Have you ever been listening to your favorite morning show DJ during your daily commute and thought to yourself, “This seems easy — I can do this!” While radio broadcasting can be a rewarding way to make a name for yourself and affect the lives of thousands (or even millions) of listeners, it’s not always easy. Hosting a radio talk show once meant paying your dues for years as a low-level radio employee. Today, however, the internet has given talented amateurs the chance to make a name for themselves. To learn how to host your own talk radio show, see Step 1 below to get started!
Method 1 Method 1 of 4:Getting a Show Download Article
Get involved with a local station. If you’re starting with zero experience, the best way (bar none) to get any sort of radio show is to start participating in the process of creating an existing radio show. Working or volunteering in a radio station gives you an introduction to the workflow and regular tasks that go into producing a successful radio show. It also gives you much-needed experience to put on your resume when you’re applying for airtime. Most importantly, it gives you a chance to make contacts inside the station. Knowing someone in the industry can make all the difference in the world when it comes to landing your first show — radio station staff are much, much more likely to hire people they know and trust to be show hosts than they are to hire strangers.
- One great idea for building up your radio station experience is to try volunteering for a local community radio station (like, for instance, a college radio station). These stations are usually not operated for profit and depend on the work of volunteers to stay on the air, which means it can be relatively easy to find a place on the staff compared to a for-profit station.
Get an internship. Some radio stations offer internships and apprenticeships to interested applicants, especially young students. Some of these internships are integrated with a local school or college’s communications department, which means that they usually recruit solely from the pool of students in the department, while other internships may accept applicants from the general public.
- Depending on the amount of time you work, an internship can sometimes be more useful for getting a show than working from the bottom up in the station. Good internships are career-focused and offer opportunities for employment after the completion of the internship. However, even with an internship, it may be necessary to work in the radio industry for several years before getting a show.
If possible, get a broadcasting education. Following the correct educational path for becoming a radio host will only help your chances of getting your own show. Also, as noted above, educational programs often pave the way for valuable internship and apprenticeship opportunities. If it’s financially feasible for you to do so, consider earning a degree in communications or broadcasting to boost your resume and give you valuable background knowledge and experience.
- It’s worth noting that an educational background in communications or broadcasting isn’t absolutely necessary for a successful career in radio. Several of the most recognizable names in radio, like Howard Stern, have communications degrees, but others have no pertinent educational background. For instance, Adam Carolla, one-time host of Loveline and The Adam Carolla Show, completed only a partial junior college education which included work in a ceramics major.
Be prepared to pay for time on for-profit stations. Though all stations will have their own rules for their show hosts, generally, local for-profit stations will charge the hosts for their show time. Times where listener numbers are high (like morning and afternoon commute times) are generally expensive, while less-popular times are generally cheaper. The hosts can pay for their shows with their own money, solicit donations from viewers, or sell advertising time to third parties. If they make more money from advertising fees than it costs to keep the show on the air, they generally keep the difference as a profit. Successful radio hosts can support themselves this way. Understanding ahead of time that you may need to pay for your show time is crucial — you don’t want to pursue a coveted time slot only to find out that you can’t afford to run your show.
- Because of the cost of hosting a radio show, it’s often a wise idea to retain another job (at least until you can generate enough advertising revenue to support your show). Dedicating yourself full-time to your radio career is great for your show, but not if you run out of funds and have to go off the air in a few months.
- Costs vary. For instance, at some local stations, radio time can cost anywhere from $60-$200 per hour, depending on the time slot.
Consider starting with internet radio. For first-timers to the world of radio broadcasting, the internet offers a way to get your voice hear with very few (if any) up-front costs and no experience requirements. If you have the computer know-how, you may want to set up a dedicated audio stream to broadcast your show (see How to Stream Live Audio or an online guide, like the one here). You may also want to try a cheap or free online broadcasting service like Live365.com (cheap; free trial) or Radionomy.com (free for 9 months with conditions).
- The downside of having an internet radio show is that it’s basically up to you to promote your own show and grow your audience — you won’t have the resources of an established station to help you.
- Another great option is to record a regular podcast. Podcasts are essentially pre-recorded talk radio shows that listeners can download and listen to as they please. For more information on podcasts, see How to Start Your Own Podcast or scroll down to the podcasting section below.
Method 2 Method 2 of 4:Hosting Your Show Download Article
Pick a theme or format for your show. Before you start broadcasting, you’ll want to have decided on a “purpose” for your show. While many shows are remarkably flexible in terms of their structure and the topics they cover, in general, most successful talk shows have a pre-defined theme or goal. This can be quite broad, so don’t feel the need to pigeon-hole your show with an extremely specific theme. Simply ask yourself, “what is my show about?” Below are a few common talk radio show themes to get you started:
- News/current events
- Political commentary
- Music news/Underground music discussion
- Educational topics (history, science, etc.)
- Advice (relationships, DIY projects, etc.)
- Niche topics (paranormal, conspiracy theories, etc.)
Schedule out your show’s time beforehand. Don’t “wing it” in the studio unless you’re an experienced broadcaster. Scheduling (or “blocking”) out the time you have available for your show is a must, especially if it’s your first show. Having a plan beforehand allows you to keep the momentum of the show high and makes it harder for you to run out of things to talk about. During your first few shows, you’ll inevitably discover that your schedule doesn’t perfectly match with reality — some segments may take longer than you anticipated, while others take less time. Take note of these differences and adjust your schedule as needed.
- Let’s say that we’ve just gotten our first 90-minute political talk radio show. Here’s an example of a schedule we might have for our first show:
- (5 minutes) Theme song and introductions.
- (20 minutes) Guest interview: Author Jane Smith.
- (15 minutes) Discussion topic 1: Minimum Wage — too high or too low?
- (5 minutes) Ads.
- (10 minutes) Take calls.
- (15 minutes) Discussion topic 2: Gerrymandering — how big of problem is it in the modern age?
- (5 minutes) Ads.
- (10 minutes) Take calls.
- (5 minutes) Allow guest to plug upcoming events. Follow with farewell and outro music.
Have a consistent, recognizable structure. When it comes to talk radio, consistency is key. Listeners want to be confident that they’ll be able to hear the same content and style of discussions whenever they tune into your show. Some change may be unavoidable: for instance, if a particular aspect of your show isn’t working out, it’s better to drop it than allow it to limp along as an unpopular part of the show. However, whenever possible, you’ll want to keep the basics of your schedule the same from one show to the next while allowing for fresh content in the form of new segments and so on.
Invite new guests and old favorites to participate in your show. One way to keep your show fresh and interesting while keeping its format consistent is to continuously invite interesting, exciting guests on to your show. Guests bring their own knowledge and conversational style to the show, contributing to enlightening (or at least entertaining) discussions. Usually, in exchange for coming on the show, the guest is allowed to promote his or her personal projects on-air.
- The types of guests you should invite will vary based on the format of your show. For instance, if you’re running a serious art criticism talk show, you might invite guests who offer new perspectives and unique expertise, like professors and artists. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a crass “shock jock” comedy show, you might want to invite fellow comedians or even bizarre local personalities.
Take calls from listeners. It’s almost always a good idea to encourage a friendly, open atmosphere between yourself and your callers. If you’ve got an active audience, it’s easier to keep the momentum of your show’s dialog high than if you don’t. Opening up your phone line to callers allows you to briefly take a break from thinking up new, interesting avenues of discussion. Instead, you can let your listeners direct the conversation for you — all you have to do is respond.
- If you’re on a station with rules against profanity, be on the lookout for prank callers. Always know how to quickly disconnect a call. If your station operates on a time delay, be aware of how to delete the last few seconds of airtime in the event that a caller says something inappropriate. Most stations will have an easily-accessible delay button somewhere near the main sound board.
- If you’re broadcasting online, you may want to experiment with taking callers via voicechat software like Skype. Otherwise, you may want to have a text chat channel for your listeners which you occasionally monitor for relevant discussion.
Avoid “dead air”. Whether you’ve got a show on community radio with a tiny local audience or a nationally-syndicated morning show, you’ll want to follow the golden rule of radio broadcasting: avoid “dead air” (distracting periods of silence). Ordinary pauses in conversation are one thing — you don’t need to be talking for every single second of your show. However, you will want to avoid stretches of silence that are more than a few seconds long. These are awkward to listen to, sound unprofessional, and can lead to an immediate dip in listenership if it sounds like you’re having a technical error.
- You may find that it’s a good idea to keep a piece of new music (or a similar audio clip) queued up and ready to play in the event that something takes you by surprise and you need a few minutes of time.
Seek out advertisers. As noted above, it’s a very real possibility that you may have to pay for your show’s airtime. To help pay for your show, try to find advertisers who are willing to put up a little money to have their message broadcast on-air. Advertisers can pay you a fee or agree to cover some of the costs of your show in exchange for you dedicating a chunk of your airtime to ads. Some radio show hosts read the advertiser’s ad themselves, while others opt to play pre-recorded ads. Generally, rates for radio advertising increase with the length of the ad, the desirability of the time slot, and the number of listeners to the show.
- Ad prices can also vary greatly by market. For instance, 60 ads in a market like Los Angeles can cost up to $500, while the same number of ads might go for as little as $3 in a small rural town.
Don’t forget to promote your show. Never forget that as a radio show host, you live and die by your listeners. The more listeners you have, the better. With more listeners, you can charge your advertisers more per ad, negotiate more lucrative deals with your station, and promote yourself and your guests to a wider audience, so always be trying to increase your listenership by promoting your show.
- One great way to do this is by advertising on other shows (especially those in desirable time slots) that broadcast from the same station as you. Many stations offer a reduced in-house rate for cross-promoting your show.
Method 3 Method 3 of 4:Producing Great Content Download Article
Consider recruiting a co-host. For talk radio shows, having a second (or third, or fourth…) person in the studio with you every show makes your job easier in just about every way imaginable. Most importantly, co-hosts offer their own unique personality and thoughts to every discussion you have, ensuring that your own voice and views don’t get stale. It also allows you to have friendly debate — the back-and-forth between a pair of co-hosts who can lovingly bicker is often one of the most entertaining parts of a talk show. If you’re thinking of getting a co-host, make sure it’s someone you get along with and who understands the commitments of the job.
- Co-hosts have other benefits, too. For instance, some may be willing to split the cost of airtime with you or help search for and book guests.
Schedule regular features. For the listener, some of the fun of listening to their favorite shows is from anticipating, listening to, and even participating in their favorite recurring features. As long as you obey the rules of your station (and, of course, local laws) there’s virtually no limit when it comes to what sorts of segments you can run, so be creative! Below are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Call-in trivia contests for prizes or recognition
- Live or pre-recorded man-on-the-street segments
- “100th caller wins” type contests
- Soliciting listeners for certain types of stories
- On-air creative comedy/improv exercises
Create memorable one-off segments. Just because your viewers are likely to appreciate the consistency of recurring segments doesn’t mean that you should necessarily shy away from special one-time events and features. Experimenting with new ideas while keeping the basic format and structure of your show intact allows you to continually innovate and surprise your audience. It’s also a good way to find new directions for the show to go in — anything that gets an especially good reaction can eventually be made a recurring segment.
Build a relationship with frequent contributors. If you notice that certain people seem to call in to the station on a regular basis or that certain guests seem especially popular with your listeners, don’t let these people go to waste! Instead, try to create a friendly working relationship with them. Talk to these people off the air and ask if they’d like to become a regular part of the show. Even if they aren’t interested in joining the show as a dedicated cast member, they may appreciate being made a “friend of the show” or gaining recognition as an official contributor.
- For instance, if one of your callers has a boisterous, outrageous personality and insane political beliefs, you may want to have a semi-regular segment where he calls in and comments on the issues of the day.
Create an on-air persona. Some talk radio shows, especially those that examine or critique serious topics, are dignified affairs. However, many talk shows are known for the exaggerated, crass, or outlandish characters assumed by their hosts. If your show is mainly interested in entertaining your listeners, consider creating such a character for yourself. The interplay between a crazy host character and a straightman co-host or an unwitting caller can make for great radio.
When in doubt, learn from the greats. No one’s radio show is perfect from the get-go. It can take years of experience to develop your broadcast craft to the point that you can deliver a great show every day. During this time, it’s a great idea to look to some of the best radio shows and podcasts in the world for inspiration. There’s no shame in getting ideas from those who are already successful — they, too, had role models in the world of broadcasting before they became famous (for instance, Howard Stern cites radio host Bob Grant as an influence). Below are a few great radio shows and podcasts you may want to consider listening to:
- This American Life — Politics, serious issues, human interest stories
- The Howard Stern Show — “Shock jock” style raunchy humor
- The Ron and Fez Show — humor, chat
- Car Talk (no longer running) — automotive advice
- Comedy Bang Bang (podcast) — absurdist comedy, improv
- The Bugle (podcast) — news, politics
Method 4 Method 4 of 4: Making a Podcast Download Article
Record your show. To the listener, the difference between a radio talk show and a podcast is minor — both involve listening to a host and/or a set of co-hosts talk about familiar subjects with or without a guest. However, for you, the host, recording a podcast is a little different than recording a live show. You’ll perform your show basically as you normally would, but rather than broadcasting it live, you’ll record it and offer it for download on the internet. To do this, you’ll need to an equipment setup that allows you to record reasonably high-quality audio files and sufficient hard drive space to store them.
- For the most basic podcasting needs, you can get away with a computer and a reasonable-quality microphone, which usually run upwards of $100 at audio equipment stores.
Edit your audio file. After recording your show, you may want to listen to your audio file and, if necessary, cut out any portions that you don’t want to make the final podcast. To do this, you’ll need audio-editing software (some free programs, like Audacity, are available online). Insert ads, intro, and outro music, or anything else you’d to add to your podcast.
- When you’re done, save your file in a widely-used audio format that will be easy for your audience to use, like .mp3.
Upload your show to a hosting site. Make your podcast available to your listeners online. A variety of free hosting sites, like Youtube.com, Soundcloud.com, and many others allow you to upload audio files with a free account. Note that, with these sites, per-file-bandwidth limits may require you to split your podcast into multiple parts. You may also want to try hosting your podcast on online audio stores like the iTunes Store, Google Play store, and so on.
- Generally, most podcasts are offered to the listener for free and are supported by donations, sponsors, or advertisers. Charging money for your podcast can decimate your potential listenership when you’re competing against literally hundreds of good free podcasts, so it’s not usually a good idea.
Optionally, create a blog or website for your podcast. Generally, the most professional podcasts have their own websites which contain links to the podcast episodes, as well as podcast news, a store for merchandise, and so on. You may want to purchase your own domain name and build your site from scratch, but for many, a free blog-creation service like WordPress.com works perfectly well.
- For more information, see How to Make a Website.