Industry Views

They Simply Don’t Like You

By Michael Harrison

imaMany years ago, I received a late-night call from a legendary radio talk show host who had just been let go by management at the iconic major market station where he had been presiding over the airwaves for several decades. His ratings had begun to downtrend a bit, but he still was a big draw for audience and advertisers. He was one of the biggest names in talk radio history and his still-sizable audience loved him. Thus, the unexpected news of his severance blindsided him with a wallop and surprised the heck out of the biz.  Everyone was buzzing about it.

The usually jaunty and confident personality asked me in an uncharacteristically despondent tone of voice, “Why do you think they fired me?”

My initial response, “I don’t know.”

He answered, “C’mon, you know everything… why do you think they fired me?”

“What does it matter what I think?  I’m not sure you really want to know my opinion about this.”

“No I do, I do… tell me the truth.”

Tapping into Aaron Sorkin, I quipped, “You can’t handle the truth!”

“No I can! Dammit! Tell me what you think.”

I took a deep breath and answered, “In my opinion, they let you go… because they don’t like you.”

“What?” he replied with irritation. “You’re kidding!!”

“No, I’m not kidding.  They don’t like you and they’re using your minor ratings downslide and the subjective determination that you are no longer a fresh new voice as an excuse to get rid of you.”

I then attempted to explain to him that quite often in this business, when the question arises, should he stay or should he go, whether it is a matter of ratings, budget, or heated controversy – it comes down to the margins. Do they like you or do they dislike you?

“That’s not true!” he blurted with anger, “They LOVE me! I’m very popular with management and my co-workers. When I walk around the halls the people adore me!”

“I’m afraid they don’t… you are disliked at the station. That’s what I hear.” And that was the last time we spoke.

Fast forward to the two major buzzes currently emanating from FOX.  Everyone’s speculating about why the company dumped the mononymic talker widely known as Tucker. IMHO, it comes down to the moral of the above tale. They don’t like him.  Or more specifically, among the widespread rumors of “they,” Rupert Murdoch doesn’t like him. So much for the adage content is king. In today’s media business and perhaps all the way back to Gutenberg, platform is king. Or at least co-king.

And by the way, also IMHO – in a related story – the simple reason FOX settled with Dominion? Murdoch didn’t want to go through the discomfort and inconvenience of personally testifying in court. Everything else is filler.

Michael Harrison is the publisher of TALKERS.  He can be contacted at You can meet Michael Harrison at TALKERS 2023 on June 2 at Hofstra University.

Industry News

TALKERS News Notes

— ESPN and SiriusXM are teamed up to give listeners nationwide access to ESPN’s live audio coverage of select UFC events on SiriusXM’s Fight Nation channel. Subscribers will hear the live call from the UFC audio on ESPN networks. ESPN vice president Matt Kenny states, “We are constantly looking for new ways to give fans more access to our content. SiriusXM’s expansive reach will help us bring the excitement of UFC to a broader audience and provide additional ways for these very passionate fans to stay connected to the action.”

— iHeartMedia announces that new episodes of the program “Navigating Narcissism with Dr. Ramani” are available on its iHeartPodcasts platform. The podcast is hosted by clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula and focuses on narcissism and its impact on relationships. iHeartmedia says, “Through powerful conversations with survivors and experts, Dr. Ramani breaks down classic patterns of narcissistic abuse including love bombing, gaslighting, control and manipulation to help millions who are suffering. Each eye-opening episode demystifies feelings of betrayal, shame, confusion and pain for a tremendously transformative and healing experience.”

Industry News

WBAL, Baltimore Names T.J. Smith Midday Host

Hearst Television’s WBAL-AM/W268BA “NewsRadio 1090/FM 101.5” announces that T.J. Smith is its new midday talk host. Smith is a familiar voice to the WBAL audience. He served as spokesperson for the Baltimore City Police Department from 2015 to 2018 in which he appeared regularly on the “C4 Show” spotlightingBaltimore - responsible unsolved cases. He later served as press secretary for Baltimore County executive John Olszewski and ran for mayor of Baltimore in 2020. He takes over the midday show after Kimberly Klacik exited the position following seven months on the job. WBAL director of programming Jeff Wade says, “The WBAL audience has known and respected T.J. for years for his frank and honest dialogue on the issues that matter most to people living and working in Baltimore. Whether it’s policing, politics, or talking Logo - TextOrioles and Ravens, we can’t think of anyone better suited to sit behind the WBAL microphone weekdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.” Smith comments, “As a native Baltimorean who has gone to school, worked, run for office and even suffered loss in the city, I’m very familiar with the feel of the public from west Baltimore to the waterfront. I couldn’t be more excited to join the WBAL Radio family. I look forward to delivering straight talk and sharing my opinion based on my experience working in government and in law enforcement. I’m ready to ‘tell it like it is’ in a reasonable manner.”

Industry News

WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte and Host Brett Winterble Agree to Extension

Urban One’s WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte signs afternoon drive talk host Brett Winterble to a multi-year contract extension. WBT says, “Winterble arrived at WBT in February of 2020 at a critical time in the U.S. The country was in the middle of one of the most news-worthy election cycles in history and the early stages of a globalBrett Winterble - Museum of Broadcast Communications pandemic. His expertise in national and global affairs was immediately recognized and appreciated by the WBT audience, but it was his fair analysis of the day’s news and his whole-hearted support of the Charlotte community in those difficult times that allowed him to become a welcomed part of the lives of the audience.” Winterble comments, “From the moment I walked into the legendary WBT Radio it felt like home. I am so Product - Logothankful for the welcome and support I received from our clients, listeners, and incredible staff over these past three years. I am truly honored to continue this relationship with the best creators in the business. I am particularly grateful for the support of Urban One/Radio One, and Marsha Landess, Alfred Liggins, David Kantor, Mike Schaefer, and Kraig Kitchin in helping me to realize this professional dream. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of us.”

Industry Views

The Daily Dance of Affirmation

By Michael Harrison

Talkers Magazine - Talk radioThe embarrassing situation and accompanying financial vulnerability being faced by our colleagues at FOX News is a high-profile example of the consequences of audience “targeting” that has become the common positioning strategy in today’s competitive media marketplace.  The process is simple: You give the specifically targeted audience what it wants, not necessarily what it needs, even if what it wants is of dubious quality or unhealthy and – in the case of political talk media – untrue. It is a problematic, unsavory practice that has been brewing in our industry for years and, in the case of FOX, the proverbial toxicity has just hit the fan.

However, those in both the talk and print media, who are sanctimoniously gloating over FOX’s self-imposed misfortune, had better take a real hard look at themselves in the mirror. The strategy of serving up red meat to highly defined core audiences is practiced almost religiously by both the left and the right (not to mention purveyors of sports talk, specialty subjects and even music) – and the tolerance for talent deviation from this course by management has dwindled to almost zero. Today’s overworked and fear-driven managers have no stomach for audience complaints or ratings dips resulting from hosts saying things that do not resonate with the almighty “core.”

Smart programmers over the decades (and I’ve known some) understand that doggedly super-serving the low-hanging fruit of the core eventually yields diminishing returns. You wind up with a happier-but-shrinking audience of increasingly off-kilter zealots who eventually viciously turn on you when you stop feeding them the red meat they crave in what I call the daily dance of affirmation. It is that philosophical gray area between flat out lying or simply being wrong. What it comes down to is this inconvenient truth: programming for ratings, sponsorship support and audience approval isn’t simple.

Heaven help the progressive host who finds fault with Saint Biden or the conservative host who goes against the insidiously pervasive Trump factor. Or the sports talk show host who complains about the downside of betting. Or the music jock who actually engages in music criticism. This is the industry’s elephant in the room.

It’s time to acknowledge the beast.

Michael Harrison is the publisher of TALKERS.  He can be reached by email at

Industry News

Steve Sanchez Moves to Afternoons at KDWN, Las Vegas

Las Vegas talk radio host Steve Sanchez moves from the early evening daypart at Audacy’s news/talk KDWN-AM to afternoon drive beginning Monday (2/6). He moves from host of the 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm show toPodcast - Steve Sanchez the 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm slot currently held by Westwood One talk host Mark Levin. Sanchez says, “It is a thrill to be dominating my daypart in the format and I feel my audience growing exponentially right now. It’s a pleasure serving the Las Vegas market with the legendary station KDWN as my flagship.”

Industry Views

Is Eliminating AM Radio from EVs a Serious Threat to Talk Radio?

An in-depth article by automotive writer Dale Buss published today (2/2) in Forbes is adding volume to radio industry chatter about the seemingly ominous trend toward elimination of AM radio from the dashboard of electric cars based on the premise that the already-static-sensitive band’s listenability would be obliterated by these vehicles’ intense electromagnetic fields. The article titled, EV Makers Are Eliminating AM Radio, Infringing On Iconic Medium, quotes TALKERS founder Michael Harrison who also contributed to some of theForehead - Face piece’s “background” information and premises. In the article, Harrison supports the observation that the sale of EVs constitutes a small fraction of the current automotive marketplace and it will be years before they achieve a critical mass to impact the health of AM radio. In the meantime, Harrison asserted at this morning’s meeting of the TALKERS editorial board, “There are far more immediate existential threats to AM radio, not to mention FM radio, with which the broadcasting industry must contend.” He points out, “Relevance and identity! AM radio being dumped from dashboards is an innocuous thing to worry about. FM radio will be dumped from the dashboard as well… the entire idea of a radio-exclusive appliance is on the verge of obsolescence… and we’re not just talking about electric vehicles – we’re talking about all vehicles! We’re faced with an all-encompassing computer system at the fingertips and voice control of the driver and passengers.” Harrison continues, “In the meantime, today’s media consumers are savvy enough to know how to find their entertainment and information brands via the combination of Bluetooth and smartphone. Thus, the challenge facing both AM and FM radio – two increasingly irrelevant designations – is to maintain the importance, distinguishability and brand of the medium itself – R-A-D-I-O – and not let it get lost in an endless ocean of options available to the potential audience.” Read the Forbes piece here.

Industry Views

Monday Memo: Baseball Bonanza, Part 2

By Holland Cooke

Joe Pags - Talkers MagazineIn last week’s column, we outlined the playbook for selling radio’s 2023 baseball season. This week, how smart stations leverage the franchise to build Time Spent Listening.

Plan now to OWN the games

They’re also on SiriusXM, where you can decide which team’s feed you want to hear. And “The MLB is back on TuneIn, and this year TuneIn Premium is the destination for all things baseball. With a Premium plan, listeners get access to live play-by-play of every single game — with no blackouts.” Here in New England the NESN 360 app, “in partnership with the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Bruins and Major League Baseball,” $30 per month, “with a first-month promotional price of $1.”

So – post-exclusivity – what’s an AM/FM affiliate to do?

— Goal: Be KNOWN FOR having the games, by embracing the team. Waving the flag conspicuously, regardless of where fans hear it, can score you diary credit. Don’t quote me.

— During Spring Training, I’m wary of airing games Mon-Fri 6A-7P. But nights and weekends, why not? It’s conspicuous, also useful in diary markets, where ratings measure what’s NOTICED. And, hey, in March, every team is in first place.

— Can you go to Arizona or Florida? Admittedly not-inexpensive but ask your team network about Spring Training packages and arrangements. Some stations bring advertisers who commit early, hosted by the rep who sold the most.

— As Opening Day approaches, count-it-down in your on-hour ID. Then…

Graphics - Logo


Avoid the banana syndrome

 Use baseball to recycle audience in and out of games.

— Dumbest-thing-I-hear-most-often on baseball stations: During the game, when the network calls for a station ID, the station announces that it’s “your [name-of-team] station. Ugh. It’s like printing the word “banana” on the yellow peel.

— Your station’s on-hour ID – in any hour – is beachfront property. It’s where you sign your name, where you explain yourself to listeners you’ve trained to “check-in for a quick FOX News update, every hour, throughout your busy day.” Games invite listeners who might not otherwise cume your station, so use those 10 seconds to tell them why/when to come back for something else useful.

— “CATCH-up when you WAKE-up, with a quick morning update and your AccuWeather forecast, on your ONLY local news radio, [dial positions, call letters, city of license].” Opportune, since the game might be the last thing they near at night.

— Then in NON-game hours, use top-of-hour to wave the flag. Plug team-and-time of the next game you’ll air.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books; and “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download; and the E-book and FREE on-air radio features Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins.” Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke

Industry News

Westwood One Unveils NFL Postseason Audience Data

Cumulus Media | Westwood One’s Audio Active Group releases its comprehensive analysis of the NFL postseason audience using 2022 data from Nielsen Scarborough USA+ and MRI Simmons USA. WWO says, “The data revealed that the AM/FM radio audience is far more passionate about football compared to the more casual sports fan found in the TV audience.” Westwood One is the official network radio partner of theWestwood One - Westwood One NFL, and this year’s Super Bowl coverage marks the 50th time that the network will broadcast the game. Some of the key takeaways from this study are: 1) NFL postseason AM/FM radio listeners are a desirable group of consumers: They are more likely to work full time and have higher disposable incomes compared to NFL postseason TV viewers; 2) The NFL postseason AM/FM radio audience is more engaged with sports: MRI Simmons finds NFL postseason AM/FM radio listeners attend more sporting events, seek out sports information on their phones more often, and play more fantasy sports than NFL postseason TV watchers. The higher levels of engagement translate into greater advertising effectiveness; and 3) NFL postseason AM/FM radio listeners are more likely to make purchases across key consumer categories: Compared to the NFL postseason TV audience, AM/FM radio delivers more consumers who are likely to buy a new or used vehicle, start a new business, or hire a financial advisor.  You can see the complete report here.


Pending Business: Sell Carefully

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — As I write this week’s column, events in Russia, the Ukraine, and around the world are driving the content on news/talk radio stations everywhere. Whether it’s all-news, a local talk show, or a nationally or regionally syndicated program, the world is talking, watching, listening, posting, tweeting, documenting and sharing.