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Making Connections in Times of COVID-19

Thanks to digital media we can still capitalize on this in a big way and connect with listeners in a way that even 10 years ago didn’t seem possible.

Pete Mundo

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Here we are facing the most interesting election cycle of our lives, yet many of us are hesitant to be out rubbing elbows with listeners and doing things that make local radio great: connecting on a personal level.

There are days when I admit I get down about it. Something I’ve had a blast doing in Kansas City is our bimonthly “Politics and a Pint” events. We would book a restaurant or bar for a couple hours, welcome out a politician running for office or re-election and have a longform conversation over food and drinks. It was casual and fun. It was a chance for me to get to meet some of our loyal, P1 listeners. It was a chance to connect with either an office holder or soon-to-be officer holder in an intimate setting that built our relationship beyond the 10-minute phone calls on the air that were typically more policy and less personal.

It was a win for the station, me, the politician and the listener.

Then COVID-19 happened and all that came to a screeching halt. And it came to a screeching halt right as the election season was getting really hot.

But how do you work around it? What can be done?

My initial plan was to wait it out. Hope COVID passed sooner than later and we could get back to doing things in person. I was against the idea of Zoom, as it didn’t have the same level of intimacy for the listener as the in-person events did.

But obviously it became clear in late-spring the virus wasn’t going anywhere and we would have to figure out how to live with it.

I then opened up to the Zoom idea. Not that it was perfect, but it was better than doing nothing. We began hosting “virtual” Politics and a Pint. While it wasn’t the same as being in-person with listeners for an evening, there were some benefits that the in-person events didn’t have.

We started hosting these on Facebook Live and Periscope, so instead of having 75-125 folks in person, we were reaching thousands via our social media platforms for these events.

We were losing intimacy, but gaining in reach, that might reach a new potential P1 that may not have had any idea of the event we were hosting.

So like anything else, we took the pros with the cons. Another positive is that we can do more events, since the process of needing to book bars or restaurants is out of the equation. The fall was always a busy time, and some establishments were hesitant to do anything related to politicians given the divisive climate we find ourselves in.

Meantime, on a personal level, I’ve continued to do a handful of events that I get invited to emcee or host. This past weekend the McCloskey’s from St. Louis, who are now infamous for their photo standing on the front lawn armed as rioters stormed their neighborhood, came to Kansas City to keynote a “support the Blue” rally.

I was asked to emcee the event and willingly participated. The event was outdoors and I came armed with hand sanitizer and made sure I wasn’t shaking hands like I would be in a pre-COVID world. But I felt it was still important to “see and be seen” at events that would be valuable and important to our P1’s.

I’m not suggesting any host put themselves in a position they’re uncomfortable in or do something unsafe. But consider your comfort level with risks and when you think there is something that can be of value to your personal brand and the station brand, it still might be worth your time.

It’s an election cycle that will be one we will never forget. Thanks to digital media we can still capitalize on this in a big way and connect with listeners in a way that even 10 years ago didn’t seem possible. And figuring out how to balance these things will go a long way to keeping the show and station moving forward with momentum into 2021 and beyond.

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BNM Writers

Viewership Not as Strong For Biden-Trump II

Douglas Pucci

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The second and final U.S. presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place on Thursday, Oct. 22 and across 15 outlets, it drew 62.95 million viewers. While the first Biden-Trump debate from Sep. 29 (73.13 million) ranked as the second most-watched debate in TV history, Biden-Trump II failed to crack the top 15 most-watched debates (placing 17th).

Once more, Fox News Channel — expected to top cable in total viewers for the week ending Oct. 25 — was the top outlet for a debate; Biden-Trump II drew 15.41 million viewers. CNN drew less than half of FNC’s audience figures with 7.51 million viewers but still ranked as runner-up on cable; MSNBC (6.93 million) close behind. 

ABC led the broadcast networks in debate coverage with 11.23 million viewers. The debate’s moderator was NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker which may have led NBC to be the lone network to increase its viewership from the first debate; it drew 10.63 million, up 9 percent from Sep. 29. CBS attracted an audience of 5.72 million.

Here were the half-hour total viewer breakdowns of Biden-Trump II on the broadcast networks:

9:00-9:30 p.m. ET

ABC — 10.881 million

CBS — 5.319 million

NBC — 10.249 million

Univision — 1.288 million

Telemundo— 1.397 million

9:30-10:00 p.m. ET

ABC — 11.648 million

CBS — 6.000 million

NBC — 11.017 million

Univision — 1.506 million

Telemundo— 1.479 million

10:00-10:30 p.m. ET

ABC — 11.248 million

CBS — 5.858 million

NBC — 10.683 million

Univision — 1.501 million

Telemundo— 1.489 million

Unlike Biden-Trump from Sep. 29 and Harris-Pence from Oct. 7, Univision (1.43 million) was Biden-Trump II’s top Spanish-language outlet. Telemundo delivered 1.27 million viewers.

The debate affected the crowd for Fox and NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football”. Giants-Eagles drew 10.61 million viewers, the smallest audience for TNF in two years.

For the week ending Oct. 18, 2020 in total day data (from 6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. each day), Fox News Channel led the cable news networks in both viewers (2.38 million) and adults 25-54 (418,000). MSNBC (1.32 million) bested CNN (1.16 million) in total viewers while it was vice versa in the key demo (CNN’s 287,000 adults 25-54 vs. MSNBC’s 207,000 adults 25-54).

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.854 million viewers

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.843 million viewers

3. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.427 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.326 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.159 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 10/12/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.129 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.035 million viewers

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.994 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.956 million viewers

10. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.710 million viewers

23. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Fri. 10/16/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.872 million viewers

66. CNN Tonight (CNN, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.905 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC program with associated rank) among adults 25-54:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.158 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.076 million adults 25-54

3. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.051 million adults 25-54

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.999 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.988 million adults 25-54

6. CNN Tonight (CNN, Thu. 10/15/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.916 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 10/13/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.890 million adults 25-54

8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 10/12/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.883 million adults 25-54

9. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Wed. 10/14/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.853 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 10/16/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.843 million adults 25-54

22. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 10/15/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.674 million adults 25-54

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BNM Writers

DEBATE PREVIEW: It’s a Thankless Job, and Unfortunately She Has to Do It

The stakes are even more complicated now that the Commission on Presidential Debates has changed the rules.

Evan Donovan

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NBC News White House correspondent Kristin Welker has the job nobody wants tonight.

Welker will try to reign in President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night in the second and final debate of the 2020 election.

The president attacked Welker on Twitter and in rallies this week, calling her terrible and unfair, setting up a debate showdown with both his opponent and the moderator.

It’s a thankless job for Welker, who will have to corral a president who needs to do well in the debate to shore up what appears to be a several-point disadvantage with less than two weeks of voting left in the election.

Several colleagues and other news personalities came to Welker’s defense this week, but the true grit will come on Thursday night when she will have to tightrope between keeping personalities in check and not becoming part of the story of the night. 

The stakes are even more complicated now that the Commission on Presidential Debates has changed the rules.

Just as in the first debate, the debate will be 90-minutes long divided into six 15-minute segments. Each candidate will deliver uninterrupted remarks in response to a question from the moderator at the beginning of each segment. Then the debate will move to an ‘open discussion’ period for the remainder of the 15 minutes.

What’s different this time is that the mics will be muted during the 2-minute answer period for each candidate. They will not be muted during open discussion.

This is where things will get tricky for Welker.

The president, anxious to make his points and make up ground on Biden, will likely be even more aggressive during the open discussion. Their personalities are starkly different without the pressure of playing catch-up. 

How will Welker react if Trump simply talks over Biden and dominates his time during the open discussion? 

Interruptions will “count toward their time,” but again, that puts the pressure back on Welker. She becomes the center of the evening at a time when public trust of the media is at or near all-time lows, and one candidate is actively undermining trust in the media at-large and this moderator specifically.

It’s a job nobody would want, but Welker is a seasoned professional. 

Here’s wishing her luck.

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BNM Writers

Capitalizing on Debate Season

Your station carrying not only the presidential debate, but also carrying debates in statewide races, can grow and keep your audience tuned in.

Pete Mundo

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The election season always brings opportunities for news talk stations to shine. The audience knows they can go to you for the latest information, news and events. I’d imagine there won’t be a news talk station (that isn’t fully syndicated) that won’t carry this week’s second and final Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. 

It’s relatively easy to do, it’s great for branding and it hopefully draws you some cume during a time of day when your station might not typically get it. 

But what about carrying debates from some of your local races? 

It seems like debates at the state level are happening less and less each election cycle. Political consultants are convincing campaigns that it’s only the blunders that get remembered and the campaigns flush with cash are better off letting their TV and radio ads do the storytelling for them. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, that’s a disservice to the voter. But it’s the way things are trending, unfortunately. Incumbent favorites usually find every reason to not debate their opponents. 

So when a debate does occur, how can your radio station capitalize on it? And should you carry it? 

Here in Kansas City on KCMO Talk Radio, we will be airing a congressional debate on Thursday, October 22nd, between incumbent Democrat Sharice Davids and Republican challenger Amanda Adkins. The seat that was Republican for nearly a decade until 2018, when the House of Representative’s “Blue Wave” hit Kansas’ third district. As a news talk station, our conservative audience would love nothing more than to flip the seat back into Republican hands. 

Also, the seat covers essentially the entire side of the KC Metro in Kansas. Unlike in Top 5 or Top 10 markets, where congressional districts, for example in the Dallas-Fort Worth market can include up to, or more than, 10 congressional seats, the Third District of Kansas is the bulk of the Kansas side of the KC Metro and is a relevant race to a huge part of the listening audience.

With that being said, we elected to carry the Third District debate this week which is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. There was some hesitancy as it is in the middle of Ben Shapiro’s afternoon drive show, and Ben is performing well on the station, but considering the percentage of the audience that lives in this district, combined with the fact that it’s the only debate between the two candidates, we decided to move forward.

Also, it gives us a great branding opportunity as Thursday being “Debate Day” and a “Two-Fer”, as listeners will get our local, Third District debate at 5:30 p.m. and then later that evening the Presidential Debate at 8:00 p.m. We’ve used that branding on our website and social media.   

The lead up to the event will be just as important, if not arguably more important, than the debate itself. All week long, we’ve been able to push on the station via promos, liners, imaging, etc. our ability to cover the local and national races better than any station in the Metro, while branding ourselves as the station, politically, where “if it’s happening in KCMO, it’s on KCMO”. Thursday’s debate will be another example of coming through on that promise in a way no other station in the market will be.

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