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What Comes Next?

A global pandemic followed by civil unrest followed by a bitterly contested presidential election has allowed news and news-talk stations to literally defy gravity throughout 2020 in terms of massive listenership.

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This past week, as I lay on my couch recovering from COVID-19, I desperately needed a break from the stress of non-stop election coverage.

So, I decided to do something that I had been putting off for a while.  I pulled up Disney + and, likely, became the last person on Earth to finally watch Hamilton.

It was worth the wait.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic on Alexander Hamilton was truly mesmerizing.

One of the songs really stuck with me.

At one point in the musical, after the Americans had won the Revolutionary War, the rather pompous King George III came on stage to lament the loss of the colonies with a catchy number entitled “What’s Next?”

That same question can now be applied to the news radio.

A global pandemic followed by civil unrest followed by a bitterly contested presidential election has allowed news and news-talk stations to literally defy gravity throughout 2020 in terms of massive listenership.  But the inevitable run of non-stop news cycle gold is coming to an end. The election is over, a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon, and cities are no longer burning.

At some point in 2021, life will start to resemble normalcy.

With that, the tide will go out for news media. I could literally sense every News Director and Producer across the country grappling with every ounce of strength to hold on to the 2020 Election Story…trying to drag it out if they could.

Even as it became clear that Joe Biden had won this damn thing, every network did what they could to drag out the suspense.  One more hour, one more day, one more news cycle.  Finally, there was just no more water that they could squeeze out of the proverbial sponge.

The bevy of non-stop stories covered up for a multitude of sins that the news media, (and radio, in particular) have committed over the years.  The audience is getting older, younger consumers are embracing more technologically savvy platforms and ad revenue is shifting away to new media further than traditional operators can keep up with it.

All is not lost.  As we head into 2021, here are three things that I sincerely want to see news-talk and news radio embrace with gusto.

OWN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD…EXCLUSIVELY.

It’s the oldest rule in the book…and it still applies.  You can never go wrong talking about what’s going on in your own neighborhood.  But you must do more than that…. you must own it.  You need hosts, anchors and reporters that can get EXCLUSIVES.  They need to be able to get a story that no one else has.

I was always amazed by walking into newsrooms at places like KDKA in Pittsburgh, where Marty Griffin would drop bombshells that would get the entire city talking.  Or KIRO in Seattle where Dori Monson would walk into my office once a week with a big grin saying, “Wait till you hear what I got at 12:05!”

These are the types of people you need to find and get them in front of a microphone.  They have connections, they work them, and they are tireless and relentless to bring fresh, new material to the table that no one else has.

In the news world, having creative hosts who are entertaining with interesting perspectives isn’t good enough.  There are just too many choices for the consumer on too many different platforms.

What IS a rarity, are the people that can tell you something you didn’t know was going on in your own back yard.

GET FEARLESSLY YOUNGER

I remember speaking to a high-end national media figure who was in the middle of hiring a Senior Producer for a network morning show.  This program is well-established and has a large worldwide audience.“What are your biggest challenges?” I asked.

“Our audience is literally dying off,” she replied.  “We are just not reaching younger people.  Whomever we hire MUST be able to tell stories that reach 18-34-year-old listeners.  We just don’t have enough people that can do that.”

Hearing that was amazing yet validating at the same time.  I’ve always felt that news radio’s biggest challenge was the fact that listenership was aging out of the 25-54 demo and there just wasn’t enough incoming youth to replace them.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  One that isn’t talked about enough is that the stories I hear on news radio and news-talk stations just don’t appeal to younger listeners.  Service elements like traffic, weather and financial info are now owned by smartphone apps.  Most news stories are geared towards people on the older end of the demo.  While this serves an important purpose, 18-34-year-olds are virtually forgotten and that is creating a missed opportunity.

I recall a particular episode of “The Daily” from The New York Times. They had a detailed account of college students that were living on campus and sequestered due to the pandemic.  Needless to say, life was tough for them.  Many could not leave their dorms and the food they were being given as part of their meal programs was often inedible.   The genesis for this story?   A TikTok feed that several students had started and that had gained steam online.  That was a great example of a story that effects younger listeners and was started on a platform that they use massively.

These are the kinds of stories that will reach the people that you need to fund your future.  Seek those stories out and work them into your rotation.

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY, NOT RATINGS

I honestly wonder, at times, when radio transmitters will just go from resting on giant towers to something that will only be on display in a museum.

As we see 5G rolled out nationwide as well as the installation of in-car Wi-Fi, over the air broadcasting suddenly seems so antiquated.

I’m 43 years old and have spent the better part of three decades in terrestrial radio.  Yet, I can’t remember the last time I used the AM or FM features in my car.  I plug my phone into a USB port and I’m either listening to Spotify, Radio.com, YouTube Music or SiriusXM.

Yet, when I talk to so many of my colleagues in the biz, they’re still trying to chase down terrestrial listeners.  They’re sill pouring through mountains of Neilsen data, hunting down meters, chasing panelists, and playing what is slowly becoming a zero-sum game.

I remember once talking to a radio executive about on-demand listening.

“We’re relying too much on digital,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We put all of our shows online, and it gives people no incentive to listen live.  It’s hurting our ratings,” he replied.

The first thing to pop into my mind when I heard this was….’WHO CARES?’   It shouldn’t matter where or how people consume your product as long as they are consuming it.  No matter where you reach them, you can engage them….and that should have value for ANY advertiser.

BNM Writers

Biden, Harris Jan. 6 Speeches Deliver Viewers To All 3 Networks

“Fox News was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.”

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Marking the start of the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris, followed by President Joe Biden. Harris stated, “On Jan. 6, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful — the lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.” In Biden’s speech, he said “At this moment, we must decide what kind of nation are we going to be… Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. The way forward is to recognize the truth, to live by it.

Both speeches occurred in the 9-10 a.m. Eastern hour on Jan. 6. The rankings according to viewer figures among the cable news networks were, once again, similar to those of recent news events. Fox News Channel was first overall, drawing 1.44 million total viewers and 215,000 of the audience in the key 25-54 demographics, according to Nielsen Media Research. MSNBC was a close runner-up in total viewers with 1.31 million.

The window for CNN’s coverage went from 8:45 a.m. to 10:28 a.m. ET; while more precise data for the speeches themselves were not made available, the time period offered was still enough to achieve cable news’ runner-up spot in adults 25-54. CNN drew 187,000 in the demo while MSNBC did 182,000.

CNN delivered their most-watched hours of their week (ending Jan. 9) in the hours following Biden’s speech. Within the time frame of 10:28 a.m. to noon Eastern, which included a 22-minute speech by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the network averaged 1.25 million total viewers and 238,000 adults 25-54. Still, Fox News Channel topped those figures; from 10 a.m. to noon, they averaged 1.74 million total viewers with 272,000 adults 25-54. For FNC, the week marked 21 consecutive weeks in which they outdrew CNN and MSNBC combined according to total day data.

The Weather Channel achieved its highest rated week since the week ending Sep. 5, 2021 (Hurricane Ida). Winter Storm Garrett swept from Colorado to Maine, helping bring more than 6 inches of snow to parts of the Tennessee Valley and the Northeast. Snow totals have ranged from 2 to 5 inches in the Washington, D.C. to Baltimore to Philadelphia corridor to close to 10 inches at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and in southern Connecticut; the five boroughs of New York City received snow levels in-between. Most of the channel’s top hours occurred between the 8-11 a.m. ET time period from Jan. 3-7.

Cable news averages for January 3-9, 2022:

Total Day (January 3-9 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.408 million viewers; 223,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.746 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.548 million viewers; 113,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.196 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.191 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.161 million viewers; 39,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.121 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.105 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (January 3-8 @ 8-11 p.m.; January 9 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.303 million viewers; 365,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.284 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.705 million viewers; 153,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.227 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.206 million viewers; 66,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.218 million viewers; 47,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.142 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.053 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 Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.606 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.576 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.515 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.382 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.365 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.330 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.311 million viewers

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.279 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.125 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.953 million viewers

18. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.444 million viewers

133. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Thu. 1/6/2022 10:28 AM, 32 min.) 1.260 million viewers

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

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.620 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.576 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.565 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 1/3/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.557 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/4/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.502 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.486 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/7/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 1/5/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.472 million adults 25-54

22. Rachel Maddow Show “Democracy In Peril 1/6 Anniversary” (MSNBC, Thu. 1/6/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.359 million adults 25-54

65. CNN Newsroom (CNN, Fri. 1/7/2022 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.255 million adults 25-54

177. Forensic Files “Time Will Tell” (HLN, late Sat. 1/8/2022 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.155 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

Dave Ramsey and Those Evil Millionaires

Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.”

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Readers got another strong shot of common sense for their dollars and cents last week from the radio host known for delivering it in daily doses over the years.

During last week’s launch week for his new book, Baby Steps Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth – and How You Can Too, author and radio host, Dave Ramsey, took to the airwaves to share the underlying philosophy of his newest hit.

“We launched this book in the middle of a society where a portion of the people are out there; I call them the hope stealers. Their job is to steal your hope,” Ramsey began. “Their job is to tell you that the society, the culture, the country that we live in is so broken that the little man can’t get ahead. You stand no chance unless you inherit it from a rich uncle. You can’t make it; we need socialism. We need wealth redistribution. Wealthy people are evil anyway, and so they should be punished.”

Ramsey spent some time discussing a recent New York Times article, which was pushing the moral need to “abolish millionaires.” To Ramsey, this is anathema. After all, the radio host has made a name for himself, as well as created thousands of jobs through his multi-million dollar business by becoming the financial voice for the “little man.” He began small, became a millionaire, lost it all through bankruptcy, and then prospered much more than before through the reliance on true, Biblical financial principles.

“A billion dollars is wildly more than anyone needs, even accounting for life’s most excessive lavishes,” Ramsey quoted the story. “It’s far more than anyone might reasonably claim to deserve, however much he believes he has contributed to society. Billionaires should not exist. When American capitalism sends us its billionaires, it’s not sending us its best. It’s sending us people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing their problems with them. They’re bringing inequality.”

Ramsey pointed out the apparent case of jealousy and envy.

“Two evil character traits of anyone who is one with money. Money is evil; money is bad. If you get money, you are evil, and you are bad,” Ramsey said. “You should have it taken away from you and given to someone else….so that they are evil and bad, I guess. I never thought about that part. If we give it out, is it not a problem for the poor people that get it. I mean, if it’s bad, maybe we should just centralize it with a few people and destroy them instead of giving it to other people. That’s kind of illogical. The critical thinking breaks down on this, doesn’t it?”

And as usual, Ramsey didn’t hold back what he thought. As he has said countless times, he’s an “expert on his own opinion.”

“I’m old. When I was young, we called those communists,” he said. “This is straight-up Marxism.” He then referenced Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s policy adviser, who said “every billionaire we have is because of a policy failure” and that “a moral society needs guardrails against it.” 

Co-host John Delony, questioning the logic of the extreme leftist logic Ramsey was referencing, asked a real-world question to test the integrity of the socialist theory.

“I’m just thinking of the first guy that popped into my head, everybody’s favorite target – Elon Musk comes up with a cool computer program and sells it for a lot of money. Helps a lot of people do a lot of things. Then he develops a car and a battery. What’s the inherent evil there? I’m perplexed by the argument,” Delony said.

“It’s not logical; it’s not critical thinking skills. Marxism never is,” Ramsey answered, cutting through the propaganda. “What ends up happening is that the whole thing is about vilifying wealth and the wealthy so that we can do a power grab and move the money around and get credit for it. It’s a power grab thing. That’s generally what’s at the core of Marxism or these kinds of things all along.”

As Ramsey has been saying for years, and studies support, the wealthy lead all income earners in consistent giving.

“In the real world, the most generous people on the planet are the wealthy,” Ramsey noted. “This is actual data, not theory, not political rhetoric that’s trying to beat a drum. But the actual data says that wealthy people feed more starving children than not-wealthy people.” 

“88 percent gave to a charity in 2020,” Delony pointed out, referencing a survey of 1626 households with a net worth of at least a million dollars.

“Millionaires, there they are again!” Ramsey chimed.

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BNM Writers

The NFL Weathered the Storm, Fans Once Again Are Addicted

The NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever.

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The NFL has us all wrapped around its finger. 

Don’t take my word for it, just look at the numbers. As we get set for the NFL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we are nearly 18 months removed from the NFL’s latest soiree into politics, yet the league is as strong as ever. 

The NFL’s regular season viewership rose 10%, which is a bounce-back from a 7% drop in 2020. 

About 17.1 million viewers tuned in to regular season games on TV and online. It was the highest regular season audience for the NFL since 2015, according to a statement from the league. With the audience for traditional TV falling, NFL games continue to dominate the ratings, ranking as 91 of the top 100 telecasts this season, the league said.

So what happened? 

Well first we need to look backwards: 2020 was a perfect storm. The NFL did go political to a degree, adding “social justice” phrases to the end zones and the backs of players’ helmets. It was not as in-your-face as what the NBA did, but it was noticeable. It bothered a portion of fans who may have temporarily stepped away from watching football in a boycott. Add to that an incredibly tense 2020 election season, along with being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was natural to expect to see a decrease in viewership.

Oh, and let’s be honest, the mostly empty stadiums were just ghoulish. 

But the NFL weathered the storm. Because that’s what it does. It’s the best product on TV and it’s brought many back into the fold as things have gotten back to normal in 2021. 

It’s also why I never boycotted the league. First off, I knew I wouldn’t last long. We all need outlets from the insanity of the news cycle. I knew myself too well. And if I was going to boycott, I was going to do it right. I never thought I could do an NFL boycott “right”.

Was that weak of me? I know I certainly took the backlash from some of my listeners. But based on the ratings numbers we are seeing this week, it seems like many who were tough talkers in 2020 have quietly come back to the league with their tail between their legs. 

For the record, I’m OK with that. I won’t be admonishing anyone over it. The NFL puts on a first-class product. And let’s be honest, the NFL knew that they could toe the line of doing “enough” on the social justice front to appease those requesting it, while allowing time to heal wounds of those not wanting it, and not hemorage their audience in any significant way.

It turns out the NFL was right. Once again. We can’t get enough. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. And we’ll be tuned in starting with Wild Card Weekend on Saturday. 

So as we get ready for another season of NFL Playoffs, there’s no conversation around politics infringing on the product and the league is dominating TV ratings in a way no other sport or show is coming close to duplicating. 

The NFL weathered the storm, the stadiums are full, fans are back, and we’re all, once again, addicted. 

It’s OK to admit it. I am. Will you? 

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