Industry Views

Monday Memo: How Talk Radio Imitates Lunch

By Holland Cooke

imHere’s actual news copy, from Joe Connolly’s business report one morning on WCBS, NY: “One third of all domestic flights are now late, by an average of one hour.”

Note: That wasn’t the headline, it was the entire story. As-much-as half of Connolly’s script is one-sentence stories. Espresso, not latte. Just the factoids, ma’am. The essence. What the listener would likely retain (and quote later) from the story if copy were longer.

Here’s some HC lore – and promo language – that’ll be familiar to programmers and talent I work with:

The first 5 minutes of the hour are for facts.

The next 55 are for feelings.

Your news people, and/or your network, fuss to make 00-05 a handy digest of the-very-latest-about the stories they reckon to be relevant to your target listener. Your on-air imaging should promise accordingly. Invite busy, in-car listeners to make an hourly appointment, “THROUGHOUT YOUR BUSY DAY.”

The people with whom that benefit statement will resonate are high-TSL users who don’t want to feel “OUT-OF-THE-LOOP, WHEN YOU’RE OUT-AND-ABOUT.” And they’re the listeners your local direct retail advertisers want to meet the most. Every time they stop the car, they spend money.


What happens at lunch is what should happen on-air

Picture Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer at that coffee shop on “Seinfeld.”

Suppose Jerry heard Connolly’s report earlier that morning and mentioned that story. Because ratings are a memory test, this is a home run, even if Jerry doesn’t say “WCBS” when he repeats what Joe reported. Joe made a deposit in Jerry’s memory bank. If Jerry does say “WCBS,” it’s a grand slam.

Then, George chimes in: “AN HOUR LATE???  THAT’S NOTHING!  WAIT’LL YOU HEAR WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MY PARENTS TRIED TO FLY TO FLORIDA LAST WEEK!” Now Elaine and Kramer are engaged; and they too might have stories.

Jerry shared what he heard 00-05, information of interest, facts. George is that first caller you want the screener to put through. Elaine and Kramer are listeners who can relate, might contribute their feelings, and will at least remember.

Because ratings methodology can give you an entire Quarter Hour credit for as-little-as 5 minutes of actual listening, the-most-opportune topics are compelling stories listeners just heard on-hour, which you then offer callers your air to weigh-in-on.

Why? People believe your promos. They stopped-in for their on-hour update. Then, at 05, before an index finger can travel from the steering wheel to the “Kiss” or “Lite” or “Magic” button, engage them.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Close Like Crazy: Local Direct Leads, Pitches & Specs That Earned the Benjamins” and “Confidential: Negotiation Checklist for Weekend Talk Radio.” Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke