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Fox News’ Todd Piro Speaks His Mind 100 Percent of the Time

“I don’t know the meaning of voice modulation,” said Todd Piro, co-host of Fox and Friends First alongside Carley Shimkus.

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The man yells in his home state of New Jersey. He is admittedly the guy who yells on his Fox morning show and probably yells in the shower.

“I don’t know the meaning of voice modulation,” said Todd Piro, co-host of Fox and Friends First alongside Carley Shimkus. “I’ve been told I have two volumes, loud and off. Carley covers her ears when I do sports highlights because that’s when I get really loud.”

When we spoke Piro was doing quite the opposite. He called while boarding a train from the city to his home, shortly after getting off the air. “I’m struggling to whisper here on the train,” Piro said, respectful of his fellow passengers.

“I speak my mind 100 percent of the time. One of the things that I think differentiates Fox talent is we’re all the same off the air as we are on the air. There are no actors here. In New Jersey, everybody is loud.” 

That could be the new state motto; Everything is Louder in Jersey.

As an Italian from New Jersey, Piro says the main way he knows how to communicate is by yelling. He said his background was tamer than some other folks from the state. 

“I didn’t grow up on the same journey as Tony and Carmela of The Sopranos,” Piro said. “Those weren’t my parents.” Curiously, Piro does have a connection to the Sopranos. 

“My best friend David Occhino, from Verona, New Jersey was the location scout on that series. I never made it to the set of the Sopranos.” Occhino was able to put his father and father-in-law in the diner in the final scene of the series.”

I forgot to ask Piro if his friend knows what truly happened to Tony and his family.  

Prior to joining Fox News, Piro was the weekday morning anchor on WVIT-TV’s NBC Connecticut Today, and also acted as a guest anchor for various NBC platforms, including Early Today, First Look and The Place for Politics

Before taking on hosting duties in broadcasting, Piro was an attorney who attended Dartmouth College, and later UCLA School of Law. Piro practiced law for five years in Los Angeles.

“I always had law school in mind,” Piro said. “I’ve heard enough people say to me if you don’t go to graduate or law school immediately after college, you might never get back there.”

He apparently heeded their advice and went to law school, specializing in litigation. Piro said when most people hear the term ‘litigation,’ they think of big-time courtroom dramas. According to Piro, his experience was much more ground-floor.

“I was a low-level grinder,” Piro said. “Every now and again I’d get into a courtroom.” Piro enjoyed the law, but apparently, he loved broadcasting more. His internships during school were all on television, with shows like Good Morning America

“I kept a lot of television relationships, which we know is a business of connections. When the time to make a choice came I was 30 years old and figured it was time to pull the trigger.”

It’s like he had two loves; television and law. Working in television was something Piro always wanted to do. He started as a three days a week reporter.

“As I recall, the whole experience was a little nerve-wracking. You think of what you’d given up to go a different route, giving up what could be considered a stable career. It’s always in the back of your mind whether you’d made the right call.” 

He’s been married to journalist Amanda Raus since 2015. Piro said it doesn’t hurt marriage longevity if you have an ample amount of humor. 

“It’s also important to not be stubborn like you were when you were your 20-year-old self,” Piro explained. “So many of those moments pop up in a marriage or life where things can go one way or another. I like to approach things from the non-stubborn.”

At home, Piro finds a minute or two to escape the grind of the daily media business. 

“Every so often on a Friday night, I’ll be feeding the girls and catch the first five minutes of Family Guy in the background. I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies. I do have a memory of the first time I watched The Big Lebowski. It was my first holiday away from my family while I was living in Los Angeles.  In all previous years, I could drive home for Thanksgiving. It was my first year in law school. A bunch of us ex-pats from the East Coast, all 22-year-old guys, put a big turkey in the oven and watched the movie.”

When he exits the studio in New York and heads for the train, Piro said it’s not like a lot of people come up to him for an autograph or say hello. 

“At the same time, in New York, people ignore everyone,” Piro explained. “That’s the deal there. Where I live I get the occasional, ‘I watch you.’ I say thank you. It’s not like I walk down the street with a lot of recognition.”

He said at times he’ll be recognized at a Big Blue BBQ Giants tailgate party.

“You go to the game, get all the booze and food you need,” Piro said. “I’m not Hannity. I’m not getting throngs of people coming up to me. My wife and I get a little competitive sometimes. Someone on the street will recognize her. I’m standing next to them thinking when are they going to recognize me?” he jokes. 

In his neighborhood, Piro said it’s 80 percent Giants fans and 20 percent Jets fans. That’s just the way it is. Piro has Giants season tickets, but it’s not just about the game. 

“I’m in Connecticut now and we have a lot of Patriot fans. Going into New York from Jersey is a trek. I grew up only 20 minutes from Giants stadium. It’s about an hour and a half to get there now from where I live. Some of my favorite memories include going to Giants games with my dad. He lost his father young and we make the extra effort to share these experiences.”

When he walks through the door at home, his eldest runs up and tackles him. As a parent, he admits to not being perfect. Piro said you know you’re going to mess up. 

“You have to make the most of each learning moment. As parents, Piro said we’re always looking at milestones, wondering where the time is going. That’s the nice thing about being an older father,” he said. “You have a little bit of a life perspective going into the parenting thing. Fatherhood was always the thing for me. If I was going to be good at anything, I wanted it to be this. I don’t know if I am good, but I’m certainly trying to be good. I always cry during the commercials when you see the father’s little girl driving away in the car for the first time.”

Piro said having children in today’s trying times can be difficult and Piro believes every generation faces challenges.

“My wife’s grandfather and his friends were sent off to war. It wasn’t something everybody wanted to do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about challenges our country faces. The current state of affairs. Crime. Things that could ostensibly be improved. We’re 31 trillion in debt and that can’t be erased. My daughters will be there when that bill comes due.”

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Tara Servatius is Using the 98.9 WORD Text Line to Her Advantage

“We’re at, really, a disadvantage, but using this community formula in the way that we built the show, we’ve had so much success. We beat the 100,000-watt station and more than doubled their rating.”

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A photo of Tara Servatius and the 98.9 WORD logo

Born free and determined to keep it that way, 98.9 WORD morning host Tara Servatius has a unique way of connecting with listeners.

“We have a text line here … We realized a number of years ago we could reverse it and we could text them and we could use keywords, we could send links, we could do things like that,” Servatius told Barrett News Media over a Zoom call.

The jump to radio was unexpected for the former investigative journalist. “I just ended up being invited on talk radio by the local talk radio station [in Charlotte], the local news talker, to do interviews about stories I was doing.”

She “hit it off” with some of the hosts and filled in before getting her own show. Her journalism skills have come in handy on the show because Tara Servatius wants to ensure her listeners are informed.

“We go really deep into issues on this show and I think it just makes a huge amount of difference. I just come from that news background of facts, facts, facts. So I kind of almost combine breaking news on the show with analysis, with also kind of the traditional talk format. So it’s sort of a cross between a talk show and a news.”

With the interactivity of texting her listeners (who have named themselves “Tara-ists”) Servatius’ following is more like a community forum. “This is a very red area. People are scared. They feel like if Joe Biden is President for another four years, financially they’re not going to make it. They feel like no one hears them and this is why this could be such a golden age for talk radio. People want to be heard.”

Connecting with her listeners by text, Servatius has helped them get their voices heard.

“When the big road tax came up here, it was the huge issue for many years. The roads were in terrible shape but the politicians had frittered away the money. Then they wanted more money. People were really mad.”

By reversing the text line, her team would send listeners a link to figure out who their local legislative member was. “We mobbed the legislature with our phone calls, and we stopped the gas tax. We stopped the gas tax a second time as well.”

By reversing the text line, Tara Servatius had helped take her station to the next level. “We’ve expanded our signal, but we could take this then little radio station and really turn it into this beacon of hope. We could take action and people really got into it.”

Today, Servatius believes the text line is the best way to not just connect with listeners but also grow a station, and let American’s voices be heard.

“This is an activist audience that’s really used to picking up the phone, calling their legislators, referencing what gets said on the show. Because of that, we have a lot of legislators that listen and they call in, but we’re using it in a way that I haven’t seen anybody else use it in the country.”

The 2x South Carolina Radio Personality of the Year stressed how helpful texting with listeners has helped her station, 98.9 WORD, grow.

“Using this formula when I got here, we had just switched over from an AM station to an FM station, 106.3, and nobody was sure if this was going to work, and it was kind of an experiment.”


With talent like Tara Servatius and texting capabilities, what was once an underdog station is now the top dog in the market.

“We’re at, really, a disadvantage, but using this community formula in the way that we built the show, we’ve had so much success. We beat the 100,000-watt station and more than doubled their rating. Eventually [our competitor] station went out of business. So now we are the station, ironically heard in half of South Carolina and half of North Carolina. And we’re the top billing station in this market now.

“Another thing people should consider with the text line is that it’s very easy to have somebody call in, and if you don’t get a good caller, then you’ve blown the segment and you’ve lost half your audience. If you have a text line, you can rapid-fire,” she continued. “And I do it all the time. Through a segment, I’ll get ten comments into a segment and four of them will be really good and two of them will be something I didn’t even think of that spurs other people to text in.”

For those looking to follow in Tara Servatius’ footsteps, she said, “I would build a footprint online and on the air so that you are in as and on as many platforms as possible. We’ve dramatically expanded the audience since we’ve done that.” She later added, “I’d advise them to learn both sides of radio, both production and being on the air. That’s a good way to break in is to learn how to produce your show. There’s a tremendous need for producers in this industry.”

Looking to the future, Tara Servatius has a few ideas in mind. “I want to go bigger. I very much am trying to build my online presence right now. I’d love to be syndicated. I’d love to try to duplicate the success that we’ve had. I mean, we’ve had killer success in this market at a time when I think a lot of other stations are just trying to find the formula. I feel like we got it.

“Instead of just complaining, like a lot of talk radio, we’ve taken action and learned that we can do it and we have this powerful tool. Now we’re at the point where if an issue comes up in our state or even our city, [listeners will ask], are you going to do a text campaign? Are you going to tell us how to call our legislators, our city council members there? Because they’re used to it. So that’s been a really neat part, of digitization and modernization and just being an activist audience.”

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What Goes Into Debate Prep and Why the CNN Debate Will Present New Challenges

This debate will be different from all prior presidential debates.

Andy Bloom

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A photo of Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the CNN logo

The presidential campaign is in one of the few quiet moments now that the Trump and Hunter Biden trials are over. Both candidates should be deep in debate preparation for their June 27 meeting.

During the four years I spent working as Communications Director for Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), one of the tasks I enjoyed most was preparing for debates before elections.

Our preparation involved putting together a thick notebook containing facts, figures, and other information about every topic the moderators could conceivably ask about during the televised debate.

For some topics, it was necessary to know specific numbers, but it was impossible to commit every number to memory. For some subjects, big-picture themes were enough.

After compiling the notebook, we spent hours asking questions that might come up in the debate, with the Congressman practicing answers and preparing for every response we could foresee. We did our best to anticipate “gotcha” questions and the most damaging comebacks his opponent might have. If he was caught by surprise during the debate, we hadn’t done our jobs.

These preparations are going on in both the Biden and Trump camps, along with writers working on snappy comebacks and clever insults that the candidates can fire off at one another.

This debate will be different from all prior presidential debates. Neither man has officially received their Party’s nomination yet. Trump should receive the Republican nomination in mid-July, while the Democrats won’t nominate Biden until the third week of August.

In addition, the debate is in a TV studio with no audience, which benefits Biden, as Trump feeds off people. The CNN moderators, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, are known Trump haters. Trump should not expect a “fair” debate. He should expect questions that paint him in the worst possible light.

Trump said he would debate anytime, anyplace. If this debate happens on June 27, he will have lived up to it. Trump should challenge Biden to additional debates under less friendly circumstances. Biden will ignore those calls.

The debate could provide a knockout punch. It’s also possible that the debate changes nothing.

Despite Biden’s frequent strange ramblings and wandering about on stages recently, he has consistently risen to the occasion for debates, the State of the Union, and other high-profile moments when large national audiences are watching.

However, if Biden does have an episode where he appears lost or rambles incoherently, it could end his reelection aspirations and perhaps restart conversations about replacing him as the nominee at the convention.

The bar for Biden has been set low. Short of wandering off, falling down face first, or one of his weird ramblings, Biden will get credited with a successful performance.

If both men turn in a performance with the same themes we’ve heard for months now, and neither has a serious blunder, the debate will probably make little difference in the polls.

Instead of sticking to lines designed to appeal to their bases, both men must use the opportunity to appeal to voters who don’t like either of them and the small number of undecideds. This could be an advantage for Trump as his base is more solid than Biden’s.

Trump needs to appear presidential. In his first debate with Biden in 2020, Trump sometimes seemed unhinged. He doesn’t need to fill every second, especially when Biden is trying to find words. Trump should remain silent and let Biden flounder.

The calmer Trump is, the more successful he will be. He should avoid relitigating the 2020 election and his standard list of grievances.

Instead, Trump needs to continue to remind people that they were better off during his administration and the misery the Biden administration has brought. He should focus on the record inflation the country has experienced under Biden and how prices and interest rates have made the American Dream of home ownership out of reach for young people today.

Trump should hold Biden responsible for the eight to ten million illegal immigrants that have come across the border. Biden invited them and allowed it by undoing Trump’s executive orders. After telling the country that he was powerless to do anything about the border – three years into his administration, he signed executive orders that will still allow more than a million illegal aliens annually to enter the country.

The world is more chaotic, with two wars raging and threatening to drag the U.S. in.

Thus far, Biden has tried to tell voters that the economy is good. He can point to the stock market and jobs. Biden would be much better off demonstrating empathy using Bill Clinton’s classic “I feel your pain” and unveiling new ideas for solving economic problems in the second term.

Trump should have responses prepared, and instead of addressing Biden, he should look into the camera and address voters. Polling consistently shows that 60% or more think the country is heading in the wrong direction and that the economy is not good. Trump should appeal to those people to vote for him so he can return the economy to how it was before COVID.

Attack points for Biden will include COVID and the threat to democracy. Biden will spend as much time as possible on abortion as possible, and Trump will have difficulty countering with a response that satisfies pro-choice voters.

If Trump uses the “democracy” threats to air his grievances, he will get nowhere and miss an opportunity. As advisors put together the notebook for Trump, they need to produce specific examples of what the Biden administration has done to damage democracy unrelated to Trump’s grievances. He should remind the country that despite the “lock her up” rhetoric during the 2016 campaign, once he was in office, he left Hillary Clinton alone.

Biden will list his legislative accomplishments and tell the country what a threat Trump is to democracy.

Trump must finish by promising to leave the White House at the end of his term and honoring the presidential oath to protect the Constitution. He must promise his revenge will be satisfied by winning and making America great again.

Trump’s closing remarks should acknowledge that Biden’s list of accomplishments sounds like what a true Washington insider would brag about. Then he should do a version of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 debate close:

When you go to the grocery store, can you afford the same groceries as you could four years ago, or do they cost so much more that you have to put something back?

Can you afford to buy a house, or have soaring prices and crushing interest rates put the American Dream out of reach for you and your family?

Is your community safer now than four years ago, or has it become more dangerous?

Are you concerned about the eight to ten million people who have entered the country illegally – that we’re spending so much money to give them housing, food, phones, and that they have committed so many crimes or that some people who have come in illegally are on the terror list?

Is the world safer and more peaceful than it was four years ago, or is it more dangerous and chaotic?

And has Joe Biden given you any reason to believe he’s up to fixing these and the many other problems we face?

If you give me your vote, we’ll solve these problems and Make America Great Again!

I love debate prep and am curious to see how well these thoughts match the prep Biden and Trump have done.

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How to Use Nielsen to Look Through Full PPM Samples

You can now review individual days for your stations as well as your competitors. Look to see if there are any particular spikes (positive or negative) that you can explain.

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A photo of the Nielsen logo

One of Aribtron’s promises about PPM was that programmers would be able to drill down and look at individual weeks, days, dayparts, and even quarter hours because the full sample would be available for all of the estimates, rather than just one-twelfth per week as in the diary service. While we can argue about sample sizes in PPM, the promise Arbintron made has been kept by Nielsen.

As in some of my previous “how to” columns, we’ll be using the PPM Analysis Tool. If you’re not comfortable with AT, you really need to learn it. My understanding is that there may not be any trainers left at Nielsen Audio, but at one point, they did put together a series of tutorials (partly at my request during my time at Cumulus because some of our PDs didn’t know how to use AT) that you can study on your own.

One of the quirks of pulling out discrete days in PPM is that you must use the “Trends” option rather than the “Ranker”. Once you’re in the Ranker option, the rest is pretty easy. Choose the survey you want to see and then to the right of the survey option, click on the drop-down box.  Choose “day” and then pick the stations, dayparts, estimates, etc., that you want and run it. Voila! You’ll see estimates for each individual day of the survey month, but keep in mind that if you choose a daypart that does not include all seven days, for example, Monday-Friday 6 AM-7 PM, the days that are not part of the daypart, in this case, Saturday and Sunday, will show as “n.a.” or 0. 

So far, so good. You have data and you know how to run any daypart that you want. If you prefer, you can create your own dayparts as well because AT will let you do it. What do you look at and what matters?

Start with the individual days. AT will show you the estimate for the survey month in the first column so you have something to compare to. How did each day do? You can pull AQH persons, share, cume persons, and more. I’d also suggest that you include average daily intab as one of your estimates so that you can see how much variation exists in the sample for any given day. Truth be told, the sample will typically be consistent across each weekday except for major holidays.

If you’re like most programmers, you keep track of events that may drive listening. There are special events on your air or for news and sports talk stations, outside events may drive listening. For news/talkers, how did you do on the day that Trump was convicted in New York? The day after? For sports, was there something major that happened with one of your local or regional teams? PPM lets you look at how your ratings were affected.

Another estimate I recommend reviewing is PUMM. Yes, I still call it PUR (Persons Using Radio) because PUMM is the same. Should Nielsen ever put another medium in with the PPM data that you see, then the term PUMM will make sense (the second M is “media” which is a plural, but PPM measures just one medium: radio). 

Nonetheless, you should include it. Your audience may have been lower on a given day, but the available audience may also have been down per PPM. Share adjusts for that, but if there is less audience to reach, your station will likely have less audience on that day.

So far, so good. You can now review individual days for your stations as well as your competitors. Look to see if there are any particular spikes (positive or negative) that you can explain. If a competitor has a consistent positive spike on given days, do you have any idea of why that is happening? Is there something you can do to counter it? If you have a few consistently bad days in a certain daypart, what are you doing? Is there something that can be changed, even if the change is subtle, that will potentially fix the problem?

Next time, we’ll go through a couple more fun analyses you can do in AT, so let’s meet again next week.

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