Industry Views

Monday Memo: Behold the Radio Unicorn!

By Holland Cooke

imGot young local radio news talent? CONGRATULATIONS, for five reasons:

1. They’re young, which our 100-year-old medium NEEDS.
2. Streaming and satellite competitors don’t do local.
3. Radio is still #1 in-car. And in-home again, via smart speakers.
4. As listeners wonder “What NEXT?” news has their back.
5. Talent is acquired. Hire attitude, train skills.

Just DOING local news makes you special, especially if your AM/FM competitors don’t. Six tips for taking it to the next level, and making your station more habit forming:

— Make this hour’s newscast sound different than last hour’s. A particularly clever turn-of-phrase can come back to haunt you the second time a listener hears that version. The little voice in their head says, “I already heard that.”
— Lead with the latest. Avoid telling the story in chronological order. Is there some detail that can top this hour’s version? “A third shift of state troopers has joined the search for little Sarah Johnson…”
— Write as though you were telling the listener face-to-face. The police posted: “Anyone who has seen a car matching that description is asked to contact the police.” Rewrite to say, “If you see that car, call the police.”


— Less is more. Long sentences can make it difficult for the listener to follow the story and understand the information. Emulate your network’s writing style. Write for the ear. Avoid using too many adjectives and adverbs.
— But don’t leave out verbs! “The woman’s husband arrested the wounded man taken to the hospital.” Huh?
— Highly recommended: “Writing Broadcast News Shorter, Sharper, Stronger” by Mervin Block (expensive on Amazon, FREE on Google Books).

Time Spent Listening is still the ballgame. Specifically, we want to add occasions of tune-in, which is easier than extending duration-per-occasion. Translation: There is very little we can do to keep someone in a parked car with the key on Accessories.

So be known for knowing. Benefit-laden imaging will earn you the information reputation that keeps listeners coming back again and again, “for a quick update.” And user-friendly copy points will be more effective than the boastful station-centric way many news promos sound.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of The Local Radio Advantage: Your 4-Week Tune-In Tune-Up and “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 and connect on LinkedIn