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WGTK’s Joey Hudson Strives to Connect With His Audience

WGTK’s Joey Hudson said he strives to connect with his audience and also realizes he’s been extremely fortunate in his career.

Jim Cryns

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Joey Hudson would have made a great Realtor. He made Upstate South Carolina sound so pleasant, historic, and homey. I’m calling Century 21 (If they’re still a thing.)

Hudson lives in Greenville, about an hour and a half from Columbia, South Carolina, and has for his entire life. On the phone, he has that ‘southern gentleman’ thing working, although he admits he’s not certain if that is still a thing.

“I’m not sure the days of ‘southern gentlemen’ are as prevalent as they once were,” Hudson said. “But there certainly was at one point. There are a lot of what I would call ‘Old South Families.’”

He and a friend would journey to Fripp Island where they’d occasionally run into legendary southern author Pat Conroy. “I think Pat captured the flavor of southern life very well,” Hudson explained.

You can listen to this southern gent on 94-5 WGTK The Answer, 6 am-9 am Monday through Friday. 

The Greenville area seems to be growing quickly. The North American BMW headquarters in Spartanburg, Michelin North America is in Greenville, and folks are migrating to the area.

“A lot of people from around the world have moved here in the last couple of decades, essentially changing the entire place,” Hudson said. “It’s still sort of like a small town that has an international flavor.”

Hudson is fine with the influx of people as he’s seen what it has done for the area. 

“We used to be an exclusively textile area and that eventually died,” Hudson said. “My elementary school was associated with a textile mill. Seeing people we knew lose their jobs as the textiles were leaving was difficult. Fifteen or 20 years ago, there was no reason to visit downtown Greenville. There was nothing there. It’s all changed now.”

Hudson attended Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a smaller school where he studied political science. “I always loved history and politics,” he said. 

While in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, and working part-time for a state senator conducting research, Hudson still had one eye on becoming a lawyer. That’s when he met a lobbyist for Nationwide Insurance who suggested he look into the trade.

“I ended up working with Nationwide for 35 years,” Hudson said. “It was the right choice for me. It gave me a lot of freedom. I worked extremely hard for a lot of years, but I was able to dedicate time to other interests as my career progressed.”

His office was in Travelers Rest, at the foot of the mountains. Hudson said the town got its name as it was a regular resting spot for folks going to and from Charleston. 

A self-confessed political junky, Hudson said his first paying political job was working for Senator Strom Thurmond. 

“I worked with Lee Atwater, who was the Senator’s campaign manager and strategist for the Republican Party,” Hudson said. Atwater was an adviser to US presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and chairman of the Republican National Committee. He worked for Atwater during Thurmond’s last contested campaign. 

“He was already pretty old by that point,” Hudson said. “I think there was a concerted effort to appeal to younger people. The whole idea was to get young people involved in the campaign. It solidified my conservatism and strengthened my interest in politics. From there forward, I served on local Republican campaigns.”

Hudson said he got to know Senator Thurmond pretty well.  “As well as any 18-year-old could, I imagine,” Hudson said. Thurmond was running in 1978 against Charles D. Ravenel. This was the first threat Senator Thurmond had in years. Ravenel was trying to make Thurmond’s age an issue, and he was in his late 70s. But he also had a young wife and three young children. 

“My job was to drive the Strom RV around the state to family-type events,” Hudson said. “It was a great gig and that’s where I got to know Lee Atwater pretty well.”

It was a wild ride.

Through the 70s, Hudson listened to some talk radio, but Rush was just getting started, and it too wasn’t really a thing. Hudson was involved in student government at school. But radio had much more to offer Hudson. He met Peg, his wife, while she was a sales rep at WFBC. 

“I had never done radio before. They knew I was interested in politics. The station also hired Mike Gallagher,” Hudson said. “We all became good friends. Then Mike moved on to New York and became nationally syndicated. He hired Peg to sell his show nationally.”

Hudson helped start and is executive director of Gallagher’s Heroes Fallen Officer and First Responder Fund, based in New York. The foundation was founded by Mike Gallagher and inspired by the giving spirit of his late wife, Denise Gallagher, to meet the immediate needs of U.S. police officer families when an officer has been killed in the line of duty. 

The fund provides financial assistance to officer families when they need it most, as soon as a tragedy happens, without having to wait for weeks or months for other more formal assistance to become available, and without the interference of bureaucracy and red tape that often exists.

“Mike is a good guy, a talented broadcaster,” Hudson said. “He brings a lot of life to radio, and I learned a great deal from him. I’ve been on remote broadcasts with Mike around the world. Helped him with thousands of broadcasts before I did my own solo show.”

Hudson said he strives to connect with his audience. He also realizes he’s been extremely fortunate. 

“As someone who didn’t start out in broadcasting, I think I’m living a dream at a 100,000-watt station in my hometown. Our signal is huge. You can hear us in about half of South Carolina down to Columbia. Then across state lines to Asheville, North Carolina. It feels great to have that kind of reach. I’m lucky to know I can touch so many lives. It feels like an extended family.” 

Hudson said he gets up every morning and is never quite sure where everything will lead. 

“I’m prepping for my show all the time. I get alerts on my phone. I think I have a general idea as to what I’ll talk about. Then a caller can change that direction in an instant. A certain response can take the show somewhere else. I know some talk show hosts like to believe the audience is there to listen to them, that they just want to hear the host. I think listeners like to hear other viewpoints. When my phone lines light up, when my text line gets busy, that’s what I love to see.”

Hudson receives a lot of texts every day from people he said wouldn’t consider calling in. He thinks he gets a different perspective on a topic from emails and texts than he does on calls. 

“A lot of people want to think talk radio is just an older audience,” he said. “I’m getting a good bit of feedback from younger listeners, particularly on the text lines.”

His spirituality is as much a part of who he is as anything else. According to Hudson, he’s exactly where God has always wanted him to be. From the first moment he met the insurance lobbyist, it was God putting him in the right place. 

“If I’d gone on to law school, I think I would have been miserable,” Hudson said. “ As it turned out I was a small business owner and able to be a part of a charitable organization. If I was a lawyer I think I’d just be busy billing hours.

I’d like to be remembered as someone who cared about the community and the people who live here.”

He will fill in for Mike Gallagher when needed, either from home or the station. 

“I learned a lot of the mechanics from Mike. He’s been a great mentor. Phil Boyce with Salem has been a great mentor as well. I end my show every day saying, ‘God is in control,’” Hudson said. “At the end of every third hour. God prepares us and gives us the skills to help one another. That’s what I love about my work with Mike’s foundation. We publish and distribute Bibles to first responders.”

In the back of the Bibles are a series of Bible studies compiled by chaplains from around the country who speak to the emotions and rigors first responders face. 

“People may not understand the stress they’re constantly under,” Hudson said. “Police officers never know if this will be their last day on earth. They could pull someone over for running a red light and be shot and killed.”

With South Carolina in the thick of political discussions this week, Hudson said he’s had some nice dealings with Herschel Walker. 

“He’s a nice man, and wants to serve the people of Georgia,” Hudson said. “I’ve had him on a few times. I think he’s been thrust into a position and maybe politics is a bit harder than he thought it would be. When he decided to run I didn’t know a lot about him except he was a good football player. At South Carolina, we faced Georgia a lot of times.”

Next week Hudson is traveling to Toccoa, Georgia to help get out the vote. 

“I’m not sure which way the election is going to go. I know we’ll be going to Toccoa, Georgia reminding people to vote.”

Another South Carolina politician, Lindsay Graham, is someone Hudson sees the best in the man’s numerous sides.

“He can be unpredictable at times, but I think he really does what he thinks is in the best interest of South Carolina,” Hudson said. He told me Graham is from a small place called Central, South Carolina.  

“Graham had an unlikely path to the senate,” Hudson said. “He grew up in the back of his parents’ pool hall. His mom and dad owned a small bar and grill, the Sanitary Cafe, in Central. It isn’t all that much today, even less so then.” 

When he gets a few spare minutes, he likes to read James Patterson. 

“It allows me to slow down my mind,” Hudson said. “In this business I’m always talking, constantly watching news, reading news, listening to news. I have to do that to be able to talk intelligently. I’m constantly researching.”

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BNM Writers

Market Still Finding 2023 Footing

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

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While it’s hard to imagine 2023 being as painful for investors as 2022, experts still cannot say for certain we are destined for blue skies ahead. Many in the media are starting the year by sifting through the stock market tea leaves; trying to figure out what historical data can tell us about probabilities and expectations for the next twelve months.

Some think the United States is poised for a market rebound, while others remain quite bearish, feeling that negative policy implications have yet to be fully realized.

Peter Tuchman of Trademas Inc. joined Neil Cavuto on his Fox News program Friday, to offer his thoughts about where the American stock market might be headed in light of the newly-divided United States Congress.

“Markets have a sort of a gut of their own,” Cavuto opened. “Today’s a good example. We’re up 300 points, ended up down 112 points. What’s going on?”

“Markets don’t like unknowns, and markets need confidence. The investing community needs confidence,” Tuchman said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild that. And as we saw the other night with what went on in the House, it feels like people should get busy governing as opposed to all this posturing.”

Six months ago, Tuchman didn’t have a solid feel for the direction of the market. And just two trading weeks into the year, he still doesn’t believe any real trend has been established.

“The market has yet to find its ground. It’s yet to find its footing,” Tuchman told Cavuto. “And still, even coming into 2023, the first week of trading we have not found our footing. We have come in on a couple of economic notes that were a little bit positive. We opened up with a little bit of irrational enthusiasm. By the end of the days we were trading down.”

Meanwhile, some financial outlets, such as CNBC, have dug into the data showing what a market rise during the year’s first week – such as what we experienced this year – potentially means for the rest of 2023. They published a story last week with the headline, Simple ‘first five days’ stock market indicator is poised to send a good omen for 2023“.

On an episode of his popular YouTube program late last week, James from Invest Answers dug into 73 years of stock market data, to test that theory and see if the first five days of yearly stock market performance are an indicator of what the market might do over the full year.

“Some analysts pay attention to this, the first five trading day performance, can it be an indicator of a good year or a bad year,” James began last week, “I wanted to dig into all of that and get the answer for myself. Because some people think yes. Some people swear blind by it. Some people think it’s a myth or an old wive’s tale. Some people think it’s a great omen.”

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

Based on James’ analysis…

If the gains from the first five market days of the year are negative, the market rises 86 percent of the time over the full year, with an average gain of 6%.

If the first five days are positive, the market increases 92% of the time, with an average yearly gain of 16%.

Most importantly, in this year’s scenario, where the first five days saw a jump of more than 1%, the market traditionally ends positive for the year 95 percent of the time. Those years see an average yearly gain of 18%.

“Is it a good omen, does it look bullish?” James asked. “Well, yes, based on history. But remember, there are factors like inflation, interest rates, geopolitical turmoil, supply chains, slowing economy. All that stuff is in play. But history also says that the market bounces bounces back before the market even realizes it’s in a recession. That’s an important thing to know.”

On his Your World program, Cavuto wondered if the recent House speaker voting drama has added to the uncertainty facing markets.

“Historically, Wall Street definitely is a bit more friendly to a Republican administration,” Tuchman said. “We’re in new ground, there’s no playbook, Neil. And I went over it with you the last time. There’s no playbook for coming out of a pandemic. No playbook for what’s gone on over the last two and a half years. Let’s think about it. March 2020, the market sold off so radically. We had a rally of 20 percent in 2020. 28 percent in 2021, in the eyes of a global economic shutdown due to the Federal Reserve’s posturing and whatnot.

“And now we’re trying to unwind that position. In tech, and in possible recession, and inflation and supply chain issues. So, there’s no way historically to make a judgment on what the future looks like in that realm, let alone what’s going on in the dis-functionality of what’s happening in Washington. I would like to disengage what’s going on in Washington and try and rebuild the confidence in the market coming into 2023.” 

So while the data might indicate a strong year ahead, the fact is that many analysts still won’t make that definitive call amidst such economic turmoil gripping the country. 

Along with U.S. markets, they remain steadfast in their search for solid footing.

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BNM Writers

Does Radio Need A Video Star?

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

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Last week numerous stories about using video with broadcasting or audio podcasting became a hot topic of discussion.

A Morning Consult poll found that 32% of Americans prefer podcasts with video, compared with 26% who like just audio better. Among podcast listeners, 46% said they favor them with video, compared with 42% who said they would rather listen without video. It’s worth noting that these are podcast listeners, not radio listeners.

Video has become the latest trend in audio. Almost everybody is trying to do some form of video. Many shows already stream online. A few others simulcast on a television or cable channel. It seems nobody believes in pure audio anymore. It’s a wonder everybody didn’t go into television instead of radio.

Before everybody else starts adding webcams in the studio, it’s worth weighing the reasons to move ahead versus slowing down.

The first person to realize they could use video of their show may have been Howard Stern. In June 1994, Stern started a daily half-hour show on E! network, featuring video highlights from his radio show. Stern added slick production values and faster pacing on the E! show.

Don Imus started simulcasting on cable during the same month. It’s possible others that I’m not aware of started earlier.

Stern’s E! show made sense. It answered the most common questions people asked about the show, in addition to what’s he really like; the first questions people usually asked were: 1) Are the women really as good-looking as he says? 2) Do they really take their clothes off? The E! show answered those questions. In addition, it gave a backstage glimpse of the show.

The same month Stern’s E! Show began, Imus began simulcasting his show on cable networks. I would have feared losing ratings. In fact, Imus’ program director did!

I spoke to my long-time friend and colleague Mark Chernoff (Current Managing Director of Mark Chernoff Talent and on-air talent 107.1 The Boss on the NJ Shore, Former Senior VP WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, VP Sports Programming CBS Radio) about the impact simulcasting Imus’ show had on WFAN. Chernoff may have the broadest range of experiences with simulcasting radio programs with video. 

Imus began on CSPAN but shortly afterward moved to MSNBC. Chernoff told me: “When we started simulcasting Imus, I suggested we’d lose about 15% of our radio audience to TV, which we did.” Chernoff added that there was a significant revenue contribution and that the company was content with the trade-off.

WFAN had a different experience simulcasting Mike and the Mad Dog on YES in 2002. “In this case, TV was helpful, and we increased listenership,” said Chernoff. WFAN also benefited financially from this simulcast.

Imus was on in morning drive while Mike & the Mad Dog were on in the afternoon. Keep the era in mind, too. Before smartphones and high-speed streaming, it was not uncommon for people to have televisions in the bed or bathrooms and have the tv on instead of the radio as they got ready for their day. In the afternoon, fewer people would have had video access in that era.

Ratings measurement moved to Portable People Meter (PPM) by the time WFAN started streaming middays on its website. Chernoff reported streaming had no ratings or revenue impact – positive or negative – on middays. However, the company did provide an additional dedicated person to produce the video stream.

The early forays into video by pioneers such as Stern, Imus, and Mike & the Mad Dog are instructive.

There are good reasons to video stream shows. Revenue is a good reason.

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

Another good reason is if the video can answer questions about the show, as the E! show did for Howard Stern.

On the other hand, audio companies are going to throw a lot of money at video, based on the notion that it’s what they “should” do because:

  • It’s the latest trend. Being late on this trend is different from missing the Internet or Podcasting. Industries already revolve around video; television and film come to mind.
  • Podcast listeners like it (by a slight plurality).

Before turning on webcams, see what viewers will see. The studios at many stations I’ve worked at were better not seen. Considerations include; the set, lighting, wardrobe, visuals, and a plan.

Too many video streams of studios feature the fire extinguisher prominently in the shot or the air personalities milling about during terminally long breaks.

Before going live, watch the video with no audio. Is it interesting? Compelling? Does the video draw you in, or is it dull?

With program directors now spread so thin handling multiple stations, a dedicated person to oversee streaming should be a requirement for stations streaming shows.

Other considerations:

  • How could this help us, and how could it hurt us?
  • How does the video enhance the show?
  • Will personalities do their radio show or perform for the cameras?
  • What production values are you able to add to the video?
  • What happens during those seven- eight-minute breaks if it’s a live radio show (vs. a podcast)? What will people streaming video see and hear? Does everybody on the show get along?

Do you have revenue attached? What do you expect will happen to the ratings?

WFAN earned significant revenue for two. Therefore, the company wasn’t concerned when the ratings took a hit for the first one and were surprised when they helped the second one. They didn’t see any impact on ratings or revenue the third time.

After all the budget cuts and workforce reductions over the past decade-plus, before audio companies invest in video, shouldn’t we get: people, marketing, promotion, or research monies back first?

Most of us decided to get into radio (or podcasting) instead of television or film. There’s a reason they said, “video killed the radio star.”

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BNM Writers

Streaming Platforms Cannot Be Forgotten By News/Talk Program Directors

BNM’s Pete Mundo writes that if you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations and what comes through the streaming platforms.

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If you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations. Didn’t you know that? Oh. Well, you do. 

I’m not just referring to our over-the-air broadcast but also what comes through our streaming platforms. Alexa, Google Home, apps, computers, etc., are all streaming platforms of our radio stations, which for most of us, are airing different commercial inventory than what is coming through the radio.

I understand none of us are unnecessarily looking to add to our plate, but our streaming platforms are the way we are getting more people to use our product. So neglecting, or forgetting about it, is a bad business decision, especially in the talk space. 

Across all clusters, talk radio is far more likely to have high streaming use when it comes to total listening hours. Listeners are more loyal to our personalities and often can’t get the AM dial in their office buildings during the day, or even if they can, they don’t want to hear our voices through static, so they pull up the stream. 

It’s never been easier to listen to talk radio stations, thanks to our station apps and websites (although welcoming some sites to the 21st century would be a good idea). So, given the challenges many of us face on the AM band, why not push our audience to the stream and make sure the stream sounds just as good as the over-the-air product?

The tricky part in putting together a quality stream sound is trying to balance what ads are programmatic, which ones are sold locally, where is the unfilled inventory and what is filling that gap?

And unlike your over-the-air product, where you can go into a studio, see what’s coming up, and move inventory around, that technology is not available in most cases. So yes, it’s a guessing game.

But as the talk climate continues to change, the best thing we can do to build our brand and trust with the next generation of talk radio listeners is to find them and engage them where they are, which may not always be next to a physical radio. That will be on a stream. How do I know that? Because if they have a smartphone, they have (access to) the stream.

Of course, the over-the-air product remains the massive revenue generator for our stations, as in most cases, the streaming revenue is not close to comparable. But then, if we look years down the road, that will likely start to change. 

To what degree? That’s unknown. But double-digit growth on an annual basis should not be out of the question when it comes to stream listening. It should be a very achievable goal, especially in our format. So our listeners who are P1’s, love the station and want to consume as much of the content as they can, can be on the AirPods in the gym, desk at work, or in their home office and listen to our radio stations. 

Heck, with Alexa and Google Home, they don’t even have to turn a dial! They just speak. So if they’re there, let’s keep them there.

There are simply too many media options today to lose our listeners due to sloppy streaming quality that makes us sound like a college radio station. Instead, listeners, who find us there should be rewarded with a listening experience that is just as high-quality as what they would get on the AM or FM band.

And if we play our cards right, it will be better, serving the industry incredibly well through a new generation of listeners.

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