Article at a glance:
- Why radio interviews have gone from one hour to today’s norm of 7 to 10 minutes.
- How radio stations are rated and what this means to you.
Last week I introduced you to our new Creative Director, Penny Carnathan, an award-winning former newspaper editor who shared tips for getting press coverage in this era of changing media. I got such great feedback, I thought I’d introduce you to some of the other members of our team who can share similar insights about the media.
I’ll start with Alex (“Dro”) Hinojosa, who spent 15 years as a talk radio host, as he’s got some excellent insights into this industry, for those looking to use radio to get their message out. As with newspapers, it’s a new age in the world of talk radio.
Alex and I actually go way back. He first came to EMSI in 2007 after working for CBS, Clear Channel and Genesis Communications. He’d worked as a host and also as an executive producer and program director in major markets including Washington, D.C., Detroit, and right here in Tampa Bay. He was with us for only a year before the radio bug bit again in the form of a great job offer from Atlanta.
You know I think of everyone at EMSI as family, so when he first told me of this opportunity, it nearly broke my heart that he wanted to leave us. But, understanding the mindset of media personalities, I knew he wouldn’t be happy until he got it out of his system. So I encouraged him to go (and quietly sobbed into my coffee).
But I also knew we’d stay in touch and remain friends no matter where he went. I was right. Alex returned to EMSI last September as our Senior Campaign Manager, now overseeing all of our clients’ campaigns.
I talked to Alex about how the changes affect talk shows and how it can affect you as a potential guest. Our interview ran a bit long so I’ll give you half of it today and come back with the rest tomorrow.
Marsha: I know radio is going through trials comparable to what the newspaper industry has experienced, with mass layoffs. What do you feel is the impact on AM radio and the talk show format in general?
Alex: There aren’t as many shows, Marsha, and the hosts that are left wear a lot of hats. Very rarely is a host just a host. He – or she – might also be a producer, which involves booking guests, updating the station Web site, interacting on social media and they might also be in charge of any number of other jobs, like promotions or production. Because they’re really, really busy, if you want to be a guest on their show, you’ve got to grab their attention quickly or you won’t even make a blip on their screen. The way to do that is offer them an angle and a segment they immediately recognize as a perfect fit for their audience.
Marsha: I would imagine it’s overwhelming to some of the hosts who have to do all that and still focus on getting good ratings.
Alex: Seems daunting, huh? Because prep time is cut short with those off-air responsibilities, hosts are really looking for topics and guests that will play to their target audience, be engaging and provide good content. They’re not there to sell someone’s book or product – their goal is to keep their audience listening so their ratings stay up.
If a guest helps them out by giving a great interview, well, they’ll likely return the favor by plugging the person’s book and even linking to it from their blog.
Marsha: On the subject of ratings, we’ve seen big changes in how they’re determined. What do you think of the new PPM ratings system?
Alex: As you know, ratings used to be done through diaries, actually writing down what station or show you listened to over a period of time. Now though, most big markets use PPM – Personal People Meter – which tracks listening in real time with a device those being surveyed actually wear. Ironically, most everyone in radio, except the No. 1-rated station, will tell you those PPMs are inaccurate and that there is no real way to gauge exactly who and how many are listening. But hosts have to pay attention to them because it’s how they’re judged by management.
Marsha: So in the end, no one knows that audience better than the host. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.
Alex: Exactly! And no talk show host who is on the hook for ratings will book a guest who’s wrong for his show. Hosts know what their audiences want and they’re not going to invite someone whose topic has no interest for their listeners. If you’re booked, it’s only because that audience is a fit for you and your message.
Marsha: When I first started this business 21+ years ago, the interviews we scheduled for our clients were an hour and sometimes longer. Then we saw the interviews go to twenty to thirty minutes, and now they’re shorter than that. What do you feel the reason is for this change in interview formats?
Alex: The new PPM system is tracking audiences minute to minute, counting the listeners tuning in and listeners tuning out. For radio stations, that means every minute counts. Now the average interview is seven to ten minutes in most cities and if you get more than that, it’s a blessing. But, we’re also seeing as little as three- to five-minute interview segments during morning drive time in the top major markets. Think about it like this: the methodology for gathering radio ratings is a lot closer to how ratings for TV are tallied now. How consistently do you see a 30-45 minute interview on TV? Not often. Expect the same with radio. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your message out. You just have to be more focused and to the point as a guest because hosts are being trained by their bosses to be concise too. So, preparation and media training are a must!
Tomorrow: The difference between small audiences and big ones; radio and social networking; and a new life for “old” interviews.