50,000 watts. Major League Baseball. And the ratings are shit.
You might ask why? I believe I have the answer.
When breaking news (or weather) happens, people are looking for information. People that may never have listened to a station are tuning in wanting to know what’s happening around them.
Think back almost 15 years to September 11, 2001. We were all confused. Questioning our safety. We wanted to know what was happening. We wanted to know what to do. We wanted guidance. We wanted reassurance. We needed comfort.
The people that are, in radio ratings terms, P1’s are already with you and listening. But, a big news event causes others to tune in, the P2’s and P3’s, if you will. So logically what is the job of a talk host, producer and program director during breaking news? To convert those P2’s and P3’s to P1’s or in layman’s terms:
The first thing my wife said to me this morning, “Our world is coming unglued. What the hell is going on?” She was talking about the five police officers senselessly gunned down in of all places Dallas, a city with arguably the most progressive and “tuned into the community” police department in the country. People across America, white, African American, Hispanic, Asian – no matter the grouping – are confused, need guidance, reassurance and are searching for comfort.
Conservative talk radio could have dialed down the rhetoric for a day or two, embracing those new listeners searching for answers, but, as normal, it didn’t. The shootings in Dallas are a time when talk radio can lead and excel. Instead, to those new listeners, conservative talk radio comes across as a grouping of conspiracy lunatics. And when someone new tunes into their local talk radio station, their immediate reaction is “this station is not me.”
Someone once said something very profound to me. They said, “See that can of Coca-Cola? The first time I took at sip of Coke, if it tasted like shit, I never would have bought another one.”
Translation: You only have one chance to make a first impression.
So why does WLS in Chicago have poor ratings?
This may be why. This was Instagram’d and Tweeted this morning. It’s a picture of a call screen from (what I understand to be) the WLS morning show, the morning after five Dallas police officers were killed and numerous other officers wounded.
I don’t know if any of these calls made it to air, but what I question is why these callers were screened through for air in the first place?
This is just one example of what may have been heard on hundreds of talk stations across America on July 8, 2016.
A host’s, producer’s and programmer’s job during breaking news is to convert new listeners to regular listeners.
If you don’t understand this ratings and programming fundamental, shame on you.