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All Audio Brands Need a Soundtrack

“I consistently hear so many radio stations and podcasts that have stale imaging…or worse yet, NO IMAGING AT ALL. I don’t understand it.”

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Every great movie has a great soundtrack. Any radio station or podcast should be no different. It gives you an identity and helps you stand out.

It shocks and frustrates me to no end that I consistently hear so many radio stations and podcasts that have stale imaging…or worse yet, NO IMAGING AT ALL. I don’t understand it.

There are so many radio stations that just pick music beds for show opens, updates and promos that might sound good on their own but aren’t tied together in any way.

There are a plethora of podcasts that have NO opening to them. No sounders, no staging, no music, no sound-effects, nothing but a voice.

Its madness.

In a crowded (and growing) audio landscape, how the hell do brands expect to stand out operating this way?

FAILING TO IMAGE YOUR STATION IS DONE AT YOUR OWN PERIL

I recall once when I was interviewing for a PD job. It was with a high-profile brand in a very high-profile city. As part of the process, I spent a week listening to the station and then spoke to the GM on the phone to give him my observations.

One of the first things that stood out to me was the imaging…and just how bad it was. None of the music beds sounded similar enough to tie everything together. The music itself sounded stale as if it had been the same material running on the station for the last 20 years. Overall, it just didn’t present itself as big and bold as this brand truly was.

That being said, I wanted to couch my observations on the matter in a way that wouldn’t make me sound like a jerk. This particular GM had been running this station for a while and I didn’t want to come in hot by calling his baby “ugly as hell”.

I began by being tactful.

“So, in terms of the imaging, I was kind of surprised that…”

Before I could even finish that sentence, the GM groaned loudly and interjected.

“Yea, I’ve been screaming for new sonic imaging, stagers and sounders for over a year. It never happened.” He then went on to talk about his frustration over how stale the station sounded and why THAT was a key reason as to the former PD’s demise.

I grinned and felt validated. But it also drove home a very important point.

If you don’t image your audio brand correctly, you do it at your own peril.

LEARN TO BECOME A CONDUCTOR

One particular station I took over truly was a “fixer-upper”. One of the first things I knew I had to change was the imaging. It was practically non-existent.

So, I took about two months, and worked with an outside vendor to develop a full station imaging package. It truly was one of the most painstaking things that I’ve ever had to go through. The questions I kept asking myself were multifold:

“Does this reflect the market?”

“Does this reflect the format?”

“Does this reflect our personalities?”

“Will it be easy for listeners to recall?”

“Does this make us stand out?”

You would have thought that we were putting together The Beatles’ White Album. The full package required a slew of takes and re-cuts. Just when we thought we had what we wanted, I would want to go back and add something new. I felt like J.K. Simmons in the movie Whiplash. I’d listen to something, shake my head out of frustration and send it back to the vendor. I’m certain that the musicians that were working on the project had a picture of my face attached to a dartboard in their studio after a short amount of time. Eventually though, I felt that we had what we needed, and the project was finished.

Naturally, everyone in the building pushed back. Every host had an open that they wanted. I basically told them that those days were over.

After about a month or so of grumbling, something amazing happened…it caught on. Salespeople would be humming the station imaging while walking through the hallways. Hosts and producers would be signing the jingle going into commercial breaks. We finally had a SOUNDTRACK. We had an identity that we didn’t have before and it helped us stand out in a very crowded and challenging spoken word radio market.

I knew we had a hit when I stopped by a station event at a bar and heard patrons humming and singing our imaging.

“Mission accomplished,” I thought.

LEARN FROM THE BEST OF THE BEST

1010 WINS has been the all-news gold standard for the better part of the last fifty years. It’s also the ultimate utility brand. Every hour is about volume. Stories come at you fast and copy tends to be brief so they can live up to their long-held mantra “You give us twenty-two minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

What always struck me about 1010 WINS is how GOOD they’re imaged. I found this amazing video from 2017 that gave listeners a peek behind the curtain as to how they set up their top-of-the-hour news.

Seriously, how good was THAT? Anchors at 1010 WINS aren’t reading the news, they’re

CONDUCTING it like one would a symphony:

HEADLINE 1- BOOM (tempo picks up)

HEADLINE 2- BOOM (tempo picks up)

HEADLINE 3- BOOM (tempo picks up)

WEATHER- BOOM (tempo slows down)

TRAFFIC- BOOM (tempo picks back up)

Not only is the sound big and bold, but as longtime morning anchor Lee Harris said, “Instead of me having to match the music, the music matches me…” Those interjected stingers hold your attention as you move from one headline to another.

Look, not every news station is like 1010 WINS. But there are four tenants they really hit on that EVERY radio station and audio brand should take heed of:

1. It matches the identity of the station

2. It matches the identity of the market and/or target audience

3. It holds your attention

4. It makes you stand out.

“IMITATION ISN’T THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY, MOCKERY IS.”

Gregg Giannotti, now the morning co-host at WFAN in New York, was my morning show host at 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. I’ve always maintained that Gregg is, by far, one of the most entertaining and creative talents I’ve ever worked with, in ANY format.

Anyway, Gregg hated our station jingle package. One day, he had enough and decided to make it a bit on his show.

“Hey,” he said to me during a commercial break as he poked his head in my office.

“Hey, Gregg,” I responded.

“Be listening at the top of the hour,” he said with a fiendish grin.

“Uhhhh, ok,” I replied pensively.

Whenever I got this kind of warning shot, I knew that I’d likely have something that was brilliant, but something I may have to answer for in the GM’s office.

Gregg, along with his producer, Ben Livingston, and our production director Steve Wilson, had managed to create a BEATBOXED version of our station jingle, BRILLIANTLY. What’s better, they were going to make our loveable (yet often surly) anchor, Jim Colony, do his update during their creation.

The result was hilarity. I was doubled over laughing in my office while listening to Jim try and get through his update. Finally, I heard Jim laugh, bang his hand on the studio desk, and say in resignation,

“This is so STUPID!”

Mission accomplished.

I called my friend and colleague Jim Graci, (who was PD at News Talk 1020 KDKA-AM at the time and now programs both KDKA-AM and 93.7 The Fan), into my office.

“Jimmy, you GOTTA listen to this,” I said as I replayed the cut from the morning show for him.

Graci fell backwards onto my couch in laughter and had a hard time catching his breath until I pushed the pause button on my computer.

Remembering that a few people in building might not share our same senses of humor, I asked, “Jimmy, what do I say for people that might be pissed off at this?”

“Here’s what you tell ‘em, Ryan,” Graci said while collecting himself. “You tell them that imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery. Mockery is.”

Indeed.

BNM Writers

Media Fanning the Flames of Hate

Time will tell if Eric Bolling’s accusations against the media continue to hold true.

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Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP

While most Americans thought “hate had no home here,” many are now calling out the mainstream, liberal media as they continue their pattern of stoking division across the nation. 

Newsmax host Eric Bolling began his Friday evening program, “The Balance,” by chiding many of his media colleagues.

“To paraphrase the patriot Paul Revere, the woke mob is coming; the woke mob is coming!” Bolling warned. “Folks, this is not a drill. America is bracing itself for yet another wave of riots. The woke mob is threatening violence and mobilizing. The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t even over yet, but it’s looking more likely that the defendant could be found not guilty, and that does not sit well with the woke mob or the Leftist media.”

Bolling then cut to a clip of MSNBC host Joy Reid.

“If you want to know why Critical Race Theory exists, the actual law school theory that emphasized that supposedly colorblind laws in America often still have racially discriminatory outcomes, then look no further than the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse,” Reid said.

“They have made this trial about race, isn’t that right, Don Lemon?” Bolling asked, then playing a clip of CNN’s Lemon calling former President Donald Trump racist numerous times.

“Nine times in two minutes,” Bolling continued. “They love calling people racists. The Left makes everything about race, even when it comes to a court case where no one involved is black.”

He then cut to these mainstream media headlines from the past week.

A sobbing Kyle Rittenhouse already won – even before his trial is over. 

– NBC Think

Kyle Rittenhouse deserves an award for his melodramatic performance on the witness stand. – USA Today

White Judge refuses to allow Black Lives Matter protesters killed by Kyle Rittenhouse to be called victims in court. – Black Enterprise

“The judge is white and bad. Rittenhouse is acting,” Bolling continued, paraphrasing the media’s overarching message. “Is it me, or are these media outlets writing their headlines to make it sound like this court case is fraudulent?”

Viewers then saw another clip of Lemon on CNN from last week, where the host shared his opinion about the trial’s judge.

“His demeanor, the way he refers to the prosecution, the way he looks at Kyle Rittenhouse like it’s his grandson. I mean, come on, America,” Lemon said. “I mean, for me, I don’t know how they look at it legally, but for me, that’s cause for a mistrial.”

The program then played a cut of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, adding his view of the televised trial.  

“This judge is an absolute joke. He’s been a joke from the very beginning,” Scarborough commented. “It’s absolutely disgusting the way he’s conducting himself on the stand there. He’s obviously playing for the audience, a certain audience.”

“Did you hear all that they are literally saying the judge is intentionally trying to give Kyle Rittenhouse every chance possible to get off,” Bolling followed up. “Listen, for better or worse, our justice system is based on innocent until proven guilty. You should get every chance to prove your innocence. But not to Liberals. To them, you’re guilty even if you’re innocent because the media’s pushing this insane notion that this court system is rigged because of racism.”

Time will tell if Bolling’s accusations against the media continue to hold true. And due to its television coverage and transparent viewing options, citizens can judge the merits of the case for themselves. 

As for the media’s intentions, they’ll be able to make up their minds on that account as well.

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BNM Writers

Fox News Dominates Election Coverage

“Fox News led the way in election night coverage, averaging 4.79 million total viewers and 977,000 in the key 25-54 demo.”

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Election Day in the off-year (the year following a presidential election) from Nov. 2nd highlighted the week in news. Among the key races in the country that evening were for governorships in Virginia and New Jersey and mayoralties in New York City and Boston. In Virginia, Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat and former Governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race, while the race for New Jersey governor between the incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy and his Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli was then too close to call (results of Murphy’s win were made official the next day).

Fox News Channel led the way in election night coverage on Nov. 2, averaging a robust 4.79 million total viewers and 977,000 in the key 25-54 demographic in prime time (8-11 p.m.), according to Nielsen Media Research. They were the network’s best off-year election night figures in its history. Fox News was well ahead of their cable news competition. CNN, which soared to No. 1 over during the 2020 presidential election period and the few months after, ranked a distant runner-up among adults 25-54 with 355,000 from 8-11 p.m. MSNBC was close behind with 289,000 in the demo but easily topped CNN in total prime time audience, delivering 1.55 million viewers vs. CNN’s 1.08 million average.

Fox News Channel’s leadership on off-year election nights are nothing new, as the following time window breakdowns of that night attest. But the figures of current reflect the increased drawing power that these cable news networks all experience today, despite the precipitous decline of cable TV households along with a growing amount of options for entertainment.

Early Evening 7-8 p.m. ET (based on total viewers and adults 18-49)

Fox News Channel

Nov. 2, 2021: 3.175 million / 429,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 2.728 million / 284,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 2.005 million / 278,000

MSNBC

Nov. 2, 2021: 1.585 million / 165,000 (6:51-8 p.m.)

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.924 million / 333,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 1.119 million / 136,000

CNN

Nov. 2, 2021: 0.773 million / 159,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.144 million / 330,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.424 million / 107,000

Prime Time 8-11 p.m. ET (based on total viewers and adults 18-49)

Fox News Channel

Nov. 2, 2021: 4.791 million / 672,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 3.138 million / 462,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 2.724 million / 402,000

MSNBC

Nov. 2, 2021: 1.553 million / 216,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 2.531 million / 490,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 1.035 million / 171,000

CNN

Nov. 2, 2021: 1.078 million / 273,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.516 million / 461,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.663 million / 173,000

Post-Prime Time 11 p.m.-midnight ET (based on total viewers and adults 18-49)

Fox News Channel

Nov. 2, 2021: 4.041 million / 630,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.659 million / 285,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 1.269 million / 297,000

MSNBC

Nov. 2, 2021: 1.151 million / 170,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.805 million / 351,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.487 million / 72,000

CNN

Nov. 2, 2021: 0.917 million / 244,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 0.979 million / 282,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.363 million / 75,000

Late Night midnight-2 a.m. ET (based on total viewers and adults 18-49)

Fox News Channel

Nov. 2, 2021: 2.403 million / 436,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 0.990 million / 169,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.827 million / 149,000

MSNBC

Nov. 2, 2021: 0.692 million / 90,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 1.076 million / 229,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.357 million / 57,000

CNN

Nov. 2, 2021: 0.605 million / 155,000

Nov. 7, 2017; 0.644 million / 212,000

Nov. 5, 2013: 0.192 million / 42,000

Although MSNBC and CNN declined from four years ago, both performed significantly better than eight years ago even though back then, there were more homes subscribed to a cable service.

The week’s other notable news development was the bipartisan passage of President Biden’s infrastructure plan. Although it was negotiated at one-third of its initial proposal ($1.2 trillion vs. $3 billion), it still represents one of the largest federal investments for infrastructure in U.S. history.

Biden held a press conference on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 6, proclaiming the deal. “We did something that’s long overdue, that long has been talked about in Washington but never actually been done,” he said. The President even referenced some key Democratic losses in the elections from Nov. 2, having stated that voters “want us to deliver[On Friday] night [Nov. 5, 2021], we proved we can. On one big item, we delivered.”

Like Election Night, the rankings of the cable news networks based on their Nielsen ratings were similar for Biden’s Saturday morning press conference. Fox News Channel was tops in the 10-11 a.m. ET hour with 1.535 million viewers and 296,000 adults 25-54. MSNBC, a distant runner-up in total viewers (852,000 from 10-10:32 a.m.) but behind CNN in 25-54 — MSNBC with 108,000 during the 32-minute time frame while CNN averaged 111,000 adults 25-54 (alongside 682,000 total viewers) for the 10-11 a.m. hour.

Cable news averages for November 1-7, 2021. Fox News Channel extended their streaks to 38 weeks as cable’s most-watched network in total viewers..

Total Day (November 1-7 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.646 million viewers; 278,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.656 million viewers; 79,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.491 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.188 million viewers; 55,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.149 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.138 million viewers; 28,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.103 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.101 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (November 1-6 @ 8-11 p.m.; November 7 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.809 million viewers; 453,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.136 million viewers; 160,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.730 million viewers; 173,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.189 million viewers; 41,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.188 million viewers; 50,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.173 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.120 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.048 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.146 million viewers

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.926 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.303 million viewers

4. Virginia Showdown (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.041 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.918 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.893 million viewers

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.537 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 11/4/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.483 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 11/4/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.366 million viewers

10. Special Report with Bret Baier (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.329 million viewers

44. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 11/4/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.005 million viewers

111. Election Night In America “2021” (CNN, Tue. 11/2/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.230 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top CNN, MSNBC and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.028 million adults 25-54

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.012 million adults 25-54

3. Virginia Showdown (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.904 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.890 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.758 million adults 25-54

6. Fox News At Night (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 12:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.690 million adults 25-54

7. Virginia Showdown (FOXNC, Tue. 11/2/2021 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.644 million adults 25-54

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.626 million adults 25-54

9. Special Report with Bret Baier (FOXNC, Wed. 11/3/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.538 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 11/4/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.529 million adults 25-54

27. Election Night In America “2021” (CNN, Tue. 11/2/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.432 million adults 25-54

61. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 11/4/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.313 million adults 25-54

197. Forensic Files “Naked Justice” (HLN, Sun. 11/7/2021 6:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.133 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

Plenty to Take Away From Steve Somers’ Legendary Career

“Somers was the first talk show I ever called, close to 20 years ago, and was the person I would listen to while doing middle school or high school homework in the evenings.”

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WFAN/Facebook

As Steve Somers gets set for his final show this Friday night, there’s plenty to take away from one of the most legendary careers in sports talk radio. And it’s not just about what Steve did behind the mic for decades at WFAN. It’s also about who he was as a person.

Having spent a few years as a freelance anchor, I spent many nights walking in and out of Steve’s studio every 20 minutes for a 20/20 update. And even in the early days, when some nerves existed sitting next to Steve, working with him, and being on the FAN, there was no one more soothing in the building. Although, he did have a habit of taking his effortless, late-night style and building up to the toss to the update anchor where by the time he mentioned your name, he was like Usain Bolt coming down the final 10 meters of a race.

But then, he’d give you a look, wink, and/or smile, leave the studio, and get his 14th cup of coffee. He also is the only person other than my mother to call me “Peter.” Why did he do it? I have no idea. But I didn’t mind it. Also, I didn’t feel like having to correct him.

On a personal note, Steve Somers was the first talk show I ever called, close to 20 years ago, and was the person I would listen to while doing middle school or high school homework in the evenings.

Fast forward ten years, when getting the chance to work on his show, he was always genuine, interested in you, while at the same time keeping himself incredibly humble, almost to a fault.

For as long as I worked there, Steve was one of the most-liked guys in the building because, despite his longevity with the station, he wanted to grow with it. He got to know the new faces, the part-time faces, who were coming in and out of the building. He wasn’t looking around the studios, barely recognizing anyone, and beamoning the “good old days,” as many in his shoes might do.

And while he liked to talk sports in the hallways, he also talked about life. He would talk about his path through the broadcasting world, where he succeeded, where he failed. These stories could come before a show, during a game broadcast when he would have downtime, or possibly even during a commercial break. Sometimes the stories felt like one of his monologues, the difference being you didn’t know the end result, as you did with the game he was talking about on the air.

Speaking of monologues, no Steve Somers story is complete without mentioning them. While I admittedly haven’t heard one in a long time since moving out of the New York area, they were art. Although if you saw the scribble on the yellow notepad, you probably wouldn’t think so. But when you heard them, the way they were written and delivered, there was nothing like it in sports talk radio. They were clever, funny, just enough sarcasm while also being informative. It was storytime. And it was trained to listen. You had to adjust to it, but once you adjusted, there was nothing like it.

And as far as I’m concerned, no one in sports talk radio will tell a story as unique as Steve Somers ever again.

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