Talk radio has long been a book-friendly medium, and now it's even friendlier. The rise in the popularity of satellite radio is providing publicists with more outlets to pitch to.
The two players in the field, XM and Sirius, claim 8.6 million and 7.7 million subscribers, respectively. With so many ears tuning in, publicists are listening.
A number of publicists PW contacted said that while the biggest satellite radio shows don't come close to drawing the audience that the big AM and FM players do—literary-loving NPR, they say, is still king—the subscription-based radio services offer lots of options. And this means more options for niche titles.
“Sirius is a good spot for more targeted titles,” said Vintage/Anchor's Sloane Crosley, who adds that Sirius programs tend to be less generalized and “less abstractly 'arts' oriented.”
On XM, one of the best spots for book coverage, according to these sources, is the Bob Edwards Show. Headlined by the former host of NPR's Morning Edition, the show is, as Da Capo's Lissa Warren put it, “very smart and general-interest in nature.” Warren added that other XM shows like Life's Work with Lisa Belkin and TheJudith Warner Show have been receptive to her pitches. She also notes that satellite radio, to an extent, makes NPR hits even more valuable, since many of that network's shows are also broadcast over the satellite airwaves.
Algonquin's Michael Taeckens said his house has seen success with both the Edwards show and Sirius's Martha Stewart Living. “We pitch to them regularly and have been pleased with the number of bookings we've landed for each.” While the satellite channels create the possibility for more publicity hits, their emergence hasn't, as Taeckens added, “changed the way we pitch.”
But some publicists still see satellite radio as only a minor outpost on the PR landscape. “I rarely hear people talking about these programs, even the ones that should be big,” said one publicist, who asked not to be named. Another publicist likened the impact of XM and Sirius to that of bloggers, noting that they can only move the sales dial slightly.