3 Ways To Host a Radio Talk Show


The choice we have.  No wonder people want a revolution.

We’re about four months until the presidential election and arguably our choice is between two turd candidates.  On November 8th, we’ll walk into the voting booth and there will sit two steamers.  One, our brain reasons, has whipped cream on top.  The other is just plain crap.  We’ll stick the ballot in our mouth and biting down we’ll first taste the sweet goodness of the cream.  That initial taste is our justification we’re making the correct decision for president. Inevitably, though, we’ll begin tasting that turd and then turning to leave the voting booth, the foul taste of shit will be what’s left in our mouth.

Summer has only begun and Internet trolls and social media posters are already working overtime hiding behind their smartphones or keyboards and supporting their turd candidate.

And then there’s the original social media, radio, and its “talk radio” format.  Those two words have been defined as “conservative talk radio.” Short sighted radio programmers, locally and on the corporate level, allowed it to be defined this way.  If you’re a strategic thinker, you know it’s never good allowing yourself to be defined by others (negatively branded if you will) in the minds of the consumer.  Worse yet, the radio industry did it to itself.

But, what’s a station or two called “Rush Radio” going to hurt, “right?” I mean “correct?” “Rush is Right” after all.  So “1990’s” clever.

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A radio programmer recently posted this on Facebook as a cruel joke to the echo chamber “conservative talk radio” has become.  It’s a format that can’t bring up Ronald Reagan enough, a president who hasn’t been president for almost 30 years now (look it up).  So making a topic of Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke despising each other makes perfect sense.  Talk radio’s base, the angry 70-year old man, would love talking about how Rose Marie could take Don Knotts in a fight.  And of course Barney Fife was a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment, because he carried a single bullet in his shirt pocket.  The compelling layers to this topic are endless.

This comment was made to that original Facebook post by a well meaning conservative talk host whose name I’ll redact to avoid him embarrassment.

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If you have to say, “I NOT BE SILENCED,” you are being silence.

And herein lies the problem with talk radio today. A host says he’s trying to change and broaden topics (he’s not), but can’t because he thinks the number of callers on hold determine the success and popularity of a radio talk show.  He allows callers to direct the content of his show.  Put another way, he’s saying callers are better at determining “Topic A” than he is.

Do you think those callers care about or understand a host’s Nielsen ratings?  Those ratings are what actually determines the success or failure of a show and decides if a personality keeps his job or not. Right?

Do you think those callers care about the revenue a show is producing?  The sales manager and market manager do. Right?

Or could those callers be calling with another agenda?

Good grief. Wake up talk radio!

I’ve heard this lame excuse many times before. A national host once said to me, “I can’t do the topics I want because before the show starts I have full lines of people wanting to talk politics.”


Are those callers on hold actually listening to the show? Or are they professional callers and part of a phone tree attempting to engage radio shows at the urging of a political party, a candidate or organizational cause?  That’s the other agenda I mentioned.

This is probably a bad example for this discussion, but do you think Rush Limbaugh cares about the callers to his show?  Let me be blunt.  He doesn’t give a damn. The show is about him, Rush Limbaugh, not the callers.  If he chose, Limbaugh could talk about a banana for months on end and never take a call, he’s that skilled of a radio performer. He’s never taken many calls. Even on his so-called “Open Line Friday,” with its outdated and hopelessly stuck in the 80’s faux Saturday Night Live theme, he doesn’t take many calls.

Less than 1% of the audience calls a talk show.  As a radio personality why would you pander to that 1% and ignore the other 99%?

Here’s some radio talk host coaching 101 for free.

There are three ways to do a talk show and only one is correct.

  • Caller Driven (wrong). This is where a host depends on the calls to be interesting, because the host generally isn’t very interesting, knowledgable or entertaining. Great topics abound like, “What color Trump hat would look best on me?  White or red?”  “Ooooooo.  Red.  The color of a firetruck.”

  • Guest Driven (wrong). This is where a host depends on guests to make his show interesting, because the host generally isn’t very interesting, knowledgable or entertaining.  Hour after hour boring book authors populate the show.  Think Larry King here.  And before you say it, have you ever heard or seen Larry King without a guest? Thought so.

  • Personality Driven (correct). This is what you must strive to be as a radio talk host! Listeners are listening because of you! You’re entertaining.  Interesting. Compelling. Originating information. You’re a companion. You’re the daily water cooler talk.  You speak for them and you’re their advocate.  You’re Limbaugh (when he was younger, irreverent, entertaining and not a pissed off 65-year old man). You’re Howard Stern (He’s still great and not that much younger than Limbaugh.  He’s 62). You’re Josh Innes from WIP-FM. Outspoken.  Irreverent. He speaks with and for young men and the sports fans of Philadelphia.  Being a personality takes hard work. You’re unique and most importantly you can’t be duplicated, which is the definition of job security.

If you’re a radio talk host, stop looking at those blinking on hold lights and be what you’re paid to do. Be a personality!


  3 comments for “3 Ways To Host a Radio Talk Show

  1. June 30, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    I always said to my talk radio hosts, I don’t care what your opinion is, but you better have one and be able to express it compellingly.

    Be a personality. You nailed it again Darryl.

  2. Constant
    July 1, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Mr. Parks – I listened to you on Saturdays because you sounded like you reflected my “mindset.” This made it easy to just listen comfortably, punctuate by humor and insightful (informative) observations. In fact, I dare say you said a few things that made me wish I “had” your mindset, not just a reflection. The problem is I am but one, loyal but just one. The radio host has to have a “mindset” that reflects a particular listening audience. Program managers are in pursuit of numbers, not just one. Ratings and revenue, I even remember.

    As an example, Brian Thomas is an “advocacy” radio host. Supports first responders, military veterans, rule of law, and libertarianism. This is my mindset also. I listen loyally. No disrespect intended but Sloan (cynical sarcasm ), Allen (trolling for clients), McConnell (self-absorbed), Cunningham (Springer want to be) are NOT my mindset. I guess they all have unique personalities and are compelling to some. For them, I am minus one. Personality is fleeting. Comfort is lasting. For me, Limbaugh is comfortable. There are others. What about someone like Jim Lababara?


    • Hans von Balkovsky
      July 9, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      You haven’t got McConnell quite right. Self-absorbed, sure, but that “self” is so low key boring, who would notice?
      And McConnell IS an advocacy host, just like Thomas. You just didn’t notice because he advocates approximately the status quo as if the ‘center’ is the best of all possible worlds, or it wouldn’t be the center. I mean the guy actually said many times Congresspeople aren’t paid enough and term limits would remove too much talent before it could do
      enough good (which to him is to maintain the centrist status quo.)
      Cunningham? He was for the Iraq War before he was against it before he apologized for cheerleading it before he
      apologized for apologizing for cheerleading it. Now, THAT’s a personality befitting a Springer trash TV show.

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