Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Leonard H. Goldenson’s Real Open Door

By Walter Sabo
CEO, Sabo Media Action Partners
A.K.A. Walter M Sterling
Host, WPHT, Philadelphia – daily
Talk Media Network – Sundays

imLeonard H. Goldenson was the founder/chairman of ABC, Inc. Before Disney, before Capital Cities, ABC was… ABC and it was run by Mr. Goldenson. He launched the ABC Radio Networks, ABC Television Network, and the original ABC radio and television stations.

His background was as a movie theatre owner. He respected the crowd, applause, creativity, art, the show. Many top talent and executives owe their start or standards to Mr. Goldenson. I worked at ABC Radio for five years when Leonard was chairman, here’s what I absorbed.

— Risk for the show. Allen Shaw and his team largely invented the album rock format and launched it on the ABC FM stations. There was no proof it would work. But it made sense. That required seven stations to dump automation and hire seven AFTRA jocks and seven IATSE engineers at each station. Note the IATSE pay scale was higher than the AFTRA scale. It didn’t go as planned. In San Francisco, the presumed success was slow to profit. WRIF, Detroit, under the leadership of Willard Lochridge, slam dunk. Leonard didn’t blink. Imagine.

— ABC was caught up in the payola scandals in the early 1960s. Alan Freed was a jock on WABC. After the Congressional hearings, Goldenson said never again and vowed to sell the radio stations. WXYZ GM, Hal Neal went to the chairman and said, “Let me run them and I will clean them up.”  He did. Without mercy. Leonard kept them and the ABC AM/FM stations became legend. Imagine.

— Leonard had the heart of an artist. He painted. Every year, at the holidays, a beautiful book of his art was distributed to all employees with an essay written by Leonard sharing his thoughts and feelings about each work. We had a glimpse of his soul. Imagine.

The door was always open for talent. On-air talent could visit Mr. Goldenson without an appointment at any time. WPLJ morning star, Jim Kerr would regularly ride to the 40th floor and sit in Leonard’s office to chat. Imagine.

— At an executive conference, he got up early and started to leave. Being a smartass, I looked at him and asked why was he sneaking out? He explained that ABC was opening a movie that afternoon and he wanted to stand outside a theater and ask audience members how they liked his movie. That was his research. Imagine.

— When WABC-AM switched from music to talk, the plan called for profit in year 10. It took 11. Imagine

— Leonard Goldenson flew commercial, coach. Imagine.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers.. His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is heard on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.

He can be reached by email at sabowalter@gmail.com.

Industry News

Ongoing Coverage of TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond

The 27th annual installment of the talk media industry’s longest running, and most important national event took place this past Friday (6/7) at Hofstra University on Long Island. TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond was an advance sellout. The power-packed, one-day agenda featured a roster of more than 60 speakers from all ends of the talk radio and related talk media industries including talent, station owners, CEOs, programmers, technical experts, journalists, syndicators, and a wide variety of visionaries. The annual talk media industry tradition was presented by TALKERS in association with the prestigious university’s multi-award-winning station WRHU Radio and Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication. Key discussions included “Gaining Traction in a Noisy World,” “The Case for AM Radio,” “Generating News/Talk Revenue in the Digital Era,” “The State of Sports Talk Radio,” “The Brave New World of Technological and Generational Change,” “Programming News/Talk Radio,” “Perspectives on Hosting Television Talk,” “Philanthropy and Community Service,” “The Art of Story Telling,” “Talk Radio Programming Opportunities Beyond Politics,” “Meeting the Challenges of Being a Talk Talent,” “The Big Picture of Radio’s Role in a Rapidly Changing World,” and “The State of the First Amendment” among others. As the volumes of data generated by this gathering are sorted out, TALKERS will provide in-depth, detailed coverage of the conference in the days and weeks ahead including posting videos of its key segments.  See a selection of photos from TALKERS 2024 Radio and Beyond below.

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One of the exciting sessions of TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond was titled “The Big Picture.”  It sparked a dialogue about the state of talk media and radio in general in the face of tremendous technological and sociological change.  It put forth the premise that for “radio” to succeed in the multiplatform arena of the digital age, its health and survival will depend upon its practitioners having a clear understanding what the term “radio” means and how that definition differs from the word “audio.” The stellar panels included (l-r): Tavis Smiley, host/owner, KBLA, Los Angeles / Smiley AudioMedia; Kraig Kitchin, CEO, Sound Mind, LLC; Deborah Parenti, publisher, Radio Ink / RBR+TVBRChris Oliviero, market president, Audacy New York; Lisa Wexler, host, WICC, Bridgeport; and Chad Lopez, president, WABC, New York / Red Apple Audio Network. (Not pictured, moderator Michael Harrison.)

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Westwood One host Rich Valdes, host of “America at Night,” introduced “The Big Picture” panel eloquently pointing out that for radio to successfully serve the big picture of American society it will have to grasp the demographic and ethnic changes that are rapidly taking place within the nation’s shifting population.

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The “Beyond Politics” panel explored the programming options available to talk radio stations – particularly news/talk – to expand programming possibilities that enhance ratings and revenue beyond reliance on the popular paradigm of pure, targeted 24/7 partisan politics.  Panelists included (l-r):  Asa Andrew, MD, host, “The Doctor Asa Show”; Danielle Lin, C.N., producer/host, “The Art of Living and the Science of Life”; Lee Habeeb, CEO/host/producer, “Our American Stories”/American Private Radio; Daliah Wachs, MD, host, “The Dr. Daliah Show”; Mike “Bax” Baxendale, co-host, morning show, WAQY (Rock 102), Springfield, MA; and Walter Sabo (A.K.A. Walter M Sterling), consultant, Sabo Media Partners / host, “Sterling On Sunday,” TMN / “Sterling at Night,” WPHT, Philadelphia. (Not pictured, moderator David Bernstein.)

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Talk radio programming legend David BernsteinTALKERS director of broadcast operations, served as moderator of the “Beyond Politics” panel session.

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Kevin Casey, TALKERS VP/executive editor (l) served as TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond master of ceremonies and John Fredericks, owner/host, the John Fredericks Radio Network (r) delivered the introduction to the “State of Sports Talk Radio” fireside chat. 

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Do Your Show

By Walter Sabo
CEO, Sabo Media Partners
A.K.A. Walter M Sterling
Host
WPHT, Philadelphia – daily
Talk Media Network – Sundays

imWhen recently starting nightly on WPHT, Philadelphia, I asked program director Greg Stocker if there was anything else management needed from me. Greg said, “Do your show.”

Since that luncheon meeting his words have sifted through my fevered brain and I realized that at this moment in time, his words were profound: Do your show. 

What he did not say:

Meet with sales.

Meet with HR.

Be sure to hit the live reads on time.

Don’t annoy (fill in the blank).

Get all the spots in.

Make sure the studio is clean when you’re done.

David Field listens so be careful.

Meet with sales.

I do my show and nothing else and I’m very happy.  The endless whine coming from our colleagues can be traced to ignoring the prime directive:  Do your show.

 Talk radio is magic, it’s free-form radio. Your music station brethren envy your freedom. They have to call for permission to change the order of pre-programmed songs! You don’t have to do anything which means you can do what you want… which means you can do something great.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at sabowalter@gmail.com. His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is heard on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Try It, You’ll Like It

By Walter Sabo
CEO, Sabo Media Partners
A.K.A. Walter M Sterling
Host, Talk Media Network

imThis week, I started a five-night show on Audacy’s WPHT, Philadelphia. Thank you, market president David Yadgaroff. Because of my tenure in the industry, I received a flattering, humbling number of emails from colleagues in radio. THANK YOU. The support and encouragement are appreciated and certainly needed!

There was a pattern to the notes beyond the kind thoughts for my future. Almost every note hoped that the example of my show’s non-political content would compel other broadcasters to stop their political speeches and start a broader, real-life focused conversation. These emails were from CEOs, program directors, news directors, owners, and hosts. My response is, why me? If the note writer believes broader content would be good for their business, why don’t they put it on the air, today?

It would be fun to speculate on the answer to that question. It would also be pointless because the real answer is…  just do it!

Radio executives love to copy success. I am mystified by why they are copying failure. Almost all politically focused talk stations are declining in audience and gaining in demographic age. Daytime TV talk shows cover much broader topics that capture younger demos, are growing in audience and, as a category, generate $5 billion in annual revenue.

Broader topic menus work well. Thanks to enlightened owners, my company has launched many stations and hosts that are not political. Of course it works, life is what your target listener is discussing with their friends right now. Follow my example. Your audience will grow, and you’ll generate more revenue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE:  Walter Sabo will be appearing on a panel discussion titled, “Beyond Politics” at TALKERS 2024: Radio and Beyond on Friday, June 7 at Hofstra University on Long Island. For information, click here.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at sabowalter@gmail.com. His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is debuted this week on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry News

Sabo Sez: Make it Bigger

By Walter Sabo
CEO Sabo Media Action Partners
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Host, WPHT, Philadelphia
Host, Talk Media Network

imWhen a new restaurant opens, smart owners put the phone on busy so would-be diners believe the joint is hot, packed and hard to get in to. At street fairs we are drawn to merchant booths with long lines. Crowds give us confidence.

My mentor, Ed McLaughlin, as president of the ABC Radio Networks had one dictate when presented with a new idea: Make it bigger.

Last week radio hosted a major event. An event so big that it was covered by all media, except… except… radio and most radio trades. After turning down the Washington Post and The New York Times, the President of the United States gave the longest interview of his tenure to a radio star, Howard Stern. A commercial radio interview. Not NPR. Not MSNBC, not The View. Radio. The president, like hundreds of other leaders and businesses believes radio is the best medium to sell his message.

The president’s choice of medium should now be the first slide on every sales deck of every radio pitch. Today!

The damage of small. Many people in our business sell small and it hurts the industry. It’s easy to be dismissive of the Stern interview of Biden… instead, why not own it? Make it your interview because you share the same playing field.

Smart media executives do everything they can to make their stage seem to earn the largest possible audience. Cable, for example sells “homes passed.” Really. Cable sells the number of homes that can receive the advertiser’s message because those homes have cable. Using cable’s selling logic, radio could win every buyer’s analysis by selling “radios installed.”

About 20 years ago radio sellers started showing their station’s “time spent listening” (TSL) data to media buyers. That is the lowest number. While local TV stations sell their “designated market area” (DMA), radio mines the very tiniest delivery number: TSL

Your website’s first name is WORLD WIDE. Shockingly many radio companies strive to make their website “more local.” Stations have federal licenses dictating that their signal is specifically LOCAL. Your website could turn your station into a world-wide business with pristine world-wide delivery. Rather than grow, many broadcasters fought to have permission to geo-fence their signal, they fought to get smaller.

A major ratings week’s results for FOX News or CNN would get the program director of WLTW, KOST, Z100 or WINS fired. CNN had an average of 601,000 viewers in March. What’s your station’s cume? CNN grossed $1.1 BILLION dollars. They aren’t selling numbers. They are selling their brand: CNN or FOX or MSNBC. Cable networks, all with tiny viewership compared with WCBS-AM, WBZ-AM, or KFI’s cume, deliver ancient demos yet they are grossing a billion bucks by selling their brand and their environment. They sell shows. A show is as big as the seller and buyer can imagine. Imagine bigger.

Put simply: 1010 WINS has more listeners in New York City than the “Tonight Show” has viewers in New York City.  There’s your second slide.

Media buyers want a deal. They want radio to bring in the buy. But the CEO of the brand wants an environment for their message that moves product. Your hosts can move product. Your listener can name your hosts, which instills trust and listeners can recall copy points from hosts’ live reads. To an investor, the relationship between your listener and your host is defined as goodwill. Goodwill adds considerable value to your station. Selling the dynamic of listener engagement will justify much higher rates than TSL.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at sabowalter@gmail.com. His nightly show “Walter Sterling at Night” is debuting next week on WPHT, Philadelphia. His syndicated show, “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network, airs 10:00 pm-1:00 am ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry News

WPHT, Philadelphia Adds “Walter Sterling at Night”

Audacy news/talk WPHT, Philadelphia is adding a new live and local evening program to its program schedule starring Walter Sterling. “Walter Sterling at Night” will air weeknights from 9:00 pm to 12:00 midnight beginning May 13. Audacy Philadelphia SVP and market manager David Yadgaroff states,im “Walter has demonstrated the importance of the late-night talk radio with his Sunday night nationally syndicated program and has welcomed his listeners, who he refers to as ‘friends on the radio,’ to unpack their day-to-day lives. He’s made strides at ‘Talk Radio 1210 WPHT’ for a decade, and we’re ecstatic to finally bring his entertaining brand to the Delaware Valley five nights a week.” Sterling, who as Walter Sabo operates the Sabo Media Partners consultancy, comments, “Late-night radio is golden media time for a live program. It’s a one-on-one stage for lighter conversations, serving as morning drive for late-shift doctors, nurses, bus drivers, hotel managers, security staff and more. Thank you, David Yadgaroff, Greg Stocker, Jeff Sottolano and the incredible programming and engineering teams at Audacy. Over the years, I’ve made strong connections with Talk Radio 1210 WPHT listeners and look forward to building them as I join weeknights!”

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: More from the Book of Secrets

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Partners
A.K.A. Walter M. Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imTo be an expert in marketing requires expertise in how memory works. Early in my consultant practice, I studied and read every book I could find on the processes of memory. The best book is Effective Frequency: The Relationship Between Frequency and Advertising Effectiveness. Put simply, how many times does a consumer have to hear a message before it has impact? The book, a collection of studies, is the foundation for every qualitative study in the field today.

Knowing the foundation studies of frequency’s impact facilitates sales, promo scheduling, topic rotation and external station marketing. No marketing budget? Mistake. The most efficient investment in a radio station’s growth is external advertising. Heightened awareness of a station increases cume, key for direct response advertisers, and makes sales calls shorter because the station is familiar to buyers, improves morale, and minimizes competition.

Key take aways from this book of secrets:

The Law of Six: For a message to have impact, it must be heard by the target six times during the length of the campaign.

The Law of Seven: Why are there seven (7) digits in phone numbers? Over a hundred years ago the phone company had to determine how many digits we could handle. They researched how many items we could remember in any product category. How many brand name soaps, tires, shampoos, deodorants. etc. Try it. Write down all the shampoo brands or tire brands you can think of. I’ve performed this magic act with large audiences around the country.

Almost no one can write down more than seven shampoo, deodorant, cereal, or tire brands. The exception is if the question asks you to write down brands of an industry in which you work. Memory activity applies to the use of presets on car radios. Analog car radios rarely fill all five or six pre-set buttons. In your digital car, even though you’re in radio, I bet the most you’ve programmed is four.

Flight or Dose? A $5,000,000 national campaign was tested for flight effectiveness. What works best? Two weeks on, two weeks off or continuous spots. Same number of spots, same budget but continuous or flighted? Two surprising answers: The flighted campaign resulted in more sales. But the continuous run actually hurt sales and after an initial positive impact, sales declined to pre-campaign levels.

Youth Matters: The younger the customer, the more often they must be exposed to the message. A young person has more distractions than an older person.

People ForgetThis is the key takeaway: If a product is not advertised for nine months, customers have no memory of the message. None. They might remember that the product exists, but they have no recall of what the product does for them or why they should buy it… or listen to it. A tragic, industry-wide mistake has been made to cease advertising radio stations. Obviously not advertising is hypocritical for a medium that survives on ad dollars. The no-marketing argument is that with the PPM there is no need to remind listeners of a station’s name because the listener no longer has to write it down in a diary. How much has your city changed in nine months? How many new streams, websites, podcasts have distracted your listener from your station? External marketing of a station protects the investment made in its operation.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at walter@sabomedia.com and www.waltersterlingshow.com. “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network airs 10:00 pm-1:00 ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Tap into The Book of Secrets

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Partners
A.K.A. Walter M. Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imGrowing a brand is a memory game. Which message will a target consumer value, remember it and take it to the cash register?  The answer is not complicated but it is complex.

A great amount of energy and brain power goes into brand names, logo design, show topics but very little study is made of how often a company should deliver information to their target. The answer to the question of “how often” is critical to landing marks in the Nielsen diary, seeking for your station online or in-car. Effective frequency is essential to everyone’s success!

“When you’re sick of the song, that’s when the listener is just hearing it…” isim about all the science any of us have been tutored in on the subject of effective frequency.

Frequency of message has, in fact, been studied for over 100 years and the answers are astonishing!  The most important, useful  frequency of message studies are in the book, Effective Frequency: The Relationship Between Frequency and Advertising Effectiveness.

I bought the book in 1981 to find answers to how much external advertising does a station need to win (remember?)… how often to rotate a song promo or topic? The answers are not found in myth and legends but in hard studies conducted by companies such as Lever Brothers and Procter & Gamble.

The book was assembled by the Association of National Advertisers. It is a collection of landmark major studies on how memory is Impacted by the frequency of message exposure.  Expertise on the workings of memory is obviously the most important knowledge in a Nielsen diary market and vital to growth in metered markets if a station has been starved of a promotion budget. This book was edited by the head of research for Lever Brothers, Michael J. Naples.

The next three Sabo Sez columns will highlight more actionable data from the book. For example, the studies in the book offer hard data about on how many spots your listener can tolerate, how often to state and restate the topic, phone number, your name and more. This book has, by far, offered my work the most powerful guidance of any source.

Here are a few facts you might be able to put to use right now:

1. The first and last spot in a cluster enjoys the greatest recall. Promos work equally well in either position. Spots placed first and last should be charged more.

2. Moving money out of a TV campaign and putting it into a radio campaign will neither diminish nor improve response. BUT holding the money in a TV campaign and adding money for a radio campaign will improve response.

3. Stunning: For many product categories, daypart significantly impacts the likelihood of conversion to sales. Food product commercials, according to an Ogilvy & Mather study, convert to sales significantly better in late night, fringe time than in daytime.  In fact, food product ads in prime time have a negative impact on sales.

4. Properly conducted research for consumer goods products can be successfully applied to media content development.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at walter@sabomedia.com and www.waltersterlingshow.com. “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network airs 10:00 pm-1:00 ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Make More Money Selling Emotion

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imIt seems every hour Nielsen and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus fame (formerly of Westwood One) put out a release stating that radio is just fine, thank you. Radio is more persuasive than TV, direct mail, streaming and print. Radio is a proven success for over 100 years. Most of the buildings housing Procter & Gamble were built on radio – not TV – advertising success. Happily, P&G realized radio’s clout and is now a dominant radio advertiser – again!

Audience data, facts, do little, if any, good. Based on the facts, radio should be the number one local advertising medium. It’s not, direct mail wins. Value Pack.

Every year radio’s revenue goes down. Many stations deliver consistent ratings and consistent product – yet they are going down in billing. Selling hard numbers, provable numbers, is not growing the industry.

Why do you buy stuff? Quantitative numbers are not driving revenue. What’s an option? Why do you buy… anything? If you’re buying an essential item like milk, the purchase is price driven. But radio is not an essential ad buy, yet the sales challenge is met by lowering spot rates. That hasn’t solved anything. Lower spot rates make overall revenue worse by lowering perceived value.

Your non-essential purchases are determined by price and emotion. Do you need that? No, but you want it. What does radio provide to a listener? EMOTION. Music and talk radio elicit emotional responses. Profound, deep, emotional responses. Why do clients cancel talk radio? Because they are offendedembarrassed or angry. Why do clients cancel a music station? Because they hatecan’t stand or are offended by the songs. Media buyer emotions drive capricious, rapid ad campaign cancellations. (Why do you get fired even though your numbers are just fine? Because you offended somebody.)

If numbers don’t maintain a buy, what would compel a buy?

Tangibles plus on-air emotion. Tell you a secret. Most TV media buys are for shows, not audience. Right. Math-driven media buying services buy TV shows they like.

Suggest we look to move off the spreadsheet, the programmatic, and enter the warmth of emotional selling, selling to a buyer’s personal likes. (Jingle Ball – genius!) Personal likes. The numbers aren’t serving the need for revenue growth. Soft drivers: Concert tickets, prize winners, food, free tracks, buyer names on air, parties, gift for kids. Old school? No. Proven school. New school isn’t working. Turn radio’s air into tangible, shiny objects. Radio elicits emotional responses, let’s sell to them. That’s powerful! More powerful than time spent listening.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at walter@sabomedia.com and www.waltersterlingshow.com. “Sterling On Sunday,” from Talk Media Network airs 10:00 pm-1:00 ET, now in its 10th year of success.

Industry Views

Sabo Sez: Five Predictions

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

im1. Financial solvency laws. Consolidation is not the problem; it actually saved the radio industry. The problem is the 1986 rule change that dropped financial solvency requirements for station ownership. Prior to 1986, stations could not be purchased with debt. A potential owner had to prove that they could meet the expenses of a station through the duration of its license. Once the financial efficacy rule was dropped and stations could be purchased with debt, the industry was financially decimated. Prediction: Financial solvency laws will be re-instated.

2. Ratings change. Ratings giant Nielsen will change its system of measurement of audio. The PPM was created over 20 years ago by a company that no longer exists. For a station to earn proper audience levels, Nielsen must measure all audio distribution platforms including radio sets, in car, cell phone streaming, computer streaming, satellite, public address systems and ear pods and whatever comes next. Now you choose one – over the air or the stream. This will change or more companies will follow the recent lead of Good Karma Brands radio which just cancelled Nielsen.

3. New leadership. Who’s in charge? Most radio companies are run by very sharp and very senior CEOs and Boards. The Boca effect — I don’t want trouble, just get me to my retirement and condo on Boca. The primary reason FM grew from 10% household usage in 1968 to 60% in 1981 was the “kids” were put in charge – and caused “trouble.” Allen Shaw at ABC FM, Walter Sabo at NBC FM (forgive me), Jerry Lyman at RKO FM and the sons and daughters of the owners of thriving AMs paired with orphaned FMs (think Beau Woods at WEBN, Cincinnati and Bart McClendon in Dallas) were given free range to create and implement brand new formats. While the AM management played golf, those 20-somethings aired daring, new, shocking, amazing radio that drew listeners to FM. No, not stereo or low commercials, it was the FM package of subversiveness. For radio to level up and serve the joy of an audience born with iPhones in their cribs, it will be led by today’s 20-somethings without suffering interference by bosses sharing really interesting stories about their time at CBGBs.  The essential leadership will come from younger programmers and executives who have only known a world with online video stars, a thousand cable channels, and on-demand video and audio entertainment.

4. New sales paradigm. Digital entertainment companies – audio and video – are fueled by stupid money. Venture capitalists launch new businesses with the goal of claiming a stake and then selling the business for their ROI. VCs have no interest in operating profit. Really. That means start-up media companies pay much more for sales executives than radio companies. Start-ups are shinier goals than radio stations to a media advertising seller. There will be a revolution in the way salespeople are identified, recruited, managed, and paid or the decline in radio revenue will accelerate.

5. Renovated voice tracking. Voice tracking is not horrible, it’s an opportunity that has not been realized. Today voice tracking is a poor imitation of being live – without benefits. No time, temp, urgent news. Here’s the miss: Every station has a stunning, amazing production library. Don’t have one? Swipe from YouTube. Rather than pretending to be live, admit to being recorded. Use that production freedom to produce. Tap the production library to create a running drama, comedy, mood, listening environment. Make the show between the songs to be as compelling as Taylor Swift. That’s the future of music radio.

Walter Sabo has been a C Suite action partner for companies such as SiriusXM, Hearst, Press Broadcasting, Gannett, RKO General and many other leading media outlets. His company HITVIEWS, in 2007, was the first to identify and monetize video influencers. HITVIEWS clients included Pepsi, FOX TV, Timberland, Microsoft, and CBS Television. He can be reached at walter@sabomedia.com www.waltersterlingshow.com

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Here are Five Original Ideas Worth Stealing

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imOriginal ideas are golden and rare. Here are five ideas worth stealing because of their novelty, success and oh-wow factor!

THE SECRET OF A GREAT TALK STATION – Tom Bigby founding program director of WIP Philadelphia.  Tom turned up a large black knob to his left and it fed the phone screeners doing their work. He could monitor all calls coming in and how they were screened. He recorded all screener conversations and “I do air check sessions with the screeners.” declared Mr. Bigby.

ENTER AND YOU COULD WIN ALL THE CLOTHES – FOX FM Melbourne Australia. Every year FOX FM hosted the FOX FASHION SHOW at a mall. The event drove entries for a contest that awarded tickets to the show. Ok, normal.

Surprise: “And one listener will win all the clothes.” At the time, 2002, Brad March was the head of programming for owner, Austerio.

WE’LL BOOST SECURITY. When New Jersey 101.5 started, John and Ken hosted PM Drive – yes that John and Ken of KFI deserved fame. The hot topic was the station’s fantasy to eliminate tolls on the Jersey Turnpike. No one considered that eliminating tolls would mean firing unionized toll takers… in New Jersey.Somebody thought that was a bad idea and slashed the tires in the station’s parking lot. Lame owners would have shut down the topic. Bob McAllan, CEO of Press Broadcasting had no problems with the topic. His response:  Heavy investing in hurricane fencing and super-bright lights for the building’s exterior. Bob kept the staff fearless and that is why the station is a success to this minute.

SOMEBODY’S GOT TO BE IN THE BUILDING ALL NIGHT.  Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Sterling On Sunday and my guest host appearances for Westwood One have originated from great radio facilities throughout the northeast. Great empty facilities. After 10:00 pm clusters of stations housed in state of the art installations operate without one human body in the building. Not one, not a board op, or night editor, or anybody. It’s spooky and irresponsible. What if?? Dave LaBrozzi, Program Director of KDKA engaged a group of eager interns to work in the beautiful KDKA newsroom all night. Great training for the students and smart service to Pittsburgh.

WEBSITES ARE DIFFERENT. Radio 538 is the hot top 40 in the Netherlands. Dan Mason and I consulted them and learned that they recognized that a website is not a radio station. They built web content that had nothing to do with the radio station, except in spirit, but was very appealing to online consumers. Note that all of the stars on online video are native to the medium. Hollywood stars who tried to cross to digital, failed. Different medium. Build web-only content for traffic success.

Walter Sabo hosts “Sterling On Sunday” – a 10-year network success heard on stations such as KMOX, St Louis; WPHT, Philadelphia; KFBK, Sacramento; and KDKA, Pittsburgh. His company, Sabo Media has delivered audience growth for SiriusXM, Hearst, FOX Television and other media titans. He can be reached at walter@sabomedia.com www.waltersterlingshow.com

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Award the Future

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imWhen reviewing our industry’s awards such as the Crystals or Marconis there are two categories missing. They are: “Best New” and “Best Innovation.” Imagine if winners were announced for these prizes:

“Best New Talent On Air”

“Best New Talent Off Air”

“Most Creative Sales Solution”

“Most Creative Station Promotion”

“Most Innovative DAB or Podcast Format”

“Best New Talent – Podcast”

“Best Innovation In Engineering”

Those awards aren’t fantasy, they are actual awards given annually by Australian Commercial Radio (ACRA). They are presented at a magnificent well-produced event for the entire country – attendance is SRO. The subliminal message to Australian radio personnel is powerful: Innovation is expected and rewarded. NEW is expected and rewarded – no need to wait for you to become legendary (!) to be recognized. “NEW” is a powerful reward and promise to the talent you hope will find a career in radio. Face it, our “on boarding” leaves a lot to be desired. (Hey, work in the promotion department while you live at home, and we’ll let you pick up pizza that you can share!)

The best gift the late PD Al Brady Law gave me was he greeted all new ideas with, “It might work.” Most other executives kill innovative thought with the worst question possible: “Who else is doing it?” The industry has a lame record of assessing new ideas. New ideas are systematically despised:

Bill Drake’s format was damned in jock-for-hire classifieds that warned, NO DRAKE JOCKS. Yes, dozens of stations wanted NO DRAKE JOCKS. Quickly Drake’s strategies slaughtered those stations and revolutionized music formats to this moment. Recorded music on the radio was actually thought to be illegal until WNEW-AM, New York fought that court fight in the 1940s and won. All news on WINS and WCBS certainly was not going to work after the 1960s New York newspaper strike ended. WFAN could never succeed as an all-sports station – soon after launch it became the highest biller in NYC.

When AC was launched in 1978 at the NBC FM and RKO FM stations, it had no future. FM was only for beautiful music and hard rock and besides who else is doing it?

Album rock, AOR, …why we have research to prove young people only want hits! Targeted FM talk – combining a hot format with hot talent would absolutely fail at KLSX-FM, Los Angeles and thanks to Bob Moore became the number one local biller – turn it back to the failed classic rock format please begged one research hit squad! “New Jersey 101.5” has a one million cume talking all week, playing music all weekend. Which award category suits that giant station? “Best New” would have been appreciated.

Todd Storz, the inventor of Top 40, passed away at 38 and his father who owned their stations in Miami, Omaha, and New Orleans couldn’t wait to change his Top 40 format creation to MOR when the kid died. As a result, when Todd died the stations died, too.

Innovators like Bill Drake, Jeff SmulyanAllen ShawBob McAllanAlan MasonL. David Moorhead, and Howard Stern are first ignored, then marginalized, then vilified… then hundreds fight for their credit.

The only way radio stays relevant and grows its place on the media landscape is with a constant flow of “Best New” and “Best Innovation.” That’s when younger listeners are attracted to radio – the same way they are attracted to everything – if it’s NEW. The radio you and your friends were drawn to, talked about at school, listened to constantly was saturated with new contests, new daring DJs, new promotions, new hits, new energy.

The delicious daily challenge of on-air talent and management is what can we put on the air today that has never been done before? If it’s new, even if it doesn’t work forever, generates buzz, attention, youthful audiences.  Of course, 20-year-olds will listen to radio, it’s at the end of their arm! But they are not going to salivate at the promise of “20 of your favorites from the 80s, 90s and today.” Or a national contest.

Why not test a NEW award in just one awards category? “Best Innovation in Engineering” The Marconi Award.

Walter Sabo is a leading media industry consultant and syndicated talk radio personality.  He can be emailed at Walter@Sabomedia.com. Website: www.waltersterlingshow.com

Industry Views

Mysteries Explained: The Radio Hall of Fame

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imFor several years I’ve had the surprising privilege of serving as a member of the nominating committee of the Radio Hall of Fame. How does the process work? Let me clear up some of the mystery. FAQ:

Who chooses the nominations? You have input. Right now, the Hall is seeking recommendations from you without restriction. Who do you think belongs in the ROF? Suggest your nominations until March 31 https://www.radiohalloffame.com/nominate. After the nominations close, a list of hundreds of respected names are reviewed by the nominating committee.

Who is on the Nominating committee? The members are listed on the website: https://www.radiohalloffame.com/committee. They represent radio companies of all sizes and no one company is over-represented. Many of the members are not affiliated with any one company. Some are inductees, themselves.

Do committee members “push” people just from their own company? Not from my experience.

Can companies buy favor with sponsorship participations? No. The event sponsorship process happens after inductees are determined.

Is there geographic favoritism? Every nominee is considered for accomplishment, tenure, geography, format. It is fair to say that the committee agonizes over each of those qualities.

Who votes? The committee of 25 narrows it down to 24 nominees and that list is sent to approximately 1,000 broadcasters representing all formats, parts of the country and owners. An accounting firm receives and counts those votes.

Can’t the committee unilaterally select an inductee? Yes, but it is usually just one person, someone who is not an on-air talent.

What are the terms of the committee members? The positions rotate. Three to seven years seems to be the typical tenure.

What is a Legacy?  If a broadcaster is deceased, they can be fully honored as an inductee in the Legacy category.

Support is needed. Every year the induction ceremony is a beautiful, well-executed event celebrating our passion for quality radio. At the moment, it is one of the few pure “radio” gatherings. (Don’t annoy me about the NAB – they used to have a pure, big tent radio event but now that’s a sales event.).

The constant refrain that radio does not get appropriate credit as a viable, MAJOR medium can be mitigated when our Hall of Fame evening is a sell-out. Every single company should buy tables, ads and send their C-suite. The well-produced show is available for broadcast and should be broadcast! The speeches are much funnier than the Oscars or Emmys.

Walter Sabo is a leading media industry consultant and syndicated talk radio personality.  He can be emailed at Walter@Sabomedia.com. Website: www.waltersterlingshow.com

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Howard Stern Deserves a Big Thank You

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imNO ONE has done more to elevate the status and improve the working conditions of on-air talent as much as Howard Stern.

Howard turned 70 this month and he has been on the air for 50 years – half of the time of the existence of radio. During his brilliant career, he has elevated the capabilities of radio to a scientific, pristine art. His success is neither an accident nor luck. It’s not even God-given talent. It’s all work. Nobody has ever worked harder on their radio show than Howard and, as a result, no radio star has ever earned as much money or deserved as much acclaim.

Several important notes:

— For Howard, radio always comes first. When he made the movie Private Parts the production fit around his radio show.

— “America’s Got Talent” ended taping at the pre-agreed times to accommodate Howard’s radio show.

— I made the first call to his agent to recruit Howard to SiriusXM Satellite Radio. He was already making a lot of money… his motivation for moving was to give his radio show the support and freedom necessary to see just how great he could make it.

— He loves radio.

Whatever you’ve heard Howard earns, it’s probably close. That’s good for everybody on the air in the world. He earns more than any TV star. He earns more than 99.9% of all movie stars. I think it’s pretty much Taylor SwiftPaul McCartney and Howard. A radio star is actually in that conversation!

When he started in the 1980s, he was suspended for saying douche bag. Now you can say douche bag. Thank him for winning that fight.

Thank him for proving that radio stars do better with real writers and producers. Radio stars can create four hours a day of magic with little help. (TV Sitcoms produce 22 minutes a week, for 22 weeks a year with 11 writers.) Thank him for moving millions of dollars of products a week with his live reads, enhancing the value of your live reads.

Thank him for being harassed by the federal government. Thank him for not blinking. Thank him for raising the profile and stature of American radio. Thank him for being funny.

I just don’t think he’s been thanked enough…

Walter Sabo was a founding architect of SiriusXM Satellite Radio and began the recruitment of Howard Stern. He has consulted RKO General, PARADE magazine, Hearst BroadcastingPress Broadcasting, and other premium brands. He launched the first company to engage online video influencers, Hitviews. As an executive, he was EVP of NBC FM RADIO giving Dr. Ruth Westheimer her first media job and fostering the creation of adult contemporary. As VP ABC Radio Networks, Sabo hired Ringo Starr to be a DJ for a 24-hour special.

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: City to Town – A Perspective on Trump Voters

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imAcknowledging that this publication is fiercely non-partisan and that I – in my role as a broadcaster – am basically the same, I offer the following, not as a political opinion piece, but rather a personal observation based on experience that might shed light on the deeper nature of a large segment of the American population prone to listen to talk radio.

A few years ago, I moved from Manhattan to Shaker Heights, Ohio. Geraldo Rivera made the same journey for the same reason; our wives went to Shaker High. In our brides’ minds, that’s enough reason to return.

During the period of the Donald Trump presidency, a new phenomenon was sweeping the East and West Coasts: People who did not vote for Trump demonized and marginalized those who did. Lifelong friendships were ended by anti-Trump individuals who merely suspected a friend was pro-Trump, often with little evidence. Celebrities threatened to leave the country if Trump became or remained president. They would flee to Canada, without any consideration of whether or not Canadians wanted them!  

At first, I would ask anti-Trump people if they had actually voted for Hillary Clinton? That question was inevitably met with an icy glare, but no answer. They hadn’t. Anti-Trumpers were seething, ignited by their guilt that they assumed Clinton would win and therefore making their voting participation unnecessary. What else could explain the fevered emotion against a president – on his FIRST day in office? Trump hadn’t done anything to anger Scarlett Johansson into leading an angry insurrection mob. But she did. Day one.

Living in Ohio, I have spent time with hundreds of Trump voters and learned something valuable. Trump supporters do not match the level of passion in support of the president as those who hate him. Not even close. The disparity is stunning.

No Trump voter has threatened to leave the country if a Democrat wins. No Trump voter has said, “I hate all Biden voters, I wish they would die,” as Howard Stern has said about them. No Trump voter refuses to befriend a Joe Biden voter just because, hey, if we’re friends we are friends.

Yes, Trump voters go to the polls for him because of – his policies. And what are those? The Ohio parents and workers I know matter-of-factly want Trump first and foremost so they can afford gasoline and heating oil. When the price of gas went up, parents had to cut down on after school activities, school competitions and distant playdates, they just couldn’t afford the trip. They can’t hop on the bus to Chelsea Piers. They don’t care if it’s Trump specifically, they just want cheaper gas – sir can you do that?

Next, they vote for the candidate who will support safe neighborhoods, cheaper meat, cheaper milk, their kid in the Marines home for the holidays, Israel, better schools.

I learned this from parents waiting for dance class and band practice to end. Patient parents proud of their kids. They weren’t chanting for Trump or bashing Biden. They just want enough gas to get home.

I’ve learned that many people who hate Trump voters do so while getting into an Uber, a taxi, bus, or subway. They don’t own a car. They buy food for one, not for five times seven days a week. They don’t have to go to three different food stores to get the cheapest items… they just hit Food Emporium ($6.98 a gallon of milk). In Ohio, $2.29 a gallon, Walmart.

Of course, there are other issues swirling around Trump and Biden – but right now most deplorable Ohioans have to pick up the kid at school on time, let their child buy one toy at Dollar Tree, I said one, and hope there is enough spaghetti for dinner.

Walter Sabo was a founding architect of SiriusXM and began the recruitment of Howard Stern. He has consulted RKO General, PARADE magazine, Hearst BroadcastingPress Broadcasting, and other premium brands. He launched the first company to engage online video influencers, Hitviews. As an executive, he was EVP of NBC FM RADIO giving Dr. Ruth Westheimer her first media job and fostering the creation of adult contemporary. As VP ABC Radio Networks, Sabo hired Ringo Starr to be a DJ for a 24-hour special.

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Reflections on the Death of Sears and “Mass Appeal” Radio

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imSears used to sell everything. Tractors, tires, insurance, investments, chickens. In 2004, Sears was the dominant retailer in America. By the end of the decade, it was feverishly closing stores and dying.

Marketers blame the failure on aging store decor, failure to support the brand online, and merchandise offerings that were too broad. Circuit CityCompUSAFirestone and other highly targeted stores were super-serving specific product lines and diminishing the appeal of Sears’ profit leaders.

Nope. If a broad product line was the problem, Walmart would be a very small business. Operationally, Sears died from within by centralizing all buying and selling decisions. Local stores had zero autonomy and therefore were unable to stay ahead of customer preference trends. The bureaucracy was poison. Financially, Sears was a publicly traded company managed in the end by Wall Street speculators who probably wanted it to fail for their own gain.

SHOCKING WALMART NEWS: Walmart is the highest grossing company in the world. Larger than Chinese oil refineries, General MotorsVolkswagen, and Microsoft. It is the highest grossing company in the world.

Walmart’s decision strategy is surprisingly decentralized. It learned from Sears’ mistake. The employees you see working in Walmart are in charge. Each employee is assigned to a department. They see the profit and loss for their department and for each item they are selling. Employees are shown those numbers from day one. Walmart associates are expected to keep shelves stocked and to stay ahead of demand by ordering from distribution centers on their handheld computers.

No checking with corporate or clearing adds.

In times of crisis, such as hurricanes, Walmart colleagues can donate food, water, and other supplies to rescue workers without chain of command approval. Just do it. After one local disaster, a Walmart corporate type commented on the vast amount of donations made by a local store: “That’s a good use of autonomy.”

Walmart also learned from Sears how not to finance their company: 50% of Walmart is held by founder Sam Walton’s dependents and the Waltons control the board of directors.

So… what does this mean to you?

Walter Sabo was a founding architect of SiriusXM and began the recruitment of Howard Stern. He has consulted RKO General, PARADE magazine, Hearst BroadcastingPress Broadcasting, and other premium brands. He launched the first company to engage online video influencers, Hitviews. As an executive, he was EVP of NBC FM RADIO giving Dr. Ruth Westheimer her first media job and fostering the creation of adult contemporary. As VP ABC Radio Networks, Sabo hired Ringo Starr to be a DJ for a 24-hour special.

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Five Golden Actions for 2024

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imResearch shows that readers to trade publications like articles with five bullet points. Here are my five bullet points for 2024. If these were to be deployed, you could be thriving by the end of the year. These actions would increase sales and audience share.

1. Radio should be easy to buy. It’s not. Easy fix: Look at your website. Based on the website how would you buy time on your station? It should be as simple as a realtor’s website. Put up pictures of your salespeople with ALL of their real contact information – not a FORM. Offer their email and cell number. Offer a “tour” of the offerings with information about the talent and the audience. What does the host sell best? How about a very brief audio message from each host to your potential advertiser?
2. Every medium creates its own stars. Example – David Caruso, good on TV, bad in movies. Your hosts, good on radio, lousy at original podcasts.  Sure, edit up the interviews or bits and make them into a podcast. But don’t ask a host to get off the air and make brand new content for a podcast. Engage locals who are good at making original podcasts and offer them a stage.
3. Sell the biggest number. Your morning show probably has more listeners than the “Tonight Show” has viewers in your city. 1010 WINS has more listeners in New York than FOX News has viewers nationwide. Go check. Those are the numbers that put radio in perspective!  Stop selling the smallest number, TIME SPENT LISTENING. Who came up with that!?
4. Don’t make potential advertisers jump through hoops. If you have spent your career in programming, you may not know the tyranny of MEDIA CREDIT. New radio advertiser: Good buy, high rate, longterm business. Sounds great. Not so fast. At most companies, new business still has to go through the gauntlet of a MEDIA CREDIT CHECK. End that.
5. What’s wrong with the hosts? Many hosts use a content formula that MUST generate a diminishing audience size and older and older and older demos.  Repeat. WHY? If you start to trust that what you talk about socially, with your friends, your audience will grow and grow younger. Be more like Bruce Collins, PD at WBAP, Dallas. Bruce just hired James Parker who has been featured for years on “Sterling On Sunday.” James is going to talk about life, fatherhood and funny. He joins “New Jersey 101.5” alumnus, Casey Bartholomew, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon, who talks about life, fatherhood and funny.  It’s working so well that WBAP will now be simulcast on Class C2 FM, KLIF.

Five bullet points. Goals: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Walter Sabo was a founding architect of SiriusXM and began the recruitment of Howard Stern. He has consulted RKO General, PARADE magazine, Hearst Broadcasting, Press Broadcasting, and other premium brands. He launched the first company to engage online video influencers, Hitviews. As an executive, he was EVP of NBC FM RADIO giving Dr. Ruth Westheimer her first media job and fostering the creation of adult contemporary. As VP ABC Radio Networks, Sabo hired Ringo Starr to be a DJ for a 24-hour special.

Industry Views

TRUE CRIME: What Would You Do?

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imWHAT WOULD YOU DO? A very good major market DJ murders his wife and injures her lover upon catching them in the marital bed. An 11-year-old girl was in the house – a witness. The murderer is convicted (second-degree murder/“situational crime”) sent to prison, does his time and is released after a few years for good behavior while incarcerated.

Upon release, the convicted murderer is hired as an on-air talent by at least three publicly held companies, with properties licensed by the federal government and heavily staffed with women employees. “Hey, he’s a good jock!” He works continuously from the time of his release until he retires about 18 years later in 1991.

Within the past decade, major market on-air talent have been fired, chastised, suspended or forced to mumble meaningless public apologies for posting tacky memes, joking about sports sideliner Erin Andrews (at the same time TMZ reporters were making the very same jokes about her on FOX), questioning team owners’ judgements, or posting “inappropriate” remarks on all forms of social media. Entire businesses have been lost because of silly off-air comments by talk hosts or DJs. Dr. Laura is an amazingly great talent.

Many of the job security issues faced by today’s on-air talent are the result of social media posts they made a few years ago – or sometimes things they said a few decades ago. Worse, people in all professions get in trouble for expressions uttered outside of the parameters of their actual jobs. A joke about the boss, a compliment about the attractiveness of a co-worker or mocking a product – in very few words – could easily destroy a career.

Considering this oh-so-touchy environment, would the murderer be hired today, or even allowed in a radio station’s lobby?  No, “Humble” Harve Miller, the murderer, would not be hired today by the very same companies that hired him a relatively few short decades ago.

Based on today’s standards, the CEOs of the companies that did hire Humble Harve should be immediately fired or at least forced to issue written public apologies and be deprived of their bonuses or suffer a claw back of their retirement packages. Immediately. My god! An 11-year-old murder witness! 

Too much? Too late, you say. Not practical? Agree!! Those actions would be just as overwrought as firing or shaming a host about their Erin Andrews joke or meme posted on X.

How likely do you think one of my proudest hires, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, would have a chance to become the number one radio personality in New York City today?

Perspective: memes, jokes, asides, and minor league slander only become big deals when the paranoid company stops time and puts out a public apology. The apology inevitably, not the incident, reaches a much larger audience. The public awareness brought about by the apology or employee firing actually causes damage to all involved.

Walter Sabo has helped some of the largest media companies in the world increase share of audience. Clients have included Conde Nast, SiriusXM, ABC, Gannett, RKO General, American Tower, TuneIn and more. The company he founded, HITVIEWS was the first to identify and monetize online influencers as revealed at the TALKERS New Media Seminar in 2008. His Talk Media Network show, “Sterling On Sunday,” generates significant audience share for stations such as WPHT, Philadelphia; KMBZ-FM, Kansas City; KMOX, St Louis; and KFBK, Sacramento. You can learn about the show at www.waltersterlingshow.com or email Walter at walter@sabomedia.com.

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Seek New Story Sources and Surprise Your Listeners

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imEarlier this week, Michael Harrison published his top 10 list of suggestions for being a successful talker. Item number three really caught my eye:

“Avoid worn out talking points. Be original. Always bring something new to the table. Otherwise you DESERVE to be replaced by AI.”

 When consulting client stations, the PD and I will take the on-air team through a pragmatic brainstorm session to discover completely unused source material.

First the material should be intriguing to you and appealing to your listener (singular.) New sources mean surprises and the fastest and most economical method of generating word of mouth, phone calls and cume is to present surprises all day.

1. Close to home. Pay foreground attention to incidents at home. Your home. Events that you may view as mundane could bond you with your listener. Consider that water in the basement, check engine light, parent/teacher conference, bad bank behavior, in-law interference. If any of those experiences has happened to you, you honestly know that they are a bigger deal than speeches in Congress.

2. Search the names of locations that you never discuss. Those searches have revealed to me and my listener that the number one fear in Siberia is the vast forest fires and that as the permafrost melts, it could expose million-year-old deadly viruses. One “Siberia news” search. Try this, search “Keith Fons North Pole Alaska” You will discover a bizarre Christmas story.

3. Local morning TV shows have unique fun stories that you don’t see because you’re listening to the radio. Go to their websites and you will see all of their topics, with audio, dated. 

Take a different approach to proven topics. A trait of successful hosts is that they discuss common topics but take a very different tact. Some examples: When TV legend Ann Bishop of WPLG Miami died, fellow broadcaster Neil Rogers mourned Bishop by saying, “She did nothing for me, sir.”

On crime in Cleveland, the late Mike Trivisonno on WTAM declared, “the best thing that could happen is for the Mafia to come back to Cleveland.”

Howard Stern surprises you every time he opens his mouth. It’s the fresh topics combined with surprising POV=Star. 

Walter Sabo has an outstanding track record advising media companies wishing to increase their share of revenue. His weekly syndicated show Sterling On Sunday aims to provide three hours of completely unique topics.  Contact him at walter@sabomedia.com or 646.678.1110

Industry Views

The Vital Element of Surprise

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

Visitors to Disneyland five years ago will be given a memorable experience when they visit this month. About 50% of Disneyland has changed since 2018. The theme park constantly changes, trying new rides, exhibits, displays. Walt Disney never considered his park to be finished. Roy Disney said that Walt viewed Disneyland as a giant block of clay which could be molded and remolded constantly. Changing the park constantly gives visitors surprises, joy and the excitement of the unexpected. The unexpected at Disneyland is newness in its ideal form: Everything is new, memorable and completely safe.

Your show, music or talk, has the same power to create memorable entertainment. Wrapped in the safety of your voice, and your familiar station, you can SAY the unexpected, the surprising, the new.

Remember when the news was a radio station? Remember when a radio station generated word of mouth, talk at work, and gossip among friends? It could have been yesterday or years ago. A radio station or on-air talent was at the epicenter of the community’s conversation when it did the unexpected. 

The short list 

A station said the name of your business. Gave away an outrageous prize. Roasted a pig. Lesbian Dial-A-Date. Broke a record. Asked the caller if they were naked. Aired Amazing Mouth TV Spots. There is no top-of-mind real estate claimed by a station if it is following the format really well.

Delivering surprises is not hard, but it is essential to the medium’s growth. Today, the most recent “surprises” have been all wrong. Too often the surprise is the public shaming and forced apology of a host because of an unfortunate comment about Erin Andrews or slight of a team owner.  (BTW, the single dumbest management move is a public apology. Thousands of people learn of the incident who would never have known about it if the moment was allowed to pass.)

You may be worried that if you or an air talent break the corporate dictate format, all will be fired. No. You know where you can experiment. Your experiment could lead to a new, fresh awareness of your station and of your hard work. Do it.

WALTER SABO’s company, Sabo Media has advised the C Suite of some of America’s largest media companies including SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Apollo Advisors, Conde Nast, Wall Street Journal Radio, RKO General, and NBC. He is a member of the Nominating Committee of the national Radio Hall of Fame and on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.  His radio show, “Sterling on Sunday” is heard nationally.www.waltersterlingshow.com  Contact him at walter@sabomedia.com

Industry Views

SABO SEZ: Stream to Success

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imIn May 2007, I was enjoying the brand-new app called YouTube. Still independently owned, still relatively unknown. Some of the videos pulled millions of viewers, more viewers than enjoyed by ESPN or any cable network. More interesting, the videos with high counts were not made by NBC or ESPN or any traditional video source. High view count videos were being made by people with no experience in traditional media, they were experimenters producing in their basements and bedrooms.

As these new performers were pulling major view counts, they revealed that they worked at Starbucks, were going to school and wanting to make enough money to get out of their parent’s house. Wait. Some video creators were winning more viewers than ESPN and they were broke? Simultaneously major brands like Pepsi and Budweiser knew they had to enter the online video space and each attempt was a disaster. BUD TV! Online video entertainment was a brand-new medium; USG User Generated Content.

I started a company called HITVIEWS. The goal was to placed brand messages in User Generated Content. The first company. No one had ever done it. We gathered the top video performers and started to marry them with brands like Pepsi, FOX TVTimberlandMTV,  CBS TelevisionIBMLogitech, many more. A TALKERS conference introduced the first Influencer (we called them “Web Stars”), Caitlin Hill, to radio executives.

From this pioneering initiative into online video, I can share a significant amount of information about the ingredients of a successful video campaign.

  1. Use video stars, influencers, to deliver your message. It’s a different medium and requires different stars.
  2. Engage every capability of the platform. The videos with the highest view counts demand the most interaction with the viewer. Click now. Comment below. Make a response video. Send a text back. THEN answer all responses. Every single viewer response must be answered by you or it is wasted.
  3. It’s not radio or TV. Don’t bother putting up videos at a fixed day and time. Put up as many videos as you possibly can. Two days is too old!
  4. Funny works best.

Online video success makes the medium the message. The touch screen, mouse, keyboard. Audio, video capabilities must all be integrated into the entertainment. If full functionality is not part of the show, the show is boring.

Walter Sabo has consulted the largest media companies worldwide in digital initiatives. He was the on-site consultant for SiriusXM Satellite Radio for nine years. He can be reached by email at walter@sabomedia.com and his network radio show can be discovered at  www.waltersterlingshow.com.

Industry Views

The Problems Facing Radio Were Not Caused by Consolidation

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media Implementers
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imAs your friends get fired and on-air hosts are replaced with WideOrbit and Profitable Software, the mournful refrain is to unfairly blame consolidation. Consolidation has, in fact, made the medium financially viable and brought hundreds of individual stations from a river of red ink to the glow of black ink. Prior to consolidation, over half the radio stations in the U.S. lost money – year after year. Not a secret stat, those numbers were revealed annually by the NAB.

The flaw in the deregulation law was the elimination of the rules regarding financing of station acquisitions. Previous regulations required a licensee to prove it had the financial resources to cover expenses through the term of the license. Licenses could not be purchased with debt. Licensees could not sell the license until it expired. Radio stations could not be used for speculatory financial gain. When those rules were tossed, the industry hit a financial tailspin from which it has not recovered. That’s the problem.

That is not a “problem” with radio. In talks with publisher Michael Harrison about his exciting role in the United Nations as executive advisor to World Radio Day 2024, we shared a key observation: The world’s radio industry is overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Working with clients in London, Toronto, Montreal, Amsterdam, Athens and Sydney, the passion for the medium continues to grow and is supported by audience engagement and response.

Internationally, there is a robust radio set design and manufacturing industry. European listeners seek clothing featuring radio set themes and artwork. Believe me, the food at the NAB Europe is much better than that crap served here.

Follow the money. Radio is not legacy media. Radio is proven media – proven for over 100 years. Local retail advertisers are a practical lot. They buy advertising that works for this weekend. If it doesn’t bring feet to the floor and dollars to the door, sponsors just don’t repeat-buy.

I was the in-house programming guru at SiriusXM Satellite Radio for eight years starting pre-launch. The reason Sirius exists is test after test revealed that Americans liked radio so much, used radio so much, they wanted more stations. More choice. More.

Consolidation, with considerable credit to Randy Michaels, allowed radio to convert from a frequency media buy to a reach media buy. That puts radio in budgets with TV. The opportunity right now is to actually monetize radio’s clout as a reach medium. Create scarcity. More spots mean cheaper spots, smaller budgets and higher expense. More spots mean much less efficiency for media buyers. Media buyers have to spend their budgets. They would prefer to spend that money with one or two outlets before lunch rather than having to “make the buy” by purchasing dozens and dozens of stations acquiring spots that are cheap, bonused, thrown in, flanked, and here are some tickets.  The fix starts with raising the price to meet the public’s perception and usage levels of radio.

Walter Sabo has grown audience share for a roster of clients that has included SiriusXM Satellite Radio, RKO, ABC, Apollo Advisors, Hearst, Wall Street Journal Radio and many others. Reach him at walter@sabomedia.com. Learn about his unique radio show at www.waltersterlingshow.com

Industry Views

In Pursuit of Younger Demos

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imThe persistent liability of most talk stations is that they attract a high percentage of listeners over the age of 65. Consider that many of those older listeners are attracted to radio shows that are talking for companionship and comfort.

There are simple, tested techniques to incorporate in an on-air presentation that will appeal to a younger listener. If put on the air these tips will also enhance a station’s PPM results.

— Bumper music is unnecessary, it makes breaks seem longer. If it is necessary to use bumper music it should have been recorded after the year 2000. 2000 was obviously 23 years ago. A 35-year-old was 12 in 2000.

— Young people are busy with work, kids, life. They are attracted to radio that matches their pace. The shorter the calls, the younger the callers will be. DO NOT thank callers for holding on – that’s a screener’s job. Thank a caller for holding on and you signal that it takes a long time to get on the air. Busy people won’t call to be put on hold!

— The editorial page of any newspaper has the lowest readership. Comics, horoscope, and entertainment have the highest. Quote the editorial page and you’ll wake up grandpa and scare away the new mom. Did you know Taylor Swift has a new boyfriend?

— Everyone is attracted to mirrors of their lives. We engage with people who have similar problems with their kids, in-laws, jobs, money, car. How would you make a friend at a party? Those techniques will work for you on the air. What did your mother tell you about party talk? “Don’t talk about politics or religion, talk about the weather and the shrimp”

— The easiest way to attract younger listeners and repel older listeners is to play music on the weekend. Targeted, researched music that appeals to the exact audience age you covet. WABC features several music shows on the weekend. Sabo Media’s charter clients include “New Jersey 101.5” and “Real Radio Orlando” They air music all weekend, talk all week.

BONUS: Music on the weekend puts a station on concert, movie, music, club, and bar buys!

Just like a music station, a talk station must present a consistent package of entertainment, topics, news stories, music selection, production elements must appeal to your target listener. No wavering.

im

Above is a picture of two of Sterling On Sunday’s loyal listeners. Steven and Casandra of Burlington, NJ. Steven owns the bakery, Casandra works there and is a junior in college.

Walter Sabo founded Sabo Media to work with innovative media companies such as RKO, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, PARADE magazine, Pegasus, Apollo Advisers and others. He produces and hosts the successful talk show, Sterling On Sunday. Last Sunday the topics included how to know what’s in the custard in donuts.www.waltersterlingshow.com. Walter Sabo can be emailed at walter@sabomedia.com.

Industry News

The Damning Myth of Spoken Word Radio: High Time Spent Listening (TSA) and Low Cume

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, “Sterling On Sunday”
Talk Media Network

imDependency upon a PPM panel to deliver high time spent listening is a bad business model. Would you rather count on one person listening for one hour or four people listening for 15 minutes? Right.

A good music format program director knows exactly how to program talk radio in a PPM environment. Oddly, when a music programmer has the privilege of programming a talk station they seem to forget all of their programming knowledge. Both formats are measured by exactly the same technology and therefore if it “works” in music, it works in talk.

The reason “New Jersey 101.5” quickly became the highest cuming FM talk station in the world – for 20+ years – is because when Bob McAllanJay SorensenPerry SimonJohn Dziuba and I designed it, we had a simple process: Build a music station that takes a lot of phone calls. It was always programmed like a top 40 station and 33 years later it obviously worked.

The reason “Real Radio 104.1 in Orlando” was the only Howard Stern station that did not suffer the expense of having to change format when he was recruited to SiriusXM Satellite Radio was because the station was built as a heavily formatted music station that took a lot of phone calls. Note that Real Radio 104.1 and New Jersey 101.5 both air music non-stop on the weekends for the single purpose of targeting a specific cume demographic. It obviously worked.

What are the key elements of a music format that should be applied to talk in order to build cume?

  • Please, god, don’t flag the “breaks.”
  • Every show had a specific pace based on topic set up time and call length time which gave the station a consistent rhythm and sound.  All day.
  • No “records” from home!  No personal sound effects, jingles or that crap.
  • Constantly sell ahead. No yesterday calls, yesterday references. Sell what’s next.
  • Assume every single listener just tuned in. Explain the topic and give the phone number obsessively.
  • Listener driven not host driven. Every host is valuable and gifted but if a host makes the mistake of quitting, the interest needs and tastes of the listener are constant and can be reflected by the next host. A constant.

Mickey Luckoff, the brilliant president of KGO, San Francisco for decades explained why he hired most of his hosts from top 40  radio because, “I can teach them TALK but I can’t teach them radio.”  BTW yes, even 34-year morning host Jim Dunbar worked at WLS and KQV as a top 40 jock immediately before joining KGO to host a talk show.

Walter Sabo was a pioneer in the concept of targeted talk which allows a station to precisely reach a chosen demographic. He has had a robust list of consulting clients including, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Conde Naste, CBS, Press Broadcasting, RKO General, Hearst, Fred Silverman Productions, and many more. His company HITVIEWS was the first major player to recognize and monetize online video stars known as “influencers.” He is on the nominating board of the Radio Hall of Fame. Reach him at 646.678.1110 or walter@sabomedia.com.  Discover Sabo’s network radio show here: waltersterlingshow.com.

Industry Views

Politeness, Punctuality and Power

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling On Sunday
Talk Media Network

imFor decades the power-lunch spot in Manhattan was the beautiful Four Seasons restaurant. Check it out: A history of the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City – Four Seasons new ownership (townandcountrymag.com)

Top clients would host luncheons at the Four Seasons with Sabo Media. These included Walter Anderson, former chairman/CEO of PARADE magazine who was a regular customer. If the lunch was scheduled for 12:30 pm and I arrived at 12:15 pm, Anderson was already there. Next time, I would arrive at 12:05 pm for the 12:30 pm lunch; he was already there.

The restaurant manager/maître d’ explained that, “The most powerful person always arrives first.” Of course. The most powerful person could control where she sat, where she faced and what your view of the room would be. When Walter Anderson hosted future lunches, I arrived at about 11:15 am for the 12:30 pm meet!

If I had any early career success it was not because I knew anything, it was because of Eleanor Ranft, my assistant. Prior to working with me she had been Robert Sarnoff‘s assistant for 20 years. Robert, as-in-son of the General. (Eleanor knew how to address letters to ambassadors.) At the end of the workday, she would go over the telephone call sheet and make sure I had returned every call. Neither of us were going home unless I returned every call.

When addressing emails, the most powerful people return the emails instantly. Test it, send a note to the most powerful people you know, see what happens. Mel KarmazinBob PittmanHoward SternMichael HarrisonChris OlivieroKraig KitchinDavid YadgaroffBill WhiteLee HarrisDan MasonJarl MohnMarc Rowan instant answers. Instant response keeps a person in the deal-flow, the conversation and the action. Instant response makes them powerful.

Conversely, for weeks I tried to have lunch with a local market EVP, no answer. I didn’t want a job; I was trying to place a sales order for an agency friend! No answer. Finally, I asked the market program director why I never heard from his boss. Answer, “He doesn’t think you can do anything for him.” Obviously, the order went to a different company.

A common trait of every star I’ve had the privilege to know is that they are all extremely polite. For example, Randy ThomasCharlie VanDykeBruce Morrow, Howard Stern, the late Casey KasemElvis Duran are kindness and manners personified. They send thank you notes. Their interpersonal attitude is to share experience rather than to say look it up yourself. Many top executives built their entire career by sending thank you notes.

That being said, THANK YOU for being a client of Sabo Media. Thank you for clearing “Sterling On Sunday” on stations like KMOX, KMBZ-FM, WPHT, KDKA and Albany’s Talk 1300.  Have a pleasant Labor Day.

Walter Sterling-Sabo can be contacted at Walter@sabomedia.com or 646.678.1110 mobile. He’ll answer immediately. Sabo Media’s robust client list over the years has included PARADE magazine, Sirius Satellite Radio, The Wall Street Journal Radio Service, RKO, Salem, and CBS. Sabo was the first to monetize online video stars and influencers through his company HITVIEWS.

Industry Views

Emotional Is Local

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling On Sunday
Talk Media Network

imMentioning a local street name won’t do it. Constant local references is not LOCAL LIVE, it’s a GOOGLE MAP!

For years, as VP/GM of the ABC Radio Networks, I explained to affiliates that, yes, our six network services were in fact local programming – local to a demographic.  The networks reached specific demographics and therefore were local to the heart and soul of a specific listener. (Yes, this usually worked!)

Today, true local programming hits an emotional moment in the day of the listener.  For example, by far the most topic response from listeners on “Sterling on Sunday” is to stories about my sister-in-law. The premise of these stories is that your sister-in-law controls your marriage. I share the horrors of life with my sister-in-law. The email, phone and Facebook response from listeners is stunning.

The greatest response to any host is when a listener is compelled to say “YES!” within the solitude of their car. That emotional response comes when a host shares their personal feelings, life events and experiences. It rarely comes from an interesting observation about today’s editorial page. Let me suggest that it NEVER comes from an interesting observation about today’s editorial page.

Bonding emotions are the result of a host’s personal, intimate revelations

Sharing personal, intimate emotions are pre-emptive. While other hosts may duplicate endless, dreary, old age attracting rants against Democrats, no two hosts have the same emotional life-events.

Mother-in-law, kid, marriage, sex, personal impact stories are singular, unique and MEMORABLE. Listeners return to hosts who tell personal, emotional stories. They want to hear what happens next, they remember the last host revelation and anticipate the next. Many radio stars share their personal stories every single day like Howard Stern and Elvis Duran.

Shared emotional appeal transcends demographics and geography. Emotions are universal and the foundation of a unique hit show.

Walter Sabo is Walter Sterling. Host of the hit Talk Media Network syndicated show “Sterling on Sunday. LIVE 10PM-1AM EST. Heard live 10:00 pm – 1:00 am live on affiliates KMOX, WPHT, KDKA, KMBZ-FM; and dozens more. Contact Walter at Walter@sabomedia.com, 646.678.1110. www.waltersterlingshow.com