Something of interest is happening as the Spring rating results return. News/Talk and All News stations are rebounding. The News/Talk audience is coming back. It’s not a huge resurgence, but there are a few standouts that are at the top of the heap.
Most are seeing modest growth. The key is that they are seeing growth after a year of a slide to the basement.
The rebound shouldn’t be a surprise. There are big topics that are high profile and demanding of attention, discussion and coverage. The economy, the January 6th commission, Roe v Wade, midterm elections, the shootings at Uvalde, and don’t forget about Covid and the multiple variants.
Those topics are bringing people back to the news format, but more importantly, the format is benefitting from the shift of stations to focus more on local stories of interest and to qualify how national stories connect to their markets. Through failure we’ve learned that we have to connect the dots to our communities to engage the local listener.
It’s not enough to talk about the rate of inflation nationally without acknowledging its’ impact on your community. You should note the price of gasoline in your community and how that one item alone increases the price of groceries, clothing, goods and services … and so on. Local connectivity is important. These stories should lead your newscasts. These trending topics should lead the discussion of your hosts shows.
Radio created huge burnout following the 2020 election. Leading up to it we found the format and its personalities mostly echoing one message. Local on-air personalities echoed what national on-air personalities were saying. Listening to the echo chamber became maddening. Many local personalities failed to talk about the flashpoints in their own markets and chose to talk about what the network and syndicated shows talked about. News/Talk radio became a loud argument of who is right or who is in the wrong.
It became popular for mental health experts to recommend listening less to news/talk radio, watch less of the TV news channels, turn-off the news in-general, step away from social media and avoid electronic or printed daily news updates. This “ostrich” strategy (put your head in the sand and ignore everything) apparently worked for some listeners. It impacted radio overall. It impacted the News channels on TV. It negatively impacted streaming news channels.
The audience is returning because many Program Directors and their talent are realizing that there are many more immediate things in listeners lives that have nothing to do with many of the national news stories. The economy is one of the few national stories that universally impacts the populous. It’s a huge problem. The economy keeps us awake at night. That one topic is overwhelming and tops most social topics, global topics and even the future of the environment.
When it is all said and done … most people are a selfish people. We want to know about those things that are going to impact us negatively on a personal level and what’s being done about it. We the people care about our tightest inner circle. Our families and our friends. Refocus there and deliver to your audience the news that the audience cares about most. Connect national stories locally. When you talk about the terrible tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, bring it back to your community. What’s being done locally to prevent such a repeat of this unthinkable tragedy? The key root word being “local.”
There is greater concern about construction on a bridge being out, when it impacts one’s daily commute and will do so for a year, than there is about whether or not the President fist-bumped a Saudi Crown Prince. I’m not suggesting that you ignore that gesture by the President, as it is a high-profile story, but rather that you leave the deep drill down and multiple-day focus on a topic like that for the national hosts. Pay more attention to what the local audience cares about.
To the non-news stations, combat burnout by being the alternative. Start by acknowledging that research shows us that people who listen to anything other than a news/talk station, do not want to hear your non-news/talk station (meaning a Sports or Music station), talking about politics and polarizing social topics. That’s not why they’re listening to your station. Be true to your brand.
Kudos to the News/Talk programmers who have shifted the paradigm and are paying attention to their local communities. God knows that there’s enough going on in Everytown, USA to satisfy the need for news in the local community. The smart programmers know it and connect to it.