Top 10 Myths About Syndicating A Radio Show

        Getting a radio show into national syndication on terrestrial radio is a goal for many personalities looking to expand their audience. There are a multitude of how-to guides available that offer step-by-step methods on how to launch a show into 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 show?  Let’s dispel 10 myths about syndicating a radio show:               

10. “Any 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 syndicators, 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 almost impossible to be that “must have” show.

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

If your desire to get your show “out there” for the world to hear,  streaming options like distribution via a Podcast, Internet radio station or embedded audio on a website are fabulous ways to distribute your show. You can even do o.k. monetizing your show using these platforms. Just don’t think that terrestrial radio stations will clamor for it no matter how many hits or downloads you get unless it is a part of a media groups digital strategy. Many personalities who were successful in radio syndication have moved off of broadcast radio and are now doing their bits on the Internet (Adam Corolla and Tom Leykis were early proponents of this) and groups such as iHeart and Cumulus have adopted “Podcast-to-Broadcast” strategies.

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

If a radio syndication company says they will take your show/idea and syndicate it nationally without having a significant station or number of stations already on the show, question it.  For a major syndicator the whole 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 or rating before they would consider advertising in a particular radio show. They won’t talk to you- that’s what rep firms 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 departments 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 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 the show out via digital delivery. However, if the show is a long-form show and it’s live, satellite delivery is the preferred method and unless you’ve got a friend that owns a bird with some available space, this is probably cost prohibitive.

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

That is encouraging, but be sure that they allow you to retain some of the commercial inventory that is in your show or associated with your segment.  If you can do this on a large 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 syndicator) and have failed to secure any commercial minutes. You’ve got a show on a big stick that has little value.

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

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

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

Personalities tend to look at the local ad rates that 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 provide 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.”

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 additional 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 syndicator, be prepared 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 entails 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 syndicator 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, 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 have a great show, can do it from a huge station and keep your eyes open to the pitfalls that come with syndicating a radio show you have a better chance of success. With the right intangibles in place and some hard work you could become the next Rush or Seacrest. Now you can quit your day job.

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