Tag Archives: Radio programming

Separating The Great From The Ordinary

Two questions that are often asked of me by people in radio.

What is missing form today’s radio?

And why is Rush Limbaugh so popular?

I heard the second of these asked of a station General Manager recently.  He said because Limbaugh knows how to entertain.

He’s right.

Rush knows how to use radio.  It is the medium he understands best and has the talent to use well.  Remember he tried TV and it didn’t work.

But on radio Limbaugh controls the game.  He’s a great story teller and most of all he knows how to connect with his audience on an emotional level.

That brings us back to the first question.  It’s the lack of connection with the audience on an emotional level that is missing from radio.

Think of the really great talents.   They are all able to connect. They engage the audience and that separates them from the typical ‘drive by’ DJ.

Larry Lujack, Bruce Morrow, and Howard Stern have that ability to connect.  They do it differently than Rush but  they make you have an emotional reaction.

Jean Shepherd was a master at this.  He could hold you in the palm of his hand, taking the listener up and down the twisted streets in his mind only to finish with a bang at the end of his story, which concluded the show.

Shepherd talked up to the very last note of his theme music.  He used the brilliant imagery of a novelist to paint the picture in your mind and take hold of your emotions.  He was masterful.

Rush takes the listener up to a break and holds them with a powerful tease.  He ebbs and flows in pace and emotion and brings you in whether you like what he says or not.

This doesn’t happen on Television because little is left to the imagination.

Great radio performers team with your mind and emotions to make you do part of the work.

Marshall McLuhan wrote about in his ‘Hot and Cold’ theory of communication.  Radio when used well is hot.  TV is cold because it doesn’t require your mind or emotions to engage.

Great radio performers paint pictures.  They tell stories.  They grab you and don’t let go.

Limbaugh learned much of his technique by talking up intros to teeny bopper songs in McKeesport, Pa.  He’s taken that lesson and used it differently to get even stronger impact.

Whether you love him or hate him you have a reaction to him.

That  is what separates great talent from the ordinary.

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Posted by on October 31, 2009 in Radio programming, Uncategorized


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The Narrowcast Future

There was a point this summer when my keyboard got quiet.  I had simply tired of writing about the way things were in radio.

Memories of the great jocks,  fun stations and the way we used to do it.

Tired of the conversation from radio people that want it to go back like it was.

During that time I became heavily focused on digital media and specifically how we can use the tools to communicate.

Now my thinking is focused  on where things are going in all media.

It is going to be very different from the ‘good old days’.  These are likely to be better days. Way better.

The occasional story about a great station or jock will pop up here.  But the conversation within our industry must change.

Like it or not radio and all media are changing.  There is no choice.  Technology is the reason.

Technology is changing the way we live, how we use our time, and what is available to us.

We once thought of ourselves as ‘radio people’ or ‘TV people‘, now we are now simply in media.  The web changed how we do our jobs and more importantly what those jobs are today.

A person who concentrated on audio  must know about written content and video. Radio news reporters now produce video pieces for their websites.   The lines have blurred.

Here’s the big one.  Narrowcasting will replace broadcasting.

The day of programming to the masses is going fast.  Programming to highly focused niches  is already here.

Narrowcasting won’t kill off broadcasting this year, but the future will be more about highly targeted content than what appeals to the masses.

Some would argue that cable networks have started this trend.  Fox News serves a niche.  It is not intended to be the news channel for everybody. Those that like it, love it.

The History Channel, Cooking Channel and even ESPN are narrow in approach.  But they are almost ‘mass appeal’ narrow.

This is about being much more narrow.  Very narrow.  Instead of the History Channel, it might be Civil War Battles,  or Civil War Songs, but not covering everything about the war.

A transmitter is no longer needed to reach an audience.  And anyone can start a media outlet from their laptop using audio, video and written word.  This content can be distributed numerous ways on the web.

A pod cast created in your basement can have a larger audience than your local radio station with  interesting new sales opportunities.

Narrow your focus and program to people who are highly passionate about a subject.  This is about gathering  your own ‘community’ interested in what you have to say.

Topics that aren’t  found in mainstream media defined as radio, TV, newspapers and major websites.

A audience of dog lovers devoted to Pugs is probably small within your town.  But imagine the number of Pug fans nationally and worldwide.

Your listeners/viewers/readers are as likely to be in  Australia as in the town next to yours.

Browse I-Tunes and you’ll find hundreds of programs in a wide range of topics being produced.  This shouldn’t stop you from doing something too.

Find a subject that people are passionate about, and go for it.

The web is big. But keep your focus narrow.


Posted by on October 21, 2009 in Uncategorized


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The Trouble With Content

Radio was easy a few years ago.

The competition  was limited to what people could pull out of the air locally.

Now it comes from all sides, radio, the web, WIFI, IPODS, IPhones, and I’m probably forgetting some.

It is tough out there.

So what is a radio station to do?

Simple.  Focus on creating content.

A few years ago, the President of a large radio group boasted  that his company had lots of content.  They could take it an re-use it or re-purpose it on the web and it would generate additional income.

Not so fast there big guy.  Most radio stations don’t create much of their own content.

The music they play isn’t theirs.  Imaging between the songs isn’t content.  .

Most jocks have little to say other than to plug the website or what was already said in the imaging.

That big radio company hasn’t been all that successful on the web.

Talk radio is different but most talk stations are programmed from networks.  Most local stations create very little content of their own, and probably won’t have rights to re-use the network stuff on the web.

Local news is content.  Only a handful of stations  have anything resembling a local news room.

Most stations have very small  overworked staffs focused on  keeping the station on the air.  No one in the building has time to create more content.

Yet content is being cranked out at enormous rates on the internet by regular people.  Blogs like this one and hundreds of podcasts are examples.

The web is loaded with experts and  hobbyists  each with a passion for specific subject.  They are creating content that touches the real life interests of your listeners.

Radio is competing with the guy down the street for a share of the audience’s attention.  Soon WiFi will bring thousands of  radio stations from around the world to the car.

Content tells your story , builds the brand and most importantly adds value to the lives of your listeners/readers/viewers.

People already spend more time on line each week than they do listening to your radio station.

Facebook’s size is equal in population to the fourth largest country in the world.

The station website will be the primary channel from which your audience will access your stuff.

The thinking at radio must change.  Instead of being a radio station with website attached, it will be a website with radio station attached.

Your station either becomes an important part of their on-line experience or you go away.

This is not about putting the same old  stuff in a new package. This is about creating content that that is not heard on your  transmitter.

New day.  New time.  New rules.

Radio can‘t worry about the train leaving the station when the rocket ship is heading to Mars.

Let‘s hope it hasn‘t already left.

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Posted by on October 20, 2009 in Uncategorized


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Bringing Local Back To Radio

WLNG Sag Harbor is a real throwback.

Today’s radio programmers can learn a bunch by studying the past.

However, WLNG is not one of those once great Top 40 stations from the past many of us reminisce over.   Live and local 24 hours a day WLNG is the real deal.

There is nothing like it on the air anywhere that I can find.   They use hundreds of jingles, and a very, very deep music library.

Lately my WIFI radio has been busy.  But most of the big city stations it plays are deadly dull.

The ‘Nine Format’ lives.

You may remember the classic spoof about consultants done in the 1970s to chronical the format history of fictional WVWA Pound Ridge, New York.  If not, it’s on the Reel Radio site.

How would we know the WVWA spoof would become reality?  Today’s radio is devoid of connection. Just like WVWA when it became  ‘Nine’!

Things were so streamlined on “Nine” the jocks, listeners and jingles only said  “nine’! on air.   After all it was created through ‘research’.

That’s not too far from what is happening in the streamlined PPM world.

PDs seem more concerned about what will turn listeners off, than what will keep them connected to the station and coming back.    Mark Ramsey makes this point in his blog this week.  He’s dead right.

WLNG is about community.  Oh sure they play music, lots of it around the heavy load of spots and PSAs voiced by local merchants and firemen.   WLNG connects.

Sag Harbor sounds like the most active town in the country thanks to WLNG.

Programmers dealing with talk stations made up of mostly network shows can take a lesson from WLNG.  Fill those spot breaks with local voices.   Get the sales staff to have the local business owner voice his spot.

There is probably no better way to endorse the local sales effort than to have local businessmen do their own spots.  The others at Rotary will notice.

WLNG has captured what made local weekly newspapers work.  Put the Cub Scouts picture in the paper.  Mom, Dad, Grandma and the Aunts will buy the paper.

Same is true for putting local voices on the radio.

Consider using local voices to image the station music and promotions.

This is not to say that everything on WLNG  fits into many of today’s formats.  But PDs should give them a listen with an ear to finding ideas that help them localize their own stations.

As the PSA tag says, “thanks WLNG for years of service”.

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Posted by on August 3, 2009 in Radio programming


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..The Hits Keep On Coming!

If your staff is still unconvinced about the power of the internet, have them blog.

I started this one in April. It’s growing daily.

I’m very appreciative of anyone that reads my material.

The daily interaction is extremely powerful and lots of fun.

The blog provider I use, WordPress shows you where your hits are coming in from and what is being read.

Hits to the blog increase daily and it is being linked to new sites all the time.

That viral nature of the web is what excites me. One link, brings another, then more.

This is what should excite your staff. Blogging has potential to bring new people to their shows and bond those already listening.

The web is more powerful than television today in spreading the word about your station because it is intimate.

A potential listener can connect to the station and talent even before hearing their work.

I am amazed at the number of people that I knew in the past that have reconnected by email because of reading the blog.

It’s not so much what your air talent says on their blog, but that they are accessible to the audience.

Today request lines are on hold, jocks are voice tracked and studios are empty, it is important to find new ways to connect with people.

Blogging helps make radio feel real again.

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Posted by on July 18, 2008 in Radio programming


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