Why WLS in Chicago has a 1.9 Share

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 9.27.17 AM

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.

  16 comments for “Why WLS in Chicago has a 1.9 Share

  1. July 8, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Reblogged this on artversnick and commented:
    Darryl “nails it.”

  2. The Bryan Crabtree Show & Housedog.com
    July 8, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    So true. Was there something else to discuss today? I did two hours on it; How to find hope again in a broken society, what to do if you’re armed and get pulled over with form NY PD police chief, the spark that lit this fire, the stats behind police shootings, the truth that we still have racism in this country but we can’t assume any of those two events leading up to the shooting were racist at all until we get all the facts, the fact that many of our local police departments in the ATL are understaffed, having a hard time recruiting cops and existing ones are working overtime, tired and demoralized by two years worth of misunderstanding resulting from political hacks and media. Hillary and Trump took a back seat.

    • JCW
      July 20, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Have you heard of punctuation? It might help you I getting your point across.

  3. Nick
    July 9, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Darryl, I thought CheapChannel was working hard at removing producers and programmers to the point that the talent / host answered the phone too. How well did that argument go over?

    • July 9, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Nick, WLS is owned by Cumulus. But, to your point I did have to make the case for producers during budget season numerous times. I hope you’re doing well. Darryl

  4. Al Gardner
    July 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Right on the money, Darryl.

    • July 10, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Alan, thank you. I hope you’re doing well. Darryl

  5. George Corneliussen
    July 9, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    In radio, these days, shit sells until it doesn’t sell any more then they create a new pile of shit to sell.

    • July 10, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      George, here’s a partial list of exactly what you’re referencing. Only, instead of to the audience, this is what’s been sold to people in the radio industry and advertisers since 1998. That’s nearly 20 years of continual smoke-and-mirrors – yet, industry execs continue to say radio is not losing relevancy.

      Network Radio Compliance Council
      Radio Communicators Group
      Radio 2020
      Radio Heard Here
      The HD Radio Alliance
      Radio. You Hear It Here First
      Buy from FM
      Less is More
      Radio Creative Resource Group
      Format Lab
      HD Radio University
      Blink Ads
      The International Broadcasters IdeaBank
      Imagine a day without RAB http://www.rab.com/dayLtr1.html (404 now)
      Buy from FM
      “What’s Working for You?” – RAB (circa: 2009)

      • July 10, 2016 at 10:07 pm

        Less is more brings back some “great memories.”

  6. Hans von Balkovsky
    July 9, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Sorry, Parks, but you don’t exactly explain what would have been examples of “explaining” “comforting” “guiding” and “reassuring.” Who is going to be interviewed or brought in to do the explaining? Some member of the “center cannot hold and is not holding” status quo?
    Comfort? All the new age mimimalistic soothing musicians are on alternative FM playlists now.
    “Guiding?” Oooo, sounds like maybe a plea for John Kasich to do a generically inoffensive Biblical segment.
    “Reassuring?” Oh, get with it. Get Sherriff Richard K Jones on and you got a party!

  7. July 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

    WLS’s schedule is nightmarish patchwork of:

    ** Boring conservatalkers – “Big John” Howell (hired away from Salem’s WIND, a station with NO ratings), Rush and Levin.
    ** Washed-up shock jocks that lost their relevance 15 years ago – Johnathon Brandmeier and Steve Dahl.
    ** The White Sox and Bulls, because the Dickeys paid money they didn’t have.

    If anything, it’s a miracle that the station hasn’t received the KGO treatment yet.

    • July 10, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      It’s coming…sadly. It’s coming for a lot of news/talk stations. It will be predicated on poor revenues and poor demographics. Only a matter of time.

  8. Wes Minter
    July 11, 2016 at 2:31 am

    Darryl – You are spot-on with your commentary about bringing P2’s…P3’s, etc. into the stable of regular listeners. When I was a radio host, I tried to do two things well: (1) Talk about what’s in the “cross hairs” of the public buzz and (2) coach and help the producer screen for callers who can add something compelling and/or interesting to the discussion. We don’t need callers; keep the listener engaged with interesting things to say; but if you ask for people got call and share an opinion, it better be something others will find worth listening to. As my dad once said to me, there are two kinds of people in this world. One, is the guy who always has to say something. The other, is the guy who has something to say. Keep up the good work with your blog!

    • July 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Wes, I hope you’re doing well. To your first point, I call that Topic A. Talk about the things your target audience is talking about. To your second point, the producer and technical producer are the most important people on a show. All need to be coached, trained and understand the mission of the station brand. No matter how good the talent is, the producers and call screeners are the front lines with the audience and have the ability to make a host sound bad. That is so often ignored. Have a great week and thanks for reading the blog. Darryl

  9. Jared Hartman
    July 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    WLS is not the station it once was for sure. Lived in Chicago in the 80’s, had a chance to be back there recently, wow how things have changed.Sad too! I , like many used to enjoy listening!

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