Monday Memo: Is Your On-Air Product Old-School? Podcasting delivers on consumers’ expectation for on-demand EVERYTHING and consultant Holland Cooke calls it “an opportunity to let retailers sponsor pertinent special interest topics.” But, in this week’s column, he cautions that “these are still digital dimes, compared to the analog dollars solid live programming and painstakingly-crafted commercials will earn us.” To read what makes your station special, please click here.
Pending Business: Going Up. In this week’s “Pending Business” column, radio sales pro Steve Lapa, president of Lapcom Communications, discusses the state of your “elevator pitch.” Will it work in less than the 60 seconds it takes to go to the eighth floor? Try this: Create one sentence that describes what your station does better than any of your competitors. Ask yourself is there a payoff for the advertiser in that one sentence or is it all product information? Are you connecting a #1 with an advertiser benefit? Have you taken the time to update your elevator pitch to put a more contemporary feel to the language? Lapa discusses these important points and more in an article that touches on the very basics of cutting right to the chase in presenting your station in a clear and positive light to a potential advertiser when time is of the essence. To read more, please click here.
Davis Sets Departure From iHeartMedia. Nashville-based iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group chief operating officer Darren Davis will exit at the end of this year, but will continue with the company as an advisor. In a memo to the staff, iHeartMedia chair/chief executive officer Bob Pittman and iHM president/chief operating officer/chief financial officer Rich Bressler write, “Darren has a deep love for iHeart and a true passion for our business and our success. [He] has grown up through our organization continually taking on new roles and more responsibility, becoming a critically important contributor as part of our senior team. After almost 30 years with iHeart, Darren is looking forward to spending more time on a variety of other projects he’s passionate about, including real estate development; local community projects; and traveling with his family. Although his day-to-day operating expertise will be missed, we appreciate all he’s done for our company and are very pleased that he will continue his association with us, albeit on a more limited basis. Darren will be working closely with Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne through the balance of 2021 to continue our momentum and to effectively organize the Digital Audio Group for the future.” Davis has been with iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) since 1992 when he joined adult contemporary WASH, Washington, DC as a programming intern.
iHM, Sports Illustrated, and SI Studios Partner For Multi-Year, Audio Content Deal. The agreement includes eight co-produced Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated Studios, and iHeartRadio podcasts, as well as distribution of Sports Illustrated’s existing podcasts through the iHeartPodcast Network. Mutual marketing and promotion commitments will apply to all joint projects; two of the eight original podcasts are scheduled to launch by the first quarter of next year. iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group chief executive officer Conal Byrne comments, “We are thrilled to partner with Sports Illustrated to introduce a brand-new slate of sports podcasts – limited series and ongoing shows alike. It’s an iconic brand that sports fans instantly trust, knowing that they will get the most credible and in-depth industry coverage. We look forward to expanding that footprint into the audio space where we uniquely have the reach and scale to bring Sports Illustrated the audience and monetization they deserve.” According to Sports Illustrated & Maven chief executive officer Ross Levinsohn, “Storytelling is at the core of what SI stands for. The opportunity to partner with iHeartMedia to create and distribute dynamic stories and shows featuring our incredible voices further expands our footprint.” Chief operating officer of 101 Studios, David Hutkin, adds, “While traditionally sports are very visually focused, this venture allows us to introduce audiences to the most memorable events in sports history in unexpected ways. With this new partnership, we have the unique opportunity to tell these historic, remarkable stories to audiences globally.” Set to debut later this year, “Sports Illustrated Weekly” will feature the best of Sports Illustrated’s journalism in an audio magazine. Each 45-minute episode will feature deep-dive segments on the biggest news of the week and the most compelling personalities, trends and themes in sports. Developed by SI Studios, “Lateral Damage” will offer an innovative take on the true-crime genre. Publishing early next year, the podcast tells the story of University of California, Berkeley football player Mariet Ford, who was convicted of viciously murdering his young son and pregnant wife; Ford has maintained his innocence for almost 25 years. The podcast will explore the indelible effect the murder has had on the core group of people in Ford’s sphere.
Local Journalism Sustainability Act Has NAB Support. Introduced by Democratic Senators Maria Cantwell (Washington State); Mark Kelly (Arizona); and Ron Wyden (Oregon), the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021 would aid local news organizations through tax credits to incentivize hiring more journalists, subscriptions and advertising from local small businesses. In a prepared statement, National Association of Broadcasters president/chief executive officer Gordon Smith notes, “At a time when misinformation and disinformation plague online platforms, broadcast radio and television continue to serve as reliable beacons of news that keep local communities informed and connected. We urge congressional passage of this legislation.” According to Senator Cantwell, “The COVID-19 pandemic made it crystal clear that local reporters and newsrooms are essential to keeping the public informed and safe, but their importance spans well beyond health emergencies. At its core, local news is about holding the powerful accountable. The strength of our democracy is based in truth and transparency. Local newsrooms are on the ground in our communities asking the critical questions, countering misinformation, and telling our stories. We have to protect these vital parts of our communities – once they’re gone, they’re gone.” Senator Kelly comments, “Local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations are pillars of our community, bringing trusted local news [and] information about community events and the latest on public health updates in their area. The pandemic made an already difficult financial situation for these news providers even harder, which is why I support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. By providing tax credits for individuals to support local news outlets, they can continue to provide important coverage for readers, listeners, and viewers.” Senator Wyden adds, “The decline of local news has had devastating effects on our communities. Local news has often been the only window into the city council or mayor’s office. Without these outlets, these important institutions in our communities go uncovered. Further, the decline of local news has only fueled the growth of misinformation as Americans lose their most trusted sources of information. As the son of a journalist, these developments trouble me greatly. Our bill would provide financial support to local news at this critical time for our democracy.”
WMVP To Repeat A $50,000 Ad Giveaway. It’s part of an ongoing “Supporting Small Business” campaign by Good Karma Brands Chicago sports talk outlet WMVP “ESPN 1000” and First Midwest Bank. Good Karma Brands Chicago market manager Mike Thomas comments, “We’re excited to continue our partnership with First Midwest Bank to help a local small business see success. Supporting local businesses in our community is central to both ‘ESPN 1000’ and First Midwest Bank. This is a great way for us to introduce the passionate sports fans in our area to a small business.” First Midwest Bank chief marketing and communications officer Jim Stadler adds, “This past year has reminded us of the importance of small businesses and the role they play in creating employment opportunities and momentum for economic growth in their local neighborhoods. We are proud to partner with ‘ESPN Chicago’ for the second year to bring valuable and well-deserved public exposure to these important businesses.” Last year’s “Supporting Small Business” award benefitted Breaking Bread Catering & Deli.
TALKERS News Notes. Former 13-year Tampa Bay Lightning director of broadcasting & programming Matt Sammon is appointed manager/business development & strategy for Skyview Networks. Sammon joined Skyview last September as an executive producer overseeing Notre Dame sports broadcasts and spent two years freelancing with Sammonsez, LLC … After reporting part-time for NPR the past several months, David Gura will join the network next Monday (8/2) as business correspondent. Most recently the host of MSNBC’s weekend morning show “Up With David Gura,” he previously was a Bloomberg anchor. Gura began his career as an intern at University of North Carolina news/talk WUNC, Raleigh … The next installment of the “Gracie Interview Series – Virtual Gatherings” will be this Thursday (7/29) at 2:00 pm (ET). “The Breakfast Club” co-host/“Angela Yee’s Lip Service” host Angela Yee moderates the interview of Premiere Networks president Julie Talbott. Registration is free at https://allwomeninmedia.org/events/gracie-interview-series-virtual-gatherings/ … iHeartMedia Des Moines news/talk WHO “News Radio 1040” afternoon drive talent Simon Conway took his show on the road to Groton, Connecticut for several broadcasts aboard the USS Nautilus. Conway received a tour of the USS Iowa (pictured), guided by captain James Quintin. According to Conway, “The two shows we did from our submarine base at Groton were very exciting. All my questions were answered and the feedback from my audience has been incredible.” In addition to WHO, Conway’s afternoon drive show is heard on iHeartMedia stations in Cedar Rapids (WMT) and Davenport (WOC) … Nexstar Media Group promotes Ron Romines to senior vice president and regional manager. Romines will oversee the company’s broadcast and digital operations in various markets and will report to Nexstar Media Group president of broadcasting Andrew Alford.
Top Talk Topics This Past Weekend Headed By COVID-19. As has been the case in recent years, the news cycle no longer slows down on the weekends. The most-discussed topic on news/talk radio this past weekend has been COVID-19 with a focus on the Delta variant, vaccine hesitancy, controversy over mask mandates and the potential for more shutdowns. This was followed by intense partisan bickering over the formulation of the January 6 committee, followed by climate change, 2020 election denial, and the Olympics.
Acción Adds Tampa and Jacksonville. Effective immediately, Star Over Orlando’s WRSO “Acción 97.9 – La Primera En Noticias” will be simulcast in Tampa on iHeartMedia-owned WHNZ which had been English-language news/talk; a West Tampa translator at 105.9 that was simulcasting English-language news/talk WFLA; and WMTX-HD2. In addition, it will be heard in Jacksonville on iHM’s WFXJ and WKSL-HD2. iHeartMedia senior VP/Hispanic Strategy Hector Marcano comments, “Acción represents a solution for the Hispanic audience eager for a Spanish-speaking newscast and companies that are looking for this fast-growing audience interested in developing a life in the USA.” Division president Linda Byrd notes, “I’m excited to expand the Acción brand to other important Hispanic markets in Florida. Getting the news and information to Florida’s growing Hispanic population in their native language will be very impactful.” Area president for iHeartMedia West Central Florida Chris Soechtig remarks, “We are very excited to deliver a first of its kind Spanish language news platform to the Tampa Bay Hispanic community. With the changing demographics in our area, this is a natural addition to our diverse portfolio.” iHeartMedia North Florida area president Paul Rogers contends, “No other media company can truly help our advertisers, brands, and community organizations reach the full spectrum of the First Coast’s diverse populations like iHeart. We are thrilled to [bring] the first full-service Hispanic news/talk station to Northeast Florida.” Acción – La Primera En Noticias launched in 2018 and news director Jesús Manuel Torres states, “For the past few years, we’ve worked as a team to keep our Hispanic community informed of the events that have changed history. This time, our commitment continues to grow, and our team is ready to continue bringing relevant information and analysis to each market.” Among persons 6+, WRSO is trending 1.0 – 1.3 – 1.8 (April – May – June) and ranks #16 (Nielsen Audio, June 2021). Star Over Orlando-owned WRSO is operated by iHeartMedia under an LMA.
iHeartMedia Begins Massive Layoff of Air Talent. The exact number of personalities let go is not known at this point, but as iHeartMedia issued a press release yesterday explaining its new Markets Group management structure designed to “take advantage of the significant investments it has made in technology and artificial intelligence and its unique scale and leadership position in the audio marketplace,” it was firing local air personalities it deems not necessary to the company’s future success. iHeartMedia, like every other radio company, faces intense competition for listeners from digital music services and digital spoken-word platforms. Dayparts that aren’t crucial to a station’s revenue – usually nights and overnights – are often seen as not needing live, local jocks, especially when the company produces quality national programs to fill those hours. As for news/talk and sports talk hosts, the cost of maintaining a show with two or more personalities plus a producer is sometimes more than income from spot sales and other revenue streams can provide. iHeartMedia’s statement on the “employee dislocation” is as follows: “We are modernizing our company to take advantage of the significant investments we have made in new technology and aligning our operating structure to match the technology-powered businesses we are now in. This is another step in the company’s successful transformation as a multiple platform 21st century media company, and we believe it is essential to our future – it continues our momentum and adds to our competitiveness, our effectiveness, and our efficiency with all our major constituencies. During a transition like this it’s reasonable to expect that there will be some shifts in jobs – some by location and some by function – but the number is relatively small given our overall employee base of 12,500. That said, we recognize that the loss of any job is significant; we take that responsibility seriously and have been thoughtful in the process.” Some of those in the spoken-word formats who’ve exited the company include: Kerry Belkin, producer, WFXJ, Jacksonville; Leland Conway, host, WHAS, Louisville and WLPA, Lexington; Big Jim Donovan, host, WSYR, Syracuse; Andrew Downs, program director, KXNO, Des Moines; Jim Fisher, host, WOC, Quad Cities; Seth Harp, programmer and host, WFXJ, Jacksonville; Carl Harris, creative services director, Tampa Bay cluster; Travis Justice and Heather Burnside, hosts, and Sean Roberts, producer, Pete Kaliner, host, WWNC, Asheville, NC; Dave Levora, morning host, WOC, Quad Cities; Mike Lucas, host, WTSO, Madison; Ross Peterson and Chris Williams, hosts, KXNO, Des Moines; Jake Query and Derek Schultz, hosts, WNDE, Indianapolis; Chip Ramsey, weekend producer, WERC, Birmingham; John Ramsey and Mike Rutherford, hosts, WKRD, Louisville.
Brian Sussman Exits KSFO, San Francisco. Eighteen-year KSFO, San Francisco talk show host Brian Sussman announces he’s leaving the Cumulus Media station where he’s been hosting the morning drive show. Sussman says that in April of 2019 he resigned due to an impasse in contract negotiations, but soon thereafter reached a temporary agreement to host the show four days per week through December (his brother, Brad Sussman, hosted the fifth day). But in October, Sussman was required to go on medical leave through the remainder of the year. That affected his plans for continuing into 2020. He tells TALKERS magazine, “Fortunately, I’m feeling great, but clearly all those years of scant sleep and starting show prep at 3:00 am finally caught up with me. The KSFO listening family – both locally and nationally – are such a loyal band of patriots. But what I’ll miss the most about our show is working with the best producer in talk radio, Sheri Yee, and my lovely and super-hilarious sidekick, Katie Green. Thankfully, Brother Brad has been doing a great job filling in for me and I hope he’s the future! Meantime, I appreciate KSFO’s management team for having been so considerate these past few months.”
Impeachment, Presidential Race/Democratic Debate, Iran Protests, U.S.-China Trade Negotiations, Royal Family Controversy, Philippine Volcano Eruption, and MLB Sign Stealing Scandal Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (1/14). The impeachment articles against President Trump set to move to the Senate; the Democrats hoping to challenge Donald Trump in November and last night’s debate in Des Moines; the protests in Iran over the Islamic Republic’s accidental shooting down of the Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752; the Trump Administration’s progress in trade negotiations with China; the controversy over Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s stepping back from royal life; the deadly eruption of Taal Volcano in the Philippines; and the MLB’s handling of the sign stealing scandal were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Comrex Announces New Firmware in Conjunction with ACCESS MultiRack. News from Comrex Corporation reveals that the company has released firmware version 4.5p2, a new update for its line of IP audio codecs. This new firmware version is being released in conjunction with ACCESS MultiRack – a new multi-instance codec that provides seamless integration of all functions with legacy single-instance ACCESS codecs. This new firmware simplifies CrossLock connections between the new ACCESS MultiRack and legacy Comrex IP audio codecs. It replaces an older Adobe Flash-based GUI with an HTML5 web-based GUI as the default user interface. This new interface avoids the security risks posed by Adobe Flash, and is supported by all browsers. Users can upgrade their Comrex IP audio codecs using the free Device Manager application which can be downloaded here. If a user is updating a device from FW version 2.7.1 or earlier, they can contact Comrex Support for assistance.
TALKERS News Notes. Pictured here is Westwood One News correspondent Steve Kastenbaum covering last night’s Democratic presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa…..Chicago media writer Robert Feder notes that the hosts of WSCR, Chicago’s weekly golf show, “The Scorecard on The Score,” – Ed Sherman and Steve Olken – are leaving the station. The two have hosted the show at the Entercom sports talk station for the past 10 years. WSCR is expected to name new hosts for the show before it returns to the air in March…..KTBB, Tyler, Texas is the newest affiliate of FOX News Radio, subscribing to the FOX 5 Minute News Service on January 6…..FOX News Channel and FOX News Radio star Brian Kilmeade visited affiliate station WSB-AM/WSBB-FM, Atlanta in December and senior operations and program manager Drew Anderssen says, “Few syndicated hosts, if any, create the kind of impact with affiliates and their communities that Kilmeade does. Brian participated in our 29th annual drive to provide Georgia foster children with gifts at Christmas. His impact helped us fulfill wish lists for over 9,000 foster kids, in partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Georgia and the Georgia Division of Family & Children Services!” Pictured below (clockwise from top left) are: Anderssen, “Kilmeade & Friends” senior producer Alyson Mansfield, Kilmeade, WSB traffic anchor Ashley Frasca, and WSB-FM “B95.5” morning personality Tad Lemire.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. At Beasley Media Group’s urban contemporary WDMK, Detroit “105.9 KISS-FM,” the nationally syndicated “Rickey Smiley Morning Show” is now heard in the 6:00 am to 10:00 am slot. Station program director John Candelaria says, “We are thrilled to have Rickey Smiley join ‘105.9 KISS FM.’ I have watched Rickey ascend to national superstar over the past 20 years and we are excited to have him leading the lineup for the ‘All New 105.9 KISS FM.’ Detroit is ready for a fresh new morning show!”
Bubba the Love Sponge Lashes Out at ‘Speech Police’ in WSJ Op-Ed Piece. There’s been a lot of chatter on news/talk radio this week about Media Matters’ attack on Tucker Carlson for stuff he said on the Bubba the Love Sponge show during the period of 2006-2011 when he was a regular guest. Carlson took an unusual tack and not only didn’t apologize but used the Media Matters attack on him to call out the “speech police.” Now, Bubba the Love Sponge also rips Media Matters and others in an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal that compares Carlson’s battle with that of comic Lenny Bruce some 50 years ago. The crux of Bubba’s piece is that entertainers in the U.S. have the right to be edgy and to push boundaries even if that includes being rude or profane. He says that in our culture we accept that kind of language within the context of comedy where we wouldn’t accept it in other facets of life – or at least we used to. Read Bubba’s piece here.
Mitchinson Exits KFBK, Sacramento Mornings. Sacramento news/talk KFBK parts ways with morning drive co-anchor Dan Mitchinson after almost four years. Mitchinson worked alongside co-anchor Cristina Mendosa on the “KFBK Morning News” program. The iHeartMedia station will announce a new co-anchor soon. Mitchinson posted news of his exit on Facebook. He wrote, in part, “‘Everything’s got to end sometime. Otherwise nothing would ever get started.’ And with that (semi) favorite quote of mine, my time here at KFBK has come to an end. I can’t say it was easy getting up most mornings around 1, but once I was in the car, heading to work, I looked forward to connecting with all of you on air and through social media and sharing stories.”
McCredden Named OM at Townsquare Media Quad Cities. Programming pro Ryan McCredden joins Townsquare Media as operations manager for the company’s five-station cluster in the Quad Cities that includes sports talk KJOC-FM “ESPN 93.5” and four music-formatted stations. McCredden was most recently programming Houston sports talk outlets KILT-AM “Sports Radio 610” and KIKK “CBS Sports Radio 650.” He’s also programmed news/talk KQTH-FM, Tucson. He says, “I’m thrilled to be able to work with the entire team at Townsquare Quad Cities and their great local brands. We will have a lot of fun and I look forward to growing upon the success they’ve already achieved.”
Jacksonville Sports Talker Gets FM Translator. “930 The Game” gets an FM translator added to its signal. iHeartMedia announces that sports talk WFXJ-AM, Jacksonville is now also heard on W247CF (licensed to Orange Park, Florida) at 97.3 FM. The 99-watt signal covers the southeast portion of the Jacksonville metro. iHeartMedia SVP of programming Geewiz says, “Jacksonville was in need of a strong FM sports station. We are very fortunate to have the legendary morning show with Mike Bianchi and ‘Harp on Sports with Seth Harp’ leading the sports world in Jacksonville. The strong FM signal will allow ‘930 The Game’ to have an even wider reach.”
Manafort Sentencing and Trump-Russia Investigation Top News/Talk Stories for Week of March 11-15. The second sentencing of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the related Trump-Russia investigation tied for the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the college entrance cheating scandal. Coming in at #3 was the looming national emergency vote in the senate and the related border wall project, followed by the 2020 Democratic hopefuls and Beto O’Rourke’s entrance at #4. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed on news/talk radio during the week and is the result of ongoing research from TALKERS magazine. It is published every Friday at Talkers.com. See this week’s entire chart here.
TALKERS News Notes. It’s been just over a year since ESPN returned Stephen A. Smith to a full-time, national radio show with ESPN Radio. Now, the sports media giant is happy to report the 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Stephen A. Smith Show (simulcast on cable’s ESPNEWS) is enjoying a positive uptick in Nielsen’s PPM ratings. ESPN says since August 2018 the show was up 23% in AQH share (men 25-54)…..The NFL’s Carolina Panthers are moving forward without longtime analyst Eugene Robinson in the radio booth alongside Mick Mixon and Jim Szoke. Robinson – who was part of the Panthers Radio Network for 17 years – also co-hosts “Charlotte Today” on WCNC-TV, Charlotte. Entercom’s WBT-AM/FM serves as the flagship station for Panthers radio play-by-play…..Westwood One is the official network radio partner of the NCAA and will present exclusive live coverage of the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, starting with First Four action on Tuesday, March 19. WWO is producing radio play-by-play for all 67 games – including eight first-round and second-round games, plus regional semifinals and finals. Westwood One is broadcasting live coverage of NCAA Men’s Final Four on Saturday, April 6 and the National Championship Game on Monday, April 8, in both English and Spanish…..Cumulus Media’s sports talk KBGG-AM, Des Moines “1700 The Champ” is the newest affiliate station of the Minnesota Twins’ Treasure Island Radio Network via Learfield.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. San Francisco morning personality Vinnie Hasson re-ups with Entercom’s hot AC KLLC “Alice @ 97.3” to continue co-hosting the station “Sarah and Vinnie” program with Sarah Clark. Hasson says, “A thousand thanks to [Entercom SVP of programming] Michael Martin and [market manager] Greg Nemitz for their support and leadership, and to my wonderful partner Sarah – you are the best and I look forward to chopping it up with you every day. I’m stoked to keep rolling with our great team and continue waking up the Bay Area every day.”…..On-air personality and programmer Cameron Moore is adding another set of music director duties to her responsibilities with Beasley Media Group’s Charlotte cluster. Moore is now MD for WSOC “Country 1037” in addition to her role as midday personality and music director for sister CHR WNKS “KISS 95.1.” WSOC program director Jack Daniel comments, “Cameron is experienced in the country music format. She has a great work ethic and I’m very excited to have her on the ‘Country 1037’ team and cannot wait to utilize all of her creative input and perspective.”…..Beasley Media Group announces that the “Déjà vu Show” takes over the midday daypart on rhythmic oldies WUKS, Fayetteville, North Carolina “Old School 1077,” effective March 25. As a result, Teddy Bear moves to the evening show (6:00 pm to 10:00 pm). WUKS brand manager Kenny J says, “We are extremely excited to have the ‘Déjà vu Show’ here in Fayetteville. Deja will bring lots of experience, high energy girlfriend talk and lots of fun! She will take middays to a whole new level.”…..Premiere Networks-syndicated personality Elvis Duran is publishing his new memoir, Where Do I Begin? Stories (I Sort of Remember) From a Life Lived Out Loud, (October 2019, Atria) In promoting the book, Duran chatted with People magazine about his rise to fame, how he took control of his health, losing more than 100 pounds with the help of celebrity medico Dr. Oz, coming out as gay man on the radio, and how he manages to get major pop stars to talk so candidly about their personal lives.