No research budget? No problem! Ok, many of us have not seen research in a while. I am going to give you some poor man tips for getting the pulse of your community.
These are tried and true methods that I have been using my entire programming career. Disclaimer: getting great unbiased research is a tremendous tool to strengthen your station or show. I have learned a few tricks that may help you assess your community and audience.
Use Your Station’s Database for a Small Survey
Usually, you must hold the carrot of winning a couple of hundred bucks for a participant. There are many advantages to this method. You are likely to have P1s who love your product and have a commitment to the station. Talk about cool!
Building the questions is the tough part. You don’t want to ask leading questions that mirror your thoughts or the attitudes of the audience. I like open-ended questions. I would also like to know about the participants’ demographics.
For whatever reason, my station’s database is different than the actual listeners to a news/talk station. You may find your database like mine: 70% women. Of those women, a large portion are in their 20s and 30s. Sadly, this is not your audience. You will need to willow them out as you compile the information.
The questions need to be about the audience, not about your station.
-What are your people doing for fun?
-Do they like to travel?
-How long is their commute?
-Do they have kids?
-Are they married?
-Are they happy with their school district?
-What is their biggest concern?
People love to talk about themselves. Let them do it and then sprinkle in questions about the station.
-Are there enough traffic reports?
-Have you ever called a show?
-How was your interaction with the host or producer?
-What is your favorite restaurant?
-How much time do you watch sports each week?
You certainly can add many questions like this. Knowing your audience allows you to reflect on their lives, concerns, and interests.
Be A Spy
I love doing this one at lunch. Pull into a restaurant that appeals to businesspeople in your area. Get a table near a large group and start writing down the conversation.
Are they griping about the boss? What are their concerns? Do they tease each other? How much do they speak about their significant other? Are they discussing something they read, heard, or watched?
Just write down their conversations. I have taken this information and crafted promos and liners around it. It is a small sample size, but if the group is in your target for the station, you can learn a lot of good stuff. This just costs the price of lunch and a beverage. DIY at its finest.
Quick On-the-Street Surveys
This is another way to get a pulse on the community. Does your town have an event geared to the community? Go out with a producer, a salesperson, and give three quick questions. You need to guess the age of the participant. Ask for their ZIP code. this is to determine whether they live in your area.
Then three quick questions. I like to use multiple choice.
-How frustrating is the traffic? 1 to 5 with 5 meaning very agonizing.
-Your biggest concern: Crime, Taxes, Money, or family?
-How long have you lived in your home? These are quick questions to give you a pulse on your neighbors’ concerns.
None of these are as good as a solid perceptual. I have read a lot of research, and the conclusions are the biggest concern. Years ago, I worked for a company that did several perceptuals. I was asked to read them by my format captain, who was new on the job. I read them carefully over the weekend and typed up a short report. The conclusions were completely different than the data.
I am sure that if you have the opportunity to do a research project on your station, you will want to know the unvarnished truth. If you are in the enviable position of interviewing the companies that do research, you need to know the following things:
-Are the conclusions what I want to read or need to see?
-How is the best way to assess the data provided?
-Will the data allow me to develop an action plan to grow my ratings?
If you want research to confirm your preconceived thoughts, skip the expense. If you want to maximize your return, learn how to critically read the data.
What is your action plan following the study? There should be a clear path to allow you to identify vulnerabilities, opportunities, and strengths. All of these are equally important.
Once you know your vulnerabilities, you can strategize to shore up your weaknesses. Once you know your opportunities, you can address them and create another path for your brand to succeed. Knowing and perhaps confirming your strengths allows you to use these as a base point for your brand’s continuing success.
Don’t mess up good research. These are wonderful windows on your station and community. They are key to helping you create a listener-focused experience that will support your station for years to come.
Don’t be frightened to have some of your personal conclusions destroyed. Is this about your ego or is it about your team, station, and market?
Peter Thiele is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He currently serves as the Director of Spoken Word for iHeart Des Moines. Additionally, Peter has held programming roles in New York City, San Francisco, Little Rock, Greenville, Hunstville, and Joplin. He has also worked as a host, account executive and producer in Minneapolis, and San Antonio. You can reach him on X at @PeterThiele.
What to Do When Your Fear Your Media Career is Headed to the Graveyard
If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.
“Do you guys ever think about dying?”
If you saw the Barbie movie, you know the line. Barbie is living the perfect and perfectly plastic life, perfectly choreographed and full of perfect smiles.
But the movie turns on that one line, basically shattering Barbie’s world with a concept no one there would ever have considered.
Why would you consider it when everything seemed in perfect order?
Well, when it comes to broadcasting and media, a lot of you think about dying … a lot. I do, too.
Of course, it’s not the stop breathing and get buried type of death but rather, the death of a career in media.
The truth is, when it comes to our business, very few people get to choose when it ends. Take a minute and consider a major media personality who truly “retired” after a multi-decade career.
It happens, but percentage-wise, it’s rare.
Take a minute and think. Name some. Name one. It’s not easy.
More often than not, you will get laid off or fired before you want to leave, and after a certain age, getting that next opportunity may be a bridge too far.
Then, you are done done.
That’s as much a music stopper as Barbie admitting she has considered her own mortality in the middle of the dance floor. Here on planet Earth, at least from the people in my orbit, the death of a media career often leads to even better professional options and more balanced lifestyle choices.
I have friends doing a million different things: Public relations, crisis management, content creation for large companies, political communications, fundraising, and teaching. Almost all of them tell me that it was such a stress relief to have a “normal” life, to not be worried about every pending contract or new boss.
Their work is appreciated. Their job is stable. And their schedule? Normal. Never has “normal” sounded so lovely than when they talk about watching shows with spouses, going out for a drink on a Tuesday, or having a regular pickleball game (or insert any middle-aged recreational sport).
I believe them.
The “sort of” comes from me not being able to actually envision that for myself. As enticing as it would be to see people on a more accessible schedule or play a weekly game with buddies, nothing beats talking and writing for a living. Nothing. And I am going to hang on until the lights are out, and we can’t pay to get them turned back on.
For me, I’m in too deep. I’m an indoor cat, incapable of survival outside.
Meetings. Deadlines. Reliant on other people. Meetings.
I’d be dead in a week. It’s beyond no, thank you. It’s, “I can’t”.
Sure, I have three teenagers and three college tuitions to pay. And two dogs. Two cars. And a mortgage.
Here’s where I am supposed to tell you that you should not only have thoughts about (career) death but also have a survival plan – a professional media-career living will if you would.
I should tell you that because you should.
But I don’t have one. And I don’t want one.
Because I don’t want to think about death anymore. I mean, I’ve already died twice. It wasn’t fun, and the third time most likely would be the charm in terms of getting me out of the business for good.
Why so stubborn? I don’t know.
Several times, I’ve said to myself, I need to make sure I have a backup plan … just in case. Each time, I find a reason not to get one.
Ultimately, what’s my point? Get a backup plan. Think about death. But it can’t take away from the essential joy of having the privilege of talking for a living. In that vein, don’t take it for granted. Ever. Even if the pay stinks and the schedule stinks. If you think about career death so much that it detracts from being in the moment, maybe it really is time to move on.
Brian Shactman is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Radio. In addition to writing for BNM, Brian can be heard weekday mornings in Hartford, CT on 1080 WTIC hosting the popular morning program ‘Brian & Company’. During his career, Brian has worked for ESPN, CNBC, MSNBC, and local TV channels in Connecticut and Massachusetts. You can find him on Twitter @bshactman.
Is the Fairness Doctrine Even Possible in Today’s Media Landscape?
Is it right for media consumers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news?
As many media outlets shutter their doors, some have clamored for the return of the Fairness Doctrine. Newsweek released the results of their new way to connect with readers, by asking if its reporting is “fair.” Since September 2023, readers were asked to judge stories on the site, 78% said the outlet is “fair.” Another 22% found at least one story they read to be “unfair.”
AllSides Media has judged Newsweek to be center. However, let’s not forget they are the same outlet that wrongly claimed President Donald Trump was golfing on Thanksgiving in 2019. As Sheryl Attkisson noted on Full Measure this week, on Thanksgiving in 2019 President Trump was visiting troops in Iraq and the Newsweek story was fabricated.
While the reader assessment of Newsweek’s content is on par with AllSides Media, is it right for readers to judge what is “fair” and what is “unfair” news? If outlets like The Daily Caller (Right) or Vox (Left) would ask the same of their readers, would their echo chamber subscribers find them “fair?” While historically print (and later digital) outlets could (and still can) embrace the political leanings of their owner(s), from 1949 till 1987 TV news had guidelines they must adhere to: The Fairness Doctrine.
Long before Americans argued about bias in news, every TV outlet (there were only three major ones at the time) would follow “The Fairness Doctrine.” The Reagan Library notes the doctrine was “enforced by the Federal Communications Council, [and] was rooted in the media world of 1949. Lawmakers became concerned that the monopoly audience control of the three main networks, NBC, ABC, and CBS, could misuse their broadcast licenses to set a biased public agenda.”
To put it simply, the Fairness Doctrine made it so all sides of any story were presented. In 1985, under the Reagan Administration, the FCC found “the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Two years later, a panel under FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick repealed the Fairness Doctrine unanimously.
Keep in mind, at this point in time, CNN was the first and only 24-hour news network in the United States (it launched on June 1, 1980). Fox News wouldn’t be launched until almost 10 years after the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, on October 7, 1996.
Also happening at this time, large corporations (with lobbying power) were buying media outlets. General Electric purchased NBC in 1986. Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995. One year later, ABC was bought by Disney. These purchases did not go unnoticed. Saturday Night Live even mocked the acquisitions in a now-banned short called “Conspiracy Theory Rock!: Media-opoly.”
The unwillingness of news organizations to cover both sides of a story has led to the creation of biased outlets including: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, OAN, Newsmax, and others. None of these would be able to exist in their current form if the Fairness Doctrine wasn’t repealed.
News outlets that aren’t overtly biased use another trick to manipulate their viewers/readers, using emotionally charged verbiage. AllSides Media defines sensationalist words as presenting information in a way that gives a shock or makes a deep impression. This includes words like “shocking”, “heart-breaking”, “explosive”, “scathing”, “chaotic”, “desperate”, and “remarkable”… this list goes on but you’ve seen and heard these words from the news outlets daily. This is the media telling you how to react to a story instead of letting you determine how you actually feel after they present the facts of the story.
Today, what’s most concerning are outlets saying ‘fair and balanced’ news is a disservice to the public. An August 2023 NPR article explored just this, saying “Objectivity actually comes from an accurate examination of facts (actions, documentation, and even educated opinions) presented in transparent reports. Often, that coverage should also encourage audiences to examine supporting evidence for themselves.”
The problem with this is three-fold:
- Selective fact presentation develops a one-sided narrative
- An “educated opinion” is not a fact. It’s an opinion that is neither right nor wrong.
- It is impossible for human beings to be completely unbiased (see January 31st column)
While it’s great Newsweek is asking readers if their reporting is ‘fair’ is the reader’s judgment neutral, or just as biased as the outlet they prefer to read? Sometimes when we are clicking to satisfy our own confirmation bias it’s hard to tell.
What the media and all Americans need to start recognizing is their own echo chamber. Knowing we all have some sort of bias is not a flaw but what makes us human. Our flaw is the inability to recognize our bias yet call out others for being biased just because they are on the other side of an issue.
Krystina Alarcon Carroll is a columnist and features writer for Barrett News Media.She currently freelances at WPIX in New York, and has previously worked on live, streamed, and syndicated TV programs. Her prior employers have included NY1, Fox News Digital, Law & Crime Network, and Newsmax. You can find Krystina on X (formerly twitter) @KrystinaAlaCarr.
CNN Sees Biggest Viewership Jump During Super Bowl Parade Shooting Coverage
All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.
The cable news outlets got increased viewership from two different news events during the week of Feb. 12, namely the shooting at the Super Bowl parade in Kansas City.
On Wednesday, Feb. 14, of the mass shooting at the Super Bowl celebration parade in Kansas City for the Chiefs football team. One person died and roughly two dozen others were injured.
All news outlets spiked upon live breaking news coverage with Fox News — already the weekday afternoon leader in cable news — leading in total viewers.
The following are what each network drew as the story unfolded on that Feb. 14 afternoon from Kansas City and how it grew from the same Wednesday time slots from Jan. 3 thru Feb. 7:
Fox News Channel
- 3-4 p.m.: 1.656 million viewers (+18 percent)
- 4-5 p.m.: 1.873 million viewers (+34 percent)
- 5-6 p.m.: 3.175 million viewers (+7 percent)
- 6-7 p.m.: 2.441 million viewers (+12 percent)
- 7-8 p.m.: 2.250 million viewers (+4 percent)
- 3-4 p.m.: 1.008 million viewers (+10 percent)
- 4-6 p.m.: 1.504 million viewers (+7 percent)
- 6-7 p.m.: 1.763 million viewers (+17 percent)
- 7-8 p.m.: 1.474 million viewers (+13 percent)
- 3-4 p.m.: 0.762 million viewers (+27 percent)
- 4-5 p.m.: 0.913 million viewers (+35 percent)
- 5-6 p.m.: 1.007 million viewers (+28 percent)
- 6-7 p.m.: 0.985 million viewers (+43 percent)
- 7-8 p.m.: 0.960 million viewers (+29 percent)
- 4-5 p.m.: 0.343 million viewers (+23 percent)
- 5-6 p.m.: 0.354 million viewers (+16 percent)
- 7-8 p.m.: 0.547 million viewers (+13 percent)
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the results were announced for the special election race for New York’s third congressional district between its former representative Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican challenger Mazi Pilip. Suozzi left office in 2022 to run in the New York gubernatorial election but lost out to incumbent Kathy Hochul. Suozzi’s successor in Congress was the infamous George Santos who was officially expelled from office on Dec. 1, 2023 over charges of federal criminal laws including campaign finance fraud.
MSNBC and CNN were the only major national news outlets that provided live coverage of the special election results, stressing the significance of Suozzi’s eight-point win over Pilip as it reduced the GOP’s advantage in the House of Representatives by one.
From when the voting polls closed in New York at 9 p.m. ET, MSNBC easily topped CNN in total viewers at 9 p.m. (1.616 million viewers vs. CNN’s 0.847 million), 10 p.m. (1.903 million vs. CNN’s 0.879 million), 11 p.m. (1.112 million vs. CNN’s 0.541 million), and at midnight (774,000 viewers vs. CNN’s 299,000).
From 9-11 p.m. ET, though, both MSNBC and CNN scored the same performance among the key 25-54 demographic: a 0.15 rating at 9 p.m. and a 0.18 rating at 10 p.m. (Note: a 1.0 rating in 25-54 equates to 1.21 million viewers within the aforementioned age range.)
For the 10-11 p.m. hour, when the New York candidate speeches had aired, CNN grew by 68 percent (in viewers) and by 80 percent (in 25-54) from its Tuesday 10-11 p.m. hour output from Jan. 2 thru Feb. 6 — a time period that included a Ron DeSantis town hall and New Hampshire primary results.
MSNBC was up as well at 10 p.m. hour — +16 percent in viewers, +33 percent in the 25-54 demo — using the same reference parameters.
Even though Fox News did not offer live coverage of New York’s special election results, Hannity at 9 p.m. (2.528 million viewers; 0.21 A25-54 demo rating) and Gutfeld! at 10 p. m. (2.357 million viewers; 0.31 A25-54 demo rating) still held the top spots in their respective hours on all of cable news.
Source: Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/