In 2007, I published THE PUBLIC RADIO TALK & INTERVIEW PROGRAM DIRECTORY, a comprehensive listing of station-based talk and interview programs on NPR Stations. It provided detailed information about local talk programs airing between Morning Edition and All Things Considered - “between the tent poles,” as they say.
I sold around 400 copies of the TALK & INTERVIEW DIRECTORY. It reflected a promising local investment in local programming by stations.
Recently a client commissioned me to update the TALK & INTERVIEW DIRECTORY with 2015 information. The report and listings are confidential but my client authorized me to release top-line trends.
Trend #1: The number of local talk and interview programs has declined 37% since 2007.
In almost every case, local shows have been replaced by network shows. The most frequent replacements are WBUR/NPR’s Here and Now or PRI’s The Takeaway.
In 2007, I was tracking 99 local talk and interview programs between ME and ATC. In 2015, using the same criteria, I found 62 programs. That is a drop of 37.4% in eight years. I am not saying this is good or bad – it just is the current reality.
Does it reflect a decline in “localism” – one of terrestrial radio’s key selling points? It certainly shows that stations have been exiting local talk and interview programs for various reasons:
• Local talk shows often cost stations more than syndicated programming.
• Cancellation of NPR’s Talk of the Nation caused some programmers to question the value of local talk. Talk of the Nation provided a national model for local programs.
• The buzz from consultants is negative about talk programming. George Bailey of Walrus Research said at a recent PRPD: The worst part of call-in talk programs are the callers.
Trend #2: Stations who have the resources are moving to magazine shows that include interviews but very few listener call-ins.
• About 20 of the 62 programs I tracked in 2014 are well staffed, often there are more people working on digital components than on the broadcast program itself.
• Another 20 or so programs are doing the best they can with limited resources. These programs have a staff of three or four people including one person doing online postings.
• The rest of the programs seem to exist by sheer will-power and a handful of staff – 3, 2 or even “one-person bands.”
Again, I am not saying this is good or bad – it just is the current reality: There is less local programming at a time when we say more “localism” is needed.
|Cover of the 2007 Talk & Interview Program Directoty|