|RADIO INTERVIEW 101 Picking the Proper Format, part 2 of 2
Continued from Part 1 HERE
New for 2016: Here are more of the the major formats for radio in the USA. Some stations are a mixture of these, especially in small and unrated markets where they have fewer stations and thus each one must serve a large cross-section of listeners. However almost every station has a "core" demographic of audience they are trying to attract within a certain range of age, sex and income, and also nationality.
Adult Contemporary: "AC" is one of the traditional radio formats, going back to the early 1970's, and it comes in "mainstream", "hot", and "soft" varieties. Mainstream AC stations are your Elton John stations, and they try to attract female listeners aged 25 to 54. As a matter of fact the largest station in the world, WLTW-FM in New York City has 100,000 people listening at the same time (1 million cumulative weekly), and is a Mainstream AC station. Mainstream AC stations are considered your "at work" stations because they play familiar songs for working-aged office workers, and there is not too much talk. And since every town has one, and because there are so many (over 1000 of them), going for interviews on Mainstream AC stations means you can focus your whole interviewing career on just these stations.
In large and medium markets (see the list of markets HERE), unless you are an AC artist that is currently being played on a station, your only interview chance is going to be morning drive, or weekend Public Affairs (morning drive does have a lot of listeners, however). In small and un-rated markets, Mainstream AC stations tend to be more full-service, airing music, news, sports, farm reports, and talk shows. These small stations are great for new interviews guests to get lots of small interviews, in all dayparts, scattered across small towns in the USA.
Hot AC: These stations used to all play Celine Dion, Smash Mouth, Brittney, etc and tried to attract younger females aged 18 to 34, but in the last ten years many have switched to more male music artists in order to attract male listeners. However they all have high-energy morning shows that are great for lively guests. There are far fewer Hot AC stations than Mainstream, and they are mostly in rated markets, so it's usually necessary to combine them with other formats in order to get enough stations for your interviewing career.
Similar to Mainstream AC, the Hot AC stations are mostly limited to interviews during the morning drive shows and weekend Public Affairs. You can expect more jokes and more callers (younger people call stations more readily), so if your interviewing career fits this then these stations might be good for you.
Soft AC: These stations play a lot of softer 70's and 80's music such as love songs, and really target mature females aged 35 and older. Unfortunately they don't do much interviewing, even on their morning shows, so weekend Public Affairs may be the only chance. Small and unrated stations might mix in more talk or other things and thus have some interviewing opportunity compared to the larger rated market stations.
Top 40: Also known as "pop" or CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). Everyone knows these stations: Gaga, Brittney, etc. They have the biggest concerts and the most energy. They target females aged 13 to 34. If there is a product that can be sold in a mall, it's probably advertised here. These stations generally have good ratings and there is at least one in each market; there are several hundred of them in the USA.
These stations have great morning shows for interviews, but you'll have to be very energetic to get on them, and your topic will need to appeal to teens. Top 40 stations are sometimes difficult to get because they usually are the most competitive stations in a market and thus get first pick for known guests. They sell the most music and concert tickets and have the most-active listeners, so all record labels, PR firms, and promo companies target them the most, making it harder for an unknown guest to be booked. Unlike the AC stations however, they are more likely to consider interviews in other dayparts besides the morning shows (such as mid-day), and of course you always have the option of weekend Public Affairs
Rhythmic: These are your slightly-urban Top 40 stations, playing Beyonce, etc. They also have the biggest concerts and lots of energy, and also target 13 to 34 people, but attract more of an even mix of men and women. Compared to Top 40, there are fewer Rhythmic stations, usually only in medium and larger markets, so going after Rhythmic and Top 40 together might be needed for your interviewing career. If your topic appeals to more city-dwellers than not, then Rhythmic might fit.
Urban: These stations play most of your rap and hip hop. Unless you appeal directly to the urban community you won't be getting interviews on their morning shows very often, although weekend Public Affairs is always possible. However if you appeal directly to the Urban audience then you might be able to spend all your interviewing career on just these stations. Their ratings vary from very high to very low, and are only in the rated markets. In the South and Southeast USA, they do very well in most markets.
Smooth Jazz: Also called New AC, or Rhythmic AC, these stations used to be top rated in larger markets because they played only instrumentals (no vocals/words) which were great for office listening. In the last ten years however there was a shakeup with the ratings systems and most of them switched to other formats, leaving only ten or twenty stations remaining. So at best, they have to be added to other formats in order to have enough to target for your interviewing career.
Variety: These stations have a lot of talk (many are all talk), and they are located in all size markets rated and not, and vary from number one in ratings to dead last; they also sometimes have lots of brokered (paid for) programs, meaning that each program is controlled by the person who buys the particular hour that his/her show airs in. Variety stations can be commercial or non-commercial, and many (almost 1000) of them are college stations with real AM or FM broadcast signals, with a broadcast range of 1 to 100 miles.
The great thing about these stations is that they are very big on interviews; the bad thing is that they usually have less listeners than most other formats. These stations are also hard to identify, since they don't all call themselves the same name like music stations do ("KISS", "JAMMIN", etc). Each host needs to be contacted individually for interviews, although the producer will many times handle several different shows. Variety stations are great for first-time interviewers because they are easier to deal with.
Non-English: These are your Spanish and other language stations. They are not nearly as formatted as English language stations, primarily because they have to pack all types of shows into a single station, and they are always small (except in Los Angeles), so getting interviewed on them is relatively easy if you speak their language. Don't confuse these stations with non-commercial "miscellaneous" stations; commercial non-English stations are 24-hour formats, while non-commercial stations have a few non-English programs mixed with English programs.
Classical: Although these stations reach a very high income audience, they do not do interviews with non-Classical or non-Jazz artists.
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