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The Holy Trinity of Talk Radio ©

Holy Trinity of Talk Radio

 My own opinion of the relationship between Listeners, Stations and Sponsors.

 

Listeners

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image, yellow arrow

Stations image, yellow arrow Sponsors

In the relationship between Listener, Station and Advertiser, each exists for and because of each other.  Each partner demands much from the relationship but sometimes ignores their own responsibilities.

In an ideal world this page would not even be necessary and it crosses the line of taking this site too seriously.  In reality the relationship between Listener, Station and Sponsors is often a contentious one.  What with the stations (owners) trying to make a buck along with their hosts trying to earn a living and keep a job, the sponsors looking to get exposure and sell a product or service at reasonable rates ... bringing up the rear is the listener who simply wants to have something worth listening to.   Obviously if you take out one part of this trinity the rest falls apart but also it is true that if you degrade one part the rest will suffer.  One small part of this site's purpose is to bring it together.


Listeners

The listener has the easy part here.  Well you would think so.

Responsibilities:

  1. To the Stations - Just turn on the radio and make sure you fill out the ratings book in an accurate and fair manner.  If the show is not suited to your tastes don't listen.  Get the call letters right when you fill out the ratings diary and fill it out accurately.
  2. To the Sponsors - Patronize the business who advertisers on the show and station you listen to.  If the product or service is not for you don't buy it.  There are many fine local and national sponsors.  They pay the bills, we buy the product.
  3. Have some clue as to what is being advertised.  Recognize the difference between a local company with roots that we should support and some anonymous entity selling something that seems a bit too good to be true.  Be informed and purchase wisely.  Some products may be suspect.  In one case a news story aired on talk stations here covered a lawsuit and large scale refund by a national advertiser connected with infomercials.  That company is still in business (as of 2002) ... I wouldn't buy their products but they do fund radio.   Educate yourself and support what you deem deserving of your business.

Expectations:

    From the Stations - You expect a quality show.
    From the Sponsor - You expect a quality product or service.

We ran a survey you can read on caller etiquette that hits some funny points and even has good advice for callers.


Stations

These people have the tough part.  

Radio is one of the strangest professions on the planet.  None of the normal rules apply.  Your hot one day, gone the next.  Still there are some constants that apply here as well.

The stations, owners and shareholders profit admirably when they produce a quality product.  If they ignore their customers (listeners) then ratings, and the subsequent profits, suffer.  Talk radio listeners as a group are a loyal bunch but given time they will leave if abused enough.

It is hard for the listeners to admit but on average the people IN radio often know more about what the public wants than the public does.  Many times the way the stations explain things to listeners is lame or pure spin but most times they DO have a handle on what they are doing.  This applies to "Radio People" ... Not corporate bean counters or fly by night consultants.

The main problem IN radio is that they have their own conflicting interests. (Owners, shareholders, management, staff, talent, sales) Owners demand ever increasing ratings, ad billing and lower costs.  The staff expects and deserves a productive work environment and adequate compensation.  Stuck in the middle is management, trashed by everybody... sometimes fairly and often unfairly.  The whole of radio should be on the same page but like in every other business this is rarely the case due to pressures on each facet.  Corporate radio seems to be more interested in the next quarter and fails to look ahead.  That mindset is found throughout American companies and is why certain foreign companies have cleaned our clocks in areas like automobiles.

Responsibilities:

  1. Provide a quality product, maintain a company with decent working conditions and treat employees fairly.

  2. Treat your listeners (customers) fairly and don't heap dishonest "Spin" on them.  They can see right through it and you only look stupid.

  3. Don't always assume sponsors are willing to pay more and more each year despite what "corporate" demands of your billing rates.  They can only pass along so much to their own customers.  A prime example of this was "post 9-11" when the radio conglomerates demanded higher ad rates at the same time sponsors were scaling back on advertising.  The bottom fell out of the ad market.

  4. Mentor future talent.  About as hard to find as a Unicorn nowadays.

  5. Air reputable commercials from reputable companies.  While the pressure to sell time is overwhelming there is a responsibility to the listeners to maintain a certain level of quality.  If that is abused the listeners will have very little respect for any of the ads you run.  This is not just my opinion but those of some of the big names in talk radio including Rush Limbaugh who stated the same opinion at the NAB convention in Philadelphia.

Expectations:

   From the listener - Listen, fill out the ratings diary accurately and don't go off the deep end and harass the employees or advertisers.
    From the Sponsors - Have some understanding that the very nature of talk programming is often controversial.  Don't get frightened like little sheep in a storm with every complaint letter.  Almost always the benefits outweigh the negatives.  Even Howard Stern has delivered for his sponsors ... the ones that could tough it out.

 


Sponsors

The REAL reason why radio exists.

Even in public radio they have sponsors (you and me along with corporate "benefactors")  but this commentary is directed to the commercial aspects of radio.

The sponsors rightfully expect results from the sometimes huge amounts of money spent advertising on radio.  One local talk show in the late 1990s went in two years from $40 a spot to $400 a spot.  The station put on a quality show, the listeners tuned in and most importantly they patronized the sponsors.

Responsibilities:

  1. Provide a worthwhile service or quality product for a fair price.  Far too often in radio you hear spots for snake oil products.  Sure they fund radio but it is an abuse of trust.

  2. Don't always expect people to pay top dollar because you decide to advertise on an expensive talk show.  The average listener is willing to reward a sponsor with business but there are limits.  In my own personal experiance I had a business relationship with a company that started advertising on talk radio.  He wound up having to double his own rates while adding staff that was unable to provide the same quality work.  I wound up having to take my business elsewhere.

Expectations:

    From the stations - Decent ad rates and consistent spot billing.
   
From the listeners - $$$, that's the name of the game.

 


Feedback

Very well thought out.   Reading it, I thought how simple a process like one plus one equals two....but you're correct in saying it's a complicated business where things can easily go awry and quickly!  This should produce lots of feedback .... and I can't help thinking the infamous "penis pump infomercial" will be among them! Will we ever forget it? I think not.

Let's not forget the newspapers here.  They sometimes take on a snobby tone and look down upon talk radio.  Every day articles are quoted on the radio but rarely do the big liberal papers return the favor.  There are some notable local exceptions to this.

Excerpt regarding this page from the message board (edited)
(Listeners) ... powerless to change the direction of the radio medium to their own liking complain even louder and in turn seem even more hypocritical, because they can't bring themselves to turn off their radios. They can't stop listening and the Stations know it. The legion of disgruntled but chronic listeners will quickly point to stats that mark the overall decline in audience share, but those stats are of little concern to the Stations and their Owners as long as the shareholders are satisfied with the quarterly earnings reports. And since Stations are now mostly owned by large conglomerates, a failure in one market can easily be offset by success in another.
and
If I don't like something on the radio or TV ... I find something else that I do like. Some people say that radio sucks ad nauseam, yet don't the courage to simply turn it off. Senseless and chronic complain is their panacea and in the grand scheme of things, accomplishes nothing.


Page created: Monday January 29th, 2001
Modified: Sunday July 7th, 2002
Modified: Sunday February 15th, 2004
Added to PhillyTalk.com: July 2006

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Original to PhillyTalk.com