We’ve had a few stellar Santa Clauses in our day. Ed Asner in Elf was formidable. Edmund Gwenn in the original Miracle On 34th Street was a humdinger. However, just about every Christmas Mike Gallagher seems to set a new standard as the giving guy in the red suit.
Okay, Gallagher may not wear a red suit and sport a white beard, but he’s just as giving.
“I’m still bouncing off the walls over our show raising over 260 thousand dollars in December for the Prison Fellowship/Angel Tree Christmas campaign for children of prisoners,” Gallagher said. Whether it’s a mom or dad in prison, children of incarcerated parents unwrap joy each year with a gift that reminds them they are valued and loved.
“Years ago, my late wife Denise figured instead of just jawboning our way through life, we should do some good for people,” Gallagher explained. “She thought we should do something on a large scale for a bigger audience. Do something productive for a change.”
Gallagher credits Salem Media for the opportunity to dive in and help others. Gallagher said Denise was his whole world and took her advice to heart. He created a 501c3 for police officers and families–Gallagher’s Army: Fallen Officer Fund. “At Christmastime, I think it’s a cool tradition to help raise funds for kids.”
It has taken off beyond Gallagher’s wildest expectations.
“We’re able to send thousands of kids presents and a bible. This year we reached about 10,000 children with gifts and gospel from their incarcerated parents. Our audience connects with that and we’re so proud. Again, I’m grateful to work for a company that wants us to do good for each other.”
You can still donate throughout the year. Just go to the website and find the banner and click. Prisonfellowship.org.
“We have a summer camp and we partner with a number of charities,” Gallagher explained. “I have another foundation for police officers and their families. Gallagher’s Heroes offers assistance to families of officers killed in the line of duty. Fellow news talker Joey Hudson is the executive director.
“The officers and first responders are the heroes of our culture,” Gallagher said.
It’s not only helpful, Gallagher said it’s a nice diversion from politics and the daily butting of heads.
“It adds another dimension to our show.”
Gallagher said he’s been impressed with the giving nature of America this past week with the outpouring of love and support for Bills player Damar Hamlin. Shortly after his traumatic episode on the field, his charity for children’s toys raised nearly 6 million dollars. This was all on a GoFundMe page.
“I think this incident shows the giving spirit of America,” Gallagher said. “Too often we often hear how our country is on the decline, falling apart, how we agree on nothing. Situations like this show tremendous unity. All the players took a knee for one thing. Not for politics, not for race, but over concern for the young man. It was truly a beautiful thing to see. It’s amazing how he was only seeking to raise $2,500 for his cause and America responded.”
Gallagher said Americans are gracious and loving people. That’s why he gets so excited about his Christmas campaign. He believes Americans are good and decent.
“It’s a very sobering reminder of what we should be,” Gallagher explained. “I’ve been in radio for more than 40 years, and I’ve done my share of yelling into a microphone. Sometimes I get frustrated and mix it up with a caller. I’ve strongly disagreed and hung up on them on occasion. But I sometimes forget how far an act of kindness goes. In talk radio, we’re largely full of conflict. I know it pretty well. One of my goals of the new year is to be kinder.”
To access Gallagher’s show, you can visit his website at Mikeonline.com.
As a show host, Gallagher isn’t beyond recognizing his ego sometimes gets in the way of doing good. He said many in his seat feel they need to win every argument.
“I don’t feel that way,” he said. “I like to learn. I like the interactions. I could have six callers on hold and I want to take the one who doesn’t agree with me.
That pushes discussion. I have to remember I asked them to call. I don’t want to invite them into my living room and chew them out. I think that’s one of the biggest complaints about talk radio. I can get rambunctious, feisty, mix it up.”
Gallagher said most of his audience trusts him.
“I’m not always disagreeable with callers. There has to be a good mix. But I need to show restraint.”
Gallagher’s not the easiest guy to get in touch with. I had to reach out to Joey Hudson for help. Let me tell you, Joey Hudson is a fantastic guy.
“If I hear one more time how great Joey Hudson is,” Gallagher jokes. In fact, they’re the closest of friends.
“He’s Upstate in South Carolina, where I cut my teeth in radio in Greenville at WFBC, eventually becoming the station manager. I met Joey 30 years ago. We’ve developed a deep friendship and I visit him down there often. When my wife was ill, she summoned Joey into the room a week before she passed, telling him he needed to watch after me. He doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook.”
Gallagher said he works hard for Salem and his audience. “I have two goals; to provide a solid and compelling radio show on Salem and to hit my budget and numbers.”
Despite Denise telling Hudson her husband couldn’t balance a checkbook, Gallagher has proven that to be untrue. In fact, he’s fixated on the business side of radio. He said ratings will come and go but you have to deliver for your company and make sure you’re hitting the revenue budgets.
“Every morning starts with a spreadsheet,” Gallagher said. “I see what my show is billing, and I’m proud of that. I review my monthly goals, see where we have to improve. Ultimately it’s up to me to meet or exceed my budget.”
Gallagher spent two years with WGY in Albany, New York. Afterward, he was hired for a morning drive at WABC in New York City.
“It was while I was at ABC that my previous owner in Albany approached me about syndication,” Gallagher said.
In 1998, The Mike Gallagher Show was launched nationally with 12 radio stations. By 2011, Gallagher was the sixth most listened-to talk radio host in America with over four million weekly listeners.
“It was a dream scenario,” he said. “John Dame asked me what it would take to walk away from WABC and go national. To carve out my own destination.
I was a sweat equity owner. I scoped out the office space in the Empire State building as I believed that’s where our studio should be.”
Gallagher said he loves being able to tell his bosses at Salem he hit his budget for the month.
“I’ll get on the horn and ask where we’re missing. I think a lot of the talkers in our business don’t really care. They see themselves as artists and let the sellers do the selling. I’ve never believed in that. I’ll physically call people, get intimately involved with the business end.”
His involvement with the nuances of the business is what he calls the proverbial fuel that drives the engines.
“Without advertisers, we’re dead in the water,” Gallagher said. “We’re always looking to find new revenue dreams. The Salem news channel, social media. The pressure is enormous, but I thrive on that pressure. It’s satisfying. We’re a for-profit organization and Salem expects me to deliver, to do my part in that.”
Some radio talkers are actors. Gallagher is really an actor.
Last Christmas he played Daddy Warbucks in a production of Annie in South Carolina. He shaved his head and everything. No latex skullcap was good enough for Gallagher. His head went to the Full Monty.
It was a four-week run for Annie and he was constantly flying back and forth to New York. Three weeks into the run, the superhuman Gallagher proved to be human when he got Covid.
“The shows were sold out in Greenville and there was no immediate understudy,” Gallagher explained.
The show finally found someone who had played the role before, and he walked on.
“Here I’m at home in Tampa. It’s all decorated for Christmas, and I’ve got Covid,” Gallagher recalled. “All I had to keep me company was pity and streaming television. I binged on Yellowstone when it burst onto the scene.”
Gallagher also played Mr. Bumble in Oliver, the enforcer of the workhouse.
“I like acting, but I love what I do for my day job,” he said. “I also did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the role Nathan Lane played.”
Gallagher was given a Tony Award as an investor in Pippin.
“For a theater geek like me, that is a special recognition.”
Gallagher said not a minute goes by where he doesn’t realize he’s been incredibly blessed.
“I’m always in a deep state of gratitude. Sure, there have been some rough bumps along the road. Loss, tragedy. But I’m blessed with kids, a granddaughter, and a career I love. My health is pretty good, and I have a comfortable lifestyle.”
Then he had some really unsolicited and kind things to say about Barrett News Media.
“It’s so cool to watch Barrett News Media grow,” Gallagher said. “Nobody is doing it the way you guys are. It’s fun to read the profiles, and I think they’re really needed. I know they’re deeply appreciated. You guys are carving out a site other publications and sites should be looking at. So many people are always trying to tear us down. Be overly critical. Barrett is fair but never panders. I know a lot of my colleagues are impressed with what you’re doing.”
We didn’t pay Gallagher to say that. Perhaps we should have.
He can essentially do his show from anywhere and spends a lot of time going back and forth between New York and Tampa. “New York essentially drove me out with taxes,” Gallagher said. “There’s no state income tax in Florida. It was wild to see how different both places were during the pandemic. In New York it was scary. Lots of shutdowns. In Tampa, it was more relaxed.”
As cliche as it sounds, Gallagher said he’s always prepping for his show.
“I’m prepping 24-7. I bring a laptop to bed with me, fire things off to my team. I get up at 6:40 am, go through all the websites, social media. There’s a double-edged sword to that. Sometimes I’m resistant to embrace everything we see on social media.”
His shows give people a lot of ways to connect.
“I get about 1,000 emails a day,” Gallagher said. “It’s a new world. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you fresh. Our business is rapidly evolving. Now there are cameras. Long gone are the days where I can sit in my boxers at home and do a show.”
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].
With Nielsen, Is There Life After 54?
If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers.
There’s been some discussion of late about whether it’s time to change the standard demos that Nielsen uses for reporting radio audiences.
Dan Mason began the debate a couple of months back with an argument for three demos: 12-19, 20-40, and 41-64. Steve Allan at Research Director has added his thoughts with the suggestion that Nielsen drop persons 6-11 and 80+. Beyond the lack of buyer interest in these demos, he sees it as a backdoor way to increase the PPM sample. Perhaps because more discussion is a good thing, I’ll offer my two cents.
There is likely no way that Nielsen will ever remove the 6-11 and 80+ PPM panelists even though the data are essentially meaningless for radio. PPM is now used for both audio and video. In the latter, PPM measures out-of-home audiences for local TV in the metro areas of DMAs. Remember that TV measures down to the age of two and while Arbitron never dropped that low (can you imagine a three-year-old with a PPM?), the design was that PPM would measure both radio and television. Because video likes a big number, the 80+ issue is probably off the table as well.
Let’s move on to Dan Mason’s suggestions. Radio has been battling with the “you’re dead at 55” issue for decades. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I was the operations manager of WSPA-FM in Spartanburg, South Carolina which ran the beautiful music/easy listening format. I clearly remember Ted Dorf at WGAY in Washington (same format) starting a 35-64 committee, the goal of which was to show the value of the older audience and bring dollars into that demo. That was more than 40 years ago and nothing much has changed.
Even with the lack of dollars for older demos despite the incredible spending power of the boomer generation, why can’t Nielsen offer more “standard” demos? In the “old days”, there were limitations based on processing software and even the size of the printed ratings report (remember the horizontal Arbitron books?). Today, the E-book is barely used and processing power is essentially unlimited.
The limitation may reside in the systems used by Nielsen to process the local markets. The old Arbitron processing systems were somewhat limited and rebuilding the system was usually behind other priorities. I do not know if Nielsen has updated the processing system, but if they have, it shouldn’t be hard to offer more “standard” demos, whether Dan Mason’s suggestions or others. If Nielsen has not updated the systems in the decade since the Arbitron acquisition, then we’re back to my recent column asking the paraphrased Ronald Reagan question of whether you’re better off now than you were ten years ago.
What about the third-party processors: other companies that use the Nielsen data, for example, agency buying systems? Nielsen can require certain data to be made available as part of the future licensing agreements for data access. Still, the companies would also have to make software changes that will take time.
Let’s make the generous assumption that these changes will take place. Who wins? It seems that most radio formats would do well if at least one buying demo went up to age 64. And yes, I know 35-64 has been available for decades, but let’s consider Dan’s 41-64 for the moment. News/talk will be helped along with classic rock (how many classic rock songs were recorded after the mid-80s?).
Those of us who are older don’t act like our parents (full disclosure: I do not fall in any of Dan Mason’s new demos) so I can see Adult Contemporary, Country, Urban AC, and other formats doing well. Public radio has also been aging so it may be easier to sell underwriting and their outside offerings that can carry spots. The various commercial Christian formats should look good, too.
Where does this leave us? If the industry truly believes that Nielsen should offer more demos, it’s time to ask the relevant questions and get the answers. Assuming Nielsen can make the software changes in a reasonable period of time, it’s up to the industry to convince agencies and advertisers of the value of these new demos over the ones they’ve used literally for generations. That will be no easy task, but making the data easily and readily available will help.
Let’s meet again next week.
One of the radio industry’s most respected researchers, Dr. Ed Cohen writes a weekly column for Barrett News Media. His career experiences include serving as VP of Ratings and Research at Cumulus Media, occupying the role of VP of Measurement Innovation at Nielsen Audio, and its predecessor Arbitron. While with Arbitron, Cohen spent five years as the company’s President of Research Policy and Communication, and eight years as VP of Domestic Radio Research. He has also held the title of Vice President of Research for iHeartMedia/Clear Channel, and held research positions for the National Association of Broadcasters and Birch/Scarborough Research. Dr. Ed always enjoys hearing your thoughts so please feel free to reach him at [email protected].
The Latest Example of How to Not Produce a Debate
If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, it did. For the first time since it’s been my job to watch a Presidential debate for a living, I turned one off. After 82 minutes (9:22 p.m. CST, not that I was watching the clock or anything), I had enough. I couldn’t subject myself to the torture that became the second GOP Presidential debate on Wednesday night from the Reagan Library.
If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening, and there are multiple reasons why, beyond the usual bemoaning of “the candidates won’t stop talking over each other.”
The debate was overproduced. In the opening there were videos of Reagan (nice and well done, don’t get me wrong), each anchor had various lines they were reading between each other, which felt forced and unnatural, and as a result, it took over three minutes from the opening of a debate to a candidate finally speaking.
I understand TV isn’t radio, but in a PPM world, imagine taking three minutes to get to your content, when people are tuned in at that moment to consume the content you’ve been hyping up and promising for weeks. Time is a zero-sum game. Every minute a candidate is not speaking, because a moderator is, or a pre-produced piece is playing, can’t be gotten back.
Give people what they came for. A 15-second welcome, a 60-second introduction of the candidates, if that, and dive into the questions is a 90-second process. Keep these things moving and give the viewers what they came for. And that’s the candidates.
The debate lacked direction and clarity. Anchors spent far too much time asking long-winded questions with ridiculous and unnecessary details. As a viewer, it came across like the anchors were trying to impress us, rather than asking a question, getting out of the way, and letting the candidates — you know, the people running for President — try to impress us. They’re the ones who I want to be impressed by because they’re the ones we’re being asked to vote for.
Also, the topic direction had little flow and was disjointed. On certain topics, only one to three candidates would get to answer questions on the issue. I’ve laid out the case for keeping the flow of a debate and moving it along, but only giving half the stage the chance to answer questions on the most pressing issues in the country is a disservice to the voter who is there to here what everyone had to say.
At one point in the debate, Chris Christie was asked about a looming government shutdown, which was followed by a childcare cost question to Tim Scott and then it was an immigration/dreamers question back to Chris Christie. And that was in a five to seven minute span. Huh?
Rather than finding the six to seven big topics and diving into them with each candidate, while letting the candidates then organically and respectfully spar, it was like watching an ADD-riddled teen try and bounce between topics with no clarity or purpose.
And Yes, the Candidates
Of course, there were plenty of these moments that typically derail debates, notably primary debates, where multiple people are talking over each other and no one is willing to give in to be the first one to shut up. Then, the debate begins to inevitably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher and suddenly the obnoxious noise even makes your dog look at you and wonder what in the hell you’re watching.
There were too many candidates on stage and then the moderators also ended up losing control, like what happened last go around.
But as I wrote last month, this debate format is a broken system. But for some reason, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Ronald Reagan was rolling over in his grave watching that debacle last night. It’s too bad he’s not still here to try and help fix it.
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 Ideas to Turn CNN Max Into a Streaming News Juggernaut
The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight.
It is so easy to find a gamut of stories and opinion pieces within the past year or two criticizing many different aspects of CNN and the way it operates. Many of those evaluations have been absolutely fair.
Now though, it is time to give CNN credit where it is due.
This week marked the launch of CNN Max and it has been as seamless as a fresh glazed donut coming straight out of the oven. The stream’s video quality is crisp. Commercials are inserted properly. Most of the exclusive programming feels exactly like something you would see on linear CNN.
But the most fascinating thing Warner Bros. Discovery has been able to pull off is the ability to stream most of the same programming that airs on domestic CNN via Max. It is a stroke of business genius and puts the company and network ahead of its counterparts when it comes to offering a quality streaming alternative. As has been mentioned in the past, the network has been able to bypass MVPDs and stream their primetime anchors without permission from cable operators because CNN Max is mostly a direct simulcast of CNN International which airs U.S. programming live overnight while Europeans are in bed.
Despite the successful launch, there are still some tweaks that could improve the product exponentially. One major benefit would be to have replays of programs that viewers may have missed from earlier in the day. Each show on serves a specific purpose and although similar coverage of news is told throughout the day, each anchor has a unique way of stringing the narrative together. Viewers deserve to get the chance to see how a story develops throughout different parts of the day and see specific segments in its entirety that may not get clipped for social media.
Viewers also need a chance to fully sample CNN Max’s exclusive programming and at the moment, if you don’t watch it live you’ve missed it forever.
Speaking of clips, it’s important for highlights of the day to be available quickly within the Max ecosystem. On CNN Max’s first day, Kasie Hunt scored an exclusive interview with Sen. Joe Manchin that made headlines.
Unfortunately, the only way a viewer could see it if they missed it live was if they scoured the network’s website for it or waited for a clip that the social media team would eventually put out. Part of being a modern-day news organization requires accessibility to be at its best at any given time of the day.
If viewers have a difficult time finding out the major highlights of what’s been on air, it may be harder to convince them to try a new product.
Viewers also deserve the opportunity to subscribe to alerts. News breaks on a consistent basis and unless you’re scrolling through your social media feed all day 24/7, it is almost impossible to follow everything that’s happening. Max needs to provide an option for specific types of alerts dealing with breaking news or major storylines that have developed live on air on CNN Max with the option to tune in now or to see clips or full episodes that deal with a specific headline. Alerts will increase engagement and maintain a relationship with the consumer they may not be able to get at another major entertainment app that streams similar programming as Max.
Promotion within the app is also important. While Max did an awesome job of showcasing the various shows that are live at any point during the day, it used the same graphics of the same hosts with the same descriptions every day. Viewers who read promos on entertainment apps are used to seeing different plot lines and convincing pictures showcased once a week whenever a new episode of their favorite show is ready for viewing. Max needs to treat news stories in the same fashion.
As stories break throughout the day, Max needs to promote their live programming with information blurbs containing new developments and questions that viewers might get answered by tuning in. Show previews could also promote featured guests. Using the same stale graphic of a host, show name, and generic show description will eventually become stale and annoying for viewers. Viewers will unfortunately train their minds to ignore the static messaging.
Warner Bros. Discovery also needs to take advantage of CNN Max’s predecessor. CNN Plus was able to maintain a decent amount of followers on social media – at least 35,000 on Twitter. Turn that page into a promotion spot for CNN Max that aggregates clips, promos, and previews of what viewers can expect on Max or what they may have missed.
As the brand develops a presence on social media, it will also develop name recognition among future cord-cutters who are deciding between Max and other services. The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight. CNN Max can be additive to cable ratings if people have an understanding of where and how to access it.
CNN Max is creating a direct relationship between the consumer and CNN. It’s a relationship that has always had a middleman. Unfortunately for the cable industry, the middleman is slowly dissipating away.
With this newfound bond, the network should take advantage of the digital real estate it has access to and create real interaction with viewers. Optional polls, factoids, written descriptions of stories on screen, or even biographies of the guests on air at any given time could provide viewers with an extra reason to stay tuned in. It keeps viewers occupied and helps elongate the amount of time viewers spend on the stream and the app as a whole.
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.