It Starts At The Top
In a Fort Worth Star-Telegram column today discussing Public News/Talk 90.1 KERA-FM outrating all four Conservative Talk stations in the Dallas market combined, Salem Media VP/News & Talk Programming Tom Tradup made the following statement:
“NPR remains essentially the media of choice for guys in beaded car seats driving cabs at DFW airport,” Tradup wrote in a scathing email that could have come from a host.
“You could stop the next 5,000 people on the street … virtually 100 percent of them would say they regularly listen to Rush Limbaugh. If you asked who Diane Rehm is, the response in most cases would be crickets.”
Comparing KERA’s rating to WBAP’s or KSKY’s is pointless, Tradup said. He called commercial talk radio “vibrant and impactful” even if it doesn’t “give folks a lavender tote bag.”
While many columns can be written on the offensively inaccurate stereotyping of NPR listeners, which I’ll save for places more appropriate for such columns, it is easy to see where the predicament Talk Radio finds itself in comes from.
Salem Media is a Conservative Christian company that operates many talkers along with multiple religious brands to spread its vision. For that company to employ individuals with such values is not a surprise. For other radio operators and syndicators with no such core philosophy who are simply in the business to make money to continue to retain the status quo as Conservative Talk plummets in ratings and revenue because its senior management comes from an era where that worked and that’s all they know is a problem.
Old line thinking is not going to work anymore with so many other forms of spoken word programming available to listeners. Commercial radio outside of a handful of Hot Talkers in Florida, has abandoned non-political Talk as a means to reach audiences under 55 and turned to Sports to fill that void.
Until the commercial radio industry allows new thinkers to enter decision making positions and is willing to try new ways to reach audiences, audiences looking for spoken word programming will continue to desert for NPR or non-broadcast audio programming. Degrading people who listen to those methods won’t bring them back, but will just continue the departure from commercial radio by these listeners. But asking the majority of the older white male owners and upper level managers to change their thinking as our society deals with similar cultural shifts is something that may lead to the complete demise of commercial Talk programming on broadcast radio as the current boomer audience continues to age rather than a needed evolution.