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Return Of White House Correspondents Dinner Draws Just Under 2 Million Viewers

“The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).”

Doug Pucci

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For the first time in three years, the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) returned in Washington, D.C. on Apr. 30. The 2022 event was emceed by comedian Trevor Noah.

In his set, the “Daily Show” host cracked several jokes about the news media — especially towards Fox News. In one if the memorable lines of the night, Noah told the dinner audience, “It is risky making jokes these days… I mean, we all saw what happened at the Oscars… What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway, and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?”

The 2022 White House Correspondents Dinner averaged 1.85 million total viewers in the 10-11 p.m. Eastern hour on CNN, according to Nielsen Media Research. The return of a sitting POTUS gave the telecast a bump up in its audience figures, as it easily topped the most recent pre-pandemic ceremonies from 2018 (1.35 million viewers) and 2019 (0.95 million viewers).

President Biden is the first sitting U.S. President in six years to have attended the WHCD — a nugget even he had amusingly quipped, “It’s understandable: we had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID.”

Prior to 2018 (but with the exception of 2014), the White House Correspondents Dinner had also been broadcast on MSNBC and/or Fox News Channel, in addition to its regular CNN outlet. For four out of the five-year period from 2013 thru 2017, the event had regularly drawn well over two million viewers combined across multiple networks. Like this year, CNN was WHCD’s lone broadcaster back in 2014, having then delivered just 1.09 million viewers.

The high recent watermark for the WHCD was set in 2016, for President Barack Obama’s final Dinner and which was emceed by then-Comedy Central host Larry Wilmore. That drew 4.9 million viewers, including 3.02 million from CNN alone.

The following is a year-by-year viewership track for the past eight White House Correspondents Dinners (focusing on the ceremony’s final hour):

2022: 1.85 million (CNN)

2019: 0.95 million (CNN)

2018: 1.35 million (CNN)

2017: 2.38 million (1.69 million on CNN, 0.69 million on MSNBC)

2016: 4.90 million (3.02 million on CNN, 1.14 million on FNC, 0.74 million on MSNBC)

2015: 2.60 million (1.18 million on CNN, 0.89 million on FNC, 0.53 million on MSNBC)

2014: 1.09 million (CNN)

2013: 3.24 million (1.49 million on CNN 1.49, 1.11 million on FNC, 0.64 million on MSNBC)

Cable news averages for April 25-May 1, 2022:

Total Day (April 25-May 1 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.497 million viewers; 242,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.686 million viewers; 74,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.541 million viewers; 109,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.134 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.119 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.117 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.113 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (April 25-30 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 1 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.319 million viewers; 360,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.179 million viewers; 123,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.755 million viewers; 156,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.193 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.174 million viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.155 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.139 million viewers; 24,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.070 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.048 million viewers; 8,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.572 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.538 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.498 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.472 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.465 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.346 million viewers

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.194 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.128 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.072 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.884 million viewers

30. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.122 million viewers

41. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.853 million viewers

 • Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.723 million viewers

 • Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.571 million viewers

 • The Daily Show (CMDY, Mon. 4/25/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.428 million viewers

 • Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.424 million viewers

 • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.227 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  CNN, MSNBC, HBO and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.639 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.591 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.521 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.511 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 4/27/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.509 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 4/26/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.490 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.487 million adults 25-54

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.478 million adults 25-54

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 4/29/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.456 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 4/28/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.425 million adults 25-54

46. White House Correspondents Dinner “2022” (CNN, Sat. 4/30/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.291 million adults 25-54

55. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 4/25/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.274 million adults 25-54

85. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 5/1/2022 11:00 PM, 35 min.) 0.237 million adults 25-54

137. The Daily Show (CMDY, Tue. 4/26/2022 11:00 PM, 31 min.) 0.170 million adults 25-54

147. Forensic Files “Disrobed” (HLN, late Sat. 4/30/2022 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.163 million adults 25-54

211. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 598” (HBO, Fri. 4/29/2022 10:00 PM, 58 min.) 0.132 million adults 25-54

 • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee “Episode 7212” (TBS, Thu. 4/28/2022 10:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.073 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bram Weiser

    May 10, 2022 at 3:21 am

    What about C-SPAN’s viewership for the Dinner which I believe they aired as well?

    They might not be Nielsen clients in the same way that other channels/networks are, so getting their viewership might be about as hard as getting an NPR station’s listenership in a radio ratings survey of a market, but leaving out ANY mention of them here undercounts the viewership that this event got.

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BNM Writers

Rachel Maddow Interview With E. Jean Carroll Provides MSNBC Major Boost

Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

Doug Pucci

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Prominent interviews with two notable news figures were in focus on the week of May 15. On the night of May 15, former “Elle” magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.  

Their guest spots took place six days following her legal victory against Donald Trump in which a jury found him $5 million liable for sexual abuse and defamation. Carroll and Kaplan stated they’d seek to expand those damages due to Trump’s defamatory comments about her during his infamous CNN town hall from May 10. (Carroll officially made that expansion request to the court on May 23.)

As stated in the show list at the end of this article, the hour drew 2.414 million total viewers including 276,000 within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. Outside of FNC’s The Five, it was cable news’ top telecast of the week in both total viewers and adults 25-54.

In addition, it was MSNBC’s most-watched telecast since the Apr. 24 edition of Maddow (then, that week’s top cable news telecast overall) which came just hours following news of the dismissals of two of Maddow’s former prime-time competitors, Tucker Carlson from Fox News and Don Lemon from CNN.

Airing directly opposite Maddow on May 15 were FNC’s Hannity (1.974 million total viewers / 194,000 adults 25-54) and CNN Primetime  (454,000 total viewers / 114,000 adults 25-54) — the latter of which that 9 p.m. hour will soon be anchored by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, the moderator of the aforementioned Trump town hall.

Leading out of Maddow on MSNBC was Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (1.868 million total viewers / 150,000 adults 25-54) which offered post-analysis of Carroll’s guest appearance.

For the following evening (May 16), another NBC-owned news network scored another key interview: mega-billionaire Elon Musk, with financial journalist David Faber on CNBC.

Within the 70-minute discussion, Faber pressed the now-former Twitter CEO on his controversial tweets that spouted unverified conspiracy theories. Musk responded, “I’ll say what I want to say and if the consequences of that are losing money, so be it.” Former NBCUniversal advertising head Linda Yaccarino took over as CEO on June 5.

CNBC’s Musk interview delivered 257,000 viewers and 54,000 adults 25-54, the network’s top hour for the week in both data categories. Nonetheless, it could not top five hours of the Fox Business Network for that week, in total viewers: Varney & Company (the 9-10 a.m. hour on Mon. May 15, 274,000 viewers; and the entire 9 a.m.-noon slot on Fri. May 19, avg. 266,000 viewers) and the Thu. May 18 edition of Kudlow (271,000 viewers).

Cable news averages for May 15-21, 2023:

Total Day (May 15-21 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.097 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.715 million viewers; 83,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.361 million viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.188 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.118 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.105 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.103 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.081 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (May 15-20 @ 8-11 p.m.; May 21 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.413 million viewers; 136,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.124 million viewers; 120,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.371 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.308 million viewers; 34,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.138 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.128 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.118 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.090 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.060 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.802 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.801 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.673 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.504 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.420 million viewers

6. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.414 million viewers

7. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.268 million viewers

8. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.221 million viewers

9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.087 million viewers

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.022 million viewers

185. Smerconish (CNN, Sat. 5/20/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.636 million viewers

207. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.587 million viewers

421. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.294 million viewers

441. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.274 million viewers

464. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.257 million viewers

500. Highway Thru Hell “(1118) Rise Up” (TWC, Sun. 5/21/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.232 million viewers

705. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.151 million viewers

860. FBI Files (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.102 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.330 million adults 25-54

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.281 million adults 25-54

3. Rachel Maddow Show “E. Jean Carroll Interview” (MSNBC, Mon. 5/15/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.276 million adults 25-54

4. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 5/18/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.266 million adults 25-54

6. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 5/16/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.264 million adults 25-54

7. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.245 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 5/19/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.242 million adults 25-54

9. Special Report/Biden-Medal of Valor (FOXNC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:46 AM, 26 min.) 0.231 million adults 25-54

10. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Mon. 5/15/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.221 million adults 25-54

51. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Wed. 5/17/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.168 million adults 25-54

221. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 5/19/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.087 million adults 25-54

319. Eric Bolling The Balance (NMX, Thu. 5/18/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.069 million adults 25-54

414. CNBC Special Report “16 May 2023 Elon Musk with David Faber” (CNBC, Tue. 5/16/2023 6:00 PM, 70 min.) 0.054 million adults 25-54

484. Highway Thru Hell “(1117) Know When To Hold Em” (TWC, Wed. 5/17/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.046 million adults 25-54

534. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54

586. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 5/19/2023 9:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.036 million adults 25-54

630. Corrupt Crimes (COURT TV, Sun. 5/21/2023 7:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.032 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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BNM Writers

News Radio Hosts Must Remain Weary of Stories Created By AI

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true. It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”

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One of the few things I love about social media in the 21st century is how it shrinks the world. If I see something interesting, I can DM or tweet at someone to see if they’d talk about it and maybe come on my radio show or on my podcast.

Sometimes, I get ignored. But more often than not, I at least get a response, and it’s usually a yes (Tom Brady still ignores my requests, though. Most recently, it was my invitation to be the 4th in a charity golf outing. I will never give up!).

Of late, it’s how I got baseball legend Fred Lynn (@19fredlynn), the guy who is organizing kids to mow lawns for vets and seniors in all 50 states (@iamrodneysmith), and of course, the genius behind the Dad Jokes Twitter feed (@Dadsaysjokes).

It also led me to Nathan Lands. He’s a young entrepreneur who specializes in artificial intelligence. He lives in Japan and runs the AI newsletter Lore.com. When all the ChatGPT stuff started vomiting out of my Twitter feed, in a sea of thread seaweed, he was some clear water of smart, thoughtful, and informative post … like he’d been in the space for more than a minute and wasn’t directly trying to profit off my reading his stuff.

After corresponding for a bit, he came on my show, and since then we’ve been messaging on and off as he’s been managing an explosion of attention. He’s seen his followers nearly triple to about 47,000. Meanwhile, Elon Musk himself publicly pushed him to use a subscription model, which he dutifully did, and is now charging a buck a month to loyal followers to see a little extra.

Nathan’s probably getting enough for a case of Sapporo every month, at least so far.

From my journalistic perch, I was curious: What about information in this era of artificial intelligence?

One thing I work on quite a bit – and think about all the time – is how to verify information. I am semi-obsessed with primary sources, and figuring out what’s true has become increasingly difficult over the last few years of competing “alternative facts”. Now, artificial intelligence is adding a layer that, frankly, has been a little too frightening for me to fully engage… yet.

I thought it would be interesting to ask Nathan his thoughts about AI and this ability – or inability – to separate fact from fiction in 2023.

“Things are going to get way harder to figure out what’s true,” he admitted. “It’s already getting hard to tell when images are fake.”

What I found interesting about the discussion is that Mr. Lands came back to an old-school name: CNN. With all the hysteria surrounding Chris Licht’s tenure there, perhaps, a brand like that could shine through if it could burnish a reputation for consistently reporting things that are actually true. If he can succeed in convincing people the network has a minimal bias, it could harken back to the Ted Turner days when the world turned to CNN whenever a global story hit.

Of course, Licht’s role in this is only one of several ifs. First and foremost, the network would need to truly figure out the facts consistently, a matter that will only get more difficult. It also needs to convince a significant portion of the public that views it as having a political bias.

But the challenge of being right is the biggest if.

“(CNN) will likely eat up fake stories that are produced by AI soon,” Lands said. “Not sure if you saw that one photo that spread a week or two ago about an attack on the Pentagon, and it actually moved the stock market.”

The scary part is that the technology – and the fakes – are only going to get more sophisticated and more believable.

“In a year from now, the stuff that anyone can create is going to be so good, it’s going to cause some pretty large issues,” Lands said.

Scary.

The person doing it could be a Russian national, the Chinese, or “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds”.

As a radio host, we get half-truths and no-truths all the time. Thank goodness, the morning show doesn’t have time for the minimally screened call because certain claims can have a shred of something true, but the conclusions from them go quite far on the imagination spectrum. Saying something and then hanging up means disseminating fact and fiction in real time takes up a lot of audio real estate and can slow down a good show – but if it happens, it’s a host’s responsibility to try and figure it out. If not, then an entire audience could walk away thinking something is true when it’s not.

But what if we can’t figure it out in real-time? Or at all? And we’re the ones actually trying.

Scary.

Buckle up, always be skeptical and always figure out the primary source … if you can.

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Greg Moceri Knows The More News/Talk Changes, The More It Stays The Same

“I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing.”

Ryan Hedrick

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Greg Moceri has played a prominent role in the talk radio industry as a consultant and program director for many decades. He began his career at WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and later achieved great success at WTIC in Hartford. He then became the Program Director and format Coordinator at WSB in Atlanta.

Throughout his career, Moceri has worked with a diverse range of clients, including Entercom, Bonneville, Salem Media, Tribune, and iHeart, helping them achieve unprecedented success. Additionally, he has played a crucial part in the success of multiple syndicated talk shows.

Upon taking over WSB in 1993, the station was ranked 12th and struggling. Undeterred, Moceri led WSB to great success with his visionary ideas and innovative tactics. From 1995 to 2000, he propelled the station to the top spot among the coveted 25-54 demographic.

During a sit-down with Barrett News Media, Moceri spoke about Rush Limbaugh’s influential legacy and its impact on the industry. He also shared insightful tips on bringing out the best in radio personalities and his expectations for the upcoming Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ryan Hedrick: As a news/talk radio consultant, what do you think are the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

Greg Moceri: It’s the state of the business on the revenue side. The revenue side is not my bailiwick, but you must know the challenges. So much of radio has been cut into by other mediums. However, I would much rather be in the spoken word format on the radio than the music side by a mile. There are still plenty of opportunities in the spoken word for revenue. It’s still an incredibly viable format, and I’m excited for the future.

RH: Could you provide some information about changes in news/talk programming over the years and any current trends you have observed?

GM: That’s a tricky question because a lot remains the same. The format itself, news/talk, leans conservative. It’s an excellent vehicle for people who want to relate to what’s going on in their community and their world. If you have a special connection to a host or a personality, that’s nirvana for someone running a news/talk station.

There are some incredible opportunities. Syndication has grown over the years, and so has the number of syndicated talents. There are ways in which you can make syndicated talent part of your radio station and not consider that they’re piped in somewhere and not there. With the need for more familiarity with younger listeners, recruiting those people is getting more complicated and complex, and that’s the number one problem I see.

RH: What do you think about the people who replaced Rush Limbaugh after his passing, and what made Rush Limbaugh stand out so much?

GM: That is subjective to everyone’s point of view. Nobody could replace Rush; I don’t care who it is. Rush had that incredible ability and talent to be able to contextualize. He did everything I always thought a talk host should do to become an indelible part of your life. Some good people are coming up. Rush was fabulous at pointing out the absurd, a crucial ingredient to connection and engagement.

There’s not a lot that’s different to being a talk show host than there was 20 years ago. You must still be entertaining, use great audio, emotionally connect with your audience, and be innovative. Rush could put things into a context you could understand; that was his greatest talent to me.

RH: How can we effectively engage and entertain listeners in today’s environment when so many different platforms and options are vying for their attention?

GM: I’m a big believer in focusing on the basics. If you’re a program director of these stations, an executive producer, or a host, you must be as local as possible to your community. I know for many companies, that’s part of the challenge. The main challenge is whether you have a budget to be local rather than local for local sake. There are some incredible syndicated hosts out there that present a good show. I would choose those hosts over somebody that is local but isn’t that good. 

It’s essential; you have to be local as much as possible. When I was running WSB in Atlanta and working for Cox Media for so many years, we invested in research. That’s what’s missing. I wish people had the budget to invest in focus groups. Many stations still have it, but it’s different from how it used to be.

RH: With the growing popularity of podcasts and on-demand audio content, how can traditional news/talk radio stations adapt to remain relevant and attract new listeners?

GM: It’s another vehicle to the spoken word in a different format. In the end, podcasting has provided talented people with an actual broadcast. Podcasts are more personal than they are as a radio station. It’s just another one of the arsenals that’s available in the spoken word. It’s growing, it’s excellent, and it’s also starting to get tethered out. In other words, the good podcasters will stay, and those who aren’t so good will not.

RH: Could you give examples of successful and innovative programming approaches in the news/talk radio industry?

GM: You have a single host, two people, or an ensemble. You have to fill 38 minutes in an hour, you’re selling time, and many things are the same as they were. Now you have social media. There’s more opportunity as a potential arsenal of information you could pass along and connect to your audience. There has not been a lot of innovation. One great thing is more and more stations have been able to find an FM signal to go to and enhance their ability to reach more people. There are still some AM stations that are doing well.

We need innovation from the sales side. We have a lot of good content people, a lot of great programmers. There’s still too much focus on national sales instead of building regional sales because it puts people in a box. You and I know that the people with the money are 55-plus. Who cares whether they’re 35 or 40? There’s a stigma involved that thinking anyone over 55 is not as worthy as the national folks believe.

RH: What will happen to news/talk radio as technology advances? Are there any exciting technologies or trends that you are looking forward to?

GM: I am intrigued to see if AI will enhance or eliminate portions of radio. That’s the experimentation people will end up doing. We must continue to find great talent to emerge to be part of our business. I find that exciting. I would like to tell you that finding ways to enhance your emotional connection with your hosts to build across social platforms is essential.

RH: When you hear someone like Bob Pittman, the CEO of iHeartMedia, state that they won’t be shutting down broadcast stations, what are your thoughts on that?

GM: Radio is still a viable business, I read the article you’re referring to, and Pittman said, ‘Radio has never been in a better place.’ That statement could be arguable, but it’s great to hear that kind of endorsement from someone influential in our business for so long.

RH: You will speak at the first annual Barrett News Media Summit in September. Please provide insights on what distinguishes this event from other industry conferences or gatherings.

GM: So many conferences, seminars, and things like that, try to put too much into them. For instance, they may have a panel with six people on it and only 30 minutes to talk. I don’t think that’s the way [Jason] Barrett is looking at doing this. I think people really want to have some time to engage. You guys have put together some really good people. The more time you can spend with quality people, the better it will be. 

RH: How do you coach and train radio hosts to improve their performance and build a stronger connection with their audience?

GM: This is something that I am passionate about. I got into the business, evolved, and entered a bigger market. I worked at WTIC in Hartford and went to WSB in Atlanta, and then I wanted to come home with my family in Grand Rapids. What was interesting to me in that process was that I learned a lot about how to coach. It’s not about coddling or making excuses for bad performances.

Some people have said, and rightfully so, that some program directors are too critical of the people they’re supposed to help and coach. There are fundamentals that good programmers know inherently. The key to me is that you must have great relationships with your talent to build a better station. How do you do that? To me, it’s much more about emotional connectivity. Talent always does best with praise if it’s sincere and they don’t think you’re playing them.

RH: Do you think radio executives will start prioritizing influencers and individuals with large social media followings over traditional radio professionals who have gained experience in the field?

GM: It’s an opportunity for people in radio to hire people in that fashion. Some of the best talents I’ve ever known, coached, or worked with didn’t come up traditionally. Erick Erickson is a guy who I worked with at Cox Media. He didn’t have the traditional deep pipes, but he gave me context. He checked the boxes; he made me think. The influencers to me are the talent. Talent influences how much money we make and whether the station is doing well. Influencers on Tik Tok adapt to what they know well. Some of those people will be in traditional media as they get older.

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