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.


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 Walter Sabo can be emailed at

Industry Views

Attracting Younger Demos

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday

Reaching younger listeners requires a combination of topics, pacing, and production values. As a consultant, when launching talk stations the client had an opportunity to identify the target demo.  Based on their target, the station was built to own that demo.  To attract a specific target, they followed these steps:

— Identify the target listener: sex, age, preferences and which stations are they currently listening to?

— Commit to attract the specific listener 24/7. A music station can’t win if it plays Taylor Swift in the morning and Pavarotti at night. Consistency of all format elements delivers a consistent audience profile.

— Topics. From experience, younger listeners have no time for theoretical discussions of politics or the contents of the op-ed page. Any op-ed page. Topics must be based on urgent, current eye-level aspects of a younger person’s life in order to attract them to a radio show. On “Sterling On Sunday” I mentioned that my 14-year-old daughter was going into the slime business. That was followed by 10 lines lit of 30-year-old fathers who were coaching their 14-year-olds on managing a – slime business!

Respect that whatever topic the target listener cares about is an important, serious topic. 

— Production. The competition for younger listeners are music stations. The production on your station should be as good or better than any music station. That means, no stale promos, they have to be freshened every day, or every hour.

— Pace. Match the pace of the life of your target listener. If you want to reach a 30-year-old (and you can), remember that they have to drop off the kids at school, get milk, take the back way to get to work on time and make that call to the dentist – all between a given moment and your next weather report. Kudos to Bill Wills morning host on WTAM, Cleveland who delivers a fast-fast-paced show – worth a listen.

When taking phone calls, screen them for age. Let the caller say one thing and then bye. The more calls you take the more calls you’ll get. The shorter the calls, the younger the callers will be. And PLEASE do not thank callers for “holding on.”

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 or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.comMeet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2.

Industry Views

According to Research…

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday

Oh, excuse me, hold on. Here it is! The hourly report from quasi research companies or real research companies like Nielsen declaring that radio is just fine, thank you! Massive surveys (choose one) reveal that radio works! Radio appeals to younger demos! Radio moves product! Radio has more listeners in AM drive than the “Tonight Show” has viewers! A landslide of data proves that after 100 years of success, radio is a viable medium.

Crazy stuff.

As both a radio executive and host, I don’t need to know that radio works. I see the sales results from your show and from “Sterling On Sunday.” No advertiser gives us money for the heck of it. The checks clear; there’s your proof. The research that is desperately needed would support innovative, disruptive programming. Radio will grow its place in American media by surprising listeners with new formats, new forms of presentation and things that are… new.

Radio exists today because of innovations like Top 40! Urban! Progressive Rock! AOR! Modern Country! FM Talk! and The Seven-Second Delay!

Today, however, there is nothing harder than selling a radio executive a new idea. Any new idea. It is hard for a very good reason. Radio stations are major investments and failure is expensive. In 1977, the most expensive radio stations in history sold for $11 million. (WMAL/WRQX-FM, Washington DC.) In absolute dollars, experimentation was a minor financial risk. Risk would be manageable if owners had sophisticated research tools to test new ideas.

State-of-the-art new product research is required to take radio safely onto the golden path to innovation. How’s your research and development budget? Oh.

Each television network invests about $100 million a year in developing and testing new shows. Those networks deploy stunning techniques to find and test new ideas. There will be new formats and techniques when the collective “we” is finally convinced that radio is a success. Then our research investments can be focused on cutting-edge product research tools that can guarantee a successful pilot season and future.

Walter Sabo, consultant, can be contacted at Sabo Media: Direct phone: 646-678-1110.  Check out Meet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on June 2 at Hofstra University.