Industry News

Sabo Sez: Make it Bigger

By Walter Sabo
CEO Sabo Media Action Partners
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Host, WPHT, Philadelphia
Host, Talk Media Network

imWhen a new restaurant opens, smart owners put the phone on busy so would-be diners believe the joint is hot, packed and hard to get in to. At street fairs we are drawn to merchant booths with long lines. Crowds give us confidence.

My mentor, Ed McLaughlin, as president of the ABC Radio Networks had one dictate when presented with a new idea: Make it bigger.

Last week radio hosted a major event. An event so big that it was covered by all media, except… except… radio and most radio trades. After turning down the Washington Post and The New York Times, the President of the United States gave the longest interview of his tenure to a radio star, Howard Stern. A commercial radio interview. Not NPR. Not MSNBC, not The View. Radio. The president, like hundreds of other leaders and businesses believes radio is the best medium to sell his message.

The president’s choice of medium should now be the first slide on every sales deck of every radio pitch. Today!

The damage of small. Many people in our business sell small and it hurts the industry. It’s easy to be dismissive of the Stern interview of Biden… instead, why not own it? Make it your interview because you share the same playing field.

Smart media executives do everything they can to make their stage seem to earn the largest possible audience. Cable, for example sells “homes passed.” Really. Cable sells the number of homes that can receive the advertiser’s message because those homes have cable. Using cable’s selling logic, radio could win every buyer’s analysis by selling “radios installed.”

About 20 years ago radio sellers started showing their station’s “time spent listening” (TSL) data to media buyers. That is the lowest number. While local TV stations sell their “designated market area” (DMA), radio mines the very tiniest delivery number: TSL

Your website’s first name is WORLD WIDE. Shockingly many radio companies strive to make their website “more local.” Stations have federal licenses dictating that their signal is specifically LOCAL. Your website could turn your station into a world-wide business with pristine world-wide delivery. Rather than grow, many broadcasters fought to have permission to geo-fence their signal, they fought to get smaller.

A major ratings week’s results for FOX News or CNN would get the program director of WLTW, KOST, Z100 or WINS fired. CNN had an average of 601,000 viewers in March. What’s your station’s cume? CNN grossed $1.1 BILLION dollars. They aren’t selling numbers. They are selling their brand: CNN or FOX or MSNBC. Cable networks, all with tiny viewership compared with WCBS-AM, WBZ-AM, or KFI’s cume, deliver ancient demos yet they are grossing a billion bucks by selling their brand and their environment. They sell shows. A show is as big as the seller and buyer can imagine. Imagine bigger.

Put simply: 1010 WINS has more listeners in New York City than the “Tonight Show” has viewers in New York City.  There’s your second slide.

Media buyers want a deal. They want radio to bring in the buy. But the CEO of the brand wants an environment for their message that moves product. Your hosts can move product. Your listener can name your hosts, which instills trust and listeners can recall copy points from hosts’ live reads. To an investor, the relationship between your listener and your host is defined as goodwill. Goodwill adds considerable value to your station. Selling the dynamic of listener engagement will justify much higher rates than TSL.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is debuting next week on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.