Top 10 Myths About Radio Syndication

Getting a radio show into national radio syndication on terrestrial radio is a goal for many personalities looking to expand their audience. There are a number of how-to guides available that offer step-by-step methods on how to launch a show into radio syndication, however most of these guides over simplify the degree of difficulty in entering into what is an increasingly challenging endeavor. Thinking about syndicating your radio show?  Let’s dispel 10 myths about syndicating a radio show:

10. Any radio show/host/idea can be syndicated on terrestrial radio

Many radio hosts feel that if they have a fairly successful local show with a unique delivery, spin or point of view, that they should syndicate the show for the world to hear. The problem is everybody thinks this and radio syndication companies, radio groups and stations are bombarded with pitches and ideas from people just like you. Getting a show into terrestrial radio syndication is much more difficult than simply having a great idea hosted by a fabulous talent. Unless you are a multi-media STAR it is very difficult to be that “must have” show.

9.My show is a smash on the Internet, radio stations will love it.”

If your wish is to get your show “out there” for the world to hear, online distribution via a Podcast, Internet radio station or  embedded audio on a website or a cloud based platform are fabulous ways to distribute your show. You can even monetize your show using these platforms. Just don’t think that terrestrial radio stations will clamor for it no matter how many visits or downloads you get. In fact, most personalities who were successful in radio syndication have moved away from broadcast radio and are now doing their bits on the Internet (Adam Corolla and Tom Leykis come to mind.) Help me if you can think of one that has done it the other way around.  Oops, maybe Perez Hilton.

8. Any radio syndication company will represent my show.”

If a radio syndication company says they will take your show/idea and syndicate it nationally without a significant station or number of stations already on the show, question it.  For a major radio syndication company the idea of launching a show nationally is having the ability to deliver a certain audience to national advertisers.  Without a measurable audience (unless the syndicator is aggregating the audiences of a number of smaller shows) a show with none or one station has little value.

7. “I’ve got advertisers,I can sell the show myself.”

No you can’t. National advertisers need a show to deliver (or cover) a certain percentage of the US population before they would consider advertising in a particular radio show. They won’t talk to you- that’s what national sales companies are for. And if you think you can approach local advertisers in each individual market you may get your show in-think again. You would be in competition with the local sales department at the radio station and that is not going to happen, unless you are paying for airtime and are allowed to bring your own show sponsors.

6. “I’ll get a radio station or two and distribute the show myself.”

Maybe. If you have a home station where the show originates (or even if you put it together from a home studio), it’s easy enough to record and post the show or segments to an FTP site for a station to download.  You may even be able to contract a company to send out the show via digital delivery.  However, if the show is long-form and live, satellite delivery is the preferred distribution method, and unless you’ve got a friend that owns a bird with some available space, this is probably cost prohibitive. The good news is that syndicated radio shows are increasingly using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) -which uses very low bandwidth with good audio quality to distribute over the internet.  VOIP has yet to overtake satellite as the most popular method of delivery, but hardware advances and the low-cost of distributing a show over the internet is quickly making the delivery of your show to a station by far the easiest part of the equation.

5. “I’m on a big radio station and they’ll let me syndicate.”

That is encouraging, but be sure that they allow you to keep some of the commercial inventory that is in your show or associated with your segment.  If you can do this on a large radio station, your chances of syndication increase exponentially. Many personalities have been given the green light to syndicate their show from a station with a huge audience (thus an attraction to a radio syndicator) and have failed to retain any commercial minutes for themselves. You’ve got a show on a big stick that has little value.

4. “Radio stations will have no problem bartering for my show.”

Most radio stations are reluctant to give up their real estate (commercial inventory i.e. airtime) to anyone from the outside.  Even your best friend, the Program Director at WXYZ who said he would put the show on, will sing a different tune when he has to justify giving up commercial inventory for the show. Unless you can prove that your radio show/segment is a “must have”, with the ability to generate dollars for the local sales department, be ready for a lot of rejection.

3. “Spots are $100 in my show, I’ll get more in radio syndication.”

Personalities tend to look at the local ad rates that radio stations are getting for commercial inventory and assume that it’s the same nationally.  The national sales game is like buying in bulk.  Advertisers can one-stop shop and advertise products without going market to market, station to station.  To offer that service and get that business, national radio sales firms offer deep discounts. In other words national spot rates are a fraction of local rates.  That national spot in your show may only be worth $15 versus $100 for the local spot next to it.

2. “I can make a lot of money right away if I syndicate my radio show.”

See #3. An entrepreneurial spirit is a must for any talent seeking to launch into radio syndication.  A personality that wants to syndicate a radio show must have other sources of income. Don’t give up your day job with the idea that syndication alone can sustain you. If you enter into a partnership with a radio syndication company, be ready to split any revenue generated by the venture with the syndicator.  In a traditional syndication partnership you own the show and will be in business for yourself. That requires taking on all the responsibilities (taxes etc.) of being a small business owner.  Also there is a lead-lag time that occurs while any national advertising revenue is working its way through the ad sales rep to the radio syndication company and eventually to you.  Many who have gotten syndication deals find out too late that their income is dependent on accounts received and not a weekly paycheck like at the radio station.

1. “Everybody else is syndicating their radio show, so can I!”

It may seem that way. There are hundreds of syndicated radio shows airing on terrestrial radio stations.  The key is what are you in it for. If it’s for exposure or giving the world a chance to hear your point of view, you may want to do the show for free, pay a station for some airtime or do it on the Internet. Just be careful if you think broadcast radio syndication is a pathway to riches. If you’ve got a great show, can do it from a huge radio station and can keep your eyes open to the pitfalls that come with syndicating a radio show you’ll have a better chance for success. With the right intangibles in place and some hard work you could become the next Rush Limbaugh or Ryan Seacrest. Then you can quit your day job.




22 thoughts on “Top 10 Myths About Radio Syndication

  • February 24, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    THE VON WEHUNT SHOW is on KFNX 1100 AM and the podcast is on the internet!! I love this show and the edgy political talk!! Good audio clips as well. This is one show I NEVER MISS!! Von Wehunt is like Michael Savage, Tom Leykis and Alex Jones all wrapped into one!! LOVE IT.

  • February 23, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    There are a lot of syndicated radio programs out there. Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner, to name a few.

  • January 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

    I must say, for all the nay saying here Chris Witting is right! The author seems to want us (producers) to roll over and die… I’ve worked on many broadcast television and radio shows. Yes, it’s hard work, to the tune of 6 days per week, but it pays off in the end if you don’t give up! One of my shows airs in multiple countries around the world. It took ten years of diligence. Now, I’m returning to radio with another broadcast veteran and we plan to take the country by storm… Stay tuned.

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  • April 21, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    THE VON WEHUNT SHOW on 1100 AM KFNX in Phoenix Arizona is AWESOME!!

  • November 23, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Every time I go out in my car and tun on the radio I can’t stand all the right wing talk hosts who pelt me with misinformation. I am sick of it. My husband gets sick of all the commercials and always forces me to tun it off. Can’t stand the “hard sell.” He says it is impossible to drive in the worsening traffic and concentrate without having an accident. The last person who wiped him out in a rear end crash was listening to the radio at the time. A young kind who said he was distracted by his radio for which reason he rear ended him.! It is now too dangerous with all the cars on the road. Too much over population. Why can’t radio be fair and balanced any more? Why so much right wing hate?

  • September 2, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    I have to say there’s one thing you didn’t mention – and that’s outright buying airtime for your show. If you have issues getting free or barter airtime then buy it – exactly the same way an ‘infomercial’ would. It’s ridiculously cheap in the ‘off hours’ for many stations – and it’s even downright affordable for other hours – especially if you allow the station to air some commercials during your time slot. With Syndicated shows you generally hear syndicated advertisers, then local advertisers. Your sponsor should be paying you enough to cover airtime at at least one station – then you have a proof of concept. The more stations your show is on, the more valuable it should be to your sponsor. Record your show live and then package it for syndication and/or offer it as a podcast.

    The one thing no radio station wants is someone who is unprofessional (either in style or content) stinking up their airwaves. Avoid this with a professional demeanor, proper show prep and engaging content to work yourself into a great position with a radio station or group of stations. However, act like the radio station ‘owes you’ anything other than the time slot and someone to load your show or unlock the door (if you’re broadcasting from their facility) and you’ll quickly be uninvited from their airwaves. Bottom line is, it’s all about the bottom line. Help a radio station’s bottom line and they’ll help you.

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  • March 27, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Depending on how old you are David, that’s not surprising. What’s wrong with the “prehistoric” mediums? Why don’t you use them? Can radio do anything to at least get you to consider using it?

  • March 26, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I find it interesting that anyone bothers with radio or television anymore. I watch and listen exclusively thru the internet and haven’t seen TV or heard radio for over 3 years now. I won’t even use those prehistoric mediums even for weather. I’m interested in internet syndication models. I would never go the route of radio or TV stations. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who uses them anymore. They are like newspapers that should be done away with. I haven’t seen one of those in over a decade. All these mediums are as ancient and useful as carbon paper. But thanks for the info.

  • January 21, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks John…It really all depends on what you want to accomplish with syndication. Easy to be heard…hard to make money.

  • January 20, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Very good information about the potential pitfalls in radio along with what to expect along the way.

  • April 13, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Very good content and valuable insights, having spent over 30 years in Radio and TV and considering syndication these points made sense and also help knock a little stardust from the eyes:)

  • December 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm

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  • December 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

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  • December 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm

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  • November 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Now that we understand how difficult this is, it would have been more helpful to have some tips on how you can successfully syndicate a radio show, or at the very least, step to take to get on that path. Since we know Syndication itself is not an unrealistic expectation, I would’ve like to have read, what is considered a “realistic expectation” for syndication. We know terrestrial radio listening audience is shrinking as more listeners tune into internet radio, but is this now considered a complete “dead end”? Are the true answers to these questions, something I have to ‘pay’ for? I read Chris Witting’s response, and I admit, I had the same reaction as he did after reading the article. It was quite discouraging. Simply because the questions/statements I mentioned above were either rarely address, not addressed at all, or addressed in a discouraging tone. Just seeking the real deal, that’s all. Thanks for you post.

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  • May 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for your comment Chris. We would never discourage anyone from attempting to accomplish a goal, and that includes syndicating a radio show. Nothing is impossible. But just as you pointed out, show hosts often have unrealistic expectations about the process. The article was written simply as a reminder for those who have aspirations to syndicate their shows to go into it with “eyes wide open.” For those those wishing to syndicate a radio show, could be a great place to start.

  • May 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    For most of these ‘myths’, I can give you actual examples of people who achieved the very things you say are impossible. Yes, sometimes show hosts have unrealistic expectations about syndication. Many do not realize how much work is involved. But this list almost sounds like it was written to discourage others from even trying to syndicate.

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