As I’ve mentioned before, spoken word media is very much at a crossroads.
The passing of Rush Limbaugh, in a way, was symbolic of the proverbial “fork in the road” that the news/talk format is currently staring at.
With that in mind, the question needs to be asked; what is the future of news/talk radio?
Oh, I forgot, “radio” is a dirty word these days. I should have said news/talk MEDIA.
Over the next few weeks, we’re embarking on a multi-part series to find the answers.
As I’ve often said, when tough questions like this are asked, I enlist the help of people that are far smarter than yours truly. We’ll get the perspectives of people from all sides of the industry, from talent to management to sales and beyond.
For part one of our series, we turn to a consultant.
Phil Tower has had an impressive career in broadcast media.
He’s been a host in multiple formats, worked in management at various levels and has also spent nearly 30 years as an Adjunct Professor of Communications and Mass Media at several different colleges.
On a side note, he’s also someone that, for years, I could never get a hold of.
Tower has owned and operated his own media consultancy in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan for the last decade. I remember him as the guy I would listen to on WOOD-AM and WLAV-FM. As an aspiring radio nerd, teenage me tried to call him, introduce myself and get his advice on how I could do what he did.
Naturally, I never got past the secretary who worked the switchboard at the radio station.
Thanks to the power of social media, Phil and I finally connected a few months ago. Now, after all this time, I can finally get his advice.
With the passing of Rush, many of his affiliates seem to have been left in limbo. What do you think iHeart’s plans will be for that time slot?
Premiere Networks has already been very public about the fact that they are going to continue to honor the legacy of Rush by continuing to keep the show going by utilizing a strong lineup very talented fill-in hosts (Ken Matthews, Todd Herman, Brett Winterble, Mark Steyn) that are already very familiar voices for his audience. I think this is a very wise strategy for Premiere Networks to employ. Rush Limbaugh was bigger than life and his show aired for 30+ years. Given that, Premiere has a treasure trove of timeless audio cuts from Rush Limbaugh that will still be relevant given whatever topic A is for a given day.
What should Limbaugh affiliates be doing right now?
The smartest move is to be patient and stay the course. I highly doubt there will be a serious ratings degradation for the short term and maybe even longer. A few stations have already made the move to launch local shows and while that may work in the long run, often when stations introduce a new show and host to the audience, they take a much bigger risk of losing ratings and revenue.
There will be syndicated options in that time slot (Cumulus is offering Dan Bongino). Would stations be better served to look for LOCAL alternatives?
Unless they already have a well-established local option, I would advise stations to look at the offering of syndicated choices if they can’t lock up the Rush Limbaugh Show for their market. I firmly believe that the next 12 to 18 months will present a much clearer picture of how the spoken word format will evolve after the passing of such an iconic host. At the same time, I don’t think Rush will ever truly “disappear from relevance” given the long-lasting impact he has had on the spoken word format.
For stations (even smaller market ones) that want to look for a local solution to Limbaugh, where could they look?
Unless they have a strong option already existing in house, I would look at successful news journalists, TV hosts with a strong brand and popularity in their own market. There may also be options in terms of local bloggers/podcasters who are especially successful as social influencers. I think it’s very important to look at talent who can express themselves confidently both as a speaker and writer. Writing skills are more important than ever.
There are over a million podcasts cluttering the spoken word space right now. How can terrestrial stations continue to stand out with so many different content choices?
The battle for “share of ear” Is as intense as it ever has been. Terrestrial stations can stand out by super serving their listeners and by being available on multiple platforms and reminding their listeners of that daily. I think it’s also very critical that successful terrestrial brands make all of their shows contact available as podcasts. I also strongly urge them to go one step beyond that by encouraging/pushing local hosts to create standalone content for podcast. Loyal listeners have already demonstrated they want this content. In the iHeartRadio ecosystem, the practice of hosts creating standalone content for digital was the norm. That discipline should become standard practice for every spoken word talent looking to extend their personal brand. I’m very bullish and always hopeful that brighter days are ahead for the spoken word format. The one huge upside to the podcasting boom is that it has by default become a new massive incubator for talent. Every smart programmer in this format should be aware of who is hosting standout podcasts in their region and they should be paying attention to those talent. I’m also especially hopeful that the format will be more welcoming to women. Lots of women are creating great dynamic content and killing it as podcasters and there’s no reason that many of them couldn’t be as successful in live radio. I don’t care if they have a political bent or they’re just unique people who are strong storytellers. In the end, women hosts deserve more seats at the talk radio round table.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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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