All Talk No Action
Has the radio industry already given up on its goals to bring down the demographics on Talk radio? Consider these recent moves.
- On Monday, iHeartMedia’s WOR New York filled its eleven month old opening in mornings with 67 year-old retired sportscaster Len Berman and syndicated Conservative Talker Todd Schnitt. The 47 year-old Schnitt with his over two decades leading a successful morning show is second billed to Berman as the station looks for a hook to retain New York Mets listeners the following morning.
I’m not going to critique a show before it debuts, but WOR will have to balance a fine line between the syndicated Conservative host Todd Schnitt persona and the CHR morning host MJ Kelli persona of Schnitt’s, while ensuring that Berman doesn’t sound as old on air as crosstown WABC’s Don Imus if they want to succeed in growing their 25-54 core. That’s asking a lot of the pair.
- Westwood One last week announced that syndicated host Michael Savage has extended his contract, with the caveat that his program is expanding its viewpoint away from simply politics to what Savage is billing as “Unprotected Talk”. Described as “topical current events and lifestyle issues – with politics of course remaining an important part of the show.”, yet looking at the show’s content looks like same old/same old.
Savage’s website includes links to a YouTube channel of show audio. Of the eleven clips posted in the past week, nine are about Islamic terrorism or President Obama, just like every other Conservative talk show. The lone holdouts are about eugenics and one promoting his book. During a listen to his show last week we heard multiple segments dedicated to the lower level members of the military’s dislike of the President. Where’s the change?
- Tribune’s 720 WGN Chicago made a number of new content initiatives in 2013 and 2014 adding a streaming “WGN.FM” for younger skewing shows and launching Sports “87.7 The Game” WGWG-LP. Those have both gone by the wayside as WGN retrenches on older skewing Talk with longtime Chicago personalities.
There are still some glimmers of hope for a retooling of the Talk format. Cumulus’ 790 KABC Los Angeles reset its lineup to a more general lifestyle talk format, but with its weak signal that doesn’t cover much of the market is there really much it can do to increase its current 0.6 share? CBS Radio launched podcast network Play.It, but unless some of the original podcasts make the transition to terrestrial radio shows, its nothing more than a very-wise brand extension and not going to improve the state of the format.
As I wrote last July, trying to find the next Rush Limbaugh has proven to be a recipe for disaster. The current national talk radio talent pool has been down to former politicians and aging music jocks for years. Relying on the same-old/same-old for years has done nothing for the industry. It will take some risk taking, but if nothing is done to the format there will be nobody with a pulse left listening.
Until an owner takes time and resources to develop new talent and creates a multi-platform distribution system and brand for them the Talk format will continue its decline on the path to irrelevancy with any listener under the age of 60.