Thursday, February 19, 2009

The End Of The Road

Neither item below directly impacts this area - but some readers might be interested.

THE DEATH OF "FM TALK": The young male-skewing "FM talk" format, primarily seeded by former CBS Radio morning star Howard Stern, can pretty much be pronounced dead.

CBS Radio made a go of it with "Free FM", the company's post-Stern FM talk strategy.

After Stern went to Sirius Satellite Radio, the CBS outlets featured a trio of regionally syndicated Stern replacements, including Cleveland's own Shane "Rover" French, and the usual mix of "young guy talk" (sex, sports, booze, more sex, etc.) afterwards.

Some stations even jumped into the format, hoping for success.

But one of the biggest CBS Radio "FM talk" stalwarts is giving up the ghost...a station that went all-talk early on, and which was one of Stern's early syndicated affiliates.

Trade sites report that KLSX/97.1 in Los Angeles stops FM Talking after Friday, to morph into a new top 40 format aimed right at Clear Channel top 40 giant KIIS/102.7 "Kiss FM"...the archetype for all the company's top 40s (including WAKS/96.5) here, and the home station for the Ryan Seacrest Push Across America.

CBS' entry into the Los Angeles top 40 sweepstakes has a twist or two, reports AllAccess:

A wide array of events and concerts will be complemented by an online platform featuring "blogs, music videos, widgets, photo galleries, celebrity gossip reports, in-depth artist pages and an embeddable and multi-functional streaming player." Fans of the station can also stay connected through instant messaging, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, and other social networking sites, as well as wirelessly via texting, and applications for the iPhone, and select BLACKBERRY devices.

Remember - CBS Radio as a company, in the Mel Karmazin days, treated streaming audio like it was some sort of communicable disease.

In the post-Mel days, CBS Radio has become one of the highest-profile streamers and Internet backers, but it'll be interesting to see how this "old line" company handles the changing landscape of online and social media...and how serious they really are about changing the face of top 40 radio, bringing it to where their young listeners already are.

With KLSX's move (set for Friday), you might as well pronounce "FM talk" dead.

CBS Radio has just one major market all-talk/young skewing FM left, Washington DC's WJFK/106.7. Like KLSX, it was in the format long before "Free FM"...and like KLSX, it has hosted a syndicated show, Westwood One's "Don & Mike Show". (The show still continues today with co-host Mike O'Meara and the remaining members of the "D&M" cast/family.)

Rumors continue to persist that WJFK is heading for CBS' latest FM spoken word format obsession, sports radio.

Now, we have an ongoing obsession of our own...the "FM Talk Watch".

But we've always made clear that we were not watching the young-skewing "guy talk" stations that have clearly been on the decline. We continue to watch "traditional" talkers, and the aforementioned FM sports talkers, moving to that Columbus' WBNS-FM/97. 1 "The Fan"

And established stations, like long-time Akron market talker WNIR/100.1 "The Talk of Akron", which has been at that spot on the FM dial since it was WKNT-FM in the 1970's...and has been doing talk there since Howie Chizek first came over from Youngstown in 1974...

NOVA GONE: Area listeners may remember former Air America Radio talker Randi Rhodes, the liberal host who once aired in Northeast Ohio on both Media-Com's WJMP/1520 Kent-Akron-not-quite and, later, on former Clear Channel liberal talker WARF/1350 Akron "Radio Free Ohio".

After a dispute with Air America triggered by her controversial off-air appearance at an event sponsored by her San Francisco affiliate, Randi shuffled off to a new syndicator, Nova M Radio, based at a Phoenix radio operation.

(All of this, of course, happened long after liberal talk was taken off the air in Northeast Ohio...though former liberal talk WVKO/1580 Columbus decided to stay with AAR and new host Ron Kuby in the afternoon drive slot.)

The Wall Street Journal's Sarah McBride reports that according to Nova M Radio co-founder Anita Drobny, the company is about to file for bankruptcy liquidation.

In what's been a rather confusing week, the Nova M mess started when Rhodes took herself off of her afternoon drive show, in an apparent contract/performance dispute with the company.

Fast forward to this week, where the remains of Nova M have been supplanted by a new player - a company called "On Second Thought LLC", which is now boasting the syndication of former Nova M host Mike Malloy, Michigan-based host Nancy Skinner (who "filled in" for Rhodes in her absence), and host Dr. Mike Newcomb.

That's Dr. Mike Newcomb, otherwise known as "the owner/CEO of On Second Thought LLC", according to a release posted to the former Nova M site.

Newcomb is a physician and former politician that, as near as we can tell, started in radio by buying time on a brokered Phoenix station. He's been heard on the Phoenix station which served as Nova M's flagship, and that station (KNUV/1190) will reportedly continue as home base for the new operation.

Is this where we put a fork in the "liberal talk" format and declare it done?

Well, yes, and no.

The folks at Dial Global still maintain a full stable of liberal talk hosts, including Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Bill Press and a recent addition, soon-to-be-former Air America host Thom Hartmann. It's not known at this time if the syndicator formerly known as Jones Radio has any interest in the now-free agent Randi Rhodes, or if the company has any room for her.

But more than ever, "liberal talk radio" continues to operate in its own, smaller universe in talk radio.

Schultz and Miller are clearly the two biggest names on the Dial Global roster, but due to the diminisihing number of "liberal talk" stations, their affiliate numbers pale in comparison even to second-tier syndicated conservative talkers.

The syndicator occasionally places those two hosts on mainstream stations, or second-level talkers, with relatively limited success.

And quick - name an Air America Radio host not named Rachel Maddow!

(Ms. Maddow is technically still on the AAR network, though her success on cable's MSNBC means that her presence is now limited to a morning hour mostly filled with audio from last night's TV show.)

So, the "format" pretty much continues going in the direction we thought it would when local syndicator Envision Radio Networks picked up host Leslie Marshall...with those offering liberal talk hosts pressed into selling them as "good, entertaining hosts" to all kinds of radio stations, not just "liberal talk stations", since the latter stations are dwindling in numbers.

There is one slight Ohio effect to this: Ohio Majority Radio, the advocacy group which took over the web presence of WVKO/1580's now-former format, has now moved Thom Hartmann into the 3-6 PM "time slot" on the former WVKO web stream.

The OMR folks had picked up Randi Rhodes after 1580 went to Catholic radio programming, and still carry Nova M/On Second Thought/Whatever It's Called Now evening host Mike Malloy...


Chuck Matthews Blog said...

Sad about the FM talk format as I see it as being able to work. Perhaps not with a full news staff (that's the expense)...but with perhaps live AM and PM drive shows and augmented with good syndicated programming.

Good luck taking on KIIS-FM

Steve said...

I am very disappointed by this. For several years I have listened to Adam Carolla on the KLSX website. I think this is the best talk show on radio right now -- it's definitely better than anything else Cleveland has to offer in the mornings. It's funny (but not juvenile), and Adam actually has some really intelligent and interesting points of view. I did see that he'll be podcasting from his website, but I can't believe that would last long.

Tony Mazur said...

With KLSX flipping formats, AT LEAST the new format is not a "Bob" or a "Jack". Or, just like WKRK in Cleveland, a "Radio". Those stations are everything that is wrong with radio.

Dave said...

FM talk works. And FM talks beats the pants out of stale 50,000 watt AM stations like KDKA. Ever been to Pittsburgh?

Dave said...

Grr, talk

Aaron said...

Um, KDKA beats WPGB-FM in the ratings.