Monthly Archives: May 2008

Great Talk Radio Is Emotion

When did talk show hosts decide that hanging up on callers is great radio?

It just shows that the host is pretty shallow.

It also demonstrates they have not done their homework.

Good talk radio is a balance of real debate, and entertainment. Good hosts know this.

The best topics have a way of polarizing the audience.

You want your audience to have an emotional reaction to your subject matter. The last thing you want is for everyone to simply agree with you.

Never word a topic in a way that the listener can have either a yes or no answer. You want them to state why they feel the way they do.

It’s not ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but the ‘why’ you want them talking about on the phones.

Lots of people listen to Rush Limbaugh just to disagree, even to get mad.

Many won’t admit they like his show or even listen.

I love when someone says, “I never listen to Rush, did you hear what he said yesterday?”.

They listen to have their opinion affirmed, or to be mad at what he said.

One-sided conversations don’t build ratings.

If you want to win, you better take time to word the topics correctly.

Go for the emotion.

Require your talent to do their homework.

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Posted by on May 31, 2008 in Radio programming


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The IPOD Strikes Again

Retailers report sales for after-market car radios are down 21 percent in the first four months of this year.

IPODs, Bluetooth, I-Phone and things that are more personal than radio are the reason.

This continues to point out the need for radio stations to connect with their audience though new delivery channels. For example, every station should offer Podcasts.

A few weeks ago I purchased an after-market radio for my car. All of the radios displayed featured IPOD connections. In fact that was more important in the sales pitch than the radio.

It should strike fear into the hearts of all broadcasters that Best Buy, and Circuit City are selling radios by touting the IPOD connection.

Since making my purchase most of my in-car listening is to Podcasts.

HD, that darling of the big radio groups is missing from the consumer’s radar.

Thanks to Jon Vaden for pointing out this article in Brandweek. Copy and paste to your browser to read the article.

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Posted by on May 31, 2008 in Radio programming


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Radio Toys

We have a music client in New Albany, Ohio which is just outside of Columbus.

Generally I try to couple some sort of recreation around my business trips. I always check the baseball schedule to see if the local team is in town.

I saw the Sioux Falls Canaries play three times one year in South Dakota. I was glad for a little excitement. Sioux Falls isn’t exactly New York City.

The trips to Ohio are special because of Universal Radio. This is an amazing radio store located just south of the airport in Reynoldsburg.

Imagine a ‘Toys R Us’ for radios. Universal Radio is it.

But if you’re too far from Columbus, they are just a few clicks away on your computer with a great website.

Inside you’ll find a large selection of new and used products and books.

For years I searched for a radio that was great for airchecking on the road.

Grundig has just released their G4 model with built in MP3 recorder. It sells for about $200 and stores about ten hours of programming.

It’s worth a look if you’ve been trying to find a combo radio/recorder.

Here’s the link


Posted by on May 29, 2008 in Uncategorized


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The Rock Of Chicago And Beyond

Thanks again to everyone at WLS for the Memorial Day Rewind.

WLS dropped their talk programming and dedicated the day to the memory of WLS Musicradio.

Texas has stations on 890 in Rio Grande Valley and Dallas. I’m in between those and it is difficult to hear WLS here at night.

Listening to John Records Landecker on the WLS stream isn’t quite the same as hearing the signal through the on air audio processing.

The WLS skywave finally arrived here around 9:30.

WLS Musicradio always sounded big, really big, especially on clear cold nights. Perhaps it was slight reverb on the audio chain.

Listening to skywave of WLS and other stations was how we learned radio in the 60s and 70s.

Live in New Jersey as I did and you could hear WLS , WCFL and WMAQ from Chicago, WKBW Buffalo, WDRC and WPOP Hartford, WFIL (but not WIBG too directional) Philadelphia, WBT Charlotte, WOWO Fort Wayne, CKLW Windsor (Detroit), WGAR Cleveland, WFBL Baltimore, WAEB Allentown and all those New York stations like WABC and WMCA.

Sunday was my favorite night of the week because many stations signed off for transmitter maintenance from 12 Midnight to 5am. On those nights it was even possible to catch KFI Los Angeles or WOAI San Antonio in New Jersey.

It’s fun to hear airchecks and rewind specials from time to time. But you can never go back.

Radio is a different animal today but you can easily listen to great radio stations from around the world on your computer.

Simply Google some of these and you’ll be tuned into some of the best stations in the world.

Nova96.9, Mix 106.5, WSFM, 2DAY FM and Triple M all in Sydney Australia. Check out Capital FM in London, UK or The Radio Network Stations in New Zealand. South Africa is another spot for well programmed stations.

We were once limited to listening to stations on a radio, today we can learn from stations from around the world on our computers.

There is lots to hear.


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Oh My, We Created A Monster!

Anyone managing persons born between 1980 and 1995 known as the Millennials, has discovered this group views life and work very differently from their Baby Boom parents.

They played little league as kids but without winners or losers.  How terrible it would be if Johnny were to feel bad that his team lost.

They received trophies just for participating.

You can thank us, the Baby Boom for that.

As a group Millennials are more concerned with friends and family than work.

Work is something to be scheduled around their life, not the other way around.

That’s not to say they won’t work hard for you. But they do require a different approach from their managers.

Morley Safer of CBS did a very interesting piece on 60 Minutes about this topic. It can be viewed on the CBS 60 Minutes website and takes you through how Millennials are changing the face of business.

This is a must see If you’ve been wondering how to engage the attention of your younger workers.

All of the old rules about loyalty and hard work go out the window.

Baby Boomer managers will have to re-invent themselves and their approach to managing this group. Not the other way around.

Here’s the link.

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Posted by on May 26, 2008 in Management


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“Tell Me A Story Daddy”

We love stories.

“Tell me a story daddy” is one of the first sentences a child says to the parent.

We want stories from the beginning and we never loose that desire as adults.

Radio is stories.

Bob Prince the longtime Pittsburgh Pirate broadcaster was a great story teller.

Prince would be in the middle of a story, you’d hear the crack of the bat, crowd roar, and Bob would finish his story and casually mention “Stargell hit a three run homer to right”.

The stories were often more interesting than the game.

Story telling has helped baseball survive on radio when every game is available on television.

All of the great radio baseball broadcasters are story tellers. Phil Rizzuto was one, Ernie Harwell, and the forever young Vin Scully are others.

Baseball broadcast teams are much like great morning teams. Two characters playing off each other’s stories and weaving the game commentary into the broadcast.

Take a hard look at the ratings in your market. My bet is NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered’ do extremely well. They are all about story telling.

Think about your morning show. What kind of stories are they telling?

When you interview for morning talent are you listening to how they tell a story? Do they engage your attention with the simplest things?

KDKA’s Jack Bogut featured his ‘Home Movies’ segment. He told simple five minute lifestyle stories, and had a great way of painting the picture.

Bogut would keep you in the car until he finished.

Is your morning show doing ‘driveway stories’, the kind that hold you in the car until the end?

Sometimes listeners are better story tellers than your talent. Find people who can contribute to the show and engage an audience with their tales.

Great stories turn into great ratings stories.

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Posted by on May 24, 2008 in Radio programming


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My Little Black Book

My little black book does not contain names of ‘special’ friends like a certain former New York Governor .

Mine is dull by comparison.

But for me, the ‘little black book’ is indispensable.

It can be a major help to the Program Director looking for ways to record and track ideas.

For years I carried a bulkly Franklin Planner. It was my depository for notes, ideas, appointments. You name it. The Franklin was always with me.

I’ve tried keeping notes and appointments in PDAs, a Treo and on my computer. Nothing works quite as well as paper at least for me.

Moleskine makes a variety of small bound notebooks that are perfect for keeping ideas. This is the legendary notebook used by writers like Hemingway.

The hard backed cover is a perfect writing surface.

An idea book is a great way to manage the ideas as you get them. I use a section in my Outlook software to index each entry for easy retrieval.

Sometimes the silliest entry turns into a great idea. But it would have been lost if I hadn’t entered it into my book.

You may be amazed at how many ideas you have in a week just by recording everything into your book.

Moleskine products are available at a variety of on-line retailers, Barnes & Noble, Borders and other booksellers.

No I don’t have stock in the company.


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Places I’ve Done Time

The title sounds like I’ve spent time in prison.

That all depends how you look at it.

Fortunately I’ve never been in jail, except for an evening during college when we visited lifers at the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville.

That one visit was enough to convince anyone that jail is at best an unpleasant existence.

The ‘places’ I speak of are the stops you make in radio to be successful.

PDs tell me they can’t find people to work weekends and holidays. The part-timers they do have call Friday afternoon at 5 to say they can’t work this weekend.

It appears to be a chronic problem for the industry.

Anyone that is serious about radio should work any and all shifts they can.

There is no substitute for experience.

Graduating seniors will be joining the work force this month. If you’re looking for the first job, don’t expect to be the General Manager or morning man.

I wouldn’t trade the jobs I’ve had for anything.

There was the ‘house with two turnables’ in Canton. Stops in Charleston and Wheeling, West Virginia , Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ,Newton N.J. and the crazy News Director at Channel 9 in Steubenville, Ohio.

Each one was valuable in my learning the business.

Ok, I admit there were times in Canton I hoped to drive up and see fire trucks in front of the place. That station really was a learning experience.

To the grads some advice. Don’t short change yourself.

There are fewer places to learn the business today. So take any opportunity to learn even if you must work weekends and nights.

You’ll find your time in those places will be well spent.

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Posted by on May 22, 2008 in Radio programming


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“Why, is there air?” And Other Important Questions

Bill Cosby’s routine is a classic. I’ve always loved the question, “why is there air?”

The answer of course is to fill basketballs and footballs.

It reminds me of a question I’ve heard in radio.

Several years ago, while working as Group Program Director in Australia we launched a new FM station in Brisbane, Queensland.

A new station is big deal in a market which at that time had two, yes I said TWO, commercial FM stations.

We would be the third on 97.3 FM.

The others, B105 and Triple M were top 40 and rock and owned by Austereo.

Our station would be Hot AC.

The launch would be one of the most successful in Australian Radio History.

Ok, it’s hard not to succeed with those odds in your favor.

We rolled out with 10,000 songs in a row. I know, that’s pretty standard, hackneyed stuff in the US.

It had never been done in Australia. Suddenly I was a creative genius!

As the station launch progressed into the third day of playing music, a common question arose.

“When are you going to put DJs on?”

I heard it over and over.

“What are these DJs going to do?” I asked.

“You know, DJ things”, they’d say.

“What is that exactly?”

No one could tell me.

Now I was intrigued, so I asked, “Why do we need DJ’s at all?”

From the responses you’d think I questioned the existence of God.

So now let me ask you, since many of the readers of this blog are radio program directors. What is the job of your DJs? Why do you have them at all?

Have you clearly outlined the reason for their existence?

Do all of the jocks know the mission?

DJs were a great idea in 1954. Does the concept of a person introducing songs hold up today?

I think it’s a valid question.

“So why do you have DJ’s?”

It’s worth thinking about and answering by outlining the role talent plays on your station.

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Posted by on May 21, 2008 in Radio programming


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My Day Job

CBS television is doing a story about people over 50 who have re-invented themselves. I kinda fit into that category.

At 25 many of us thought we would work in our chosen field for the next 40 years or so. Of course it’s rare today for anyone to spend an entire working lifetime in one career.

Ask me at age five and I could tell you what I wanted to be.

A disc jockey.

Oh, how proud my parents must have been.

No medical school for their boy. He’s going to be a disc jockey.

Back home in New Jersey a doctor named of all things, Alan Furst started up practice near my parents place. Mom must have beamed when other mothers stopped her in Acme and asked about ‘her son the doctor’.

I’m not sure how she answered. My guess is she smiled and never got around to saying her son, the ‘non doctor’ Alan Furst was playing the hits in Pittsburgh.

Radio was great fun for me for many years.

When it became time to move on, I was lucky to join a great company with great people; DMX Austin Texas.

DMX creates music, video and messaging for retail businesses. Walk through any mall or Las Vegas casino and you’ll hear our work.

At first I thought branded music would be just like radio.

Silly me. It’s nothing like radio.

We can teach the basics of music scheduling. But branded music projects require a very different talent and skill set than radio.

At DMX we match music to the visual environment.

Designers think in texture, attitude and mood. For the most part ‘playing the hits’ doesn’t fit.

Music design is audio branding.

Some retailers really understand branded music.

It’s easy to tell you’re close to a certain major retailer’s store when you hear their music pumping in the mall. Music is a huge part of their brand image.

Some radio programmers are able to make the leap to branded music. But radio experience doesn’t guarantee success.

Our Music Designers are good partly because they haven’t been locked in to rigid radio rules.

Music Design is an art.

The Designers come from wildly varied backgrounds.

One plays in the Los Angeles Symphony and knows more about classical music than should be humanly possible.

Another dressed sets before joining DMX. She combined her love of music and her talent for visual design to create amazing branded music programs.

These personalities couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they bring great skills and ideas to our projects.

These are people who feel it.

They can walk into a room and identify artists and styles that fit perfectly to the decor. In some ways they are more decorator than programmer.

Their fabrics and colors are voices, instruments and textures.

How I fit into this group is anyone’s guess.

Music branding has given me some new ideas about branding radio. I’ll share these ideas with you in coming weeks.

We’re always interested in finding new talent. Please feel free to contact me at


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