5 Radio Road Trip Discoveries You Need to Know


Buffalo Route 1

Late last week I took a road trip to Western New York. If you’re moving (that means speeding), it’s about a 6-hour drive each way from my home in Cincinnati to Orchard Park. Traveling alone here are some of the things I discovered.


Group Contest

Did you know you could win $1000 (or “a share of $480,000”) from hundreds of radio stations? It’s true. These are group contests where the money being given away is the same money that’s promoted on each of the company’s participating stations. To make matters worse, the iHeart Media radio stations and the Cumulus stations are running similar contests. A chance to win money, cue to call, text in. The Entercom stations have run the same contest in the past too.

Talk about banality.

Years ago, radio stations used contests tactically and with strategic thought. WNCI-FM in Columbus did a variation of the birthday game in a spring give away each year (Listen mornings at 7:20, if you hear yours you may win BIG money). They followed up that contest by giving away a house. Yes, a house. And there was a new car in the garage.

Radio stations used contests for two reasons (1) increase ratings and revenues by manipulating audience surveys, and (2) to differentiate the brand from the competition. It meant something to have the so-called “contesting” image.  Today, not so much.

We know radio consolidators have homogenized what’s left of any personalities and music. Add contests to that list.

And I never heard a winner’s promo on any of the dozens of radio stations I listened to – iHeart Media or Cumulus. Where’s the pay-off?


Dan Patrick

He’s really, really good on the radio. Patrick is entertaining, informative, fun and a skilled and prepared interviewer. (Note to air talent: the important word here is “prepared.”)

On Friday’s show, Patrick interviewed disgraced college basketball coach Rick Pitino.  Coach Pitino repeated numerous times that this would be his last interview. Don’t take the bet. He likes to hear himself talk and loves the attention.

For about 20 minutes Pitino tried to preach his innocence. And the more he preached, the guiltier he sounded. Patrick asked him the questions that needed to be asked and then allowed Pitino’s ego to take over. Patrick was never confrontational.  He just let him talk.

As I lost one of his affiliate stations in my travels, I searched for another. From one small market and low power station to the next I listened for almost three entire hours. Great radio.


I heard a filler “sales” promo on a small Ohio AM station read by the CEO of iHeart Media. Mouth close to the microphone; in a breathy delivery he said people ask him all the time about the benefits of radio advertising.

I’m thinking someone wanted to suck up to Mr. Pittman and told him of a great idea they had and that was Bob being on the radio himself. This type of spot is better coming from a popular personality with a personal connection to the listeners and advertisers in those markets. I’ve heard Pittman preach this same “personality evangel” in the past. What gives now?


It’s never good when you have to ask someone why a radio station is called what it is.

There’s a station in ColumBUS that calls itself “The Bus.” I lived in Columbus. “The Bus?” How many people there call the city “The Bus?” I’m guessing few, if any.

So I asked someone in radio why it’s called “The Bus.” He said, “Colum-BUS. You know. ‘BUS.’ Um. Yeah. It’s stupid.”

Saturday afternoon as I was speeding south on I-71 listening to “The Bus,” each commercial set began with a traffic report. There were no traffic problems as the out-of-market reporter took 30 seconds to tell me. The only reason for these traffic reports on this “we play anything” jukebox and jockless music station were sponsorships. But, you know the interesting thing? When I flipped over to the news, weather and traffic station, WTVN, there were no traffic reports, for example at 2:30pm. There was local news, a short weather update and a network Master’s Golf update, but no traffic updates to tell me there still were no traffic problems to hold me up in “The Bus.”

At least if you’re going to do useless traffic, put the reports on the station that makes the most sense.


97 Rock

To use the positioning statement “What Buffalo sounds like,” your station needs to sound like the market sounds, speak like the market speaks and advocate for the market each time a personality talks. In a day where like formatted music stations mostly sound the same, 97 Rock sounds like Buffalo. Next time you’re in Buffalo and you want a feel for the city, its people, its idiosyncrasies, the chip on its shoulder and its love for the Buffalo Bills, listen.

97 Rock’s sister station here in Cincinnati, 92.5 The Fox, is a good station, but it can be plopped into any market. It’s a Burger King. It’s white labeled. As radio has changed, so has 97 Rock, but it’s never lost its deep connection to the people of Buffalo and Western New York.


Midday personality, JP, or John Picillo, has been in the market for decades. He has the rare ability to make an old song sound like it’s the first time he and you are hearing it and you’re sharing that experience together. The Doors, Pink Floyd, and the songs we’ve heard a thousand times before, all sound like a new music discovery. He’s has a connection to the music and a love for the market that’s comforting to any native Western New Yorker.

Anita West

Anita West is another decades long personality (who I adore). Gravely voiced, an attitude  and yet displays the endearing and caring qualities of Buffalo and its people. Years ago, I took my wife to a local tavern in my hometown. She said to me after a few beers, “Darryl. I’m not tough enough to be a Lackawanna (NY) girl.” Anita is.

97 Rock – WGRF-FM – a great radio station because of its personalities and long time programmer John Hager.

A station to be imitated and you know what they say about imitation.

(And before you say it, yes, they’re running the $1000 Cumulus group contest. You do know it’s a cram down, right?)


Please make sure to follow my blog here and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

  11 comments for “5 Radio Road Trip Discoveries You Need to Know

  1. Dave Arnold
    April 10, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Some very good points.

  2. J.T.
    April 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve lived in Columbus. These days, the locals regularly refer to their hometown as “C-Bus,” making “The Bus” a plausible moniker, and given the ratings, a reasonably successful one, too.

    • April 18, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      J.T., Yes. I’m aware of the C-Bus nickname. I actually edited the mention of that out of the final text due to length. I never said it was a bad station musically. But, you must agree it has very little content relevant to Columbus, except the The Bus, which I didn’t get. It’s a Burger King and can be plopped into any market.

  3. J.T.
    April 11, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    …much more plausible than “The River” where you’re overlooking a major one like the Hudson, Ohio, Mississippi, Columbia, or even the Susquehanna or the Connecticut. For the life of me, I can’t think of a river in Atlanta other than a radio station that called itself that.

    • J.T.
      April 11, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      Let me fix the typos: …much more plausible than “The River” where you’re NOT overlooking a major one like the Hudson, Ohio, Mississippi, Columbia, or even the Susquehanna or the Connecticut. For the life of me, I can’t think of a river in Atlanta other than a radio station that called itself that.

  4. April 11, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Damn how I still miss a talent like YOU on the radio. The Big One 700 WLW is not as big without your sage wisdom and advice. Why can’t we forgive and forget and put entertainment BACK on the radio?

    • April 18, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      I take no responsibility for what it has become. 🙂 Thank you for the kind thoughts Art. They are very much appreciated. And let it be known the favorite part of my week was the time I got to spend with you and listeners. Be well.

    • May 14, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks for the kind thoughts, Art. Maybe some day. Darryl

  5. April 12, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    This is the best radio related post I have read this calendar year. Darryl, please take more road trips, sooner than later.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: