Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Town Hall is NOT a flop…in drawing listeners

rahm-600x337Despite panning from social media, listeners tuned in to Chicago mayor’s interview

In this space last week, yours truly declared the “historic” radio interview with Rahm Emanuel a flop, mainly because of flaws in the format and the questions were of the softball variety.

But when it came to attracting listeners – that was a different story altogether.

Despite panning on social media, Chicago listeners tuned in to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “roadblock”, from 6 to 6:30 p.m. on November 14. According to Nielsen, the event drew nearly a third of listeners tuning in to radio at the time – an impressive feat given the media fragmentation these days.

The event was carried on 47 radio station in the Chicago area, varying from big city stations to small suburban sticks. There were a handful of stations who didn’t carry Emanuel’s interview – notably Crawford’s urban stations (WPWX and WSRB) licensed to Hammond, Ind.

After the town hall concluded, Nielsen conducted a survey of listeners online and found seven out of ten Chicagoans were aware of the event, and 88 percent of those stuck around for the entire half-hour. 74 percent of those planned to listen to the town hall; 80 percent of those who did listened on their preferred radio station, with the location of those listening equally split at home and out-of-home. In addition, the town hall radio meeting attract additional attention as 84 percent of those who were aware of the event heard about it again through various media and word-of-mouth (WGN-AM had the interview on-demand on their website for later listening for those who missed it, like I did.)

“The Chicago radio town hall proved to be a huge success,” said Brad Kelly, managing director of Nielsen Audio in a press release. “Not only did it reach and engage listeners, but 70% of those surveyed felt that the event was important enough to justify broadcasting it on so many radio stations.”

He continued: “AM/FM is America’s number one mass reach media. In the span of a few hours in Chicago this week, the Radio Broadcasters of Chicago proved that during a time of constant media fragmentation, radio has a remarkable ability to deliver a massive, diverse and engaged audience.”

The event was produced by the Radio Broadcasters of Chicago and the Illinois Broadcasting Association.

Despite the negative reaction in some quarters, Emanuel’s interview where he talked about the city’s pressing issues succeeded when it came to getting the message out – and then some.

The event comes at a time when Chicago’s image continues to suffer on the national and global stage due to gun violence. President-elect Donald Trump referenced the city and its violence problem numerous times in presidential debates and on the campaign trail. The Chicago also area continues to suffer from declining population – a topic Mayor Emanuel addressed during the interview. Chicago radio revenues were down ten percent in 2015 from 2014 and may be reflective of that.

In fact, Chicago dropped to the fourth largest African-American television market during the 2015-16 season, a position it holds again this season.

As for what yours truly said last week, Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago radio town hall was still a disappointment and nothing a PR stunt for all involved. But listeners took the bait and in a reversal of what I said last week, we now may see more of these in the future. Let’s hope the second Chicago Radio Town Hall is better than the first – longer in length and much tougher questions asked.

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