people have to say.  I’m not that interested in my side of the story.”

— Jay Leno

 “Don’t do interviews. Make it a conversation.”

— Jack Paar’s advice to young Dick Cavett

 “It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.”

— Dick Cavett, whose genuine curiosity got guests to say things that got quoted.

 “Let the answer hang there for two or three or four seconds.”

— Mike Wallace

 “Tell me a story.”

— “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt, who explained the success of TV’s most-watched news show “in four words.”

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 “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page).  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice