Ask Larry! Episode 14

Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio: What do you listen for on an air check? How perfect should a pre recorded show be? How do I become the next “Colin Cowherd?”

Radio Odds and Ends

I drove a total of about 10 hours yesterday to catch up with radio friends and listen to the radio. It also gives you time to think, come up with new ideas and dream a bit. I have a renewed focus and a more positive attitude starting my day today. Here are some things I heard, saw and thought that may be of interest to you.


I heard a bunch of a election coverage. There was no greater test for my brain than flipping between NPR and Fox News Radio coverage of the midterm elections; different tone, different language, different storylines. Both were biased. Both served their audiences. Neither was misleading.

Non-stop election coverage is rewarding for anchors and reporters, but hard work. I heard national anchors and local reporters all lose their thoughts, get choked up by dry mouth, and fumble through names and issues they weren’t prepped to discuss. You can’t over prepare for a night like this.

I didn’t hear anyone fumble and most of the coverage was informative and timely with the right level of excitement and urgency.


I saw this on the 405-South heading out of Los Angeles. I had to turn around and drive by again to snap this photo going 60 miles an hour (not recommended).


TAKEAWAY: I think KFI is threatening me.

Two points here. It’s hard to be funny and I think they’re trying to be funny. Humor is tough and extremely subjective. Use it with caution. Secondly, how is “stay connected” any different of a benefit from most other radio stations? Keeping listeners connected (to news, community, music, etc.) is really the goal of most stations regardless of format. It doesn’t provide a differentiation point


“Best advice (I’ve received) is to go through life with an “F— it!” attitude. Nothing is as bad as you think it is at the time. You can survive practically anything. And the best way get through things is to realize that it’s all going  to pass.”  - Perry Michael Simon,, on the Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza.


A note to the country morning show host who opens each break with the double time check (11 minutes after 7, 7-11 on your home for…) stop it. The 80′s called and it want’s the analog time check back please. Stick with the digital read out. It’s shorter, simpler, and easier to understand. Rule of thumb: never have listeners do math in their head when you’re just trying to tell them the time.


“The Mayor joins us next to talk about the election” is a programming note not a tease. Find a way to make me want to listen. Instead of WHO you’re going to have on think of the WHY you WANT him on and WHAT he’s going to provide that’s worth sticking around for.


“There are some really good 40 second ads out there (in Los Angeles) that have been padded into a minute. If you could sell ads in multiples of :10 instead of :30s or :60s could the creative be rather better than it currently is? Because the creative of some of the ads I was hearing was not quite as high as I was hoping it would be.” – Radio Futurologist James Cridland on the shores of Laguna Beach


Bring a gift. I feel both special and inadequate meeting with James Cridland. He arrived with a thoughtful gift for me and all I brought was a camera so we could take our picture together. His was more useful to me than mine to him. :-)

bookJames Cridland and Larry Gifford

Ask Larry! Episode 13

Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio; What should a play by play demo sound like? What questions should I ask while networking with hiring managers? How can you incorporate a jewelry sponsor on sports radio?

Categories: Uncategorized

13 Scary Things About Radio

In honor of Halloween here is my list of what’s really scary about radio.

The first, seventh or 20th time you find yourself alone, at night, in a radio station studio. There’s something creepy about sitting in a padded room, talking into a microphone and hoping/praying/believing someone is listening, understanding what you’re trying to say and getting it.


No one enjoys free food more than radio people, except when delivered by listeners. We’ve all seen the food that sits on the table as everyone watches out of the corner of their eye waiting for the first sucker to try it to see if it’s poisoned.

Listeners are our life blood, but if you have the slightest bit of a germ phobia then shaking listener’s hands at events is only a little less scary than hugging them.

Nielsen-ppmIt’s scary to think that our careers, in part, rest in the hands of someone who is so desperate for money or power or both they’re willing to wear the Nielson equivalent of a beeper every day for some extra beer money each month.

When you really stop to consider it, it’s frightening to me that the kids making $10/hr. are responsible for making sure the spots, which account for 80%+ of the station’s revenue, play correctly. These are the same kids who look at their shoes when they pass you in the hallway.

Dead Air. Death is in its name! Can it get much scarier?  It comes in many forms;

  • The moment of panic when the computers seize up, you can’t play a song, you can’t go to break, you open your mouth and have nothing to say.
  • When you’re listening to your radio station driving down the highway and it goes silent.
  • When you race to the bathroom during a song and forget your keycard to get back into the studio area and you can hear the song ending over the loud-speaker and know nothing is going to happen in 10, 9, 8, 7…

Five words phrases to send shivers down your spine:

  • RefrigeratorThe radio station coffee pot. (freezer/refrigerator)
  •  Back of the promo closet.
  •  The old jock lounge couch.
  •  Back of the station van.
  •  A darkened traffic director’s office.

What would you add to this list of scary things about radio? Add them to the comments below.

RELATED: This week’s Radio Stuff Podcast (episode 75) shares three stories of haunted radio stations.

NY Radio Owes Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter’s final days as a Yankee boosted Sports Talk Ratings in New York. There’s not conclusive evidence in the article linked that it was entirely a Jeter phenomenon, but media aren’t allowed to post daily ratings and I suspect you can track the listening patterns directly to his farewell tour. Sure, no doubt NFL is helping these stations too.

But, taking the idea that Jeter’s final days drove ratings increases at face value; what are the lessons for radio here? That was the first question issued in Tuesday night’s sports radio twitter chat (#srchat). Refreshingly, there are many.

Play the hits. That was my first reaction along with @TimFisherOnAir. But there’s more to this than that.


Connecting with your community is paramount to success. Radio hosts must capture the passion, imagination, and conversation of the listeners and reflect it back to them. The “hit” is knowing WHAT to talk about, knowing HOW to talk about — the context — is what makes it resonate and stick with your listeners.


I agree with @bksportstalk that stories are powerful tools to drive listening especially when a community has a common or shared experience. Few hosts are telling great, compelling stories instead they just skip from fact to fact to fact leaving out the emotion, the details, and the arc of the story which are the most compelling parts.


@ChaddScott makes a great point here. Personalities drive ratings. Find the WHO in your stories and start from there. I used to work with a host who insisted all stories be pitched to him with this opening line, “There is this guy/gal who…” Stories about people are more engaging than stories about things. Stories about famous people provide a quick hook.

I’ll also add that the Derek Jeter story is one of legacy, celebration and at the very core; heroes and villains. Everybody enjoys a story about a hero or a villain. And Jeter filled both roles for New York baseball fans.


Ask Larry! Episode 12

This week, Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio; When I’m interviewing a guest YOU say I switch roles from outputter to inputter, but I’m still the host right? Why isn’t talk radio more commercially viable in UK? and what’s the rule of thumb for length of interviews on a demo?

Takeaways from a day in LA

Things I heard, overheard and thought about while driving around listening to radio and visiting radio friends in Los Angeles.

A perfectly good pair of earbuds sacrificed for 3D effects. (see picture)Beast5

Newscaster uses the phrase “via social media.” Reminder to self: never use the word “via.” It’s not conversational. It’s newspeak. It especially sounds ridiculously antiquated next to “social media.”

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to referring to “top” and “bottom” of the hour, but it’s also really just radio-speak. Most clocks are digital now and the reference is lost on anyone under the age of 35.

After some consideration, I find it creepy that a male morning host is doing live endorsements for a doctor who performs hysterectomies and other invasive, personal surgeries on women. The creep factor increases when he invites his female listeners to a weekend seminar and promises he’ll be there to greet you. Ew.

30 minutes is a long time to talk to one guest.

Spending five minutes to go through “what’s coming up on the show” doesn’t entice me to listen longer, it just leaves me frustrated for the time I just spent listening.

I’m a fan of what KFI is doing with customizing spots per day part. John & Ken (PM Drive) were heard addressing Bill Handel’s listeners (AM Drive) with an insurance endorsement. Good cross promotion and customization.

Beast3I spent some time with Fred “the dean of LA Sports” Roggin (center) and among our topics of discussion was the advice he offers young broadcasters.

“Be true to yourself. Radio is not going to make you rich. Do it for the love of radio. Do it because you want to communicate.” Fred continues, “Radio is a family. It bonds people. And it has to be in your blood. You’re not doing it to be a star and you’re not doing it to be rich. Never do anything for money. Do what you love and you’ll end up loving what you do.”


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