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By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — A station I often hear pronounces itself “The Station of Record,” a designation no authority has actually bestowed. Besides being bogus, this claim sounds dated. The Internet has made users the authority. When we can read online reviews, authorities like movie critics and Consumer Reports, etc. are old school.
Self-important station-centric claims ask listeners to care – even admire — how WE are doing. Instead, explain how you help how THEY’RE doing.
Audacy and Radio America Reach Deal to Syndicate ‘The Dana Show’ to 11 Stations in Multi-Platform Deal. As had been rumored a couple of weeks ago, Audacy and Radio America have agreed to a new, multi-platform deal that will put “The Dana Show,” starring Dana Loesch, on 11 Audacy news/talk stations. In addition to the affiliate clearances, Audacy will become the exclusive audio streaming provider for “The Dana Show” and Loesch will collaborate with Audacy on the development and production of her first-ever, original on-demand podcast. “The Dana Show” will fill the 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm ET daypart previously held by the late Rush Limbaugh on: KMBZ-AM, Kansas City; KXNT-AM, Las Vegas; WRVA-AM/WTVR-HD2, Richmond; KNSS-AM/FM, Wichita, WSKY-FM, Gainesville, Florida; and WYRD-FM, Greenville-Spartanburg. The show will also re-air during various times on WPHT-AM, Philadelphia; KJCE-AM, Austin; WBEN-AM, Buffalo; KFTK-FM, St. Louis; and WTIC-AM, Hartford. Audacy EVP of programming Jeff Sottolano says, “We’re thrilled to partner with Radio America and welcome Dana Loesch to our broadcast and digital platform. Dana is a leading conservative voice and influencer and both her daily live show and future original podcast are terrific additions to our best-in-class news and talk offerings.” Radio America COO Mike Paradiso adds, “During this pivotal moment in talk radio, the partnership with Audacy and Dana’s show is exciting because it represents our shared vision on radio’s future for the news/talk format. Audacy’s leading digital platform is also the perfect fit for Dana’s growing digital audience. We look forward to working closely with Audacy’s content team, led by Jeff Sottolano, to make ‘The Dana Show’ a key element on each of their hugely successful Audacy news/talk stations.” Dana Loesch says of the new deal, “I look forward to working with the great team at Audacy. Their digital platform is a great fit for my streaming and podcast audience and their top-rated radio stations are a phenomenal addition to my loyal radio fan base.”
Pending Business: New Talent, New Rules. Sales pro Steve Lapa, president of Lapcom Communications Corp, writes in today’s column about the challenges sellers face when a longtime talk talent leaves your station and you are pitching a new program. “This round will be different as many stations try and replace a proven ratings winner with new talent, never before tested in the time period in your market. An audience that has been built up over years may start dial surfing with a newfound curiosity. What happens if audience levels wobble through the short term as your competitor pushes the emergency stop button?” Read his advice here.
Shelby Cassesse to Host Weekend Show on ‘98.7 The Fan’ in Pittsburgh. A piece by Joshua Axelrod in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiles KDKA-AM, Pittsburgh news anchor Shelby Cassesse who is launching a Sunday morning sports talk show on Audacy’s sister KDKA-FM “98.7 The Fan.” Cassesse will be the first (and only) woman to host a sports talk show on KDKA-FM who was not a contest winner. Her new show will air from 7:00 am to 9:00 am on Sundays on a scattered schedule that is expected to become an every-other-Sunday program. She tells the paper, “When the opportunity was presented to me, it was an instant, ‘Well, yeah, of course I’m going to do this!’ It’s one of the greatest professional opportunities I’ve been given. It’s something I never anticipated doing in my career because I always saw myself as a reporter. It’s truly incredible, and I’m beyond thrilled to be doing it. It’s definitely not lost on me that few women have had this opportunity, especially here in Pittsburgh. I don’t want that to be what people see me as. I’m happy to take on that title, and I’m glad to celebrate it, too, because it needs to be celebrated.”
Saga’s WTAX, Springfield, Illinois Getting New FM Frequency. According to a story in the State Journal-Register, Saga Communications’ news/talk WTAX-AM is getting a full market FM signal as the company will move the station’s programming from FM translator W228DL at 93.5 to the 93.9 frequency occupied by classic hits WQQL-FM. The company has requested a call letter change with the FCC and WQQL will become WTAX-FM. The classic hits format will continue on the 93.5 frequency as “Rewind 93.5” but the station feeding W228DL is not revealed in the story.
Sports Talk ‘ESPN Southwest Florida’ Moves to AM Band. As a result of the growing Hispanic population in Southwest Florida, Beasley Media Group moves the “Playa” adult Hispanic format from WRXK-HD2/W251AL to the 99.3 FM frequency. That bumps the sports format “ESPN Southwest Florida” from 99.3 to WBCN-AM and two FM translators at 101.5 and 104.3.
NPR Brings A Martinez Aboard “Morning Edition.” The NPR program “Morning Edition” is adding A Martínez to its talent on the AM drive news magazine, effective July 6. Martínez has been serving with KPCC-FM, Pasadena and he takes over for David Greene who left the program in 2020. Martínez – who will be based at NPR West in Culver City, California – will join Steve Inskeep, Noel King, and Rachel Martin on the syndicated program that airs on 835 stations. NPR VP of news programming Sarah Gilbert says, “He brings a remarkable record of journalism and empathy that allows him to truly connect with audiences and stories. He brings intelligence, a sense of humor and a deep curiosity that will fit right in with the show’s commitment to telling distinctive stories that make a difference to our understanding of the world.”
WYPR, Baltimore to Acquire WTMD, Towson. Public radio station WYPR, Baltimore “Your Public Radio” is acquiring WTMD, Towson, Maryland from Towson University. According to a report at The Current, WYPR is an “independent community licensee and a top-ranking news/talk station in the market airing local, national and international radio content. WYPR excels in local programming and journalism through outstanding shows like ‘Midday,’ ‘On the Record’ and ‘Out of the Blocks’ as well as its award-winning newsroom.” The station also feeds signals in Frederick, Maryland (WYFP-FM) and Ocean City, Maryland (WYPO-FM). WTMD has been a triple A-formatted station since 2002.
COVID-19/Wuhan Lab Theory, Memorial Day, Miami Concert Shooting, Tulsa Massacre Anniversary, Meat Company Hack, Infrastructure Plan, January 6 Commission, Osaka Withdraws from French Open Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The declining rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., concerns about vaccine hesitancy, and growing acceptance of the possibility the coronavirus came from the Wuhan Virology lab; the Memorial Day holiday and honoring those who made the “ultimate sacrifice”; the shooting at a Miami concert venue the killed 2 and wounded dozens of others; the 100th anniversary of Tulsa “Black Wall Street” massacre; the hack of JBS’ U.S. and Australian meat plants; the GOP’s counter-offer to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan; Senate Republicans kill the January 6 Commission; and Naomi Osaka pulls out of the French Open after refusing to take part in press conferences were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
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.
By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
Three words that could set the tone for what could be a thankless, time-consuming exchange. The seller who needs to provide metrics in a highly accountable media landscape and has no “numbers” to show could be at a competitive disadvantage. Perhaps you sell for a locally owned and operated station that doesn’t subscribe or a privately held owner who simply isn’t of the mindset to subscribe to a ratings service.
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.”