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Frank Morano Knows Overnight Radio Provides a Difference Audience

“In overnight radio, you are often in a different frame of mind than you are throughout the rest of the day.”

Ryan Hedrick



A photo of Frank Morano
(Photo: Red Apple Media)

The overnight show originating from 77 WABC — The Other Side of Midnight with Frank Morano — is one of the fastest-growing syndicated programs in the country. Frank Morano is deeply in love with the overnight airwaves. It’s a passion that defies the usual radio conventions, where prestigious dayparts like mornings and afternoons steal the spotlight. 

The show hosted by Frank Morano stands out from the rest by covering stories and topics that many other hosts neglect. He carves a different path from the usual route and gives his loyal audience a fresh perspective. As a result, every moment of listening to his show is truly special and one-of-a-kind. 

Just three years ago, 77 WABC was struggling with low ratings and had been forgotten by many. However, under the leadership of John Catsimatidis, the station has been brought to new heights. One of the notable decisions made by John was to hire Frank Morano to host overnights. Many industry professionals believe that the lifelong passion of Catsmiatidis for radio has allowed him to transform 77 WABC into a hub for engaging and locally focused discussions featuring a wide range of perspectives and fascinating individuals.

From Morano’s perspective, John Catsimatidis has not only saved a radio station, but he has also rekindled the magic of radio for an entire city. 

During an interview with Barrett News Media, Frank Morano shared his intense passion for overnight radio, discussed how recent changes in New York City have given him a fresh perspective on his listening audience, and expressed his admiration for John Catsimatidis, the owner of WABC and Red Apple Audio Networks.

Ryan Hedrick: Tell me about your unique overnight timeslot and why it appeals to you. 

Frank Morano: The listenership is incredibly diverse. The early part of the show tends to be dominated by people who stay up late. The later part of the show tends to be dominated by people who get up early and start their day a little early.

Throughout the show, you’re really treated to being listened to by people who can’t sleep, suffering from insomnia, doing an unexpected airport run, they’re working, and a lot of Uber drivers, truck drivers, and security guards.

People frequently tell me that they try to stay up and listen to the show even though they don’t have a reason to be up. I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. I’ve worked a lot of other dayparts in radio, as both a host and producer, and overnight radio to me is special because you have the opportunity to delve deep into a subject.  

RH: What do you think of John Catsimatidis’ job as owner of WABC Radio and turning the station around? 

FM: Whole books can be written about the job John and the Catsimatidis family have done bringing back WABC. In New York, they call WABC “Lazarus” because it is the station that has returned from the dead. Three years ago, this station was nowhere in the ratings. And now, it’s routinely beating almost every AM station in the market.

I think John is so good at this, not because he necessarily has a lifetime of working in radio, but because he’s been a radio fan his whole life. He’s programmed his station to do the kinds of things that fans want to hear, which is compelling, primarily live and local talk from a variety of different perspectives with a whole bunch of interesting people bringing it to you.  

Many of the folks on our station, like Rudy Giuliani, Anthony Weiner, and Bill O’Reilly, are not necessarily folks that would have the opportunity at just a standard, corporate-owned radio station. John’s philosophy is that if it’s good radio, he’ll allow people to be heard and build an audience.  

RH: Tell me more about yourself. I’m interested to know about your background, where you came from, and your professional experience.  

Frank Morano: I’ve worked in radio for the better part of 20 years. A lot of that time has been spent as a producer. I was a producer for Curtis & Kuby, then for Curtis Sliwa’s solo show, Joe Piscopo, John Gambling; I worked with a lot of other hosts along the way.

Maybe about 11 years ago, while I was still producing the morning show at AM 970 (The Answer in New York), I had always been filling in for a lot of different hosts, including several of the ones I just mentioned, while I was still producing the morning show on 970, I started hosting a weekly show. I was doing mornings from 2:00-4:00 AM. I did that for a year and a half, and then I was doing Friday night into Saturday night, and then I was doing Sunday mornings. I did that for about three years until I came to WABC to do the overnight show.

About a year ago, they started syndicating the overnight show. Now, we are on a couple of great dozen radio stations across the country. The show continues to grow, and I am grateful for that.  

RH: When you started as a producer, did you envision your growth as a talk show host? 

FM: Yes, absolutely. It’s the only thing that I envisioned. I certainly enjoyed working with many of the hosts I did over the years, but really, the thing that sustained me was the goal of doing what I do now. As far as I am concerned, if this is my last job for the rest of my life, that would be fine with me.  

RH: There are numerous late-night listening options in New York City. How have you managed to grow your audience despite the competition? 

Frank Morano: I get such a buzz out of being able to do this that I’m really energized every time I come to the microphone at 1:00 AM. On the one hand, it is a new challenge to be interesting and do something different than what I did the day before, but also to do something different from all the other radio talk shows.  

Really, one of the things that I strive to do is if all the other talk shows are talking about one topic, I try to do the opposite. If I’m going to do that same topic, I try to find a different perspective or a different way of approaching it than everybody else. I’m sure it will frustrate listeners who will tune in to me expecting to hear you more commentary about the migrants or Hunter Biden, and I’m talking about something completely light years removed from that. But people have responded to the show. They say that they really welcome that.  

They welcome a break from the things that everybody else is doing. Because, you know, overnight radio, you are often in a different frame of mind than you are throughout the rest of the day. A lot of times, you have already heard all the news that everybody is talking about. People have already formed opinions about it, and you’re up for something different.   

RH: Who are the people who have influenced and inspired your journey as a WABC host? 

FM: The obvious answer is John Catsimatidis. He’s given me every opportunity and is largely the person standing between me and homelessness right now (laughs). But beyond John, you know, Curtis Sliwa has certainly been a mentor to me. I worked with Curtis not only in radio but in the political sphere when we were in the leadership of a political party together for, you know, on, on and off for about 19 or 20 years.  

RH: New York has undergone significant changes since the pandemic, and the migrant crisis has only added to the city’s negative portrayal in the media. How has this affected the topics discussed on your show? 

FM: In some respects, New York is changing. A lot of the people who used to listen to me because they lived in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens now, listen to me online as they’ve relocated to North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. New York is still a place where everyone’s always angry at the mayor.

Whoever the mayor is, they’re always passionate about whatever the big local news of the day is. Everyone’s always concerned about crime. Everyone’s always concerned about their streets being dirty. Everyone’s always concerned about why there are so many rats around. And even though the population has shifted, not only are there more foreign-born New Yorkers, but there are younger New Yorkers that are from places like Kansas and Nebraska.

So, the population has changed to some extent. But I’ve learned from many of these transplanted New Yorkers who have moved to places like Florida that you know the adage is true: you could take the New Yorker out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the New Yorker.  

RH: Your show continues to attract new affiliates for syndicator Red Apple Audio. What do you attribute this growth to? 

Frank Morano: I think the growth is due in part to the fact that even though I sound like a New Yorker and tell a lot of New York stories, the fact that there are so many New Yorkers elsewhere, in some respects, we’re kind of like being a Jewish deli. In that, there are a lot of folks who want a slice of home wherever they happen to be.  

We’re on WCBM in Maryland, for instance, in Baltimore, and we get calls from there all the time from folks that grew up in New York or New Jersey and say they really enjoy hearing about some of the different personalities and hearing many of these different accents. I think also it’s that we’re kind of doing old-fashioned overnight talk radio.

My sense in listening to the radio, which I still do all the time, is that many people on the radio almost do this because they can’t be on television or they can’t be social media influencers.  

I’m interested in doing theater of the mind, creating pictures with words, making sound effects, and using my hands and mouth at the microphone. There are fewer and fewer of those options on the radio these days.  As far as how the show has evolved, it’s similar to where it was three years ago. 

Maybe we do a bit less local content now that we’re syndicated, but honestly, so many of the stories that New Yorkers deal with and the issues they care about are the same issues that the whole country is dealing with. Even if people listen in Nevada, Michigan, or Alaska, a lot of times, they’re still just as interested in hearing about which place has better pizza in New York.  

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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.

Jessie Karangu



A photo of Charles Barkley and Gayle King

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.

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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.



Photo by Alan Levine CC BY 2.0.

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.

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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. 

Avatar photo



A photo of a piece of paper showing bar graph research

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? 

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