The Vastness of Night

by Walter Sterling
Talk Show Host


NEW YORK — The two most effective, engaging forms of advertising are in-theatre and overnight radio. Surrounded by darkness without distractions, the audience choses to receive the advertising message in the comfort of a bed, perfectly adjusted car seat, or reclining throne.

Overnight radio is 25% of the broadcast day. Twenty-five percent. A locally hosted all-night show in a major city is a gift to listeners and advertisers. The audience identifies with the references made by their neighbor, the radio host. Bonding is immediate.

Every format has a “default” time period when it will attract its largest audience share—no matter what. In lite adult contemporary, it’s 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.  All-news and information-driven talk? It’s 5:00 am to 6:00 am. Talk radio’s default time period is 12:00 midnight to 1:00 am.

As major market talk stations committed the false economy of ending local, live all-night radio, they knocked out the listener’s drawbridge to the station. Listening patterns became more random, unstable and smaller and smaller. The result is a false conclusion that audience levels are in decline!

It’s hysterical when owners say they can’t “afford” a local all-night show.

What’s to afford? A combo operator host making maybe $75k covering 25% of the broadcast day? Can you manage that? Sounds like a bargain of epic proportions. You will find that on a per spot basis the all-night show will drive more customers to the sponsor than any other daypart.

Congratulations to John Catsimatidis, owner of WABC for signing up Frank Morano to host live and local overnights. What does Frank talk about? Politics? No, no, no. He talks about his new born son and his life — which sounds a lot like your life.

In running major market stations, the first host I usually hire in any format is the all-night star. When launching WYNY, New York’s revolutionary AC/talk strategy, Dan Griffin’s first hire was Dick Summer for overnights. Dick set the tone and professionalism for the format. Yes, that’s a Jurassic reference but I deployed the same tactic when staffing Sirius Satellite Radio’s music channels.

In medium and smaller cities the goal should be to secure the best available network/syndicated show with as many local information sets as possible. It can be done and it can sound great.


I hope someone else has thought of this: Overnights for many AM stations enjoy much greater signal coverage than during the day or more than any FM station. Charge a premium for the vastness of night.

Walter Sterling hosts “STERLING ON SUNDAY” from 10:00 pm to 1:00 am ET  www.waltermsterling.com.