Your Own Brokered Radio Show by Nicole Valentin

Hosting your own radio show is a wonderful endeavor that is exciting, fun and absolutely nerve-wracking.  There are many great reasons to venture into this opportunity and there are also some really awful reasons that I’d like to warn you about.

Bad Reason #1: Thinking you can sell enough advertising or “sponsorships” to cover the cost of purchasing brokered time on your local talk radio station.

By brokered time, I mean buying a block of time from a station at a set price and then selling spots yourself to other local businesses to pay for that time and hopefully make a profit.

This is a bad idea because sponsorships of this nature are difficult to sell and long-term commitments from local advertisers are hard to retain due to the nature of your radio show.

Allow me to explain …

Generally, radio stations that broker 70% or more of their airtime are not highly ranked stations. As you know, the ranking of a radio station is determined by the quantity of its cumulative listening audience. I understand that you understand that you are not going to be on a #1 ranked station, but it’s important you carefully evaluate the station you’re purchasing brokered time on to ensure you’re not buying brokered time on a station with absolutely ZERO ratings.  Always request to see official reports (not power point presentations or pretty “one-sheets”).  My mom always says “A piece of paper can hold anything you put in it” – so always ask for raw data.  We can help you evaluate raw data.

More importantly, radio ads or sponsorships “work” for advertisers when there is a large enough percentage of the advertiser’s target audience to generate a stream of inquiries. If you’re selling sponsorships for your show – and the station, day of the week and hour during which your show airs and your sold ads or sponsorships have few folks listening – your clients are going to eventually stop advertising with you because they are not going to get sufficient new inquiries to justify the cost of sponsoring your show.

In general, it’s very difficult to sell sponsorships for your unknown “XYZ Show” since it has no track history or record of success. I said “difficult,” not “impossible.”  Just don’t go into it thinking your broadcast venture is going to be profitable for you because the likelihood that it will make a profit, especially right out of the box, is extremely small, so please be safe and don’t count on it.

Bad Reason #2: Thinking it’s the radio station’s fault if no one is listening to your show.

The reason why stations that sell brokered time don’t generally have high rankings or ratings is because of inconsistencies in the shows they air. When you have odd programming mixtures, you make it very difficult, if not impossible, to grow any kind of listening audience. When you come in and start broadcasting your show, it’s possible that there could literally be not one single person listening because no one habitually tunes into that station at that time.

What’s more, people (or audiences) are attracted to content that they can relate to and identify with. If last month there was a show aimed at adults 65+ during your purchased on-air timeframe, and today you’re trying to do a show aimed at men 18 to 49 years old, then the adults 65+ are going to tune away and be sad that their show has gone away. The men 18 to 49 years old don’t know that your show even exists. Either way, you’re still broadcasting to absolutely no one because no one is tuned to that station at that time.

With that being said, let’s assume your show is really entertaining and that you’re awesome – right? It doesn’t matter who you are, it takes time to build up a loyal listening audience. It helps if you’re talented and entertaining. It’s a completely lost cause if you have little entertainment or information to offer any particular demographic.

So if no one is listening to your show, this is what is really happening:
1) You have little entertainment or information to offer, or,
2) Your show is too new and you’re still engaging in the long term process of building up a large and loyal listening audience.

“Too new” … how long until I’m no longer “too new”. The textbook answer for a radio show is at the very least 1 year (yes, that long!), but the real answer is that it largely depends on what you do to promote yourself and your show. I had clients that were masters at self-promotion and so they really shortened that curve for themselves in making people aware of their show and the valuable on-air content they provided their listening audience.  Still, just like with any advertising, just because you’re advertising something, doesn’t mean people will engage … you have to deliver a pack of entertainment and enlightenment to keep your listeners coming back for more regularly!

The polar opposite of that would be to let people find you by accident, or rely solely on the “promos” that the radio station includes as added value for your show. I think in today’s Internet-dominant social media heavy society, you should definitely take advantage of the ease with which you can create your own show website and promote your show using social media vehicles.  You can also take out newspaper ads, place billboards in town and generally just let you target audience know that you’re on the air providing them X, Y, Z!

With that being said, the future of broadcast radio is talk radio but the real future of both talk radio and music radio is streaming radio: programming coming straight from Internet sites to your desktop or handset, as you currently know it. In the not too distant future, we will stream our favorite radio stations in our cars.  This isn’t a far-fetched ideas since Toyota is already making and selling cars with internet built-in.  In fact, check out this article to expand on that.  Make sure that your radio show is also being streamed online and you can get really creative with podcasts and archives of past shows by incorporating them into your own website and blog (not the radio station’s).  I can develop more on this, just ask me.

Ideally, you want to be on a station that only brokers 20% or less of their on-air time (a higher ranked talk radio station in your market). The reason for this is that you take a huge shortcut with regards to building up a significant listening audience because the station already attracts a massive amount of listeners during their normal big-name established radio personality shows. On the other hand, these 20% or less of on-air time broker stations are also a gazillion times more expensive than lower ranked stations. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.  The right choice for you depends on your unique circumstances … after conversing with you for about thirty minutes; I’ll be able to make a professional recommendation quite quickly.

Having your own radio show is tremendously beneficial for both your personal brand and your business’ brand identity. Keep in mind it’s not as easy as it sounds and it’s never a good thing to jump into if you think you’re going to make a profit out of it. If you do decide to jump into it, make sure you negotiate your contract well and that you have a cancellation clause that is tolerable if you realize it’s draining you financially and you need to get out. The radio station should provide you with generous added value in exchange for your hefty long-term commitment.  I can help you with contract negotiation.

Hopefully these warnings have helped you rethink your strategy.  Before wrapping up, I just want to say, congrats for thinking big and know that we are here to help make your dreams come true!  We’re just a phone call away – I can be reached at (813) 355-0036.

About Nicole Valentin

Nicole Valentin heads one of Tampa Florida’s most innovative advertising firms, NV Advertising, which she founded in 2010. Ms. Valentin graduated from USF's School of Mass Communications with a B.A. in Advertising and counts on over 12 years of advertising media experience. In her spare time, Nicole loves traveling, learning about world cultures and spending time with her family - especially her dog, Jake. You can find Nicole on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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