It's kind of tough not to notice that Clear Channel Columbus talker WTVN/610, and liberal talk sister WTPG/1230, are signaling "Changes are coming" on both stations' web pages.
The banners are identical, except for color and logo/name changes.
Clear Channel Cincinnati's WSAI/1360 just dumped its moved-from-WCKY/1530 liberal talk format in favor of "1360TheSource.com", a radio station named after its Internet site, which features various advice and consumer-oriented shows.
Clearly, the liberal talk format is in trouble - or has been pulled - in many places.
One of those places is New Orleans, where Entercom pulled the plug on recently resurrected liberal talk WSMB/1350 in favor of...turning it into a time-shifted repeater of the company's big AM/FM news/talk combo, WWL.
We have not heard what Clear Channel is planning between 610 and 1230 in Columbus. Not even a rumor. (And we also remind you that the company put up that infamous "We're taking over a station!" banner ad a ways back...which turned out to be, as we guessed, a gas station promotion.)
But...assuming all of the above...wouldn't it be interesting if Clear Channel in Columbus copied Entercom's move in New Orleans? "WTVN-2", anyone?
OK, we mean interesting as in "a radio move", not necessarily as far as programming is concerned. We're generally against using a full-power in-market radio transmitter to emulate a radio time shifting device, to rebroadcast shows from a sister station out of pattern.
We have not heard anything, as we said. We're just throwing it out there, and maybe we'll look like Radio Geniuses(tm) if it actually happens! The odds, based on educated guesses, would actually seem to prefer a "1360thesource.com" clone.
Oh, and for those just waiting to leap to the keyboard to proclaim how awful a certain format is, and why it deserves to be burned into tiny ashes, and those who believe that such a format should be guaranteed in the Constitution...both sides sure to clash here:
There are probably, in our opinion, three major factors to what's happening to liberal talk radio right now.
1) Air America. While many liberal talk outlets are weaning away from the iconic libtalk syndicator, and run hours of programming by Jones Radio and others, the future of Air America is in flux. AAR's big star host is either on his way out, running for the U.S. Senate or otherwise not expected to return to the airwaves...even if the financial situation straightens out.
2) The election. Those who listen to Air America and other liberal shows - aside from those who listen for the entertainment, like your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) - got what they wished for... Democrats are taking over Capitol Hill. The "throw the bums out" heat has been removed from liberal talk radio, and even the better hosts are trying to figure out what to do next.
Election seasons always, no matter what the viewpoint, heat up talk radio ratings...and it's almost like cleaning up the confetti from the Acceptance Speech Ballroom right now in talk radio. (If you've watched C-SPAN, you know no one watches the guy pushing the broom after everyone's gone home.)
Even the established conservative talk hosts see downturns after white-hot election-fueled ratings. Liberal talk as a full-fledged format hasn't been around long enough to weather a lot of downward change.
3) The format's Dirty Little Secret. Though some stations in the format may see ratings success, liberal talk - especially of the Air America variety - is not really advertiser friendly.
Oh, sure, even the soon-to-be-dark liberal talk outlet in stronghold Madison WI has had advertisers lining up protesting the change. But the list is basically "socially conscious" smaller advertisers (with a few exceptions).
Large companies may not be very likely to buy ads on programming where large companies are excoriated for their actions.
This sort of thing is not a Big Issue, for example, for the more commercially-friendly Jones Radio stable of talkers. We've checked in with Stephanie Miller, for example, and you don't hear a lot of yelling about how bad Major Multiglobal Corporation is...the same Major Multiglobal Corporation that owns potential advertiser car company A, or oil company/gas station chain B, etc.
The Madison situation should be quite indicative.
The station, "92.1 The Mic", has built up pretty decent ratings...nearly double what the former AC format did on the rimshot frequency. But if it can't be sold to advertisers with decent amounts of money to spend...they look to a format which can be sold.
We don't know how liberal talk WARF/1350 "Radio Free Ohio" in Akron is doing. We haven't heard any rumblings that the format is going away here.
But WARF does one thing some of the other liberal talk outlets won't do (for fear of scaring away diehard format listeners) - it runs Akron Zips football and basketball, and Akron Aeros baseball, just like it would in any other format...