Talk Radio on Hold Against Low Ratings, Changing Audience

by Luke Jones  on Monday, May. 12, 2014 12:00 am  

Alice Stewart

Stewart’s show airs on KHTE-FM, The Voice, in Little Rock. (Arkansas Business Online Editor Lance Turner regularly joins her shows on Monday to promote the new weekly issue of Arkansas Business.) Stewart named Limbaugh as an inspiration in her radio career, as well as other conservative hosts like Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham.

However, Stewart said, she strays from the Limbaugh model by showing both sides of a discussion. Her bent is clearly conservative, but she said she tries to have a full presentation of the issues she discusses.

Stewart said “there’s clearly an audience” for conservative talk radio, but it’s hard to quantify that in her case: KHTE changed to its current talk format in January 2013 and no longer subscribes to Nielsen Audio ratings.

Its last available rating was 1.3 for winter 2013, during most of which time it was still a pop music station.

“I approach the microphone from the standpoint of presenting both sides of the story, having an honest discussion of it, whether talking about an issue at the state Capitol, or Washington, D.C., or talking about two candidates running for office. People are smart enough to make up their own minds. My … goal is to give them the best info they can get, and hopefully they learn something along the way.”

She said she “never pulls any punches or catches anyone off guard.”

“I like to think I’m respectful to all guests,” she said. “I have Republicans and Democrats on the show. I have a segment called Spin Room where I have a Republican and a Democrat and they discuss back and forth and have a respectful discussion on issues.”

Cooke recommended that in order to combat the demographic problem, talk hosts should “talk about stuff that matters.”

“We’re car radio, and to me that’s a proving ground,” he said. “Fifty-one percent of listeners are driving. If we can engage them, we’re doing something right. Anything you talk about, if you make the listener go, ‘Huh,’ and tell them something they don’t know, that’s impactful content.”

Stewart said she believes she’s meeting these criteria.

“I’m not going to beat a topic or a story into the ground,” Stewart said. “I can pretty much tell when it’s run its shelf life. I want to make sure to keep topics fresh or relevant.”

Finally, Cooke suggested that talk hosts shouldn’t invent bad news when it’s not really present.



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