Today begins the 34th year of publishing for TALKERS magazine as a trade journal serving the talk media industry. The first issue rolled off the presses in the form of a tabloid newspaper on Monday July 23, 1990 focusing primarily on talk radio. Since then it has grown and evolved with the industry to go through several format phases including a full color magazine and eventually a daily online operation geared to providing news, advice and opinions to professionals involved in programming, managing, marketing and operating an array of related platforms in what has come to be known as talk media. This includes most popular forms of spoken-word AM and FM radio, plus online programming, podcasting, cable television and satellite broadcasting. During this period, TALKERS has produced and presented 26 national conventions in New York and another three in Los Angeles. Add to that more than 35 regional, national and international forums about the field and countless radio rows including several at the White House in conjunction with both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. TALKERS remains and will continue to be a non-partisan proponent of the First Amendment with a great love and passion for talk media’s roots in the century old medium of radio.
Audacy promotes Tim Wenger to SVP and market manager of its Buffalo market. In this role, Wenger will oversee the market’s portfolio of stations that includes news/talk WBEN-AM, sports talkers WGR-AM and WWKB-AM, plus three music brands. Wenger is taking over for Tim Holly who recently announced his retirement. Wenger worked his way up to this role from the programming side of the business. He launched his radio career as a news reporter and anchor at WBEN in 1986. He subsequently rose to news director, program director and brand manager/operations director for the spoken-word stations. Wenger is a recent inductee into the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Audacy regional president Mark Hannon states, “Tim has been a leading presence in our building for nearly 40 years, and it seems only fitting that he now takes over the reins of the market. He has intimate knowledge of our local brands, and I can think of no one better to pick up the mantle from Tim Holly and lead us into the future.” Wenger comments, “As a lifelong Buffalonian, it’s surreal to be assuming the leadership role for Audacy Buffalo’s group of stations. The unique content and personalities on the brands, combined with strong client and sports play-by-play partnerships, positions Audacy for growth and success in Buffalo.”
By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling On Sunday
Talk Media Network
In the strum and dirge of daily radio life, it is easy to forget the mad skills required to do what we do. Consider the TV sitcom. 22 minutes of content, 22 times a year. The cast ad libs – nothing! Between eight and 11 writers scribe every word. Hair, makeup… handled by others! A donut run? No, there’s the crafts services table that will make you, the star, whatever you want any time you want it. Hot? A production assistant sprays mint scented water on you.
How’s your day? You or your on-air talent create a three- or four- or perhaps even five-hour show out of thin – or should I say rarefied – air! Writers? You mean that kid who has to go to class at 11? Production? Sure, as soon as the spots for the weekend are cut. Food? Ya got quarters?
You are a miracle of creativity, ambition and sheer talent. Reward? The company wants to cut your live read fees and could you help out in sales? As a point of reference, when Dr. Ruth Westheimer killed in the ratings at WYNY, we gave her a Seville.
GOOD NEWS. You can fix this. Talk radio is the last frontier of free form radio. Fact is you can do whatever you want.
Most talk shows and stations peaked about six years ago. The audience is not growing, it’s not attracted to talk radio’s offerings of endless political theory. So, stop.
What works? Take a look at the ratings of KMBZ-FM Kansas City; KFGO, Fargo; KFBK, Sacramento; WABC, New York’s Frank Morano; WTAM, Cleveland’s Bill Wills; WLW, Cincinnati; KFI, Los Angeles; KDKA, Pittsburgh’s midday. (I will now be flooded with other examples but listen to those stations.) Hosting a network radio show, “Sterling On Sunday,” I have learned what those audio outlets exemplify works!
Talk about your day. Talk about what two best friends would discuss over a quick lunch. The topics that generate ratings are not always the “hot talk radio topics.” The list that works reads like this, try it:
— Trouble with the in-laws.
— Is “Storage Wars” fake?
— Tip at the drive-thru?
— Cell phone for a 10-year-old?
— Married? Is texting cheating?
— How can I do less and earn more?
— Yes, it was a controlled demolition.
— Taylor Swift bi? Harry Styles bi?
— Are you kidding? Women ARE in charge!
— Turn on the AC, shut the damn window.
The power of the mirror. When the radio speaks the conversation of the listener, the ratings go up. Guaranteed.
Walter Sabo was the youngest executive vice president in the history of NBC. The youngest VP in the history of ABC. He was a consultant to RKO General longer than Bill Drake. Walter was the in-house consultant to Sirius for eight years. He has never written a resume. Contact him at email@example.com. or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.com.
Media executive Keely Byars is named general manager for NRG Media’s Omaha station group that includes news/talk KOIL-AM and sports talk KOZN-AM “The Zone” plus five music brands. NRG COO Jim Smith says, “Byars is an energetic leader with a broad base of experience in media, digital innovation, content development, and operations. She is a native Nebraskan who is passionate about local media and the Omaha community. Byars understands our commitment to excellence, and we are thrilled to have her join our talented team in Omaha.” Byars has served in leadership positions with Lee Enterprises, Berkshire Hathaway Media, and the Omaha World-Herald. She comments, “Radio has such a positive impact on so many of our listener’s lives, the local businesses we serve, and the community partnerships we form. Joining the team at the radio stations that I grew up listening to is such an honor to me and I am excited to build upon the stations’ legacies.”
Home improvement expert and radio & television pro Danny Lipford announces that after 35 years in the media business he is officially announcing plans for his retirement. Lipford – head of the Today’s Homeowner media franchise – has hosted and produced more than 1,000 TV shows, 800 radio shows, and traveled all 50 states during the course of his media career. Lipford says he’s shifting the business model of his media company, which will now focus on streaming and licensing the brand’s extensive library of home improvement content. Lipford will continue to host his weekly two-hour “Today’s Homeowner” Radio show, and “Tips for Today’s Homeowner” radio features through the end of 2023, with the final show and features airing the week of December 25.
One of the talk media industry’s most impactful movers and shakers, Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media spoke at TALKERS 2023 on June 2 at Hofstra University on Long Island. Ruddy engaged in one of the conference’s two “fireside chats” hosted by TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison. According to Harrison, “There isn’t a day that Chris Ruddy isn’t in or behind
the media news. The growth of Newsmax on the television, radio, print and digital fronts has been nothing short of phenomenal. He is extraordinarily connected and his influence on this business as well as the national conversation is on a non-stop upward trajectory. I was
delighted to have him as a guest in this setting and at this time.” In a fast-paced session sponsored by Collette guided travel tour specialists, Ruddy and Harrison engaged in a candid conversation about positioning, programming and navigating the infrastructure of modern media including print, digital and radio as well as cable news/talk television. See the exclusive video of the session here.
By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday
Last week I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the TALKERS conference. Confession: I listen to speech patterns and tones more than words.
The prestigious panel featured Dan Mandis, program director and host, WTN-FM, Nashville; Ross Kaminsky, host KOA, Denver; Phil Boyce, SVP, spoken word format, Salem Media Group/ops VP, New York region/WMCA/AM 970; Josh Leng, CEO, Talk Media Network; and Matt Meany, program director, WABC, New York/Red Apple Media.
Yes, their collective knowledge and experience is unbeatable. They answered questions of great interest: How does iHeart measure social media accomplishments? Should one be fired for social media or podcast content or just for their air work? Establishing a syndication base, how does that happen? Where are the women – kudos to Salem’s Phil Boyce for celebrating their women hosts. What do programmers really look for in hosts? All valuable answers. See the video of this session here.
Their words aren’t the “win.” The win is the fact that each of these pros has passion, passion and more passion. Their knowledge results in caring, heartfelt, supportive shares. They care about the future; they care about their craft. Programmers have to be optimistic about radio’s positive impact in order for them to do their jobs. Their descriptive tones make radio appealing.
The panel represents radio’s caretakers, gardeners, guides. The executives on the stage reveal qualities and qualifications that become overwhelmingly apparent in their demeanor and speech patterns. That’s what I hear.
Radio does not have to compete or fret over AI. AI coders have to fret over their inevitable failure to capture or even coldly mimic the depth of emotion and confidence expressed by Matt, Josh, Phil, Ross and Dan. Good luck with that algorithm …losers.
Walter Sabo was the youngest Executive Vice President in the history of NBC. The youngest VP in the history of ABC. He was a consultant to RKO General longer than Bill Drake. Walter was the in-house consultant to Sirius for eight years. He has never written a resume. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.com.
During the coming days, videos of all of TALKERS 2023’s numerous sessions conducted June 2 at Hofstra University will be posted, beginning today with the panel discussion “Programming News/Talk Radio in the Digital Era – Part 1.” The session, sponsored by Premiere Networks, is introduced by Larry O’ Connor, morning host at WMAL, Washington, DC and moderated by Mike McVay (pictured at right), CEO of McVay Media Consulting. Panelists (pictured below from left to right) include Joe Thomas, program director/host, WCHV, Charlottesville, VA; Eric Stanger, SVP operations, Sean Hannity Show/Premiere Networks; Brett Winterble, host, WBT, Charlotte; Kevin DeLany, VP news & talk programming, Westwood One; and Tom Cuddy, program director, WOR, New York. (Note: Matt Meany, program director, WABC, New York who was originally scheduled to appear on this panel switched to the “Programming News/Talk Radio in the Digital Era – Part 2” session which will be posted tomorrow.) See the video of this session here.
In many ways, TALKERS 2023 will be the setting for a historical video documentary capturing the state of talk media at one of its most colorful and critical junctures. The 26th annual installment of the talk media industry’s longest-running and most important gathering set for Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University on Long Island is officially sold out. But for those who cannot attend – fear not! The entire event will be captured on video and posted shortly after the event on the TALKERS website as well as other major industry platforms. TALKERS has once again contracted the services of the radio industry’s legendary videographer and historian – Art Vuolo of Vuolo Video – who will capture all sessions and addresses for posting and posterity. In addition, the ace Hofstra student broadcasting staff of the famous Lawrence Herbert School of Communication will be video recording interviews with as many of the conference’s attending luminaries as possible – also for posting and posterity. The TALKERS conventions are treasure troves of memories and insights for history. In order to comply with health and comfort considerations and maintain the intimate, qualitative environment for which this event is known, the absolute registration cutoff point was reached earlier this week. According to TALKERS VP/executive editor Kevin Casey, “Industry professionals who have attended the TALKERS Conference in the past enjoy it and find it to be a valuable experience for a number of reasons beyond the remarkable quality of the speakers and pertinence of the agenda. They appreciate the intimacy of the environment and outstanding ‘who’s who’ in talk media makeup of their fellow attendees. We work diligently to keep this event within those parameters. It is only open to people who work within or are associated in some way with the talk media industry – there is no online open registration – and it all happens within one power-packed day with absolutely no down time.” More than 65 luminaries from the talk media industry are set to speak at a content-heavy day of fireside chats, solo addresses, panel discussions, workshops, award presentations, new equipment showcases and endless networking opportunities. All in a beautiful indoor/outdoor state-of-the-art environment conducive to one-on-one conversations. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison adds, “People attend this seminar not only to see and hear the speakers… they come to meet them and each other as well! This event offers that opportunity.” The entire agenda of events at TALKERS 2023 will be video recorded and posted for world-wide viewing at a later date. Some sponsorship opportunities still exist. See more about the agenda, sponsorship and hotel information here.
Starnes Media Group’s news/talk KWAM, Memphis “The Mighty 990” wins its first Regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the RTDNA, in which it was recognized for its digital platform. Starnes Media Group owner Todd Starnes comments, “When I bought KWAM I promised our listeners that we were going to bring fair and balanced journalism back to the radio. I’m incredibly proud of our dedicated and hard-working team of broadcasters at KWAM.”
By Michael Harrison
There are media and there are media. There are platforms and there are platforms. Not all cultural artifacts are equal in terms of their utilitarian versus cultural value. Damn the tone-deaf corporate bean counters who are ripping the heart out of the spirit that gives humanity its life force! Marketplace obsolescence should not solely be determined by profit and loss. With all due respect to the idea of public service, what about the concept of loyalty? Shame on the automobile industry! Not only is it turning its back on the needs of millions of people, it is in the process of betraying one of its historic partners in not only commerce – but romance and glory. In other words, the automobile industry owes the radio industry a huge debt. The relationship between cars and radios goes a century deep and has been nothing less than a two-way street. Yes, auto industry, don’t be so hasty to save a few bucks by rushing AM (and then FM) radio out the door. You might just find in the long run that “radio” outlasts the private “car” as a fixture of human activity.
A radio is not a cassette, CD, or 8-track player. A radio is a magic box that embodies a century of culture during which it spun the idea that taking a car ride is a lot more soulful than spending time getting from point A to B via the subway, bus, or plane. The car has been the perfect radio-listening chamber and radio has returned the favor in spades with its music and DJs glorifying everything from little deuce coups to Cadillacs to the T-Bird that daddy took away – not to mention bolstering the ubiquitous culture of automobiles with traffic reports, news, weather, and endless references to this particular form of transportation as being a key component of what it is to be a member of society. Radio has provided the car biz with a century long, non-stop free or generously bonused commercial!
From a purely economic position of self-interest and greed, it is understandable why car manufacturers might consider AM radios expendable and are eager to toss them out like the aforementioned obsolete devices of music conveyance. So, what if millions of people still listen to it and DEPEND on it for free speech, religious expression, ethnic connection, demographic habit and public safety. Couldn’t the car manufacturers wait another decade before turning its back on such an important – and still vital – relationship?
Hey auto industry, be careful what you’re doing. You’re severely mistaken if you think your poop doesn’t stink and your place in our rapidly changing society is guaranteed. You might find rolling along in this brave new world without radio turns out to be a very dangerous road.
Michael Harrison is the publisher of TALKERS and can be reached via email at email@example.com. Meet Michael Harrison at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University.
One of the most popular sessions at the annual TALKERS Conference is “The Big Picture” panel and this year’s planned installment of the discussion promises to continue in that tradition of perspective and pertinence. The panel will be introduced by TALKERS associate publisher/media attorney, Matthew B. Harrison, Esq. and moderated by TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison. Panelists include (in alphabetical order): Arthur Aidala, Esq. founding partner, Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, PC/host, AM 970 The Answer, New York; Dr. Asa Andrew, CEO/host, The Doctor Asa Network; Lee Habeeb, host/producer, Our American Stories; Lee Harris, director of Integrated Operations, NewsNation; and Kraig Kitchin, CEO, Sound Mind, LLC/chairman, Radio Hall of Fame. One more panelist has yet to be named. The issues that the session will cover include: the existential cultural, technological and financial issues facing radio and talk media; the medium’s role in the national political conversation and culture wars; the impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property and creative originality; the evolution of ethics, justice and journalism in American society; and an examination of potential topics and concerns that will keep the medium vibrant as we move deeper into the 21st century. “It’s all about perspective,” says panel moderator Michael Harrison. “If we are to survive as an industry as well as a community, we have to step back and look at the big picture within which we operate… and it is getting bigger and bigger with each passing moment. We must avoid becoming smaller and smaller.” More than 60 luminaries from the talk media industry are set to speak at a power-packed day of fireside chats, solo addresses, panel discussions, workshops, award presentations, new equipment showcases and endless networking opportunities. TALKERS 2023 is nearing an advance sellout. See more about the agenda, registration, sponsorship and hotel information here.
Jerry Springer, the controversial television and radio host whose eponymous TV program ran for 27 years starting in 1991, died on Thursday (4/27) at age 79 after a battle with cancer. Springer’s TV show was savaged by critics for its exploitation of the seamy side of American culture, but it was a ratings sensation in the daytime television battles. Springer’s personal background was interesting. A child of holocaust survivors who was born in London, Springer got a law degree from Northwestern University, served on the Cincinnati City Council before exiting in a prostitution scandal, returned to the Council a year later and eventually served as mayor of Cincinnati. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Ohio as a Democrat. He moved into television news and won regional Emmy Awards before debuting his own soon-to-be-a-hit TV show that began as an issues-oriented program. Springer was part of the Air America liberal talk radio experiment during the early 2000s in which he hosted the 9:00 am to 12:00 noon ET show. In 2005, TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian (who then was special features editor for Inside Radio) interviewed Springer. Read his interview here. Also, author, professor, and former radio producer Bernadette Duncan included Springer in a chapter of her book, Yappy Days: Behind the Scenes with Newsers, Schmoozers, Boozers and Losers (Talkers Books, 2016). Read that excerpt here.
One of the talk media industry’s most impactful movers and shakers, Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media is scheduled to speak at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University on Long Island. Ruddy will engage in one of the conference’s two “fireside chats” hosted by TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison. According to Harrison, “There isn’t a day that Chris Ruddy isn’t in or behind the media news. The growth of Newsmax on the television, radio, print and digital fronts has been nothing short of phenomenal. He is extraordinarily connected and his influence on this business as well as the national conversation is on a non-stop upward trajectory. Ruddy’s instincts and savvy about positioning, programming and navigating the infrastructure of modern media are as sharp as it gets. I’m delighted to have him as a guest in this setting and at this time. (Harrison will also conduct a fireside chat with another leading industry maverick, Jeff Warshaw, CEO of Connoisseur Media). There will be more than 60 distinguished industry speakers at TALKERS 2023, the 26th annual installment of the talk media industry’s longest running and most important annual gathering. See more about the agenda, registration, sponsorship and hotel information here.
Rising multi-platform talk media star and talk radio personality Asa Andrew, M.D. (known to his fans as Doctor Asa) is partnering with the newest division of the NFL, called NFL Alumni Health. Doctor Asa’s parent full-service media company, Asa Media is now the official media partner, outlet, and overall voice for NFL Alumni Health. Under the new agreement, Asa Media will create exclusive content for all digital, social media, reality docu-series, radio, television, and podcasts for NFL Alumni Health to tell their story. Doctor Asa, whose syndicated radio health-based talk show continues to gain affiliates, was recently appointed the role of “ringside physician” for Impact Wrestling which doubles as a serious medical position as well as an entertainment position. Doctor Asa tells TALKERS, “The NFL, just like combat sports, includes years of high-impact play, raising concerns for long-term wellness. Concussions, joint injuries, cardiovascular health, obesity, and neurological complications are the norm as the average career for an NFL player is very short.” Doctor Asa will be speaking and educating as the leading health and wellness voice for NFL Franchises and Alumni with strategies for optimal health, performance, and longevity. He continues, “The NFL is a worldwide sports giant with some of the greatest athletes. The players are the ones we need to make sure are in the best position to enter the sport well and exit with their greatest win, their health. NFL Alumni Health has a passion to educate the players for better current play health and longevity choices which creates a better post-play outcome. Many former NFL Alumni Players are losing quality of life and facing serious health challenges. NFL Alumni Health is on a mission to create a better way. I’m here to be the voice, the storyteller, and catalyst to inspire the NFL and its Alumni, and influence others to reach their potential and becoming the best version of themselves.” Dr. Asa Andrew will be speaking on “The Big Picture” panel at TALKERS 2023, June 2 at Hofstra University.
By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday
The decision to change WABC from music to talk back in 1982 was not made by corporate, it was made by its then-program director, Jay Clark. Corporate was hoping he would approve the change, “they” lobbied for it, but the call was the ultimate responsibility of the program director. The business plan for WABC as a talk station predicted it to be profitable in year 10. (That’s because KABC, Los Angeles took 10 years to turn a profit.) As it turned out, WABC turned a profit in year 11.
At the time of the WABC format change back in the early 80s, the role of a program director was to be a disruptor. They were expected to cause trouble, get headlines, keep the energy coming out of the speakers up-up-up. It was my experience that the best program directors were extremely unpleasant, difficult people. They knew how to stir up their world on and off the air.
They did not get along with sales: “I’ll get you ratings, you go sell them” was the essence of their relationship with sales!
As co-worker relationships within radio stations became more important than results, the industry suffered. The death knell was the first time a program director dismissed a new idea by saying, “It’s not in the budget.” Until that tragic moment, good/great program directors would greet new ideas with, “They will just have to give us the money.”
The primary reason radio is losing younger demos is not technology, it’s the show. Technology attracts no audience. No one goes to a movie theatre to see a blank white screen no matter how good they may find the air conditioning and popcorn. If younger listeners are listening to another audio medium it’s because the show is UNPREDICTABLE, new, energetic, fun or on-demand.
Radio of any genre can be unpredictable, new, energetic, fun and on-demand. (Request lines built top 40. But what happened to them?) The actions of unpredictability are free.
Those unpleasant, autonomous program directors often earned more money than any general manager and more than almost any program director working today. A lot more. Why? Because radio stations attracted cume by acting as a 24/7 barker. The barker sizzle came from the single mind of the program director.
The programming mind that wins by disruption is not limited to top 40. For example, classical music WGMS in Washington featured promos declaring that “WGMS plays real oldies,” “mostly Mozart” and “Celebrate the bicentennial and Beethoven’s birthday.” Unexpected programming proves that radio is live and “LIVE” is the most powerful word in electronic media.
Walter Sabo was the youngest Executive Vice President in the history of NBC. The youngest VP in the history of ABC. He was a consultant to RKO General longer than Bill Drake. Walter was the in house consultant to Sirius for eight years. He has never written a resume. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.com. Meet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2.