Program a Talk Station Like a Music Station – Sort of - TALKERS magazine

Program a Talk Station Like a Music Station – Sort of

| November 23, 2021

By Jon Quick
Jon Q Consulting


CARMEL, Ind. — Just as a music programmer has a music playlist, smart programmers, producers and hosts will have a topics playlist.

The topics playlist will appeal to your target audience. The list will continue to change and evolve every day. Too often we play topics that the host alone is interested in. Consider audience first. Does it matter to them? If so, go for it.

Then, as in the case of a music programmer, judge the topic. Decide how often you ‘rotate’ it. There are those rare occasions where one topic might take up the whole show or the entire day — if, for example, a major industry decides to leave the area, leaving hundreds jobless.

Generally, though, you will work with a variety of topics each day.

Understand, too, that it’s OK to repeat topics. Your audience changes. If something works well in the 6:00 am hour, it’s OK to repeat it in the 8:00 am hour. It’s also OK to playback an excerpt of something that was great radio the day before. In fact, I encourage it. We play a hit song more than once, right?

Remember, also, if there was a ‘magic moment’ that happened earlier in the day on another show, play it again. Or work it into a promo.  “In case you missed it this morning … etc.” It’s up to the various hosts to work together to share great pieces for this type of usage.

While you want to be as topical as possible each and every day, for this audience, there are evergreen topics that always work. Just as there are certain songs on a music radio station that will most always be on the playlist.

The Evergreen Topics List

Some of them are:

Your money. Investing, saving for college, making your paycheck go further, coupons, bargains, ways to make extra money, cheap gas, the list goes on and on.

General business and consumer news is always HOT.  I’d add more of this on a regular basis both in news and programming, especially how the Dow did today and stocks of local interest.



Family and Kid related issues, such as Facebook, social media, violence on TV and video games, the list here also goes on and on.


Education and related issues, such as bullying, alternatives to college, many more.

Any controversial issue in the news that is relevant to the target.

Any other issue in the news that is relevant to the target.

National issues, OK, as long as it is creating street talk, and localize when possible.

The Blacklist

Things that the host(s) cares about but not the audience. Remember no one really cares about what you did over the weekend. Unless you were breaking news.

Things that are in the news but of no interest to the target audience. They cater to an audience too young, or too old.  Stay away from them.

Today’s celebrity and entertainment news. So often when I see research on topics of interest to a news/talk listener, it is at the bottom of the list. Oh, and birthdays too.  Same for “On this Day in History.” Tired old crutches.

And Yes, a Talk Radio Music Playlist

At the same time, we should ‘relate’ to this target through the style of our station production and imaging. We should be playing the music that appeals to our target.  Generally not complete songs.  I’m talking about image music and re-joiners.

Use music ‘topically’ as well. Example: On a hot summer day with record high temperatures, maybe you return from the break with “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone. Let the right music ‘punctuate’ your topic.

And Even a Guest Playlist

If you have guests, develop a stable of great guests who appeal to the target and who are compelling, interesting, informative, entertaining. Make them regulars.

Don’t totally depend on them. Experiment. Find new and exciting guests. Take some risks. But if it doesn’t work, cut it short.

Most importantly, each and every day start prep sessions with a question. “What does my audience really want to know more about today? What topics will be most relevant to their lives?

And that’s what you give them.

When you play a bad topic, it’s just as serious as playing a bad record on music radio.

Jon Quick has worked with many great radio brands in his career, including WCCO, WIBC, WDAY, KFGO, KTAR, KLBJ, KFTK, and Corus Radio, Canada.  Today he specializes in consulting and talent coaching for brands nationwide.  He can be reached at 317-432-0309, or

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Category: Advice