Talk radio superstar of iHeartMedia’s KTRH, Houston and independent national syndication, Michael Berry is this week’s guest on the award-winning PodcastOne series, “The Michael Harrison Interview.” Berry – heard daily locally 8:00 am to 11:00 am CT on KTRH and afternoons 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm CT on his independently syndicated show – is ranked a lofty #7 on the new TALKERS Heavy Hundred list of the 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America. Michael Harrison describes Berry as “one of the most original and compelling conservative voices on the air and industrious players in the business. He’s an incredibly interesting person.” He began his talk radio career in 2005 while still Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Houston. Berry has earned two law degrees. He has a background in real estate and politics in addition to law. He’s married to the former Secretary of State of Texas, who is from India (and also a lawyer). They are parents of two adopted teenage sons from Ethiopia. His dad was a maintenance worker for a chemical plant, which he says gives him an insight into a broad demographic of listeners. Berry’s programs tackle much more than politics, covering a lot of lifestyle issues including health and wellness both physical and mental, adoption, parenting, and small business advice. On this podcast, Harrison and Berry discuss a variety of topics ranging from Donald Trump and the state of GOP politics to the role of integrity in media, and multi-platform broadcasting. Don’t miss this. Listen to the podcast here.
By Michael Berry
Host, The Michael Berry Show
KTRH, Houston – iHeartRadio
Growing up in a small town, “word of mouth” was the most powerful form of advertising. It could make – or break – a business. Malcolm Gladwell’s important Tipping Point book explained that movements, pandemics, and other things that “catch on” do so because of the influence of “connectors” – people who are asked for their opinion. Today, the media world likes to call them “influencers.”
For 17 years, I’ve entertained listeners on the radio and on podcast. Our show has built what many in the industry tell me is an impressive business model. Like Gladwell, I created our own vocabulary and I am strident in enforcing the use of it. Because words matter. I explain to companies that they are our “sponsors,” not “advertisers.” I explain that they put their name behind our show, just as I do for them. In a commercial break stop-set that will be several “commercials” for “advertisers,” but only a couple of my “endorsements.” I don’t speak for a company unless I believe in what they do and how they do it. Likewise, I encourage listeners to send me feedback on their experience with my show’s sponsors. I forward those to the sponsors, either with a request that they address the shortcoming in the service or an attaboy for a job well done.
Listeners tune in to radio, particularly talk radio, to hear the opinions of the host. The host’s opinion matters. If he shares his opinion on movies he likes, foods he enjoys, political candidates he supports, that opinion can affect what the audience does. It is also true that – if his recommendation is trusted by the listener – it can affect the choices the audience makes when they buy something or hire someone to perform a service. But it has to be an “endorsement.”
The radio industry, for many, many years, failed to recognize the value and power of an endorsement. Sellers would sell advertising to clients and get the on-air talent to read the copy points the client (or agency) wrote. Often listlessly, just reading. That is not an endorsement. It is not a host suggesting to his audience where he would personally buy a new door for his home, or take his wife for dinner. If, however, the “read” (a term that reflects that the host is simply reading words someone else wrote) were instead an endorsement, he wouldn’t need all those details. Instead, with just the name of the company, and the owner, and the phone number, as well as what category they are in, he would be able to speak for 30 seconds about why that business is special, why he would (and hopefully has already) use them.
An endorsement is a stamp of approval. It says you believe in someone or something. If an endorsement is really an endorsement, it doesn’t need new copy points to be “freshened up.” It doesn’t include discount offers, seasonal sales, “get in quick before they run out” scares, or other silly tricks Americans long ago learned to ignore. Using that language kills credibility. If I ask you where I should buy my car, and you have a dealer you believe in, you’ll refer me to them, and, if you really like them, call them yourself and ask them to take care of me. “Hook me up” as the kids say. I’m not going anywhere else after an endorsement like that.
Radio (and podcast) has a big future, because of the connection audiences have with hosts. Why abuse that connection? Why cheapen it? Sales reps should understand that and make it part of their pitch. My best sales reps literally dial up companies in industries I identify and start with the question, “Do you listen to The Michael Berry Show?” If the answer is no, I don’t want them as sponsors. I want folks who understand why I’m controversial, why my audience listeners, what my values are.
Radio and podcast’s future is dependent on a sound business model that understands what makes us special, unique, and better than other forms of media.
Here is my list of suggestions to sellers and hosts, in hopes of facilitating better results for show sponsors:
— Sellers should never pitch a client without asking the talent first.
— Talent should not endorse a company without researching and approving them.
— Talent should tell sellers what sorts of things they WANT to endorse. Guns, cigars, home improvement, cars, medical. The best endorsement is something the talent will use himself. An avid gun owner is going to present a very compelling (and effective/profitable) endorsement for a gun range he visits once a week. Look at how weight loss sponsors have profited when the host follows their program and endorses it on air.
— If a sponsor isn’t committed to a yearlong relationship, don’t do it. It ruins credibility to change the endorsement inside the same category. Again, credibility is everything.
— Talent should develop personal relationships with sponsors. They can help listeners this way and the sponsors become show content.
— The value of talent to the station is far more than just ratings. Half my audience is 55+, so the 18-34 or 25-54 rating is less useful to me. But when show sponsors stay on air for 10 or more years, it is a ringing endorsement that what we do works. They vote with their dollars. The whole point of ratings was to show agencies how many people listened, in hopes that that vast listening audience would respond to the commercials they hear, thus monetizing the show, right? Why not go straight to the “dollars in (from the sponsor), dollars out (listeners spending money with sponsors)” model? Show sponsors who get tangible results from their partnership with talent don’t cancel their buy.
— Openly discuss how much money a talent brings into the station. The programming side of radio loves to talk about things that don’t generate dollars, while the sales side is often disconnected from the actual product they are selling. Fix that.
Michael Berry is a longtime, high-ranking member of the TALKERS Heavy Hundred. He’s heard daily on KTRH, Houston and across the country on his own independent network. Michael Berry can be emailed at MichaelBerry@iheartmedia.com.
Ryan Kaufman Adds KVOR, Colorado Springs PD Duties. Radio programmer Ryan Kaufman is promoted to program director for Cumulus Media’s news/talk KVOR-AM, Colorado Springs. Kaufman has been serving the company as PD for sports talk KCSF-AM “Xtra Sports 1300” and will continue in that role. Kaufman takes over for Bobby Irwin who continues in his position as operations manager of the Cumulus Colorado Springs station group and PD for two music brands. Cumulus Colorado Springs market manager Scott Jones says, “This is a well-deserved opportunity for Ryan. He’s a rising star in our business and you won’t find anyone more dedicated to and passionate about his trade. Ryan’s instincts are spot on and when you combine that with his tremendous work ethic, you achieve great results. I’m excited for us, for Ryan, and especially, for our listeners.” Kaufman comments, “Taking over a heritage station like KVOR is an amazing opportunity. Whether it’s sports or news/talk, the most important thing is the ability to engage in a conversation with the listener, talking about the issues that matter to them and keeping them informed. KVOR has been leading that conversation in Southern Colorado for decades with thought-provoking hosts and unrivaled news coverage. I look forward to working alongside news director Jim Arthur to not just maintain that standard but exceed it.”
Michael Berry Hosts Sold-Out ‘Great Texas Barbeque, Beer & Bourbon Blowout.’ Last Friday (3/4), KTRH, Houston-based, syndicated talk radio host Michael Berry hosted the sold-out “Great Texas Barbeque, Beer & Bourbon Blowout” in Houston that featured Premiere Networks syndicated personalities Jesse Kelly and the team of Clay Travis & Buck Sexton. The event treated a packed crowd of more than 1,200 listeners and fans to live music from country music artist Tracy Byrd as well as a conversation between the hosts about their careers and current events, including the conflict in Ukraine and the impact on the U.S., the midterm elections, and more. Michael Berry says, “Jesse and I love our fellow Texans here in Houston. Our listeners were keen to meet Clay and Buck and welcome them – Texas style, to our home with good food, good drinks, good music, and a good time. Clay and Buck loved ‘em back, and it was a great event all around. Radio can be a one-way medium – we talk into a microphone and they listen. For them to meet us, and more importantly, for us to meet them, reminds us why we do what we do and for whom.” Pictured above are (from l-r): Kelly, Berry Travis, and Sexton.
iHeartMedia’s Seattle Sports Talk KJR Adds Full-Market FM Signal. Seattle sports talk outlet KJR-AM gets an FM simulcast as iHeartMedia Seattle moves the hip hop on KUBE-FM to KUBE-HD3 and rebrands the sports station as “Sports Radio 93.3 KJR FM, Seattle’s Sports Leader.” KJR-AM will continue to air the sports format. iHeartMedia Seattle market president Mark Glynn says, “By moving the legendary KJR brand to the FM band, we’re going to be able to grow the next generation of Seattle Sports fans. With the combination of ‘Sports Radio 93.3 KJR FM,’ ‘Sports Radio 950 KJR AM’ and the iHeartRadio app, we enhance our sports platform and become the #1 destination for sports and currently the only FM sports platform in Seattle.”
John DePetro Broadcasts Live from Eastern Poland. Pictured above is WNRI, Woonsocket, Rhode Island talk host John DePetro broadcasting his radio program live on the radio station and Facebook Live from Rzeszow, Poland. DePetro tells TALKERS, “Challenging broadcast to say the least but valuable first-hand account of situation in Eastern Europe.” DePetro notes that Rzeszow is the closest airport to the border of Ukraine and main hub for thousands of refugees. He says he’s secured a translator and security and plans to broadcast later in the week from the Ukraine border.
RAB Extends President and CEO Erica Farber. As part of the Radio Advertising Bureau’s spring board of directors meeting held March 2-3 in Orlando, the organization announces a few updates “intended to maintain its executive ranks and strategically position the organization for continued growth as it serves a diverse and evolving broadcast radio industry.” Among those are the contract extension for president and CEO Erica Farber keeping her in that position through April 2024. The RAB’s executive committee also has reinstated and activated several new committees, including committees focused on bylaws, nominating, finance, strategy, investment, events, network, multicultural, and the National Radio Talent System. The committees are overseen by the RAB board of directors with participation by RAB’s senior staff and are intended to help the organization manage its day-to-day business, while planning ahead for the future and benefit of the radio industry. Also, at the meeting, Carolyn Fisher, partner, Southeast & Midwest Region, StateNets, officially joins the board of directors replacing Dave Martin.
Russia-Ukraine War, Gas Prices/Inflation, January 6 Capitol Attack Conviction, COVID-19, House Omnibus Bill, Postal Service Reform Act, and Brittney Griner Case Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/8). Russia’s ongoing invasion of the Ukraine and the West’s reaction; the soaring price of gas at the pump and high consumer retail prices; the first person to stand trial for the January 6 attack on the Capitol is convicted; the falling rate of COVID-19 cases and the rolling back of mask mandates; the U.S. House prepares to vote on an omnibus bill that would include $14 billion in Ukraine aid; Congress passes bill to overhaul USPS finances; and WNBA star Brittney Griner is detained in Russia after hashish oil found in her luggage were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
FOX News Media Has News Reporter Opportunity. This is a Washington, DC-based, full-time position for an experienced reporter. You will cover a wide range of political, government, and Congressional stories for FOX News Audio (FOX News Headlines 24/7 and FOX News Terrestrial Radio). You possess strong journalism skills and thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment. Most importantly, you have great editorial judgement and the ability to break important news stories. See more about this position and apply here.
FOX News Seeks Freelance Producer/Editor. This freelance producer/editor position is based in New York and requires you to supervise the staff for FOX News Media’s network radio news operations (terrestrial and FOX News Headlines 24/7 – Channel 115 on SiriusXM Radio). As the freelance producer/news editor you are the editorial leader, working with news anchors to craft the content and structure of a 24/7 news operation. This is fast-moving news environment! Your ability to thrive in a fast-paced, deadline-driven newsroom allows you to deliver top-quality segments/newscasts. You excel at multi-tasking and pay close attention to details. Your writing and editing skills are excellent and your editorial judgment is first-rate. See more about the job and apply here.