What’s on the minds of those most immersed in the radio industry? Last Friday, June 20, three members of our team took the trip up to New York to find out.
The annual Talkers New York meeting was held in downtown Manhattan at India House. Before the programming got underway, the morning started with a networking breakfast, offering time to chat with the other attendees: ranging from SVPs of Programming and CEOs of large networks, to hosts of some of your favorite nationally syndicated shows, to local hosts and producers in markets across the country, to independent podcast hosts, to…you get the idea.
Morning keynote speaker, Sean Hannity, talked about an issue highly relevant for him: the current inability to fully measure radio listenership on new platforms, including podcast and app downloads of shows. “The conversation needs to change,” according to Hannity. “The question is becoming how to get technology on our side.”
Longtime respected WFAN sports radio talk show host, Mike Francesa, echoed the sentiment that the rating system for new technology needs to change. “It’s not fair that it’s not [rated],” he says. Francesa is on the air for five-and-a-half hours each weekday on WFAN in New York City. Sitting in the audience at the meeting, there wasn’t one person who couldn’t feel the gravity of how much this man loves sports. “Sports is what Hollywood was in the 40s and 50s.”
Francesa explained that his job has changed over the years, saying that when he started out more than 20 years ago he had a lot more information than his audience going into each show. But now he and his audience pretty much have the same amount of information going into the show. “You can’t overwhelm them with knowledge anymore.” He says sports talk show hosts now have to give the audience other things, particularly context. He says sports radio is not only just here to stay, it’s actually “at the beginning of a revolution.” With 750 full-time sports radio stations in the U.S, “sports is the crown prince of content,” Francesa says. The key: sports are live and local.
Speaking of local, the state of local talk radio was the subject of a panel of hosts from local markets including Springfield, New York, Baltimore and St. Louis. Morning host at WOLB in Baltimore, Larry Young, says for him it is about making sure each story he talks about is local and relevant for the family, the mom, the child listening to his show in Baltimore City – talking about things his listeners, his friends care about. McGraw Milhaven, morning host at KTRS in St. Louis, says if he’s at the grocery store in the evening and someone approaches him to talk about a story he talked about on air that morning, that’s what local means to him. Even if something might be more national in scope, if it affects the lives of his listeners, it is important to him to cover. To illustrate, he gave the example of a story about an issue in baseball – St. Louis is a big baseball town.
One day is hardly enough time to talk about the current exciting radio landscape and the direction in which it is going. New technology is certainly playing a role, allowing us to hear podcasts online of most shows after they air. We all know radio is a hugely powerful medium to reach targeted audiences and garner public involvement across the country. The question is now becoming how do measurement companies take into consideration all of these new technologies to most wholly represent to us the full power and reach of radio?
It seems we’ll all need to stay tuned…