I had a conversation with a radio station general manager once…my boss. He wasn’t comfortable with the changes I was making to better our station. The station had a big, high powered signal and a modest four share. I said to him, “Given the power and size of the signal, I’ll need to think about how to take it lower than a four share.”
Lucky for me the changes worked. As my wife is one to say, “You sure were a “ballsy” individual back then.” I guess I have mellowed with age.
Over the past few months I have pointed out the issues with the “news/talk” radio format. Issues few want to acknowledge or accept. An aging and irrelevant format, self-important hosts with the same tired narrative each day, babbling about politics, Benghazi and the Kenyan national elected to the Presidency – twice.
Most people in the industry seem to be happy ignoring data, staying with the status quo or as an executive with Premiere Networks once said to me during a conversation about the declining ratings of Limbaugh, Hannity and others, “Hey I just want to pay off my mortgage.”
So how low can “news/talk” radio take its Nielsen ratings? It’s almost as if executives are meeting and strategizing a plan to see who can take shares lower.
Let’s take a peek behind the curtain of “talk radio” in New York City, the biggest city in America. Vibrant, cutting edge, the place where trends start in this country. Money, power, wealth, entertainment, diversity. The Big Apple.
New York City is market number one with 16,033,100 people. 2,724,700 or 17% of the population is African-American. 3,802,300 or 24% of the people are Hispanic.
Media and advertising generally focuses on the persons 25-54 demographic. The MONEY demo. Success or failure in media is determined by this age group.
So how we lookin’ in Gotham’s morning drive? Not good.
First we need to separate out the genre’s of talk, pulling NPR stations, sports talk stations and All News stations out of the mix. NPR’s WNYC-FM does very well and is the leading “news/talk” station in morning drive, but it’s not a commercial station.
This leaves us with only commercial “news/talk” stations, the ones that sell commercials mostly to buy overpriced gold coins and to reach men who have a problem keeping a “stiffy.”
Do you know what the leading commercial “news/talk” station in morning drive is? Read on.
For definition we are talking about New York City Metro, September 2014 PPM Nielsen ratings, persons 25-54 in the Monday through Friday 6am-10am day part (morning drive), English speaking stations only.
WABC-AM and WOR-AM, each heritage stations in the market, are battling for less than a one share in the morning drive day part. Each has under a one half share persons 25-54. Let me say that again.
“UNDER A ONE HALF SHARE.”
WABC-AM with Don Imus. WOR-AM…well…who knows what they’re doing after trying to use a show originating from Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Two mega facilities. 50,000 watt blow torches with under one half shares in morning drive, each tied for #38 in the rankers.
Yes. You too would have to think about how to get it lower than that. Even the coma inducing Bloomberg Radio on WBBR-AM has a higher share and is ranked #32.
The leading commercial “news/talk” radio station in New York City in morning drive?
New Jersey 101.5. Trenton, New Jersey. A station that proudly shouts at every opportunity they are NOT from New York City. New Jersey 101.5 has over a one share persons 25-54 in morning drive, ranking them at #22.
81% of the “news/talk” format listening in morning drive in New York City comes from two stations. WNYC-FM and WKXW-FM, one an NPR station…the other from Trenton. Freaking Trenton!
According to Jerry Del Colliano’s Inside Music Media there’s a rumor WOR-AM maybe switching over to the Premiere Networks’ Fox Sports Radio. If true that would mean moving Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others back to WABC-AM, if they’d take them, and
Clear Channel iHeart Media abandoning the “news/talk” format in America’s biggest city.
These are tough days to be a conservative talk radio host. It’s almost as if Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest are modern day Lt. Philip Nolan’s, adrift at sea with no country to call home.
Come to think of it they are, albeit not guilty of treason. But, because the world changed and many in the “talk radio” industry refuse to acknowledge and accept it.
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This was a great set-up to offer a series of solutions.
Why would a consultant give away his services on a blog for free?
Note that WNYM wasn’t included, because Salem doesn’t subscribe to Nielsen. I wouldn’t be surprised if WNYM’s morning host Joe Piscopo actually does trump both Imus and whatever WOR has on now.
WOR flipping to all-sports is the answer to a problem that was of CC/iHeart’s own making. They didn’t need to buy WOR from Buckley, and now the station is a white elephant with no identity and no audience beyond Mets games.
Nathan, since you asked. WNYM-AM in morning drive (M-F, 6am-10am, p25-54 September 2014 PPM) has a 0.1 ranking them #52 in the market. Combine them and WABC and WOR and it’s still not a one share.
Wow. That’s atrocious, even by Salem standards.
WNYM probably should change their nicnickname from “970 The Answer” to “970 The Witness Protection Program.”
Don Imus is still blowing air!? I thought he retired and/or died a long time ago.
Nope. He’s still broadcasting. Mumbling. But, broadcasting.
Those of us who take the time to get to know the young-uns in the prime demographic know that they do not have any desire to listen to political talk radio either conservative or liberal. The reason is because “they ain’t dumb”. They know that there is nothing political about political talk radio. Political talk radio is a poorly written radio soap opera that constantly has the same cast of characters saying the same lines over and over and over.
If there were a legitimate form of talk radio that addressed real issues and attempted to help find real answers, young people would probably at least give it a try. But that type of show would require a lot of expense to produce because you couldn’t just pretend you were relevant like the current shows do.
But a new direction for talk radio will never happen because nobody in the business end of radio is going to risk investing big money to try something that’s not on autopilot.
What a truly outstanding summary of where Talk Radio is or ISN’T! Yay, Darryl Parks! Your best times are ahead!
Peter, it’s an honor to have you read the blog and hear from you. I hope you’re doing well. Darryl
I remember the “Larry Glick” show in Boston some 40 years ago. It was actual talk radio with no agenda save learning what people were thinking and saying.
A once prominent, right-wing obsessed talk programmer recently wrote an essay claiming, basically, that all talk radio needs is even more right-wing political talk. Ironically — and inadvertently for sure — he confessed to aiding and abetting the murder of a once great format when he wrote, “Every format evolves, but if that means we have to stop talking about what is important to people, and replace it with silly talk about personal stories, social networking, movies, and the like, the format really IS in trouble.”
God forbid there should ever be a return to the “silly” things that interest 97 percent of the population, not to mention a touch of humor now and then. But, hey, if you want to keep chasing that 3 percent of cranky old downscale wingnuts, knock yourself out.
I saw that article. “Aiding and abetting” is too kind a phrase to use for said individual… I would put him front and center as the central figure who ultimately killed the format by creating this sense of conservatalk groupthink.
Well said Mr Mainelli.
All well and good to do the general interest talk topics, but that is already the menu for a large percentage of morning shows on music stations. Would it work 24/7?
Brad, with a few changes there’s a prototype we both are familiar with. 🙂 But, what do we know. LOL. Darryl
Notwithstanding WOR residing in Nowheresville in the ratings, you have to seriously question the wisdom of another all-sports station in the market, especially one that, presumably, would be largely national not local. And while it would be a breath of fresh air, you have to wonder whether there’s an appetite for a commercial version of a Brian Lehrer or Leonard Lopate show, where there’s a conversation going on, not just some gasbag host with shopworn ideas bloviating for three hours to the remaining sycophants listening. Is there a 21st-century Arlene Francis out there? Could there be something more celebrity-driven, like the show David Brenner tried a couple of decades back? And why not a token liberal host? There are solutions, but I’m doubtful iHeart Media truly wants to pay for the answers.
Fox Sports Radio actually has started to adapt significant portions of “man-cave” talk onto their weekday daytime lineup. Dan Patrick, Jay Mohr, Steve Gorman and new import Rich Eisen have quite a bit of entertainment and light-hearted talk in the mix. Eisen’s show notably has late-night style monologues written by a former Craig Ferguson show-runner.
Had iHeart wanted WOR to be competitive, they would never have blown up the previous schedule, but tried to build around it… and find successor hosts to Gambling and Joan Hamburg. It easily could have been the East Coast version of WLW with a programmer like Darryl in charge.
Instead they blew both Gambling and Hamburg out the door just so WOR would become a clearinghouse for Premiere Networks talent that was already past their expiration date. The station is beyond salvageable at this point.
Just an editorial comment, here (from a grammar-cop-wannabe). Your blog says: ‘Let’s take a peak behind the curtain of “talk radio” in New York City, the biggest city in America.’
Correct word is “peek”
Thank you – that is all!
D-Oh. Darn spell check. Noted and corrected. Thanks Jan!
There will always be some market for the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity, as long as there are willfully ignorant, semi-literate, angry white men.
Probably so, but that demo is aging at a rapid pace and is starting to die off altogether. But that’s what happens when the groupthink is so pervasive, so ingrained in their psyche, that everyone else left them behind.
Adult standards or 50s/60s oldies would be more practical – and likely more profitable – than a boilerplate conservatalk format. Which really isn’t saying much.
As ratings get posted on allaccess.com I review each market and two things stand-out across the board.
The discussion we’ve had over time about older demos is manifested into great ratings for Classic Hits stations. Pretty much all markets have a Classic Hits station in the Top 5 and in many cases it’s #1. And going back to the business side 90% of the time you have to buy the top 5. The other 5% is those looking for an ethnic group or language like Spanish.
Markets that you would think a Country station would be the leader they are it seems never #1 but Top 5. In more than a few markets variations on Christian formats are in to 5 in markets you wouldn’t expect. In Salt Lake City first religious station is #10.
One of my favorite subjects Talk Radio. Some of the conservative talk stations hold their own in Top 10-15, but the talk products with almost no political talk unless its local and not partisan with all local live talent are doing much better. These stations are generally defining themselves as News/Talk with AM drive heavily news. They have invested in a larger news organization. Then they go to talk with full 8-10 minute top and bottom local/network news and sports. As an example is WLW-AM in Cincinnati (not WKRP). It’s owned by iHeart and is #1 with an 11 share constantly – All local live talent, very little politics and most of that is local
The other big talk stations are those owned by universities; I assume they are NPR stations. One could say they lean left but no politics though. They lean left on social issues – Gay marriage, equal rights, and those kind of issues. So again just informative talk without yelling, calling people names and more or should I say less.
So, older demos are pushing stations to #1-3 across the board. The talk stations people are listening to are those with a strong news operation and local non-political live talent not syndicated. And maybe more significant if good radio is presented on AM frequencies and they can succeed. Okay, most university stations are FM, but talk on FM works too.
Same problem in the Los Angeles radio market. Rush was dropped was dropped by longtime home KFI(AM 640) and was transferred to for liberal talk station KTLK AM 1140,which was rechristened KEIB(Excellence in Briadcasting,Rush’s company)and it’s tanking bad,recently(as far back as May)ranking 39th out of all stations. KFI remains the #1 talker without Rush and his lot. Conservative talk is a dead horse that,somehow keeps limping along.
Same in SF Bay Area. They Dropped “Progressive talk 960 AM” Randi Rhodes, Norman Goldman. They we doing just fine in the ratings for freakin “Patriot Radio” their format is “we’re the real americans and you’re not” that format is sick, twisted and demeaning along with -0- ratings.
And as Darryl noted in a previous blog post, iHeart gave up on “Patriot 960,” leasing the signal to Bloomburg and handing over Rush, Hannity and Beck to Cumulus’s KSFO … one year after Hannity publicly bashed Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey.
Nice article. I’m fascinated that New Jersey 101.5 can get any kind of ratings when its signal is not especially good in most of NYC, but presumably it has a lot of listeners in Staten Island. Its signal is even further degraded by at least one Caribbean pirate at 101.5 FM in Flatbush, Brooklyn, but that’s probably limited to nights and weekends.
On another note, as another wannabe grammar cop, I must point out that “Gambinos” should not have an apostrophe (in the tagline to the Godfather photo at top), nor should “genres” (10th paragraph), nor should “Nolans” (second-to-last paragraph). You should never make anything plural with an apostrophe.
I guess it never occured to anyone here that when Obama threatened Assad with his red line it helped Limbaugh and Hannity. And when Obama let Bush and Cheney off the war criminal hook, it helped Levin and Patrick. And when
Obama called ISIS a threat to American indispensablilty to the world, it helped Limbaugh and Beck. And when
the “hipper” “liberal” Clinton said Putin was acting like Hitler, it helped the “angry old white men” do their thing.
Everybody to the right of Dennis Kucinich save perhaps the vanquished Ron (not Rand) Paul is an “angry old white man” when it comes to doing the bidding of m-i complex war profiteers and our “favorite nation.”
I’m on my second bottle of pink champagne after celebrating this Most Wonderful election cycle. Yes indeed, the zombies are finally awakening! Take that, President Obola!
Could iHeart Media buy WQEW to give Fox Sports Radio a New York outlet (instead of flipping WOR), and move the Mets to 1560, and maybe next season get the Islanders for that station as well.
Moving the Mets to an inferior signal at 1560? That will never happen. The Mets brought cume to WOR and did the job it was supposed to do. The Mets are really not the problem (if you know what I mean).
You’re right, the industry doesn’t want to face reality and the leading radio owners iHeart and Cumulus let powerhouse AM stations hang as a dead limb. I am told average cost per spot on WABC is $800. There is no way they can be making money. Someone else told me he bought Savage for $150.
Each of the big operators has syndicated conservative programs in their stable so I guess they need NY, Chicago, etc. stations in the buy.
The solution for these stations and other conservative talk stations is easy to define but hard to find talent. Talent that can talk about the local market not national issues like ISIS the President and congress. Talent that can entertain and in today’s radio whether talk or music entertaining witty on-air folk are rare. I never hire talent that does not have acting or stand-up experience even if it was terrible. MOR talk will attract more advertisers.
Good example is Paul W. Smith on 50,000 CC WJR owned by Cumulus; they gave him a 7-year deal.
Sports talk performers although talking about sports is in generally upbeat and listenable. Mark Chernoff CBS/WFAN told me in morning drive on sports stations more lifestyle chat is added.
So a new cycle of life for talk radio is staring the industry in the face.
Just came across your blog, and you are spot on.
The days of “affirmation talk radio”, where listeners go to simply affirm their beliefs with an endless circle jerk, are over.
Younger people realize that BOTH parties are equally at fault for the problems that we have in this country, and to expect them to tune in to a program which blames every single problem in the world on just one party is like talking about two Mafia families, but only accusing one family of being crooked. I have tried to listen to some of these shows and for the life of me, most callers sound like they have been hypnotized to simply repeat parrot phrases, egged on by the host who makes sure that the entire presentation is always playing to the cheap seats.
I swear that some of these hosts and programmers are a lot more measured in real life than they appear, but feel that they need to promote simplistic, blanket partisanship because they believe that the American public can only accept black/white/good guys/bad guys scenarios. To them, it seems, actual political analysis where the chips may fall on EITHER side, requires actual thought on the part of the listener. Better to have Captain America fight The Iron Sheik.
This may have worked for a while, but between the older, party loyalists aging rapidly and the younger crowd not drinking EITHER side’s Kool-Aid, affirmation-based, WWF style talk radio is a pathetic anachronism.
I don’t agree with you on the death of conservative talk, however I do wonder why WNYM in NY and WMTP in Philly do poorly in the ratings, but WFSX (Fox Talk Conservative) in Fort Myers FL. is # 1 in the entire market. So I guess it matters where you are.
Correction on the Philly stations call letters it is WNTP not WMTP