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Monday Memo: Was Rush the Format? As the American comeback unfolds, polls demonstrate widespread optimism. “Yet,” consultant Holland Cooke reckons, there’s “a day-after-day negativity, a wearying sameness, among the half-dozen hosts vying for the Rush Limbaugh hours” on his affiliate stations. And in this week’s column, Cooke warns against typecasting the format as political talk: “If we learned one thing during the pandemic shutdown, it’s people’s appetite for ‘survival information.’” Read his column here.
Pending Business: Why Buy? Sales and marketing pro Steve Lapa says that if you ask yourself the question: Why buy advertising on your station, you know the answers to this in your sleep. “Yet why do three different sellers give three different answers? It sounds silly, but even at the best run stations, large market or small, my experience is the answers vary a little too much.” He offers eight questions to ask yourself that will help you formulate the answers to that question: Why buy? Read it here.
Townsquare Media Q1 Net Revenue Down 5.1%; Digital Revenue Up 13%. Reporting its financial data for the first quarter of 2021, Townsquare Media reveals total net revenue was $88.8 million, a decline of 5.1% from the same period in 2020. The company’s net loss shrinks dramatically from $59.5 million in the first quarter of 2020 to $6.1 million in Q1 of 2021. Operating income also did an about-face, shrinking from a loss of $72.1 million in Q1 of 2020 to income of $8.8 million this year. Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson says, “We are extremely proud to report that Townsquare’s first quarter 2021 results approached, and in some cases exceeded, levels achieved in the pre-COVID first quarter of 2019, which surpassed our expectations and previously stated guidance. In the first quarter of 2021, net revenue declined -5% year over year, and -1.6% excluding political and Live Events net revenue. When excluding Live Events net revenue, first quarter net revenue increased +0.3% as compared to the first quarter of 2019. Total digital revenue growth accelerated to +13% year over year (+32% vs. Q1 2019), contributing nearly 49% of Townsquare’s total first quarter net revenue. Our digital revenue growth was fueled by Townsquare Interactive, our digital marketing solutions subscription business, Townsquare Ignite, our digital programming advertising platform, and Townsquare Amped, digital advertising on our owned and operated brands, which increased revenue year over year by +15%, +12%, and +11%, respectively. Impressively, TSI, Ignite, and Amped’s first quarter net revenue exceeded Q1 2019 revenue levels by +34%, +45%, and +15%, respectively. Over the next three years, we expect to grow our digital net revenue from $167 million (on a trailing twelve-month basis as of March 31, 2021) to $250 million. The strong growth of our digital revenue, together with our strong expense management, led to Adjusted EBITDA increasing nearly +30% over the prior year. I am especially proud to share that first quarter Adjusted EBITDA of $20.1 million is +$1.3 million, or +7%, higher than Q1 2019’s pro forma Adjusted EBITDA, and +$2.1 million, or +12%, higher when excluding profit from Live Events.”
The Mayor and the Mobster. Nationally syndicated Compass Media Networks talk star Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo scored an amazing one-hour double interview with former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former high-profile mobster Michael Franzese last week which he ran on Tuesday through Friday (5/4-7) as a four-part special series on his radio show titled, “The Mayor and the Mobster.” Giuliani prosecuted Franzese 40 years ago at a time when the two men were arch enemies. Much has changed since then in terms of their relationship. In a fascinating conversation about the nature of crime fighting, prosecution, and redemption, the two men have more than reconciled their differences as indicated in a wonderful interview conducted brilliantly by Pags. You can watch the entire 56-minute conversation captured on video by clicking here.
Missouri House Passes Bill to Make January 12 ‘Rush Limbaugh Day.’ The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill last Thursday (5/6) that would make January 12 “Rush Limbaugh Day” in honor of the Cape Girardeau, Missouri native who died in February at age 70. The bill met with opposition from Democratic House members, including Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove who criticized Limbaugh for “constant attacks on Black people and other people of color,” according to a report by the AP. Republican Rep. Sara Walsh, a supporter of the bill, said, “Rush demonstrated courage to speak boldly and encouraged his listeners and viewers to reach for their dreams and to push onward beyond the naysayers and discouragers that we all encounter in life.” The bill must pass the Missouri Senate before it moves on to the governor’s office.
AdLarge and Sounds Profitable Partner for ‘Up Next – A Podcast UpFront.’ Audio ad sales network AdLarge Media partners with podcast ad tech publication Sounds Profitable to launch Up Next – A Podcast UpFront. The companies say that “embracing a ‘never-been-done-before’ concept, Up Next utilizes the podcast format to promote podcasting with two acclaimed industry leaders hosting the series, FRQNCY founder/CEO Michelle Khouri and Edison Research SVP, Tom Webster. The idea originated from a brainstorming session between the leadership team at AdLarge and Sounds Profitable and is NOT an event but rather a podcast series specifically designed to showcase the multiple facets of the podcast industry including publishers, networks, content producers, and more. No special invitation required to listen to the podcasts, they are available to everyone.” In the first season of the Up Next series, AdLarge’s premiere episode focuses on the power of podcast advertising in addition to exploring the intriguing and valuable aspects of the podcasting world. The AdLarge season consists of six episodes, which also includes sample episodes from some of the most favored podcasts in the space today such as: “Crime Junkie,” “Swindled,” “The Hey Girl Podcast,” “The Trip,” and “Kill Me Now with Judy Gold.” AdLarge SVP, head of revenue operations & digital sales Ilwira Marciszek says, “It’s crazy that no one thought of this earlier. We know podcasts get results. This is the perfect way to get in front of people on their own time. I’m beyond thrilled to use the medium we’re selling to showcase the power of podcasting.” You can learn more here.
Broadcasters Foundation of America Seeks Donations to Counter Lost Fundraising Events. The Broadcasters Foundation of America is in need of donations to counter the loss of funds from major fundraising events that were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. A 501(c)3 charity, the BFoA is the only organization dedicated exclusively to providing financial aid to broadcasters and their families whose lives have been upended by debilitating illness, accident, or catastrophe. BFoA chairman Scott Herman says, “In its more than 70 years of existence, the Broadcasters Foundation has provided financial assistance to every broadcaster who qualified, and we want to continue that track record. These men and women are our colleagues, and unthinkable tragedy has left them unable to work. We cannot turn our backs on them.” Cancelled fundraisers for the Broadcasters Foundation include the Celebrity Golf Tournament, the Golden Mike Award, and the Philip J. Lombardo Charity Golf Tournament. Personal and corporate donations can be made here.
COVID-19, GOP vs Cheney, Rising Consumer Goods Prices, Weekend Gun Deaths in U.S., Gas Pipeline Hack, Biden’s Infrastructure Plan, Afghanistan Girls School Bombing, and Arabian Sea Arms Seizure Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., vaccine hesitancy, and the outbreak in India; U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney faces losing her GOP leadership role for not carrying the stolen election banner; concerns about the fast-rising prices of gas and consumer goods; the slaying of six at a Colorado Springs birthday party and numerous other gun deaths over the weekend; the hacking of a gas pipeline by Russia-based operatives; President Joe Biden to push his infrastructure plan this week; the bombing at a girls school in Afghanistan that killed 85 people; and the U.S. Navy seizes a large weapons cache in the Arabian Sea were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Michael Harrison Animal Welfare Music Video Going Viral on YouTube. The animal welfare anthem “I Know You’re Real” that appears on the new Gunhill Road album What Year Is This! has been picking up an accelerating number of views this past week – approximately 1,400 per day – solely based thus far on radio interviews. The song’s lyrics, penned by Michael Harrison and recited by him on the recording and video, discuss the metaphysical nature of the relationship between humans and animals as well as the connectedness of all sentient life forms to the universe at large. The video, described by talk media host Thom Hartmann as “a masterpiece,” displays a fascinating array of photos and video clips depicting animals – domestic and wild – and cosmic images. Harrison recently became a regular working member of the legendary NYC-based band that has been around since the late 1960s. To book Harrison to appear as a guest talking about animal welfare, cosmic consciousness, and the golden days of FM rock radio, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Barbara Kurland at TALKERS at 413-565-5413. To view the video, please click here.
WJFK-FM, Washington at Center of Washington Football Team Investigation Controversy. As Mike Florio reports in Yahoo! Sports, Entercom’s sports talk WJFK-FM, Washington reported on Friday (3/5) that the NFL-ordered investigation into the culture of the Washington Football Team organization – especially regarding allegations of sexual harassment from women – led by attorney Beth Wilkinson has concluded that owner Daniel Snyder should be forced to sell the team. However, yesterday (3/8) the station issued a retraction because the NFL says the story is untrue and it has not yet received the Wilkinson report. The question is whether WJFK-FM received a stolen copy of the report or if Wilkinson herself tipped the radio station. In its statement, WJFK-FM said, “We do believe in the authenticity of the documents we reviewed, and that they are from the Wilkinson investigation, but we are unable to confirm that the report was a final draft or that it had been delivered to the League Office. As soon as we are able to report anything further on this, we will let you know — both as to what occurred in our Friday report and regarding the Wilkinson investigation generally.”
Radio Hall of Fame Announces Nomination Period Is Open. The Museum of Broadcast Communications announces that the Radio Hall of Fame nominating committee is now accepting suggestions for 2021 nominees through March 31. Suggestions for Radio Hall of Fame nominees can be made in the following categories: Longstanding Local/Regional (20 years or more); Active Local/Regional (10 years or more); Networks/Syndication (10 years or more); Longstanding Network/Syndication (20 years or more); Music Format On-Air Personality; and Spoken Word On-Air Personality. Radio Hall of Fame chairman Kraig T. Kitchin says, “We’re looking forward to celebrating the lifelong talents and career milestones of some of radio’s greatest! The first part of our annual process is fielding suggestions from listeners and industry members alike. It’s our priority to provide everyone the opportunity to be a part of this process.” Inductees will be honored at the annual Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with plans to be held live in Chicago at a date to be announced later this year.
AdLarge Promotes Two Executives. Two AdLarge vice presidents are being promoted to senior vice president. Donelle Brown rises to SVP of marketing insights & client relations and Ilwira Marciszek becomes SVP, head of revenue operations and digital sales. In her new role, Donelle Brown will continue to drive marketing strategy and messaging across terrestrial and digital audio channels, as well as overall company branding and communications. Ilwira Marciszek will continue to focus on sales operations, tech, and partner relationships that drive revenue for the company. AdLarge co-CEO Cathy Csukas says, “[Co-CEO] Gary [Schonfeld] and I are so fortunate to have not only one but two phenomenal leaders on our team that have played such a significant role in the success of this company. Their enthusiasm and diligence have been instrumental in our growth in both radio and podcasting. We could not be prouder to recognize their hard work, talent, and dedication.”
Edison Research: Ownership of Smart Speakers Up 22%. According to data from Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2021, 33% of all Americans now own a smart speaker, a 22% increase from 2020, with those working from home even more likely to own one of the devices. Forty-nine percent of Americans who work from home own at least one smart speaker such as an Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or other brand. Edison will reveal more data from the research project at Thursday’s 2:00 pm ET webinar. It says The Infinite Dial 2021 report “provides the most up-to-date research on U.S. digital audio and podcast consumption, while reflecting the effects of a global pandemic and quarantine restrictions on audio and other digital media behaviors.” You can register here.
‘New Jersey 101.5’ to Hold Unemployment Town Hall. News/talk WKXW-FM, Trenton “New Jersey 101.5” is presenting a digital-exclusive town hall this Thursday (3/11) at 7:00 pm to address the issue of out-of-work residents struggling to get unemployment benefits. The half-hour program will be hosted by New Jersey 101.5 morning news anchor and director of special projects Eric Scott featuring New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo answering previously submitted questions from residents. Scott says, “Despite New Jersey distributing over $30 billion in jobless aid since the pandemic began, there are still tens of thousands who have received no benefits. Our goal is to connect those individuals with the help they need to get their claims processed.”
TALKERS News Notes. Nationally syndicated talk host Larry Elder is the subject of a piece in the monthly magazine Chronicles, published by the Charlemagne Institute – dedicated to “defending and advancing Western Civilization.” Salem Radio Network’s Elder is profiled in the piece and author Roger D. McGrath praises Elder’s recent documentary film Uncle Tom…..According to a story in the New York Post, Greg Kelly is joining Red Apple Media’s WABC, New York to serve as early afternoon host while Curtis Sliwa is on a leave of absence while he runs for mayor of New York. Kelly is currently also host of the “Greg Kelly Reports” program seen at 7:00 pm ET on Newsmax TV…..iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman and president, COO and CFO Rich Bressler will participate in a question and answer session during Deutsche Bank’s “29th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference 2021” tomorrow (3/10) at 1:00 pm ET.
COVID-19 Stats & Vaccines, Stimulus Bill, Voting Rights Issues, Andrew Cuomo Sexual Harassment Allegations, Migrant Surge, Capitol Riot Investigation, Derek Chauvin Trial, Harry & Meghan Interview Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/8). The rate of positive COVID cases in the U.S., worries about variants, and the rollout of vaccines; the Biden COVID stimulus bill goes back to the House for a final vote; Joe Biden’s voting rights bill and bills being written to curtail voting accessibility in several states; the growing number of sexual harassment allegations against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border; the investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot; the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin; and the Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan interview were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.