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.
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.