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Posts Tagged ‘Talk radio’

Talking About Ray Rice

obama-has-commented-on-the-ray-rice-videoEveryone from the President on down has an opinion on Ray Rice, the NFL, his wife, the Ravens, domestic violence, anger management of pro athletes and on and on and on.

It’s an important topic.

It’s a tragic, compelling, hard-to-look-away story.

And it’s not nearly over.

Don’t say you’re sick of talking about it.

Don’t listen to listeners who call in and beg you to move on.

Don’t say you’ve already talked about it.

Don’t claim it doesn’t fit your format.

Find your way into this story.

Dive deeper. Make a difference. Share your emotions.

This is your chance to have a meaningful conversation about an uncomfortable real-life story and possibly make a difference in someone’s life.

Be responsible. Be brave.

Keep talking about Ray Rice.

Ideas Are Overrated

“We’ve all got great ideas. Everybody on the street has an idea.”

– ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd

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What’s the difference between a good show and great show? Topic development. At least that’s the case if you ask ESPN Radio Network host Colin Cowherd who discussed it at length in an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast.

“The one thing I’m really proud of is topic development. We love Wednesdays. Monday and Friday we’re trapped talking about football, but we love Wednesday shows. You come in and find a little blip on a transaction wire and we’re like, ‘that’s funny!’ and ‘that makes me think…’”   

4 KEYS TO TOPIC DEVELOPMENT ACCORDING TO COLIN COWHERD

Don’t worry about being right, be interesting.

“I take stuff from my kids, I take stuff from sit-coms, books, ideas. I always think – just try to be interesting. It’s not about being right. Guys tend to want to be right, instead of get it right. Just be interesting. Try to find compelling topics that everybody can play along.”

Personalize the story

“I think how would I react? I think about that with athletes; Would I retire now? Would I take less money to be surrounded by better teammates like Kobe Bryant now? Because, we’re all human no matter if you’re rich or a school teacher or a basketball player or you’re a local dentist or a baker. We’re all human beings. Men have the same basic needs and wants and ego. Women have the same needs and wants. We’re all the same. It’s just some people have different economic stratus and different interests.” 

Put in the hours

“I think about my radio show a lot. Radio never leaves you. It’s not like being a garbage man where your run is done for the day and you’ve done it — or a mailman and then you go home and you don’t have to worry about it until the next day. Radio is with you almost like being a doctor. You’ve got clients, you’ve got things that are constantly swirling in your head and I write down notes several times a week.”

Get a producer who wants to produce

“A really good radio producer, to me, doesn’t want to be an on-air person. They want to be a producer. And they get really good at it. And they try to elevate the on-air person with good guests, playing to his strengths, playing to her strengths, staying away from weaknesses.”

LISTEN to Colin Cowherd on The Radio Stuff Podcast

You Are A Brand

Cowherd GraphicIn 2013, it is no longer good enough for talk hosts to be a faceless voice in a dark room talking into a microphone.

“I’ve got a book now, I’ve got a twitter account. I’ve got a radio show. I’ve got podcasts. I do a TV show on Sunday.”

Colin Cowherd, ESPN Radio Network host talked about the importance of developing your brand during an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast.

“I realize at this point and time in 2013 I’m not going to be your only source of information, I just want to be one of them. And so I’ve got to give you as many opportunities to find me as I can. We live in a multi-layered world of media. So, I’ve got to be on Facebook and twitter and radio and podcasts and TV and at different times of the day; morning-drive and afternoon. People are busy. My job is to find other avenues to connect with the public. And that’s what the book is and that’s what my Sunday morning show is.”

Colin’s book is “You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will.” He tells Radio Stuff it’s an important brand extension.

“I think, more than ever, now it is important — even Rush Limbaugh just came out with one (a book.) I mean Rush is making so much money it doesn’t matter, but he has the tea brand and the book. I look at twitter and I post a couple times a day. If I can get you to think about me once-a-day, when I’m off the air, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve got a book now, you’ll think about me during the holidays.”

So how does a guy like Colin have time to do it all?

“It seems like I put in these infinite, bizarre hours, but no more than an attorney, a doctor, or an executive. I’m very time efficient with things I do. I come in and grind my radio show and then I have time for a good 90 minutes a day to talk to radio stations and talk to advertisers. I think we all have time in our day; you just have to be more efficient.”

Radio Brothers Bond over Sports and Chemo

41pOd+u2ScL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BOOK REVIEW 
The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports and Friendship 
By John “JT the Brick” Tournour and Alan Eisenstock
Available on Amazon.com 
 

I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.

This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.

Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT)  as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as  John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.

Click HERE to LISTEN to JT the BrickJT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.

Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a  journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.

One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”

Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.

The Free Fall of Talk Radio

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From New York to Los Angeles, in Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, and D.C. at big stations and small there is an alarming story unfolding in talk radio. Talk stations are tumbling in the ratings and no one knows why, though there are many theories.

It’s political fatigue.

It’s too repetitive.

It’s too depressing.

It’s too angry.

It’s too boring.

It’s humorless.

It’s predictable.

It’s not entertaining.

It’s all commercials.

The list of once great stations that have dropped out of the top ten reads like a radio station all-star line-up: KFI, WABC, WLS, WMAL, KABC, KIRO, WBAP. And it’s not a fluke (pardon the pun.) This is real. Arbitron is noticing it too.

“…for the first time since we began keeping our format records, it (news-talk) recorded two consecutive books below a 9 share, finishing at an 8.7 in July. Now summer is historically the lowest time of the year for News/Talk listening, and we will be keeping a close eye on the results as August and September approach, but it’s worth noting that the format’s summer shares have declined about 10% since 2011.”

– Tony Hereau, Arbitron Media Insights Manager

Down 10% in two years as a format in the 48 PPM markets?!

Editor’s note: I’m sure radio ownership groups understand and have lowered revenue projections accordingly.

THEY DON’T LIKE US, LEYKIS. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?Tom Leykis

Tom Leykis, former radio show host now internet trailblazer at NewNormalNetwork.com, believes he was in the epicenter of the downfall of talk radio.

“It was in 1994.”

Leykis was a guest on Episode 13 of the Radio Stuff podcast (listen). He recalled broadcasting from the NAB the year his show was launching into syndication and everyone kept talking about a panel featuring talk radio consultant Ed Shane. As Leykis recalls, this was Shane’s message:

“It’s important, for your talk radio station to be successful, that everyone have the same opinion as Rush.”

Leykis takes it a step further.

“So in other words, the secret to Rush Limbaugh’s success was not his years of experience or his time as a DJ or the fact that he had great timing or was a good comedian, that he made good use of sound, but no, no, no – the reason for his success was that he was a political conservative.”

From there after, every station Leykis approached to syndicate his show would ask what his politics were. It wasn’t always like that, “Previously, they only cared, ‘do I get ratings? Will I help the station make money? Will I make noise?’ Suddenly I was being asked, ‘Are you a conservative?’”

Leykis believes that was the moment talk radio went from being a mass appeal format to being a niche format. And the problems with talk radio today stem directly from a consultant misreading the tea leaves.

Talk radio went from Rush Limbaugh’s bells, whistles, jingles and parody songs and everything to a line up of people reading bill numbers.” He went on, “It’s devoid of humor, entertainment value or mirth. These are not radio personalities.”

He wonders aloud if anyone in the radio business getting the message?

And he cautions up and coming talkers, “Don’t go to a radio station, because you’ll never be allowed to develop your talent. Develop a podcast, develop a streaming live show, develop your own product, and learn how to sell it and become an entrepreneur.”

OKAY, SO NOW WHAT?

Maybe it is political talk’s fault. I happen to believe it’s likely a perfect storm of new media, new listener expectations, new social and political attitudes, and a general fear in radio of taking risks and being wrong – in every department.

Here are a couple of steps I believe are necessary for talk radio to attract new listeners and remain relevant.

1. DEMAND SHOWMANSHIP

Talk radio needs more storytellers and fewer alarmists. Talent need to entertain, emote and put on a show, as much as they provide insight, deliver information and add context. Radio station leaders must support talent and encourage them to be amusing, insightful, emotional, apolitical, curious, experimental, and positive while giving them permission to fail. And fail hard sometimes — without fear of being fired.

2. FIND ANOTHER REVENUE STREAM

Radio stations need to stop abusing the listeners. The quality and quantity of radio’s commercials is appalling. I mean holy smokes gang have you tried to listen to an hour of radio recently? Effective immediately commercials that don’t meet your standards or match your brand should be rejected. Be the first guy in the room to say, “Hold up! That spot sucks. It’s not going on our air.” Be bold.

And – this will be even less popular – reduce spot loads. It’s time. Thanks to DVR, podcasts, Netflix, on-demand audio, and satellite radio spot loads seem to be worse than ever. Until recently people were accustomed to sitting through commercials or flipping back and forth between stations, because it was the penance you had to pay to watch your favorite TV show or listen to a kooky talk show host. Now radio is the last place on earth (with the exception of movie theaters) where consumers are forced to sit there while commercials are crammed down their throat.

No fast forward.

No more patience.

No more listening.

Just look at the growth of online radio, on-demand audio and NPR. So what’s that mean? Radio needs to figure out a dual revenue stream. The future of financing big radio is commercials and__________. You fill in the blank.

Editor’s note: If you say commercials and banner ads, I will scream.

BOLD PREDICTION

Talk radio isn’t going to die, but it is definitely going through a mid-life crisis. The next 18-months the entire format will be redefined, programmers will be less focused on gaming PPM and more focused on listeners, commercials will sadly still suck, and Rush Limbaugh will be replaced by someone else as the face of the format.

Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

I’ve been listening to a bunch of air-checks recently (see: Talent Session Summer Special) and based on what I’m hearing I want to share four ideas to improve your ratings. How will this improve your ratings? Listeners will find your show more valuable, more entertaining and worthy of more of their time each day and week.

Have a point.

imagesCAZSPZFXI hear many talk hosts who know they need to talk about the big stories; Weiner, A-Rod, etc., but not enough are providing a unique insight, perspective or clear takeaway for the listener. Know what point you want to make before you dive into the story and find the facts, details, audio, and guests that best support your conclusion. Use every tool you can to paint the picture you want the listener to see. As a host, you are a trial attorney… and the listeners are the jury. What are you going to say to convince them you’re right?

Solo hosts are not alone.

imagesCAU9SVWNAs a solo host, a three or four-hour stretch can seem daunting. Trust me, I know. I cut my sports talk teeth in Philadelphia hosting a show every Sunday in direct competition with Eagles play-by-play. Even I wasn’t listening to what I was saying. However, I learned a couple of tricks along the way to make sure you’re never alone, even when the phones aren’t ringing.

  • Talk to audio clips/direct quotes. This isn’t the same as “playing clips,” talking around sound or discussing what someone said. This is reacting to the sound in real-time and speaking directly to the newsmaker. You can yell at them, disagree with them, or even offer them advice.
  • Talk with your listeners. Pull them into your confidence, address them (as a singular “you”), be there for them, hear them in your head reacting to what you’re saying and acknowledge their argument for them. Create lists of things your listeners should remember about what you’re saying. “Here are three things no one else will tell you about Alex Rodriguez…”

Much of this involves some acting on your part, fully utilizing your voice inflection and intonation, and it takes quite a bit of preparation. However, when done correctly, it will be very impactful.

Listeners want the dirt. 35937_10151642319463982_1479812403_n

Do not shy away from sharing the colorful details of stories or digging up additional information to add context. So often, hosts brush over the fine points of a story to get straight to their opinion and then spend the next two hours and fifty minutes repeating their point. Do your research, read source materials, gather audio that helps tell the story you want to tell, be descriptive, provocative and pull the listeners into the world YOU are creating.

Be Curious.

This is an exercise in being 4-years-old again. Ask questions and seek answers. Ask why? Ask what’s missing? Be nosey. Do not take things at face value. Do not believe what someone else says about something – experience it for yourself. Believe your instincts and follow-up on them. Investigate. Probe. Discover. Uncover. Look at things differently. Test your hypothesis. Read between the lines. Look at what everyone else is taking for granted and look closer. Be present in life. Take better notes.

Hope it helps. Let me know how it goes for you.

The Producer Game Is Changing

An open letter to producers from host Bob Lonsberry (WHAM, Rochester /WYSR, Syracuse) on Talkers.com has inspired me to respond and write a P.S.

Bob LonsberryGranted, Bob is advising producers on how to produce his show so it’s hard for me to say he’s wrong, he just may not be offering the most comprehensive advice to all producers.

In a nutshell, here’s what he says…

  • Listen to the show
  • Be a broadcaster
  • Handle callers well
  • Think like a reporter

So far so good. But, as I read through Bob’s open letter, I began to realize how much the producer position has changed evolved since my first gig 20+ years ago when I screened calls, pulled commercial carts each hour and drove down to the Sunoco gas station to buy the hosts a six-pack with my fake ID.

The producer is more than a phone screener, a guest booker, and a lesser-than-member of the team to be seen, but not heard — unless spoken to. Real, honest-to-God, hard-core, successful producers have careers and are often times as important to a show as the host.

And yes, they should be better compensated by stations and better treated by hosts.

LISTEN UP!

In his letter, Bob explains, “A radio show is a dynamic, vital thing, and the mood and circumstance are constantly changing. You’ve got to be following it if you hope to contribute to it.” He’s right.

Listen to the show you’re doing. A host should never have to call your name out on the air to get your attention. Listen for all the things he mentions and also listen for; ways to evolve the topic, possible guests you could book, promo material, listen for news and interviews that can be used to forward stories in sports updates or recycled later in the show, listen for tweetable quotes or passionate entertaining chunks that could go viral, listen for good sales material, listen for inaccuracies, listen to production elements before they air, listen to the show after it airs to find ways to improve it. Listen before, during and after the show.

DON’T JUST TALK, SAY SOMETHING

“Be a broadcaster.” Bob says, “…when I speak to you, when I call for you to speak on the air, you have to deliver.” He’s right – sort of. Producers aren’t hired to be on the air. If the PD wanted a co-host, he would hire one. When it comes to a producer talking on-air – less is more. I’ve told any producer who’ll listen, the less you talk the more impact you make when you speak on air and the more home runs you can hit. If you’re constantly swinging and missing – you’ll be annoying. So, if your host calls on you to chime in each segment (and I’m not accusing Bob of doing that) – it’s a host problem, not a producer issue.

Simple guidelines for producers who chime in

  • add to the conversation
  • advance the conversation forward
  • set up the host
  • don’t try to one-up the host
  • let funny happen naturally – don’t force it
  • remember “yes, and…” rule of improvisation

HERE’S WHERE WE START TO DISAGREE

Bob wants his producer to “handle callers well.” He explains, “Resist the simplistic but common belief that you are supposed to screen out people who are old or off topic or who you don’t personally understand. That practice castrates and lobotomizes talk radio. It throws away countless callers who I could use to advance the show. You are not the gatekeeper, I am.”

I disagree.

2010 -- Mike ThompsonThere are callers who won’t make good radio or who are off topic who should be screened out. The great Mike Thompson, operations manager of 710 ESPN LA, is one of the best resources on call screening I know. From a packet he put together for producers and shared with me a while ago, Mike makes these points about screening calls.

Screening telephone calls for talk radio shows is perhaps the most ignored and misunderstood art in the talk radio business.  Most stations do not screen properly.

  • First and foremost – our raison d’être is not processing calls like picking grapes and putting them in a bushel.  Callers are nice folks and can add to a show – BUT they are not the end all be all.
  • Each caller needs to have something to say with passion and conviction.
  • Shows must FOCUS ON THE LISTENER – NOT THE CALLER.  There is a difference.  Less than 1% of stations listeners actually call.
  • We are human. We react to stimuli. However, the lack of calls or abundance of them cannot be viewed as a gauge of a good or bad show.
  • Calls are a production element — calls, music, drops, sound bites and newsmakers all add to the production – which must be centered upon the hosts opinion, information, credibility, personality, humor and style.
  • No one has the right to speak on our air.  Don’t surrender your show by letting a bad caller on who has nothing to say.  When in doubt – screen ‘em out.  Be friendly, but firm.
  • Have pride in the calls that you put on the air. Bad callers create even more bad callers jamming the lines.  Conversely, when you put great calls on the air you will notice over time that intelligent and witty callers will join the party.

I believe Bob’s resistance to call screening originates from the general lack of trust and communication between him and his producer. He says in his letter that he won’t be meeting with the producer unless the boss calls one, he doesn’t want to talk to the producer during the show, and coordination before the show shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Bob, that’s not a producer – it’s an errand boy.

Great producers and great hosts have a chemistry and connection. The producer gets to know the host in a way the listener doesn’t so he/she can better support the host and think like they would think. A great producer makes a host better, adds to the show and focuses the host before and during the show on the things that matter most.

How do you expect the producer to support you, your show and the things you want if the only communication you have is through an open letter on the internet?

To Bob’s credit, he says in a perfect World, “we each trust each other to our jobs.” That’s great, but pre-planning, preparation, curating stories, topic development, and constant communication – are all part of a producer’s job. And I believe those meetings and discussions are key to building the trust Bob desires.

BE CURIOUS

Bob finally encourages producers to “think like a reporter.” He focuses his comments on building and maintaining a list of contacts and sources. I’d say that’s more a reporter thinking like a producer. Thinking like a reporter means being curious, asking questions, and finding the stories and angles not being talked about. It means helping listeners to connect the dots or help make sense of a story or series of stories, knowing why you’re interested in a particular story, finding audio to support your POV and telling the story the most compelling way possible.

20 TipsTHE TAKEAWAY: 20 TIPS for EFFECTIVE PRODUCING

These are some of my thoughts on producing, based on my own experience as a producer, host, PD and consultant.

SERVE STEAK – Make sure the host is playing the hit stories various ways throughout your show.

ADD SIZZLE – Look for ways before and during the show to enhance the on-air presentation.

WORRY ABOUT DETAILS – There’s no detail too small to consider.

THINK LIKE A P.D. – From topic selection and guest booking to what’s being played and how it’s being presented during commercial breaks, oversee all content during your show. Be concerned with how your entire show sounds, not just the talk segments.

BE AN EDITOR – Know how to listen to audio, identify a sound-byte and edit it for air quickly.

CREATE AN EXPERIENCE not a SHOW – Help make the show a 24/7 experience through social media, podcasting, blogging, vlogging, and show appearances. Have conversations with your fans, don’t just tweet links at them.

BE IN THE MOMENT – Anticipate the needs of the talent.

CONTEXTUALIZE STORIES –Tell listeners why the big story matters to them now and consider archived audio to help tell a story or put it in context.

TEASE – Help your host prepare or write teases for each segment.

FINISH BIG – Plan for a big final segment – don’t throw it away.

OWN BIG MOMENTS – Be prepared to ditch all your plans for breaking news. Have a plan.

COMMUNICATE – Verbal and written communication is key with your team – board op, anchor, host, PD, reporters, and others. Assume nothing.

BE AN AMBASSADOR – Represent the best of interest of your host and show internally and externally. Help mend fences, build bridges and create fans inside and outside your radio station: co-workers, contributors, listeners, and clients.

DON’T BE A JERK – Your host may have personality issues and is prickly to others in the building (for shame), but that doesn’t give you license to adopt that same attitude. Be a positive force, a leader and problem solver.

EARN TRUST & RESPECT –  Work hard, communicate, be proactive and find ways to showcase your host and the show in the best possible light.

BE ORGANIZED You’re juggling information and obligations from the PD, promotions team, sales team and your host. Create systems that work for you.

BE CREATIVE – Find unique angles to big stories and think outside the box on slower than normal days. Have a future file. Notice what you notice.

BE NEW MEDIA/SOCIAL MEDIA/TECH SAVVY – The more you know, the more you can do, the more you can help the show and station and yourself.

REMEMBER WHO YOU’RE SERVING – With all due respect to talk hosts who believe producers are only there to serve them, the reality is ratings and revenue drive the bus.  That means listeners and clients always come first. The live commercial read for the auto dealer IS more important than your hosts story about bumping into a B-list celebrity at a golf outing.

KNOW THE CLOCK  PDs create clocks with precision to maximize possible listening opportunities in a PPM world. There are reasons why spots and promos and traffic reports are placed where they are. There are reasons why segments are designed for a certain length of time. These should be followed as closely as possible and not considered optional.