By Holland Cooke
And in the words of now-retired radio traffic reporter Bob Marbourg – a rock star to heavy listeners when he was part of my WTOP crew in the 1980s – “Pick your lane and stay with it.”
Non-music stations, particularly AMs, are at a fork in the road:
A) Be known as the station that knows the very latest about the vaccine; and is generally cheerful and conspicuously helpful with the other day-to-day content Mike McVay calls “survival information;” or
B) Be known as the station that scoffs at the vaccine, because this whole pandemic hoax is about government control. And, generally, be safe space for soreheads who think FOX News has gone soft.
Hybrids in the mushy middle are insufficiently-defined, because SO many choices now crowd the consumer’s media menu. Two dispensations for “B” type stations:
- Play-by-play, which brings high-affinity cume, sells-without-numbers, and largely airs outside the Monday-Friday 6A-7P window where anger talk festers; and
- Weekend specialty programming: It’s super-sales-friendly. And done right, it can become appointment listening. Even local brokered hours…IF those-brokering “can talk,” and are coached.
It can’t get much worse.
If you’re a “B” station, ambiguity is your enemy. So repeat after me…
- The election was stolen. The My Pillow guy has “Absolute Proof.”
- It’s “the China Virus;” and he who branded it that is in no way responsible for appalling insults and assaults Asian-Americans now suffer.
- “Joe Biden and the radical left want open borders.” Dr. Fauci is wrong. Build the pipeline.
- Executive Orders from Republicans = good; from Democrats = bad.
- In any given public war-of-words du jour, the righty’s response “eviscerated” the lefty.
- Joining Buddah, Jesus, Cher, Cochise, Madonna and Beyonce, “Tucker” is now enshrined in the pantheon of one-word names.
- Permeate lengthy monologues with these keywords: “elites,” “The Democrat’ Party,” “unmitigated gall,” “liberty,” “Nazi Germany” and “fascism,” “Big Tech,” “Second Amendment Rights,” “Dr. Seuss,” and “Nancy Pelosi.”
It’s getting better all the time.
By comparison, “A” stations want “B” stations to sound like that muted trombone when the grown-ups speak in “It’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Same-old-same-old day-after-wearying-day. Vintage SNL reference: Like Francisco Franco, Rush Limbaugh “is still dead.”
Final TV metaphor, I promise! As George Costanza preached: Do the opposite. Two recent surveys are instructive:
- Gallup numbers peg Americans’ frame-of-mind at a 16-month high. Among those surveyed, “Life Satisfaction” has bounced-back to near-pandemic levels. And “Significant Daily Stress” matches pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the shutdown. And “Significant Daily Worry” continues to ease too.
- And I was surprised and encouraged when a recent research briefing I attended included Ipsos polling data demonstrating that – today vs. a-year-ago – Americans are much more hopeful and much less stressed, worried, frustrated, overwhelmed-and-burned-out, sad, and angry.
Until now, when you heard a station brand as “Your Only Local News Radio,” you might have been listening to one of my clients. If that’s your situation, help yourself.
John and Paul were both right, as was Bob. Talk stations: Pick your lane and stay with it.
Holland Cooke is the author of the E-book “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). He is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. And HC hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America. Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke