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(SPORTS TALK) Callers Are Horrible for Radio

6-26-2013

I was taught one of the best lessons in radio years ago by Rush Limbaugh. After hearing my morning sports radio show, Rush asked me why I take so many phone calls. I said, "My show is about the listener and their responses to my topics." He actually started laughing at me. I have to tell you I was very upset, to say the least, that my approach to radio, in Rush's eyes, was flawed. He asked me, "Would you ever let an amateur run your radio show?" I said of course not. He said, "Then why let a caller?" I've never forgotten that lesson. I was one of those fools who believed the response of the caller was more important than the response of the listener. I used to actually count callers when I first started in radio some 20-plus years ago.
 
Any host who turns his show over to callers or a guest host cannot carry a radio show to save his life. I love the approach Rush has to his show. It's a privilege to come on his show. Most sports talk hosts in America today will open up the lines and invite the most hated person in radio to his show...MIKE IN MIAMI...The guy who calls a host's show every day and every other show on the station.
 
Chronic callers are brutal, especially in sports talk. They drive other listeners away from a station. Caller-driven radio is bad radio. Stop doing it. Here's an example of bringing chronic callers to your station. "What is your favorite Miami drink?" Really? All you're doing is hiding the fact you have very little content and you're not prepared to deliever what PPM wants, compelling content to your listeners. I love to drink but I would never offer that up as a talking point on my show. It only leads to chronic callers and that's bad radio.
 
Are callers good for a radio station? Yes, but to a point. Trades, deaths, championships. Absolutely. You want listener reaction to those topics. Give the listener the feeling they are part of that title run. But doing every day is how you invite chronic callers. They are like bums you see panhandling for cash on street corners in every city. If your host has great content and can carry segment to segment, you will not need a host who trolls for calls or asks, "What is your favorite sports movie?"

We have come so far in sports talk radio. I used to do those weak topics to generate callers when all I had to do was talk and people have always been attracted to my views. If you are a PD today and you ever hear a host throw topics out to generate calls, you need to ask yourself if that's the type of station you're looking to program. 
 
Dan Sileo, also known as "The Bonecrusher," is a sports talk show host who has worked at KGO & KNBR-WDAE and WQAM. He can be reached at Umiam93@yahoo.com and on Twitter at @dansileoshow




(9/23/2013 8:35:54 PM)
Most talk radio callers suck, that's the plain truth. Doesn't matter if they agree or disagree with the host, they tend to be unable to articulate their POV and will repeat their point over and over again as if someone using the subject again in the predicate proves their subject.

- Barney Ross
(6/28/2013 10:12:56 AM)
Callers can be a big distraction from the core product, that the radio station is offering its listeners. With a talk station, the core product is the host's personality, perspective and his/her ability to coherently express their deeper essence. THAT is what listeners are connecting to, and THAT is the human capital that stations/management have contracted and invested in. When the host is not bringing this to the airwaves, the station is not delivering its core product. There are so many factors that can inhibit this delivery; but a caller's attempt to hijack the show can and should be easily deflected. Focus your energies on the other (more intagible) obstructions that get in the way of the hosts voice and vision coming through.

- Radio Roadkill
(6/28/2013 6:10:26 AM)
John...Thats what MAKES RUSH AWESOME..He is Original!!...Ur right...If U can't deliever content and lean on ur callers than u sound just like the 98% of the host in America!!..UR not Original..U HAVE NOTHING!!

- Dan Sileo
(6/27/2013 8:39:18 AM)
This isn't brilliant commentary at all! First, Rush is the exception. Not the rule. Comparing yourself to Rush is ridiculous. Secondly, callers are like spice. Your radio show is just a bland talking head uttering the same opinion over and over and the trying to validate that opinion over and over. Callers add the flavor that make the show listenable.
Now, you do have a point about the same callers dragging a show down, but that is where you need a strong call screen.

- John
(6/26/2013 9:03:46 AM)
I couldn't agree with you more. WQAM in Miami has this ex-con CutlerRidge Laz call in all day from his warehouse job throwing out his felonious opinions. Makes for LAME radio.

- Rick from Davie

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