Talk Radio – Becoming the Weekend Laxative for Octogenarians

I’m in my mid 50’s and I used to laugh when people said it sucks getting old.  It does!  Stiffies aren’t as stiff.  You’re up 5 and 6 times a night to pee.  And “regular” is no longer “regular,” if you know what I mean.

Spending time in the privacy of the privy gives one time to really think.

cfile26.uf.2648AF435279334C112FA0

Taking the term “laptop” to the next level.

What would you say if a sports team, let’s says a football team, had to spot its opponent 29 points before each game?  I’m not talking about a betting line at a Las Vegas sports book.  I’m talking about the actual game!

The NFL, for example, thinking Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck are so good that it’s not fair.  So, before playing the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl this year, the Seahawks started with 29 points on the scoreboard, playing the game normally, having the opportunity to score more and the Patriots having to play catch up to beat them.

That’s what’s happening to news/talk radio, being driven by corporate demands of more and more revenue as ratings decline.  Corporate radio refuses to make the needed programming adjustments to address changing demographics, changes in culture or even changes in politics. Just maintain status quo and keep throwing out “red meat” political talk to keep the remaining 65-plus, angry white male listeners happy and let the format fade into the sunset.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There are 168 hours each week, 48 of those hours are on weekends.  Or put another way 28.6% of each week’s broadcast hours are on weekends, those 29 spotted points I mentioned above.  Most news/talk stations ignore Saturdays and Sundays, literally chasing people away with programming few want to hear and driven by the reality they can no longer sell the mostly syndicated, extreme right wing programming they broadcast weekdays.

How do they ignore Saturdays and Sundays?

  1. Crappy brokered programming.
  2. Replays of the old syndicated content (the stuff fewer are listening to during the week, now available on the weekend for your enjoyment).  Dated shows?  Irrelevant content?  “Then don’t listen!”  I guess people are following directions.
  3. News?  Weather?  Traffic?  That stuff only happens during the week, not weekends!  It can wait until Monday.
  4. Production mistakes and just bad production that ignores Nielsen PPM and diary fundamentals.

48 hours of mostly unlistenable programming.

I feel for local morning hosts, probably the only local personalities left at a news/talk station, trying to jump start their stations at 5am on Monday morning, hoping to attract people chased away over the weekend with their unique blend of political babble of how Obama is ruining us now that “everyone has Obamacare.”  I actually heard that this week from a local host who must be a closet Brian Williams’ fan.  That certainly comes as a surprise to me with United Healthcare insurance.  I didn’t know they changed the company name to “United Obamacare.”

So what are the real issues here?

"I can't get no.  Satisfaction."

“I can’t get no. Satisfaction.”

Are programmers that unskilled, untrained and stupid to believe a brokered program to cleanse one’s colon is going to gather an audience?  I hope not.  But, they’re not making the decision.  It’s the corporate programmers, most of whom have never programmed a news/talk station.  Go ahead.  Ask any of them if you can handle the truth.  You have to laugh when these brokered shows or the “suggestion” of sold brokered hours are forced down on the PD of a news/talk station, but rarely crammed down on any other format?  Why is that?  The audience of a Classic Hits station is close in age to a news/talk audience (at least it used to be)?  People listening to The Rolling Stones get constipated too!  Even The Rolling Stones gets constipated!

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 5.30.19 PM

In defense of the account executives burdened to sell the news/talk format of today, the majority of these stations consist of a local weekday morning show and then 21 hours of syndicated programming mostly spewing the same political narratives hour after hour.  Fewer advertisers are wanting in on shows like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck due to their aging, angry audiences and extreme opinions.  I actually heard Hannity say last week the “economy is in shambles.”  What?  How can you say that with a straight face “Mr. 1%?”  To pay the electric bill, stations are forced to sell blocks of paid programs on weekends.  Of course, many of these shows do provide a solution to help an angry 65-year old white male stay…how shall I say….”regular.”

fbjam

Glad I went before I left.

News?  Weather?  Traffic?  In the opinion of many corporate programmers and local programmers, news, weather and traffic stops in a listener’s life at 6pm on Friday and resumes Monday morning at 5am.  I guess I imagined the 6-inches of heavy, wet snow in my driveway last Saturday morning.  Or the Sunday morning a few months ago when I was stuck in traffic in Jackson, Mississippi and wondered why I barely moved for 90 minutes.  News?  The audience can wait for that until Monday morning.  Immediacy, the core of what makes radio so great, is an imposition to most news/talk stations of today, even though news, weather and traffic are the gateway elements into the format – the metaphorical door people walk through to be exposed to the talk product.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 5.30.43 PM

Guess they changed the name of George’s show.

Weekends are made to relax, anyway.  No need to pay attention to a radio station or even a station’s website.  I’m guessing the average news/talk PD doesn’t turn his station on weekends or even looks at his station’s website.  Production elements?  No need.  In diary markets, call letter mentions?  Why bother.  Angry and constipated Grandpa doesn’t need to relax anyway.  He needs to strain and bare down.

48 hours of dated and irrelevant programming.  28.6% of each week’s broadcast time is ignored.

I just heard WLS-AM in Chicago canceled a syndicated weekend show to air more brokered shows.  I guess their 1.1 share (6+) via its 50,000 watts isn’t yet low enough.  And there’s WNEW-FM in Washington, the “all news” station, rumored to be adding brokered shows.

"Sir.  Just as Darryl Parks predicted, after your move to the AM station in Pittsburgh, you're fewer people are listening to you.  Have you thought about discussing laxatives?"

“Sir. Just as Darryl Parks predicted, after your move to the AM station in Pittsburgh, fewer people are listening to you. Have you thought about discussing laxatives?”

Then I remembered there was this Clear Channel Media + Entertainment iHeart Media talk station in Pittsburgh that sent Rush Limbaugh and his other 1% buddies into Siberia on WJAS-AM and turned country!  I’ll bet the next time I’m in Pittsburgh and can’t “go” I can still turn on WPGB-FM, now known as Big 104.7, and hear how to get some relief.  They had to keep those colon cleansing shows through the format switch from news/talk to country.

But alas, no.  Amazingly, the music they play during the week is the same music they play on the weekends.  They actually want their country listeners to listen 7 days a week, not 5…constipated or not.

What is one to do if they can’t have a bowel movement in Pittsburgh?  Drive to Erie?

getty_rm_photo_of_old_man_with_apple

“I owe my regularity to talk radio!”

Corporate radio has given up on news and talk.  But, Grandpa is lucky.  At least corporate radio recognizes the format’s unique niche to be “the” weekend laxative station, providing Pappaw the relief he needs.

I guess you can say news/talk radio broadcasts in Grandpa’s interest, convenience and necessity.

 

Please like and share this blog.  

Get more insight and thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter by following me @darryl_parks

  17 comments for “Talk Radio – Becoming the Weekend Laxative for Octogenarians

  1. February 26, 2015 at 3:05 am

    Darryl “nailed it.”

  2. February 26, 2015 at 3:05 am

    It is heartbreaking to hear so many News/Talk stations being whored-out to make the quarterly sales figures look good.

  3. Chris Stevens
    February 26, 2015 at 5:27 am

    And those in charge aren’t listening, for example, one Tom Tradup:

    “AM talk radio listeners are notoriously older. And it’s not an election year.

    But at Irving-based Salem Radio, part of the Christian media conglomerate that owns KSKY/660 AM, Vice President Tom Tradup isn’t buying it.

    “NPR remains essentially the media of choice for guys in beaded car seats driving cabs at DFW airport,” Tradup wrote in a scathing email that could have come from a host.

    “You could stop the next 5,000 people on the street … virtually 100 percent of them would say they regularly listen to Rush Limbaugh. If you asked who Diane Rehm is, the response in most cases would be crickets.”

    Comparing KERA’s rating to WBAP’s or KSKY’s is pointless, Tradup said. He called commercial talk radio “vibrant and impactful” even if it doesn’t “give folks a lavender tote bag.”

    Even when you point them to a success, they refuse to learn from it. They will blame everything but their product for its own failures. And these are the people ranting and raving about the “free market” all while denying its effects and rules.

    In many cases, I’m sure the source of the constipation issues can be found in a steady diet of weekday AM talk programming. 8 hours a day of that would make anyone a miserable geezer. Ever notice how people who supposedly “love this country” seem to hate everything and everyone in it? If America is as rotten as Limbaugh and Hannity think it is, why aren’t they beaming it in from Costa Rica?

    • John Davis
      February 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      NPR has its own issues with a greying audience, but it’s been making moves to skew younger, and other than the stations that continue to run Click & Clack from the grave many public radio NT’s are running some weekend programming that sounds almost experimental in an effort to find the next thing that sticks. I wouldn’t say that they’ve got it all figured out yet and some of what they do is challenging to listen to, but at least they’re making an effort to go after 25-54.

      Meanwhile in Houston, whatever Clear Channel is calling itself this week has put 24/7 traffic and weather on its music stations (all playing the same NexGen file as the AM would play) for more Total Traffic commercial clearance. Remind me again why I would ever need to turn on KTRH?

      Finally, just as most stations who claim “More Music” lie through their teeth about how many spots they play, why shouldn’t I expect talk radio promising “The Truth” or “The Answer” to provide the exact opposite?

  4. February 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I wish all of this weren’t true, but it is. And many corporate programmers simply don’t understand a 38 year old like me who listens to talk, sports and various spoken word formats (aside from being in the business for 21 years) and what is that we want to hear. Darryl’s right! If I hear about Obamacare one more time, I’m going to throw up. “Get over it.”
    But, when you have Wall Street producing content for Main Street this is what you get.

  5. February 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Reblogged this on crabtreereo and commented:
    Wall Street Programming content for Main Street – this is true.

  6. Steve J
    February 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Darryl:

    Speaking from a local perspective only, I could not agree more with your article. I have been loyal to the 50,000 watt flame thrower for many years, but I am dumbfounded with the weekend sets. I am in construction, so I want to clarify that I do not know the ins and outs of the radio business, but when did it become customary to replay (or in other words “the best of”) past shows during weekend time slots (minus Christmas etc.) I, for one, listen to the radio mostly on the weekends so why on earth do I want to hear something that was news last week? Or something I heard while driving in my vehicle days prior? Also, if I hear the fake segment about Marty visiting Tracy’s parents in California one more time I am going to puke! I mean come on. I am finished ranting now.

    As far as demographics, I am in my early 40’s and I have all but disbanded standard media. I dumped the cable months ago and I have all but given up on the flame thrower minus Broo and guest appearances from McConnell. I basically visit a few websites daily to get my news and stream media that at least keeps me up to date with current events.

    I follow your blog because I believe in what you have to say. I am not trying to give you the “big head” but it’s clear how much of an impact you had on our local station (quality and type of programming past to present). The “suits” made a monumental mistake when they made the decision regarding your past employment.

    Take care and thanks for the continued articles.

    • February 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Steve J. Thank you for the kind thoughts. It’s almost like you think I have a legacy! Don’t say it, I think that means old. LOL. Darryl

  7. Mike Edwards
    February 26, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Word is at I Heart due to a research project they determined the only assets worth promoting on their News-Talk stations are News-Traffic-& Weather. Since the 35-54 target listeners are getting more burned out on the constant
    politics and anger spewed by the hosts. So, instead of fixing the problem, they ignore it and hope that listeners really need the constant flow of news, dated traffic reports, and weather casts. News flash: can’t I get most of that information via my smart phone?

    We’re not talking about WTOP or KCBS here, most News-Talk stations have little resources for any more than news briefs, and traffic is usually old by the time it hits the air,. Other than a KFI, nearly all I Heart’s News Talkers use the same boilerplate imaging and promos custom produced for barter, and the morning show still has the dated cling clang sounders announcing weather, traffic on the 9’s, etc.

    The National News-Talk PD position has been eliminated at I Heart so have CHR programmers mandating formatics and positioning strategies for News Talk. Traffic and Weather on the weekend? Lucky if you don’t have multiple sources running concurrently at the top of the hour due to no one in the building. My question to you Darryl, is will News Talk continue to be downgraded at companies like I Heart and Cumulus, or will there be any effort to actually program News-Talk stations that relate to salable demographics?.

    • February 26, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Mike, the answer to your question? No.

      I haven’t written this blog yet, but it’s coming. As Randy Michaels once said to me about a different subject, “Darryl. Think it through!” iHeart Media just sold off much of the real estate and its towers. It’s been reported about 400 stations. So, what type of stations have real estate? AM. Many FM’s already lease their tower space. They won’t invest in the news/talk product. Selling the tower sites says everything. Darryl

      PS: They actually had to do a research study to tell them that? Rumor is my name came up at the research presentation. I have been told the quote was, “This is what Darryl Parks has been telling us!” Oh well. 🙂

  8. Kipco
    February 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    One simple reason…the parent companies want to operate the stations as cheaply as humanly possible. Canned programming is easy because it runs itself with no need for any actual staff in the building, on the clock, costing money. This has been the case ever since media deregulation allowed limitless corporate ownership of stations and this is the result of twenty years of penny pinching and bean counting with little if any regard to content. Deal with it, radio, this is the bed you made now lay in it.

  9. Jay Pea
    February 26, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    I have news for you. It’s not just News/Talk. I left a music station where I was OM/PD 16 years ago because the owner decided he wanted “gravy on his mashed potatoes”. He decided to kill part of the 24-hour mainstream AC format we had from 6pm to 6am for brokered programming. So we had AC during the day and Colon Cleanse at night. The AC format was fairly successful, up until the brokered programming hit. I told him what would happen – that it would cheapen the image of the station and his daytime customers would leave, and all he’d have to live on is the so-called “gravy.” A year later, they found themselves doing just that. Even now, they can’t discontinue the brokered stuff – it’s all they’ve got coming in to pay the bills. The station is now a shadow of its former self. No one wants to buy time in the daytime programming. And anyone who has looked at the station with an eye towards acquiring it have run away fast.

    • Danny K.
      March 13, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      What radio does is the same thing as if Kroger said they are only going to keep their doors open from 10-7 because those are the only hours where the stores are busy and they make money. If Kroger did this and you needed milk at 10pm, you buy it across the street. When you do that a few times, you get out of the habit of going to Kroger and you start going to the other guy more even during those hours of 10-7.

      In Columbus, WBNS-FM (The Fan) is the Number 3 rated station with a 7.2. That has to be off the charts for a sports station. I believe the big reason why is that they are “live and local” for most of the afternoon and evening.

      I think this is lost on media execs.

  10. Hans von Balkovsky
    February 27, 2015 at 12:17 am

    NPR is certainly way overly corporate-influenced than it used to be and is certainly not “Left” in any
    real meaning of the word. Neither is the Dem Party, not since the neolibcon Clintons took it over.

    If you want oppositional-to-the ruling-elite Left go here.

    http://www.democracynow.org/

  11. March 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    I like you Daryl and used to really enjoy your weekend show. But damn, I am so tired of being stereotyped as an angry old white guy just because I retain my conservative principles as I gracefully age. “Angry” is code for “hater” and we have enough ugliness in our pop culture directed at elderly conservatives without retired guys like yourself throwing your entire generation under the bus. FWIW

    • March 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you for the comments and thoughts. And you probably have a point. Truth is I’m one of the aging individuals as well. White. But, not angry. But, as someone I respect said to me not too long ago as I was growing a beard over the holidays. “Darryl. You do know it’s a young man’s world, right?” LOL. I appreciate the feedback and thanks for checking out the blog. Darryl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: