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The biggest mistake of “FM Talk” and “Female Talk”


Convenient, cogent, clear (to those of us in the industry at least), and potentially fatallly misleading.

A couple weeks ago I was on the kickoff panel at the

Talk Radio Seminar and so-called “FM Talk” was one of the subject areas.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not that I don’t believe in the format. It’s just that I don’t know what you mean by it.

See, formats – all formats – must begin not with a dictionary definition but with a group of listeners who share something in common. An interest in sports, let’s say, or Country, or Rock. Or an interest in politics and a deep concern for values.

So my point is that “FM Talk” isn’t a format. It’s a hundred different formats. Which variation you go with depends on the dynamics of your individual market and the available pool of listeners interested in it.

The same goes for “Female Talk,” which is easily one of the most patronizing-sounding category titles ever. One that sounds very much like it was invented by…well…men!

The question of “what women want to talk about” is not nearly as important as the question “what do women want to listen to?”

Fundamentally, you need to focus not on what the format and the topics are, but on who the talent is. Further, you need to consider whether or not this so-called “Talk” station includes music. YOUR definition may be song-free, but guess what, the listener doesn’t care what YOU want. What if SHE wants some songs in the mix. Is it up to you to say no?

But at some point, you might say, a “Female Talk” station with music might start sounding like a CHR or AC morning show!

Um, exactly. Why the hell do you think women love them?

Finally, you have to consider where this audience is going to emerge from? What are these women listening to now and what do you think will motivate them to switch?

Let’s take San Diego, for example. With the super-strong Female-appealing Jeff & Jer every weekday morning is the market telling you there’s a hunger for a Female Talk station? Or is the market telling you there’s a hunger for Jeff & Jer?

What do YOU think?

And do you think you can launch a station that sounds “LIKE” Jeff & Jer 24/7 but does not include Jeff & Jer and stand a chance against the real Jeff & Jer?

If you do, I hope to compete against you.

This, I would argue, is why so many FREE FM stations are getting off to a rocky start. It’s not that there isn’t appeal for “Guy Talk all Day”, it’s that such stations need to win mornings first and foremost, but guys already have a winning morning show in virtually every market that provides this format – and they don’t need a second (or third) one.

If you want to kickoff right, kickoff with the morning show your target audience goes to now. Screw the “formula,” go for the talent. Go where your audience already goes.

Or don’t go at all.

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