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Tom Tradup Tackling Challenge of Helping All Israel News Head-On

It was a match made in heaven. It’s a great opportunity to work with some terrific people. The last two weeks have been nothing short of magnificent.   

Ryan Hedrick

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A photo of Tom Tradup
(Photo: Tom Tradup)

Tom Tradup, the Vice President of News and Talk Programming at Salem Radio Network, has recently become a Contributing Editor at All Israel News. He is passionate about journalism and making connections between different cultures. Tradup’s expertise in news and talk programming has prepared him well for this role.

Despite managing the coverage of major political events and nationally syndicated talk shows, Tradup is excited to work with Joel Rosenberg, a New York Times bestselling author known for his extensive knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs.

Through All Israel News, Rosenberg aims to promote understanding and communication between Israel and the evangelical world. His role involves performing consultations, providing guidance, and writing columns to support this mission, and he describes it as a “match made in heaven.” 

Tom Tradup also plays a crucial role in overseeing both talk and news programming on Salem Radio Network, with a focus on developing engaging shows and meticulously supervising the news operation.

This dual responsibility has played a substantial part in Salem Media Group’s impressive achievements and its unique way of delivering news through Townhall. 

Tom Tradup doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges that conservative media outlets face when it comes to attracting advertisers and forming partnerships, especially in the face of concerns about censorship.

Despite these obstacles, he stands firmly in his belief in radio’s enduring importance and effectiveness as a medium. 

During an interview with Barrett News Media, Tom Tradup shares his dedication to All Israel News and explains how he plans to balance his responsibilities to Salem Radio Network.

He also talks about the growth of SRN and how the network manages to present impartial news while featuring engaging hosts on a single dynamic platform.

Ryan Hedrick: Let’s start by talking about your new role with All Israel News. What are you most excited about for this new opportunity? 

Tom Tradup: Yes, very exciting. I enjoy a challenge, and that’s not to say that as the Vice President of News and Talk Programming for SRN, I don’t already have plenty on my plate because I do, especially at this time of year when we’ve got presidential debates, and we’re heading into the 2024 campaign and we’re already making plans for our coverage (of the 2024 Republican National Convention) in Milwaukee next year.   

Every time you turn around, a breaking story powers both our two news services: SRN News and Town Hall News. I also have nationally syndicated talk shows hosted by people like Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Charlie Kirk, and others that keep me on my toes.   

So, an opportunity came up from New York Times bestselling author Joel Rosenberg. He’s written many terrific books, including Enemies and Allies. The book is about the tumultuous change in the Middle East. In this book, he has interviews with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Eypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.   

Joel is plugged into the Middle East like nobody else. He has two websites he created that are just starting their fourth year; one is called allisrael.com. It’s Israeli news. It’s news about and primarily for evangelical Christians to try and build bridges between Israel and the evangelical world. His second website is called All Arab News. Basically, the same thing. It’s an all-Arab-focused website dealing with issues in the Muslim world but obviously cross-pollinating with what’s happening in Israel and other parts of the world, and they’re both very interesting sites.

Joel was looking for somebody who could do some consulting and who could do some coaching for his new staff. Just to help them get a little bit better, we hope. And he asked me if I’d be willing to write some columns for him, and I’d love to write. So, I said yes. It was a match made in heaven. It’s a great opportunity to work with him and some terrific people. The last two weeks have been nothing short of magnificent.   

RH: How do the reporters and editors at All Israel News provide readers with unbiased news? 

TT: I know that the mission that Joel charged all his editors and reporters for allisrael.com is to report the news and have it be fair and factual. We have opinion columns, but not as much as some other websites do. As far as what we do, we want it to be not politically motivated one way or the other. Some articles I read there are not exactly pro-Israeli, but they’re not anti-Israeli.

We cover news and events that impact Israel and the Middle East, and the idea is to do that in a way that appeals to the evangelical world. We are trying to reach out to evangelical Christians, many of whom make pilgrimages to Israel. Some of whom live in Israel.

You know, it’s just filtering everything through a biblical worldview. But to embrace the charming differences between and among the religions. I call it bridge building.    

RH: What is at the core of Salem Media Group’s rapid growth and the success of its numerous talk shows? 

Tom Tradup: Most of the people I work with, like Hugh Hewitt and Mike Gallagher, are people you would be happy to have as your next-door neighbor. Dr. Sebastian Gorka was a national security strategist for President Trump when he was in the White House. If you read things in The New York Times or The Washington Post, he’s supposed to be some sort of right-wing activist. I find him to be just an interesting guy with a great worldview and a lot of experience in foreign policy.   

Charlie Kirk is one of our hosts. He has created one of the largest young activist groups in the country, Turning Point USA. When they have a convention, they generally turn out thousands of young people, college-age or high school-age people, who thirst to get involved in the political system.

Brandon Tatum is one of our guys. He was a Scottsdale, Arizona, police officer for several years. He has two million followers on YouTube. That doesn’t happen if you’re banging the same drum every day.

These are people who have interesting things to say. They are engaging and love talking to men and women around the country. People have a lot of choices, and the great thing about America is that there are choices everywhere.

Our job is to generate the largest possible audience we can and to deliver the most people to our advertisers. We’re pretty good at it; we’ve been doing it for a long time.  

RH: How does Townhall’s delivery style differ slightly from other network options like Fox News, CBS News, or ABC News? 

TT: Townhall is different because they report news based on what’s happening in the world, not on some political worldview based in a conference room at The Washington Post or The New York Times.

For example, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz (R) may be trying to push forward a motion to vacate as they call in Congress to remove Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House Speaker. Even though they’re both Republicans, they have their differences. Gaetz doesn’t like McCarthy, so he will try to get a vote to remove him. Whether or not that’s going to happen, we have people from both sides talking about this story on Townhall. You don’t hear that on a lot of networks.

For example, when I listen to CBS Radio, invariably, you only hear Chuck Schumer (D-NY). You don’t hear Mitch McConnel (R-KY). Our business model is not geared towards political affiliations. We aim to attract a diverse audience with a thirst for factual information. We believe in presenting the facts and allowing our audience to make their own informed decisions. 

On our talk shows, it’s entirely different. We cover breaking news and then explain to people what they should think about it from the viewpoint of our hosts. If you agree or disagree with the hosts, that’s the beauty of talk radio. You pick up the phone, call in, and have a whole country listening while they’re wrong.

But for the news, we just want it to be fair and balanced. I know Fox News probably copyrighted that phrase, but it’s a good one. And that’s what we want.  

RH: Who is the most important and influential media figure right now?   

Tom Tradup: Charlie Kirk cuts a wide swath through both radio and podcasts. He is hugely successful. I see him on Fox News a lot, I see him on all the major networks. Whenever he goes to a college campus, some nutty activists turn out, trying to muzzle him and block him from making a speech that he was invited to make.

I think Charlie Kirk would probably be the most influential media figure right now because he is having such a big impact not only on the body of politics but, more importantly, on young people who are the next generation of voters. Charlie Kirk is one of the loudest voices of the government’s encroachment on the rights of individuals, and you would think these Antifa or BLM or whatever groups they are on college campuses, you would think they would be happy to have someone like him there because he’s defending their rights to speak as well as his.

But that’s not what happens these days and it’s kind of sad but it’s very scary.  

RH: How challenging is it for conservative media outlets to attract new advertisers and establish partnerships when they face censorship and unjust labeling? 

Tom Tradup: The selling atmosphere in this country for radio generally, whether it’s talk radio or music radio, is very challenging, probably the most challenging that’s ever been because people have decided, wrongly — in my opinion — that radio is this relic of the past and they need to move into podcasts, or they need to move into digital-only or only on websites.  

If you have a media mix that includes everything, you’ll likely sell a lot more pillows, vitamins, and cars. Some agencies are challenging and don’t always want to listen to reason. All we can do is present our case and hope that it works.

We’ve been very successful so far, but I know many people I talk with at other radio networks say the same thing. The answer is to believe in radio.  

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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

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A photo of Charles Barkley and Gayle King
(PHOTO: KEVIN MAZUR/GETTY FOR TNT)

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.

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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. 

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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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