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Lisa Miller - "How I Got Into Radio"

The Next Great Format

2-13-2013

Every day Im asked: What is the next great format, and  when will it be here? The answer: Its already here. Whats its name? Ive heard every type of description, definition, and clever alliteration proposed as a moniker, but Ill call it Contemporary Talk.Yes,Talk.

Its been around for 20-plus years. Its neither political nor controversial for the sake of controversy. It doesnt lean left or right. Its just damn good, and its been successful for a long time.

Where does this new format exist? Its everywhere. Its in the top 10 markets, cities in the South, markets in the  North, West Coast, East Coast, and even in the Midwest. Its in single markets, its syndicated, and its mostly in
morning drive. 

Yes, its the incredibly successful talk shows that air on music stations every morning, Monday through Friday and sometimes as a best of on Saturday. Its on Top 40, AOR, Classic Rock, Hot AC, and sometimes on Triple A, but its never on a Talk-formatted station.

 Its Bob & Tom, Kevin & Bean, Kidd Kraddick, and WTMX-FM/Chicagos Eric & Kathy, all of whom, for more than 10 years, have prevailed as dominant Talk radio shows in their respective markets and, for some, in multitudes of markets. Its Contemporary Talk. The likes of WNCI/ Columbus, OH-based Dave & Jimmy, WLDI/West Palm Beachs Kevin, Virginia & Jason, JohnJay & Rich, and Elvis Duran have been kicking out talk shows with minuscule amounts of music and talk as the primary component.

It doesnt require music, yet its always on a music-intensive station. It doesnt require the audience to do anything except listen for long periods of time, and it dominates the market.

These are shows that have consistently held the number one position in their core demo, and many demos on either side. Male-leaning shows attract females, female-leaning shows attract males, and neither sex is ashamed to admit their love for their favorite show. The men of Chicago are very comfortable with telling you they listen to Eric & Kathy, and the women of Indianapolis are proud to wear anything that bears the names Bob & Tom. Listeners in Columbus and West Palm have been fine for many years with listening to Top 40 shows that play no music.

What does the lack of music do to these shows? It allows people to listen to a show outside their P1 zone and do so without the fear of being pushed away by a song  that isnt in their wheelhouse. It allows for P1, P2, P3, and beyond, because listeners only have to like the show.

How does that thrive in a PPM- and music-dominated marketplace? By providing what listeners want.The news, the latest scoop on celebrities, comedy, entertainment, brilliantly created bits produced by exceptional talent who know how to entertain and captivate an audience that is so loyal that the TSL for these shows is typically tied or surpassed only by the markets public or religious station, and no other station comes anywhere near the cume.

Why are these shows so popular? Unduplicated content, created and produced by talent who know their audience and have a relationship with their listeners. If you miss any part of the show, you risk not having the information you need to communicate with your friends and co-workers. If you are not in the know, you place yourself in peril of being out of the loop.

While many stations in a market can and do play the same music, only one can have these shows on its air. Thats a calling card for your sales force. Its what separates you from the pack, and, given time to develop, these shows can become the must buy for every advertiser. Think of the pre-sell: We have all number one shows. Even your markets best station cant always claim that.

The first company smart enough to realize the power of these shows and use them to create a 24/7 format will have the only station in the market offering all the best programming in radio. Think about a station that lines up number one shows, many of which can be secured for barter or reasonable cash + barter, and that takes on the stations that are playing the same songs over and over again. That station will have a very good chance of being number one in every daypart and separating itself from the competition by many share points.

So you can wait for this to happen in your market and wish it was you, or you can be a visionary, see the future, and give your audience what they have said for years is what they want.Then enjoy being number one.

 Lisa Miller is president of Miller Broadcast Management in Chicago and can be reached at
lisa@millerbroadcast.com or 312-454-1111.




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