Streaming Has Saved Talk Radio

By Kathy Carr
Howie Carr Radio Network


BOSTON — Recently, I was signing up a new affiliate for “The Grace Curley Show” and one section of the agreement dealt with “territory,” meaning the area covered by the station’s terrestrial signal.

The template for this agreement was created just eight years ago, in 2014, but it now seems so archaic. With all the ways you can listen in 2022, what does it matter how strong the signal is and what exactly is “exclusive territory?” Because there is no exclusive territory now.

The Boston talk radio pioneer Jerry Williams was right. We are in the advertising business. Streaming and podcasts have given talk radio life beyond what could have been imagined years ago. The more people hear your message, the greater the opportunity for your clients.

When a buyer asks me to send him a ranker, I have a pretty good idea of his age. Shouldn’t the question be: Tell me about your top five clients and how long they have been with you?  Doesn’t that more accurately show the client your success rate?

We tell our listeners: You’ve moved out of the region for good — no problem.

You can’t listen that afternoon — no longer an issue.

You had to take a call and missed an interesting interview — hey, we’ve got you covered.

Talk is like no other format when it comes to shelf life. No one is going to download a podcast for music or a dated traffic report or last night’s play-by-play. But talk is something else – if it’s good, talk radio offers content unlike anything you can get anywhere else.

When a national company started with us as clients three years ago, they couldn’t believe all the orders they had coming in over the weekend, many from outside New England. We explained simply that it was the podcast. Having had sub-par results with radio years earlier, before podcasts, our client was stunned – in a good way.

Back in the ’90s, there was only one way to listen to talk radio – via radio. Almost always in the car or at home, maybe occasionally at work, but always on… a radio.

Today, let me count the ways: phone, smart speaker, laptop, desktop, tablet, TV, Facebook, wrist watch and, oh yeah, car radio.  Although our network is still primarily New England, we have a huge number of listeners outside the six-state region. Without all those technological advancements mentioned above, we could not have retained, grown and extended the audience.

Streaming has not only saved talk radio, it has extended its life. The more that listeners can continue to listen to the show above and beyond the radio, the more we can help our clients.

When it comes to companies taking advantage of these new technologies, iHeartMedia is way ahead of the game. We ask many of our listeners how they listen and more and more mention the iHeartRadio app.  We no longer lose the snow birds who migrate south when the weather grows colder. (In the winter, our second-biggest state for downloads is now Florida, after Massachusetts. New York is third.)

We no longer suffer an audience drop-off in Boston every November when daylight savings time ends and suddenly our show can no longer be picked up after sunset in more than a third of the metro area. The streaming cume numbers just continue to grow and the time spent listening has increased as well.

Most radio stations now have all these technologies at their fingertips. The key is getting the word out about them. The younger listeners get it, obviously, but you must educate the older demographics. As helpful as FM translators have been to keeping AM talkers from bleeding even more listeners, long-term the translators won’t be nearly as significant as transitioning the audience away from its dependency on transmitters.

Just as importantly, educate your advertisers as to the advantages these new technologies offer them. That mysterious post-midnight weekend online order from Boise – that wasn’t a fluke, that was our brand-new listening-podcasting-streaming experience delivering a whole new audience for your product or service.

Every show, every radio station, now goes around the world 24/7. Every show is in morning drive – somewhere!

And none of this will ever show up in any of your rankers.

Kathy Carr is President of HCRN which distributes the Howie Carr Show and Grace Curley Show. She can be reached at