Morning Drive: Key Radio Time Period

Morning Drive: Key Radio Time Period

Part III – Capital Radio Wars

by Woody Jenkins, Editor

BATON ROUGE — Radio executives agree that Morning Drive is the most important part of the broadcast day.

“Morning Drive is the window to our stations.  We have to back it up with great content throughout the day,” Clear Channel market manager Michael Hudson said Wednesday.  Clear Channel owns WJBO, WYNK, The River, WFMF, and Downtown Radio.

“There are two peaks in the day — morning and afternoon.  The afternoon audience now exceeds the morning, but the morning is more important, because that’s where we attract the listeners and get them locked in,” Gordy Rush, market manager for Guaranty Broadcasting said.  Guaranty owns The Eagle 98.1, The Tiger, Country Legends, ESPN radio, and Talk 107.3.

“Morning is where you find the big personalities,” Rush said.

And indeed Morning Drive is the most competitive part of the day.  Personalities become household names.

In the Baton Rouge market, the clear leaders are Walton and Johnson on 98.1.  They have a strong hold on listeners in the 18-49 male demographic.  But they have plenty of competition.  When radio executives talk candidly about their own stations and their competitors, the top names they mention in Morning Drive in the Baton Rouge market are

• Walton and Johnson on 98.1

• Kid Kraddick on WFMF

• Big D and Bubba on WYNK

• Chris Powers on The Tiger

• Murphy, Sam and Jodi on The River

• Matt Kennedy and Brian Haldane on Talk 107.3, and

• Karen Henderson and Kevin Meeks on WJBO

Morning Drive is a tough time to program.

Gordy Rush of Guaranty says the average commute in Baton Rouge is only 20 to 25 minutes, and that’s the window Morning Drive has to be able to fill in listeners lives.  “There’s a different clock in Morning Drive.  It’s like a two-minute drill in football,” he said.

“In the middle of the day, you can have more long-form programming.  For us, Clarence Buggs and Bill Profita can go into depth.  But in Morning Drive, people are in a hurry,” he said.

That’s where the time, temperature and the latest news or at least the latest news headlines come in.

“We have to be relevant to peoples’ lives.  We always want to remember that we are talking to real people,” Hudson said.

“Our Morning Drive personalities have to be credible and in tune with the listener.  People on the way to work don’t want someone yelling at them,” he said.

When is Morning Drive?  Hudson points out that there are plant workers going to work at 5 a.m.  So the day starts early for radio.

Advertising sales in the radio business are largely a function of ratings.  Hudson says, “Ratings are a function of how long we keep people with us.  The longer they listen to us, the more we get paid.  Another thing is, if they listen a lot, the advertiser doesn’t have to buy as many ads to make an impact.  But you can’t carry that concept to the extreme.  The person who listens to radio all day is usually not a target for advertisers.  They have a lot of time on their hands and are not spending money.”

What kind of person makes a great Morning Drive personality?

Rush says he wants people with “star power” who can connect with people.  Does it take a lot of education?  Rush said it depends on the format.  Ideally, the more the better but realistically, education is not the key in all situations.  Voice is important, he says, and humor.

Rush thinks the personality must be respectful of the listeners.  He doesn’t believe listeners want hosts who are yelling at guests and talking over them.

Clear Channel programming director Bruce Collins thinks the new/talk format requires personalities who are great communicators and great listeners.  He cites Kevin Meeks and Karen Henderson as good examples of the qualities needed.

“You want someone who is intelligent and has the gift of gab.  Ideally, you want someone with a good education who knows a lot about everything.  We target our listeners.  We give the national stories and the local stories.  Ideally, we also give you the local tie-in to the national story.  A few days ago, a young man broke his leg playing in the Louisville vs. Duke basketball game, and everyone was talking about it.  We brought in an orthopaedic surgeon who talked about how a break like that could occur and whether he could play again,” he said.

Hudson believes a successful Morning Drive personality should be different, entertaining, relevant, informative, sincere, and believable.  When a station takes a chance on a new personality, it takes time for that person to establish himself in the market, Hudson said.  It also takes promotion, he added.

Rush says it is important that the station be willing to spend money to get the word out about a new personality.  When Matt Kennedy made the switch from WJBO to Talk 107.3, Guaranty spent $75,000 on advertising to let the public know Matt Kennedy was joining their team.

Both Rush and Hudson emphasize that people are listening to radio on many platforms today.

Rush said, “People are catching us on their smart devices.  They might be reminded to listen to us by something we sent out on Twitter.  They might communicate with us through their iPhone or iPad.”

“People want it right now, and we have to find a way to monetize it,” he said.  “We use our apps and our social media.  There’s increased competition and more platforms.”

Hudson mentions iHeart radio.  “We own iHeart Radio, and now you can listen to us anywhere.  Even our competition uses our product, iHeart, to reach people.  If we can go where you go, we want to.  The better we serve you and the more time you spend with us, the more we win!”

PHOTO: Murphy, Sam and Jodi on 96.1 The River

NEXT: Part IV of Capital Radio Wars will be on Afternoon Drive.

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