Industry Views

Better Than a Tornado – What You Can Control

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday

The whining is non-stop. Many in radio mourn the advent of consolidation, corporate dictates, staff cuts. They miss the way the industry was – before.

A few reminders about – before. Half the radio stations in the U.S. lost money. Voice tracking? Yes, it was called automation, analog automation and it was a technical nightmare. The meta forces that control our industry today were not created by your current boss. They were created by irresponsible venture capitalists who only looked at the fifth-year projections. A budget projected to the fifth year is at best a guess, but it is most probably a lie.

What can you control? If you are a host, you can control your next show. If you are a program director, you can control your next promo, next break, next collection of shows. You control the product and that makes you the most powerful person in the radio ecosystem. You control the product. Let’s improve the product right now. Listeners know or believe that all radio is live. Live means surprises, the unexpected, the urgent!

— Prep the surprises. Rather than sourcing the New York PostDaily Mail and your local newspaper, try throwing them away for just a day and tap brand new, unexpected sources. Search “Siberia news” and “Alaska news.”  You will be stunned at the unique menu of stories and fresh material. Surprise! Did you know the biggest challenge in Siberia is rampant forest fires? How about the fact that melting permafrost has given up well preserved woolly mammoths and new breeds of humanoids? Live means surprise.

— Build the stage. Your station or network has a vast, digital production library that you don’t use. Take the time to sit with that library for a whole day and let your creativity explore the sounds and SFX. You will discover new beds, sounders and dramatic effects to build your show’s image and present the unexpected. Already use production? Scrap it and start fresh.

— Water in the basement is the most urgent news in a listener’s life. Not the debt ceiling or January 6. Water in the basement! Other urgent news is: The moving van is two days late. The mother in-law is speaking. Logan died on “Succession.” Give yourself permission to talk about what happened to you over the weekend rather than what happened in Washington, DC.

Your current list of topics is old news, no surprises, nothing urgent. Stop, it’s not working. The typical talk radio topics reach people who typically cannot stand up to change the dial. Surprises, the unexpected and the urgent could boost the survival probability of the AM band — better than a tornado.

Walter Sabo was the youngest Executive Vice President in the history of NBC. The youngest VP in the history of ABC. He was a consultant to RKO General longer than Bill Drake. Walter was the in house consultant to Sirius for eight years. He has never written a resume. Contact him at or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.comMeet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2.