Industry Views

Monday Memo: The Local Radio Advantage

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

imIf you’re a news/talk station, don’t assume that you own “news radio” in your market. Imaging is important, but it merely talks-the-talk. You walk-the-walk with local news copy that delivers what solid commercial copy does: benefits. Just doing local news makes you special. But do listeners simply hear a station voice… reading something? Are you merely… accurate? Or do you deliver “take-home pay,” unwrapping the story to tell the listener something useful?

In many homes, there are now fewer radios than smart speakers. And nobody has ever said: “Alexa, please play six commercials.” But she can play millions of songs. So do streams and YouTube.

What can make a music station different from all those other audio choices is the way you help folks cope, how relevant and empathetic you are, how you sound like you have-their-back as day-to-day news has them wondering “What NEXT?”

And boosting tune-in exposes your advertisers better. So, Time Spent Listening is still the ballgame. Specifically, you need to add occasions of tune-in, and this week’s column begins a three-part series of news copy coaching tips that can help bring listeners back more often.

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Simply rewriting source material can make a huge difference. Press releases torture the ear. They’re formal, and prone to jargon and spin (especially from politicians). When they’re from the police, they’re written in cop-speak. And most press releases are written inside-out, emphasizing a process, rather than the consequence to listeners.

Process example: “At Thursday’s work session of the Springfield City Council, a decision was made to move forward with Community Days this year. The annual Community Days celebration is scheduled for June 16 and 17th. Council members made sure the Community Days funds will be handled by an independent accountant. Councilwoman Sharon Grant said…”

Re-write to lead with consequence: “The annual Springfield Community Days celebration will be June 16th and 17th. After last year’s controversy, Council members made sure the Community Days funds will be handled by an independent accountant. At Thursday’s session, Councilwoman Sharon Grant said…”

That simple tweak is well-worth the minimal effort. Listeners are mentally busy. Remove “Styrofoam words.”  Example: “State Police say they are investigating a possible case of child endangerment after a seven-month-old child was treated for severe injuries.”

Simply delete “say they.”

Next week: Ripped from the headlines… 

Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a consultant working at 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

Industry Views

Monday Memo: Radio/TV Synergies

im“If you think radio has problems,” consultant Holland Cooke says, “Netflix et al are to television stations what Pandora et al are to music stations. So local news is TV stations’ silver bullet. And – like radio – their need to promote off-air exceeds their promotion budget.” In this week’s column, he outlines tactics for “partnering with a fellow broadcaster who’s also challenged.” Read his column here.

Industry News

Western Massachusetts Public Radio Outlet Goes News/Talk All Day

In a move that’s happened at public radio outlets in markets across the country, New England Public Media’s WFCR-FM, Amherst Massachusetts is dropping the classical music that’s aired during middays and is adding news and talk programs including national shows “1A,” “On Point” and “Fresh Air,” in addition to expanded localim news programming. The company is launching a classical network that will air on five signals in the region as well as online. NEPM president Matt Abramovitz says, “These moves position NEPM to better serve western Massachusetts with journalism and conversations that create connections across our wonderfully diverse communities. That investment in local storytelling will also fuel upcoming multi-platform initiatives to reach new, diverse audiences. At the same time, we are bringing a full-time classical service to the region.”

Industry Views

Monday Memo: 5 Ws + $

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

Joe Pags - Talkers MagazineLocal news sponsorship is an opportunity to “fish for whales,” institutional advertisers who can associate with something special. And, well-done, local news sure is special, because:

New-tech audio competitors don’t do it, and most AM/FM broadcast hours are now robotic.

Newspapers are in a tailspin swapping print dollars for digital dimes; and their – and TV stations’ – websites aren’t as portable as radio.

And it’s easier to add occasions of listening than to extend duration-per. Translation: There’s very little we do can keep someone in a parked car with the key on Accessories.

First things first: Plan NOW for The Big Story. In a recent column here I outlined the “break the glass” plan you should prep.

 As for day-to-day local news:

Who are you talking to? Habitual radio users – especially news/talk – are older-than-younger. Think Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), who control most retail spending. And report information that matters to people with children of any age living at home (super-spenders) and people driving (what’s happening right now, and what threatens to block their path). Think “car radio” for busy people and you won’t turn-off anyone sitting-stiller.

What: INFLATION, health and safety, “survival information” (weather = news). Jim Farley, my successor managing WTOP, Washington, hung a sign in the newsroom: “WGAS,” his litmus test for relevance, “Who Gives A Shit?”

Where: What’s happening within your signal pattern? And when everyone’s buzzing about a big story elsewhere, localize by asking pertinent sources “if it happened here?” and Man-on-the-Street interviews (local accents) reacting.

When: What JUST happened…what’s happening right NOW…what happens NEXT. When you’re wall-to-wall, do frequent resets, because people believe your promos, and are tuning-in to know. Other times, specific goal: Each newscast sounds different than the last.

Why it matters to your listener: News people I coach will chisel this onto my tombstone: Report consequence, not process. Don’t give me the minutes of the City Council meeting, tell me how what-was-discussed will impact me. Rewrite press releases, which aren’t easy on the ear (“The public is asked…”), tend to be process-laden, and are often self-congratulatory.

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Longtime ABC News executive Av Westin, one of two industry icons we lost in 2022: “I believe the audience at dinner time wants to know the answers to three very important questions: Is the world safe? Is my hometown and my home safe? If my wife and children are safe, what has happened in the past 24 hours to make them better off or to amuse them?”

Tips:

— Emulate your network’s writing style.

— HIGHLY recommended reading: “Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger” by Mervin Block.

— Rewrite to favor The Magic Words “you” and “your” and avoid third-person-plural (words like “residents”). Instead of “Business owners interested in applying for these loans should contact…” say “If you’re a business owner…”

— Arrange with a local TV station (“our news partner NBC28”) to use their sound, in exchange for attribution (which will enhance their standing and serve to promote their newscasts).

I am encouraged by how much 2022 work sought me out, asking that I review stations’ local news copy, and work with the local newscasters whose work can habituate listeners and make money.

Make your work count twice.

— When you’re covering a meeting or event, ask people there something else too. “How are YOU feeling inflation?”

— Say WHERE you gathered comments. “We spoke to shoppers leaving Star Market in West Springfield.”

Al Primo, inventor of “Eyewitness News,” who also passed away last year: “People can tell their stories better than we can write them.”

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

Industry News

“101.7 The Truth” Black Talk Radio Celebrates Second Anniversary

Good Karma Brands’ Milwaukee talk station WGKB-AM/W269DL “101.7 The Truth” is celebrating its second anniversary today (2/10) with a night of fun exclusive to its fans, partners, and teammates. Good Karma says, “The station debuted on January 4, 2021 and serves the city of Milwaukee as well as its surroundingGraphic design - Text communities with local news, entertainment, and community affairs programming seven days a week. The station was built to uplift the voices in the Black community, sharing their stories, ideas and experiences following the George Floyd incident and protests. The station produces a tapestry of content for fans and advertising opportunities for partners that truly represents the Black experience in our city.” The station was honored with a 2022 Anthem Award (from the creators of the Webby Awards) in the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility category. Hosts on the station have interviewed notable guests including Vice President Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, musicians Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige, and many more.

Industry Views

Local News Matters Most

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

Beard - ForeheadWhy? Done right, it makes you special. Because new-tech audio competitors don’t do local news, and with most broadcast radio hours now robotic.

“Why waste your time with AM/FM radio?”

Responding to that recent SiriusXM Marketing campaign, NAB president & CEO Curtis LeGeyt:

  • “Unlike our competitors, listeners do not need to fork over a monthly subscription fee, purchase a program or afford an expensive mobile data plan.”
  • “During times of emergency, Americans are not told to turn to SiriusXM for lifeline information. They are not going to get emergency alerts, hear up-to-the-minute reporting or find out where to get help on Pandora or Spotify. No other audio medium can replicate our service when lives are in danger.”
  • “Broadcast radio also provides an engine for economic activity. When local businesses want to get the word out about their goods and services, local radio stations provide an affordable way for them to advertise and reach the consumers who live in their area.”

These are not “normal” times

  • When Trump was on the front burner, his controversies alone changed daypart-to-daypart, even hour-to-hour. The talk part of the news/talk format remains largely static, no minds change. But our news content is dynamic.
  • In a monsoon in Las Vegas (NOT a misprint) someone drowned; and video of rain cascading through the ceiling onto blackjack tables at Planet Hollywood went-viral. We prayed as Kentucky drowned and Buffalo got snowed-under. After tumbleweeds piled-up around her Colorado home blocking windows and doors, Marlies Gross told AccuWeather: “We have so many fires here, and we have a drought and those tumbleweeds, they would just go up and explode into flames all over, and we probably would go with it.”
  • After 2+ years of arguing about vaccines, Polio is back and COVID is back again’ and RSV isn’t just a kid thing. Increasingly noticeable in my travels: Without being required to, people are re-masking.

It’s easier to add Occasions than Duration-per

Translation: There’s little we can do to keep someone sitting in a parked car with the key on Accessories. And AM/FM has never had more competition. So, to keep ‘em coming back, keep telling them something they can’t hear elsewhere, and make it sound different than last hour.

And TELL THEM that’s what you do:

  • “Are you on-the-road? Stay up-to-speed with us!”
  • “What happened since breakfast? We’ll tell you before dinner.”
  • “Stay close to the news.”

Be known for knowing. And tell them when and how you’ll tell them, on various devices.

Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) 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