Two weeks ago, I was at Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago, the annual conference organized by Don Anthony for radio morning show talent from across the country. I was there to speak as part of a panel on podcasting. Meanwhile, Fred Jacobs, the head of our organization, was there to present the results from our second annual Air Talent Questionnaire, an anonymous online survey of over 1,000 on-air radio talents. As usual, the results were chock full of interesting findings, from how DJs got their start to how much financial stress they feel.
For me, one of the most interesting questions was asked for the first time this year: Who influenced you the most as an on-air talent? This was an open-ended question, giving people the option to respond with whichever name first came to mind. So, who inspired the most DJs? Fred displayed the most popular answers as a word cloud, in which the relative size of the names indicates the popularity of the choice:
As a radio broadcaster who cut his teeth at alternative rock stations at the turn of the century, it was no surprise to me to see Howard Stern take the number one spot. After all, I've not only listened to his show, I've also read his books, seen his movie, and watched his television shows (including his seasons as a judge on America's Got Talent).
When we break down the most influential air talents by generation, here are the results:
Only when you compare air talent from music radio stations to air talent from talk stations does Howard fall from the top slot:
A week after my appearance at Morning Show Boot Camp, I found myself in Orlando for the Podcast Movement conference, where Jacobs Media once again produced the Broadcasters Meet Podcasters track. As I witnessed the contrast between the two events, I thought back to this question from our survey and noted how different the responses would likely be if we asked the attendees at Podcast Movement. While Howard Stern is obviously a huge influence on radio broadcasters, Ira Glass of This American Life is the man who casts the largest shadow in the podcasting world. His style of storytelling journalism birthed thousands of podcasts.
I'm not sure if Stern would have even made the short list of inspirations at Podcast Movement, given that the “King of All Media” doesn't have a podcast. Instead, you would probably see a number of comedians like Joe Rogan, Marc Maron, and Chris Hardwick, tech geeks like Adam Curry and Leo LaPorte, and entrepreneurial coaches like John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, and Gary Vaynerchuk. If any radio personalities appeared on the list, they would probably be either broadcasters from public radio, like Terry Gross, or commercial radio ex-pats like Adam Carolla, who turned his back on terrestrial radio years ago.
For the most part, commercial radio has only recently embraced the podcasting medium. That's why we started the Broadcasters Meet Podcasters track at the conference three years ago — the generation of air talent that was inspired by Howard and Rush and Elvis was missing! And while radio companies are now regularly sending their executives to Podcast Movement, the air talent themselves are still largely absent. The difference in inspirations underscores how separate these worlds still are.
For generations, many of the biggest names in media started on the radio: Ryan Seacrest, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, Dick Clark, Sean Hannity, even Oprah Winfrey. Now, as podcasts like 2 Dope Queens, Lore, and Pod Save America are developed into television shows, will the next generation of giant on-air personalities come from podcasts instead of radio?
The reality is that the next generation will probably come from both worlds. But if you aspire to see your name atop the list of influential on-air talents one day, my advice is this: Master the art of the podcast.
See More Results from the Air Talent Questionnaire
On Wednesday, September 4th, Fred will host a webinar showcasing the results from our survey of on-air talent. If you want to know how your peers feel about the radio industry, please join us.