I’m going to hit the boilerplate information at the top. Then I can venture into the complex, funny and curious mind of John Curley.
Curley has worked alongside Shari Elliker on KIRO since January 2021. He had been paired with Tom Tangney on The Tom & Curley Show, which debuted in 2014. Tangney had been at KIRO for nearly 30 years. Before that, he was an Emmy Award-winning TV host.
Curley explained Tangney’s departure this way.
“Tom’s mother was 94 while she struggled through the pandemic,” Curley said.
“He’s in his mid-60s, and I think he essentially understood life is ephemeral, and he had other things to experience. Perhaps he felt the job wasn’t as much fun as it once had been.”
Curley described his former partner as a polar opposite when it came to politics.
“You could hit your brother on the head with a telephone,” Curley said. “Then, a short while later, you’d be playing Nerf football in the yard because there was nobody else to play with. That’s the way it was.”
You just buried differences you were bound to have that day and moved on.
“Patch it up quick,” Curley explained. Tom and I had that brother relationship. We’d go at it on the air, and after a commercial break, we’d be fine again.”
Politics was a contentious issue between the duo, but Curley said on the radio today that the Left vs. Right thing doesn’t work anymore.
“The audience feels the tension.”
The pandemic affected Curley’s life hard and forced him to redefine his priorities. “I lost half a million dollars,” Curley said. “My auction business cratered.” Still, John Curley Auction Entertainment is doing quite well, thank you. The man could sell hair extensions to Donald Trump. Maybe even dreadlocks.
One afternoon on the air, Tom Tangney pissed Curley off something fierce. So Curley set down his headset and went outside in the middle of the show. Broadcasting from his cabin, he figured he had some chores to do anyway.
“I didn’t want to scream at him, so I hopped on my tractor and took care of a few things,” Curley said.
You might ask how that went over.
“I know a big fan who listens to our show a lot. She said it was 20 minutes of intense radio. She thought Tom was going to have a heart attack, wondering where I had gone. But he is one of the most good-natured human beings I’ve known. Nothing phases him. He’d laugh at negative text messages sent his way and never took anything personally.”
Sounds like a eulogy, but Tom Tangney is alive and well.
Curley never looks at his messages at work.
“The IT guy would call me and ask me to delete 87,000 unread emails. I guess I was clogging the system.”
Curley is an impossibly funny, and it turns out, extemporaneous guy. He can really think on his feet. A woman in the office, Stephanie, asked Curley if he could come back and take a look at a video. The guy in the video was drunk as a skunk, holding a mop and fixing to smash in a window on a truck.
“Stephanie asked me to do a voice-over, kind of like a baseball play-by-play description of what the guy was doing.”
Curley did. And it was hilarious.
“The man fixes his stance and starts reigning blows on the window with the mop handle. That’s 14 attempts if you’re counting at home.” That’s just a snippet. The man goes on to climbing on the roof and quickly falling off the relatively short roof. Somebody get some salami and cream cheese and rub it in this guy’s face. He’s down.”
We laugh at an idiot’s expense, but he deserved it.
As the kids say, the video was picked up and went ‘viral.’
Curley is a little odd. And I mean that in the most fantastic way.
He lives in a 300-square-foot cabin with no indoor toilet. But that’s not the odd part.
“I never watched The Godfather until recently when I was flying back from Paris,” Curley said.
“I remember reading about Marlon Brando and how he worked the scene. The cat with him wasn’t even supposed to be in the scene. Somehow the cat was on the set and tried to get off. He jumped into Brando’s lap before the take when he’s in his office for his daughter’s wedding. Here is Brando, just petting the cat. It’s biting at his hand, all while this guy is asking for a favor. When Don Corleone comes to a decision, he sets the cat on the desk, and it disappears. It just all organically developed.”
Yup. That’s a taste of what it’s like talking to John Curley.
He’s tight with his brother Chuck, always has been. They made a pact when they were kids.
“We were having breakfast and reading the ‘commercials’ on the side of the cereal boxes. On one box was an ad for the movie Star Wars, which had just come out. We vowed to never see the movie. A sacred pact.”
They never did. To compound matters, Curley said he interviewed George Lucas on a junket a while back, and Lucas asked him what he thought of the latest installment of the series.
“I told him I never saw any of them,” Curley said, once again, no trace of embarrassment. “I can still see his face.”
You had to figure if there was no indoor toilet in his cabin; a television was not part of the scene either.
He’s never seen Cheers, Titanic or ET. So Curley gets a pass on those. None are what I would refer to as required viewing. Besides, there was still room on the door for Jack.
If he were ignorant of movies and television, you’d assume the guy read books all his life. You’d be wrong. But he did catch up.
“I read magazines or newspapers to be current, but I had never spent time reading books. I’d never read Dickens, Slaughterhouse Five, Great Expectations.”
Yup, no embarrassment.
“I knew I had a lot of catching up to do. I also knew television was like heroin. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard about people sitting at home and binging a series. I’d just feel empty. I’d never do it.”
His father subscribed to one of those book series where if you purchased Little Women, you’d get The Great Gatsby for free! “Collect all l00 of our classic books,” and get a free bowl of soup.
“I plowed through them all,” Curley said.
“I do see why it’s important to read classics. Not just going through the motions, but what you can really take away from them. I don’t feel any smarter. A great sense of satisfaction. Now I see that reading is important, and I’m not just going through the motions.”
When his father passed away, he and his brother Chuck couldn’t help themselves from goofing around–even at the funeral.
“Each of us were on opposite sides of the grave,” Curley said. “Chuck was lifting up his leg as if he was going to climb in. I did the same. What we realized and what we were saying is, we recognized we were the next ones in a grave. One of us was going to be first. We wondered how many more summers each of us had left.”
His mother left him some money when she passed, as well as 10 acres of land. Curley said he sees all sorts of snakes, cougars, bears, and bobcats.
“I know a guy named Larry who tracked a cougar who had jumped over some fences,” Curley explained. “He tracked it down and killed it.”
A couple of weeks later, Larry invited Curley over to dinner. While he was enjoying his meal, Larry’s wife Dana asked Curley how he was enjoying the cougar meat.
Amazingly, Curley didn’t drop his fork and stop eating. He wasn’t repulsed.
“It’s just a cat,” he said. “I’ve only got a couple more bites, just let me finish.”
Just as he lives off the radar, Curley said he doesn’t have a lot of friends.
“People assume if you’re on radio and TV, you hang out with all sorts of people. I don’t. My mother told me she was going to throw a surprise party for me on my 26th birthday. She said she couldn’t do it because she couldn’t think of any of my friends.”
I’m pretty sure he loves his brother Chuck, even if Curley didn’t say it. Maybe it’s an Irish thing. Chuck is a lawyer and enjoys a fine life. Still, Chuck is very intrigued by the way his brother’s life turned out.
Chuck told his brother that he’d followed all the rules in life. He said he completed all the assignments on time, worked the extra credit problems, went to law school, graduated top of his class, had a rainy day fund, changed the oil in the car before he was required to, changed batteries in his home fire alarms regularly. Chuck played life by the numbers.
‘You’re further along than I am,’ Chuck told his brother. ‘You don’t play by any of the rules. You have nice clothes. You’re successful.’ It’s not that it bothered his brother. Instead, he was just amazed at how far his brother had gone coloring outside the lines.
“We talk all the time,” Curley said. “He’ll call when he’s driving into the office.”
The magic still happens when Curley visits his brother at Christmas.
“I’ll sneak up behind him and start pounding on his back for no reason.”
When they were younger, one of them would just start doing jumping jacks out of nowhere.
“My brother would be watching TV, and I’d start doing jumping jacks. That was really a warning. It symbolized that ‘Grand Dad had something to say.’ That meant I was about to drag him to the carpet, put him in a wrestling move, and fart in his face.”
When they get together today, if one starts doing jumping jacks, it’s a clear signal for the other to start running.
A Billy Bob Thornton Story.
Curley interviewed actor, director, and writer Billy Bob Thornton on a press junket. He said you sit a lot closer to your interview subject than you’d think. Almost knee to knee.
“You sit around with the star and wait for them to adjust the lights,” Curley said. “Billy Bob, like most of them, was polite. But they’ve been answering the same questions for hours. You can understand how this could be hard for them.”
They were at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, asking each other which way they were going to sit for the interview.
“I’d never seen that switchblade thing,” Curley said without embarrassment. He meant to say Sling Blade. “We were just waiting, and I told him I figured he was sent a lot of scripts.”
Billy Bob politely smiled and nodded.
“I’ve got a great movie idea,” Curley told Thornton. Keep in mind, Curley is a guy who hasn’t really seen a lot of movies. It figures he’d have an idea for one.
“I could tell Billy Bob was thrilled,” Curley said sarcastically. “I told him it was a true story, and he said, ‘Let me hear it.’”
Curley did. It’s a rather long and convoluted story, but the critical component is that Billy Bob listened to Curley’s pitch.
‘Hollywood would have ruined your story,’ Billy Bob told Curley. Curley asked Billy Bob what he would do with the story.
It’s not essential here what Billy Bob told him, just because Curley had the brass balls to pitch a goofy story to an accomplished Hollywood guy like Thornton.
Curley presumably got his dry wit and humor from his father, Jack Curley. He kept his father’s last voicemail before he died.
“He told me he’d just come from the doctor,” Curley said. “It’s cancer, he told me. The fast kind.”
The senior Curley told his son if he didn’t have any plans on Sunday, he should come out to see him and say goodbye.
“I got to the house and saw my father,” Curley said. “I asked him how he was feeling.”
‘Anxious,’ his father told him.
“I said, why? You’ve been a good Catholic all your life. He told me he didn’t think there was a heaven. Statistically, he said, there was no more room in heaven. There were too many people.”
It was time. As Curley was walking out of the room, he told his father goodbye.
“He told me I was a good son,” Curley said. “I couldn’t believe it. My father was about to cry. I figured, god-damn, I’m going back to that old Irish guy and get an ‘I love you’ out of him before he goes. I turned at the door and said, ‘I love you, Dad.’ He just nodded at me and said, ‘I know you do.’”
In a way, this was hard for Curley. He didn’t get the ‘I love you’ he’d hoped for. His brother Chuck told him, ‘You know, in his world, him saying ‘you were a good son’ was better than an ‘I love you.’
“My father had a giant personality,” Curley said. “I once asked him what he considered a friend to be. He told me, ‘A friend is someone I can borrow five bucks from, not pay him back, and he never says anything.”
His interview with daredevil Robbie Knievel is another humdinger.
“I said to him, ‘So, you’re going to jump 150 motorcycles.”
Knieval let Curley in on a secret. Yes, he was going to jump the motorcycles, but there was much more of a show to it all.
“He told me, I’m gonna ride out, take a couple of laps around the track as fast as I can. I’m going to sit and stare at the ramp for ten seconds. I’m going to go to the top of the ramp and sit some more like I’m thinking. I can easily jump the bikes; I’m just milking the moment. Some of my crew would come up the ramp and talk with me. I’d point to something in the distance, but of course, I was not pointing at anything. Just trying to create tension.”
Curley said it’s just like on his radio show. When the show goes off the rails, the audience can feel it. Then Curley said, like Robbie Knievel, he’ll bring it back.
“I know a guy, John Medina, who wrote Brain Rules. He teaches at the University of Washington. He said the human brain can only stand a certain amount of information in so many minutes. In the middle of a lecture, he’ll come out of nowhere and ask the students, ‘What color is a giraffe’s tongue?”
“He’d go around the room, and people would guess. Nobody would be right because they probably had never thought of such a thing.” He told them, “I’m going to give you a hint–a giraffe eats 80 percent of the day.”
A student raised their hand and said the color of a giraffe’s tongue is purple. Medina told the student he was right. Because the tongue is in the sunlight for so much of the day, it could get sunburned. The purple color of the tongue would, in essence, repel light and avoid sunburn.
“All of this was to give the student’s brain a rest,” Curley said. “Medina refers to it as Brain Candy. He said he knows if you come up with some kind of trivia question during a long lecture, the thought and answer will release some dopamine, thereby satisfaction when you know the answer. The brain is now refreshed with the presence of dopamine, and they will retain the rest of the lecture.”
Then Curley gets to the interview he conducted with Woody Allen.
He told Allen his brother Chuck dated women for two or three dates. Then came a test. He would show them the VHS or DVD of the movie Annie Hall. If the date didn’t laugh at three specific points in the film, Chuck would not ask them out again. So that’s three significant laughs in three particular spots.
“I told Woody Allen my brother chose his wife because his then-date laughed at those three spots in the movie. Chuck figured these were easy laughs, and if they didn’t, that was it.”
Woody Allen was intrigued. He leaned forward and asked Curley a question.
In a dynamite Woody Allen impression, Culey said Allen asked, ‘What scenes did your brother pick?’
Good question, Woody.
First, laugh. When Christopher Walken told Allen’s character Alvy Singer told Walken, ‘He was due back on the planet earth.’
Second laugh: When Alvy was at the dinner table with Annie’s parents and grandmother.
Third laugh: When Alvy was in bed with his girlfriend and couldn’t put his mind at ease, wondering how Oswald was able to get three shots off from a book depository. How it made no sense.
Allen asked if his brother was married. Curley told Allen he wasn’t, that he couldn’t find anyone to laugh at those three spots in the movie. Allen replied, ‘that’s funny.’
“I told him, ‘no, seriously, he didn’t get married because he couldn’t find anyone to laugh at those spots.”
John Curley is probably the only person in history to cause Woody Allen to remain flabbergasted.
And I’m exhausted.
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at [email protected].
King Charles Already Facing Headwinds After One Episode at CNN
If viewers are coming to watch King Charles in the first place, they want to hear from Barkley first and the most. This show is not a democracy for multiple voices.
Gayle King and Charles Barkley joined a long list of personalities on Wednesday who’ve tried their hand at hosting a cable news show, King Charles.
The previous cast of characters at CNN in particular have included comedians as famous as D.L. Hughley and Bill Maher, history makers like Connie Chung, tech executives such as Campbell Brown, and even a former governor – Eliot Spitzer – who was forced to resign in shame.
CNN, unlike MSNBC and Fox News, doesn’t have the privilege of choosing political sides for ratings because of the gravitas their name exudes in the journalism world. Bringing on famous figures in pop culture to give their take on the headlines seems like a natural solution to competing with idealogues on opposing networks. Unfortunately for CNN, though, it’s a solution that never seems to work – including this time around.
The debut episode of King Charles began with a Man-on-the-Street segment featuring King and Barkley asking random folks walking around New York about today’s politicians, Joe Biden’s age, and Taylor Swift and Beyonce. The segment also showcased the duo’s newfound chemistry and announced the upcoming guests over the next hour similar to a late-night comedy show.
It was a great way to bring the audience in. Viewers got to see an intro that is uncommon in the cable news world, they got to hear the opinions of people who are just like themselves, and it showed the quality production value this show is bringing to the table from the jump.
As viewers got to the set, it was obvious CNN put a lot of time and effort into making this program a success. The wardrobe of the talent, the studio design, and the color scheme were extremely polished. The guest list of this show for the first episode on cable news was also very impressive. Fat Joe, Steve Kerr, and Van Lathan may not be A-list celebrities, but they each bring a respective following that is different from the type of guests that normally populate CNN and its rivals.
One of the first problems this show faces is that despite its name, there isn’t much King and there isn’t much Charles. King moderates panels that have a lot of interesting things to say while Barkley utters a comment or two on the side. It’s almost as if it’s forgotten that Barkley is a key force in bringing this show to fruition in the first place.
The guests that were part of these panels had a lot of interesting perspectives to give. Lathan brought some humor to a discussion about George Santos when he discussed his love for the Congressman’s high jinks. CNN primetime host Laura Coates also joined the show for two segments and provided much-needed legal expertise during a conversation about Young Thug’s ongoing trial in Georgia.
While the discourse was good, Barkley is one of the most boisterous personalities television has ever seen. America has tuned into his antics for decades whether they agree with what he’s saying or not. LIV Golf almost paid him hundreds of millions just to get his opinions on a random golf tournament every week. If viewers are coming to watch King Charles in the first place, they want to hear from Barkley first and the most. This show is not a democracy for multiple voices.
King and Barkley have been fixtures of American pop culture for decades. Their presence on any platform holds a lot of weight. King’s tenure at CBS has helped make their morning show more relevant than it ever was before and more competitive ratings-wise. Barkley has set a standard for the art of analyzing sports on television in a way that even John Madden couldn’t.
The first 20 minutes of the show need to be focused on them and their viewpoints. Because of King’s role at CBS, viewers won’t be able to get many opinions out of her, but at the very least there is some journalistic perspective she can provide or perspective from her decades as a celebrity and Oprah’s best friend. This should be the Black version of Live with Kelly and Mark. King and Barkley can talk about their weeks, their lives, and their families and run down the various headlines that are having the most impact on society in an unscripted format.
The show also needs to be live. If they want to film some interviews outside of their timeslot to air later in the show to accommodate an important guest, that’s fine. But the beauty of watching Barkley on television is that it is live and you never know what to expect or what’s going to come out of his mouth. When you take that aspect of excitement away from a program like this, it just seems like one of those celebrity podcasts that no one asked for and ends up getting canceled after a year or less.
In today’s climate, if you’re hosting a show, especially a weekly show, there’s gotta be some type of headline that comes out of that show. There has to be something that forces viewers to adjust their schedules to want to tune in because many viewers’ habits are already established in the first place. A talk show like King Charles — discussing pop culture in the middle of primetime competing with live sporting events, The Golden Bachelor, or a reality show based on Squid Game — is going to have a hard time surviving.
CNN has established itself as the straight news alternative with up-to-the-minute analysis involving the latest breaking politics and world event headlines. Viewers have already told CNN that’s what they like about the network particularly in primetime. It may not be as highly rated as MSNBC and Fox’s lineups but it is much more advertiser-friendly than Jesse Watters or Rachel Maddow.
During times of volatility like the upcoming election, and the wars in Ukraine and Israel, CNN’s ratings tend to bump up higher and occasionally beat MSNBC and other entertainment networks. Interrupting that flow of news in primetime when it has been difficult for CNN to keep a primetime lineup intact for years won’t help matters at the network at all. Continuity matters to viewers.
CNN makes enough revenue and has enough of a positive reputation that becoming a major contender in primetime should no longer be a main focus. As long as the network doesn’t flounder as it has in the past, maintaining 500,000 viewers a night and peaking in the millions during major breaking news stories is something their parent company should be proud of. It is much easier to sell to advertisers than an opinionist who has the potential to explode your company’s stock every night depending on what they say.
Is there space for King Charles on CNN? Yes. Around 5 PM ET, another cable news network across the dial leaves their newscasts and opinion programming to the side for a panel show that is the highest-rated telecast on cable news. The panel discusses political headlines but also delves into pop culture and trending topics you would read about on X/Twitter.
CNN should move King Charles to Wednesdays at 5 PM ET to directly compete with The Five and provide perspectives about the world from two individuals who aren’t tied to a specific political party and have way more pull socially than all of The Five’s hosts combined. Create a happy hour type of environment on air where King and Barkley aren’t held to rigid restrictions, truly get to be themselves, and serve an audience around that hour that is more receptive to talk and discussion given the other shows that air during daytime hours on the big broadcast networks.
CNN also needs to dedicate more resources to promoting the duo. A replay of King Charles should air after Inside the NBA every week so that his fans are aware of another platform Barkley participates in. The show should have a social media presence of its own.
A sneak preview of the show should be promoted each week on both CBS Mornings and Inside the NBA. The duo should go on a press tour across various shows, podcasts, TikToks, blogs, and everything in between to gin up interest in the broadcast.
CNN should also use one of its sister networks – HLN, truTV, or even OWN – to boost the reach of this show given the figureheads that star on the show and the potpourri of topics that are discussed that don’t necessarily have to do with breaking news and politics that normally fill CNN’s airwaves. A boost in viewership could bring in a different type of advertiser and more profits. Barkley is already a showman for other products and could easily be utilized in commercials that air during the show.
CNN already implements a similar simulcast strategy with CNN This Morning by airing the show on HLN. CNN’s sister network brings in an extra 70-100,000 viewers every morning and at times, it is the highest-rated program of the day for HLN. WBD also utilizes the strategy often when they’re broadcasting the Final Four and it has helped college basketball’s national championship become one of the highest-rated sporting events of the year even when it is exclusively on cable.
King Charles has a lot of potential but it is already on a short lease. Variety reports that CNN is looking at the show as a “limited-run series.” Its first episode drew 486,000 viewers, according to Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr. Two weeks prior, the show it replaced known as Newsnight drew 525,000. There is potential to make a statement and stand out amongst everyone else in cable news but only if CNN will let the show and its hosts fully breathe.
Jessie Karangu is a weekly columnist for BNM, and graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland but comes from Kenyan roots. Jessie has had a passion for news and sports media and the world of television since he was a child. His career has included stints with USA Today, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Sightline Media. He also previously wrote a weekly column for our sports media brand, Barrett Sports Media. Jessie can be found on Twitter @JMKTVShow.
The Road to Radio Stardom Has Changed For the Better
The landscape in the industry is changing even faster than many of us realize on a day-to-day basis.
The old adage in radio was to start in the smallest market you could get a job in and then keep working your way up the ladder and end up in the biggest market you could reach. However, that model, while still having a purpose, is in large part not as linear as it once was.
The era of social media, digital media, and work-from-anywhere has dramatically changed the way we view personalities.
For years, we assumed someone in a Top 5 market was obviously more talented than someone in market No. 25. While that is still likely true, in large part, it’s far from that black and white. Having worked in small markets like Woodward, Oklahoma, to then the No. 1 market, New York City, to now Kansas City, I can say there are incredibly talented broadcasters in markets well outside the Top 100, and there are some really mediocre broadcasters in the No. 1 market.
And with the way the world has shrunk, courtesy of technology, it doesn’t require one to necessarily make that leap to a market to simply increase a broadcaster’s exposure to then (hopefully) land that bigger and better job.
Now, thanks to all the various social media platforms that broadcasters need to reside on, broadcasters can develop enormous followings and garner regional and national attention without having to “prove” themselves in a Top 5 or 10 market.
This is a win for broadcasters. None of this is about settling or resting on your laurels, but it means you can become a national personality from nearly any market in America today. It’s not just New York and Los Angeles. And the examples are all over the country.
Clay Travis from Nashville. Dana Loesch from St. Louis. Steve Deace from Des Moines. I could continue with a list of really talented people, but you get the point.
Social media, for all its pitfalls, has allowed local and regional broadcasters to build larger followings beyond their cities and parlay those into larger opportunities. And they’re able to do it without living a NOMAD lifestyle.
That being said, that’s not judging anyone who wants to live it. I’ve made 3-4 major moves in the last 10-12 years. We all typically do it to some degree. New places bring new challenges and opportunities and larger markets typically bring larger paychecks.
But the broader point is that we can be pickier on our next move if one even makes sense. That doesn’t mean that jumping five to ten market sizes isn’t the right move, it may be. But it no longer has to be, because you need the exposure in the larger market to keep working up the ladder to then land in a major market to make the most money possible.
Broadcasters can now generate revenue away from just their salaries and bonuses via exclusive online membership opportunities, digital footprints not connected to the radio station, influencer routes on social media and several other creative ways to create multiple revenue streams, which would be wise in the current climate, anyway.
Ultimately, the landscape in the radio industry is changing even faster than many of us realize on a day-to-day basis, and there are creative paths and advantages to today’s climate that can be taken advantage of, if personalities play their hand right.
Pete Mundo is the morning show host and program director for KCMO in Kansas City. Previously, he was a fill-in host nationally on FOX News Radio and CBS Sports Radio, while anchoring for WFAN, WCBS News Radio 880, and Bloomberg Radio. Pete was also the sports and news director for Omni Media Group at K-1O1/Z-92 in Woodward, Oklahoma. He’s also the owner of the Big 12-focused digital media outlet Heartland College Sports. To interact, find him on Twitter @PeteMundo.
3 Tips on How to Get Station and Market Research Without the Whopping Budgets
Many of us have not seen research in a while. I am going to give you some poor man tips for getting the pulse of your community.
No research budget? No problem! Ok, many of us have not seen research in a while. I am going to give you some poor man tips for getting the pulse of your community.
These are tried and true methods that I have been using my entire programming career. Disclaimer: getting great unbiased research is a tremendous tool to strengthen your station or show. I have learned a few tricks that may help you assess your community and audience.
Use Your Station’s Database for a Small Survey
Usually, you must hold the carrot of winning a couple of hundred bucks for a participant. There are many advantages to this method. You are likely to have P1s who love your product and have a commitment to the station. Talk about cool!
Building the questions is the tough part. You don’t want to ask leading questions that mirror your thoughts or the attitudes of the audience. I like open-ended questions. I would also like to know about the participants’ demographics.
For whatever reason, my station’s database is different than the actual listeners to a news/talk station. You may find your database like mine: 70% women. Of those women, a large portion are in their 20s and 30s. Sadly, this is not your audience. You will need to willow them out as you compile the information.
The questions need to be about the audience, not about your station.
-What are your people doing for fun?
-Do they like to travel?
-How long is their commute?
-Do they have kids?
-Are they married?
-Are they happy with their school district?
-What is their biggest concern?
People love to talk about themselves. Let them do it and then sprinkle in questions about the station.
-Are there enough traffic reports?
-Have you ever called a show?
-How was your interaction with the host or producer?
-What is your favorite restaurant?
-How much time do you watch sports each week?
You certainly can add many questions like this. Knowing your audience allows you to reflect on their lives, concerns, and interests.
Be A Spy
I love doing this one at lunch. Pull into a restaurant that appeals to businesspeople in your area. Get a table near a large group and start writing down the conversation.
Are they griping about the boss? What are their concerns? Do they tease each other? How much do they speak about their significant other? Are they discussing something they read, heard, or watched?
Just write down their conversations. I have taken this information and crafted promos and liners around it. It is a small sample size, but if the group is in your target for the station, you can learn a lot of good stuff. This just costs the price of lunch and a beverage. DIY at its finest.
Quick On-the-Street Surveys
This is another way to get a pulse on the community. Does your town have an event geared to the community? Go out with a producer, a salesperson, and give three quick questions. You need to guess the age of the participant. Ask for their ZIP code. this is to determine whether they live in your area.
Then three quick questions. I like to use multiple choice.
-How frustrating is the traffic? 1 to 5 with 5 meaning very agonizing.
-Your biggest concern: Crime, Taxes, Money, or family?
-How long have you lived in your home? These are quick questions to give you a pulse on your neighbors’ concerns.
None of these are as good as a solid perceptual. I have read a lot of research, and the conclusions are the biggest concern. Years ago, I worked for a company that did several perceptuals. I was asked to read them by my format captain, who was new on the job. I read them carefully over the weekend and typed up a short report. The conclusions were completely different than the data.
I am sure that if you have the opportunity to do a research project on your station, you will want to know the unvarnished truth. If you are in the enviable position of interviewing the companies that do research, you need to know the following things:
-Are the conclusions what I want to read or need to see?
-How is the best way to assess the data provided?
-Will the data allow me to develop an action plan to grow my ratings?
If you want research to confirm your preconceived thoughts, skip the expense. If you want to maximize your return, learn how to critically read the data.
What is your action plan following the study? There should be a clear path to allow you to identify vulnerabilities, opportunities, and strengths. All of these are equally important.
Once you know your vulnerabilities, you can strategize to shore up your weaknesses. Once you know your opportunities, you can address them and create another path for your brand to succeed. Knowing and perhaps confirming your strengths allows you to use these as a base point for your brand’s continuing success.
Don’t mess up good research. These are wonderful windows on your station and community. They are key to helping you create a listener-focused experience that will support your station for years to come.
Don’t be frightened to have some of your personal conclusions destroyed. Is this about your ego or is it about your team, station, and market?
Peter Wilkinson Thiele is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He currently serves as the program director, and morning host of Newstalk KZRG in Joplin, MO. Additionally, Peter has held programming roles in New York City, San Francisco, Little Rock, Greenville and Hunstville. He has also worked as a host, account executive and producer in Minneapolis, and San Antonio. You can reach him on Twitter at @PeterThiele.