Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From Satellite To Print

NOTE: If you already read this item shortly after it came out this morning, scroll down for some updates, which are appropriately marked...

We put our items into the OMW Blender this Tuesday, and come up with a decent mix...

THE BIG ONE MINUS XM: Now, you can only hear Clear Channel talk WLW/700 Cincinnati in your car if you're in its 50,000 watt AM signal range.

The larger-than-life original "Big One" lost its claim to once again being "The Nation's Station" (give or take the Internet) Friday afternoon at 3, as XM Satellite Radio dropped its simulcast of WLW on its channel 173.

A WLW statement appears on the station's website, explaining simply that "circumstances beyond our control" forced the end of the XM simulcast.

Another message on the site echoes the end of that statement, advising XM listeners that they can still get the WLW-originated "America's Truckin' Network" overnight show on XM channel 152.

And, of course, Cincinnati Reds games continue to air separately as part of XM's Major League Baseball deal. (We haven't checked to see if Sirius XM and MLB still have a deal, but since things have stabilized for now at the satcaster, it's probably business as usual.) Reds games were always blacked out on XM 173, and air on XM's separate MLB channels.

And WLW continues to offer its streaming audio feed via its website.

While he won't say what caused the disruption, WLW/Clear Channel Cincinnati AM operations chief Darryl Parks tells OMW:

"I knew we had a sizable audience on XM173. But, judging by the response 700WLW has received and the response our hosts and XM Satellite Radio have received, it's heart warming to know so many people enjoyed The Big One in the Midwest and across all across America. I guess we were The Nation's Station!"

"I understand truckers will be having a convoy and rally in support of The Big One on the Washington Mall in DC. I'm not sure the crowd will be as big as the one for President Obama though! Breaker, breaker good buddy."

Ah, written like a programmer who also has a Saturday midday talk show of his own, with dependable pithiness. Thank you again, Mr. Parks!

UPDATE 3/10/09 10:45 AM: Orbitcast, a website dedicated to satellite radio news, weighs in...suggesting that the move was prompted by Clear Channel itself. The company which owns WLW also programs a few other stations on XM, and its "National Lampoon Radio" has also left the lineup. Quoting Orbitcast:

It's important to note that these changes are not being made by Sirius XM Radio Inc. The satellite radio provider has no control over the Clear Channel owned bandwidth on XM, that was made clear when the courts allowed commercials to be played on their music channels. This was - without a doubt - a decision made by Clear Channel Communications.

Orbitcast believes that Clear Channel wants to add "more profitable" music channels, so they can sell more commercials.

That "Nation's Station" line, resurrected when the XM simulcast started, has roots in WLW's long and storied broadcast history...the station once put out 500,000 watts of power, and also had a shortwave outlet that eventually became one of the Voice of America's transmitter sites.

Though WLW is a Cincinnati radio station, and thus now within the realm of the folks down at Tri-State Media Watch, it's always been bigger than Southwest Ohio. We learned about this from complaints from OMW readers in Columbus, who can't get the still-powerful 700 AM signal in noisy office buildings...and who can't stream the station via WLW.com due to their own office issues...

O&A OUT: Though they continue on XM, the terrestrial radio version of morning radio's "Opie and Anthony" has come to an end.

The duo aired their last over-air show Monday on CBS Radio flagship alt-rock WXRK/92.3 New York City, as "K-Rock" abandons the format for a new top 40 format later this week.

Quoting an article by Mediaweek's Katy Bachman, just to grab a random article from one of the many trade sites:

CBS Radio announced Monday (March 9), it plans to ditch K-Rock on WXRK-FM in New York for Top 40, challenging Clear Channel Radio's Z100 (WHTZ-FM). Called "92.3 NOW FM," the Top 40 station will launch Wednesday, March 11 at 5 p.m. playing the hits that appeal to an 18-34 year-old listener.

92.3 NOW FM will be the first serious challenger to Z100, the No. 2-ranked station in the market, since it launched in 1983.

Cleveland, of course, is tied into the story in many ways.

The WXRK call letters landed here after CBS Radio ditched the alt-rock format originally after Howard Stern's departure to Sirius - flipping 92.3 in the Big Apple to "Free FM" talker WFNY. Today's 92.3/Cleveland Heights carries the WKRK call letters abandoned in a format flip in Detroit, after some time using the calls WKRI.

The New York-based O&A had a long run on Cleveland's version of 92.3, first in tape delay in afternoon drive (to accomodate locally-based "Rover's Morning Glory" in morning drive), then eventually to morning drive after Rover barked his way onto Clear Channel rock WMMS/100.7.

That didn't last as long as some thought, the Opie and Anthony clearance in morning drive on the local 92.3. Those expecting an epic battle between O&A and the now-WMMS-based Rover were quickly disappointed, as CBS Radio pulled the New York City duo and the rest of the station's air personalities for today's jockless "Radio 92.3".

OK, we know you're asking...would CBS mount a clone of "Now" (or Los Angeles-based "Amp") here in Cleveland, to do battle with Clear Channel top 40 outlet WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM"?

We would bet against it.

For one, the company is almost exclusively paying attention to its largest markets...having already announced its intention to sell or swap out of markets like Cleveland. We don't think they expend the effort to change stations they intend to send elsewhere.

And by "change", we don't mean like the "Radio 92.3" flip, which was basically a format tweak with no air personalities.

"Now" and "Amp" will require a major effort on CBS Radio's part. You don't go aiming at heritage CHRs like the original "Kiss" (KIIS) in Los Angeles, or New York radio powerhouse WHTZ "Z100" by just throwing on pop songs.

CBS Radio is saying it'll hire air personalities for both "Now" and "Amp", and spend a lot of time paying attention to new technology that's a part of the young target listeners' lives in 2009. Will it work? Will CBS do it right? We don't know, but they're not just putting up jockless music in New York and Los Angeles.

Even if CBS Radio intended on spreading this format far and wide, and even if the company didn't want to get out of markets outside the top 10, there are other problems if you're trying to predict a "Now" or "Amp" clone in Cleveland.

Which station would you flip?

AC WDOK/102.1 "Soft Rock 102.1" and hot AC WQAL/104.1 "Q104" aren't going away. Would CBS Radio flip classic rock WNCX/98.5 or the just-reworked alt-rock WKRK/92.3? We're not figuring that to be likely, but that's just our gut feeling.

In the end, CBS' desire to focus on the Bright Lights and Big City may be the reason such a flip doesn't make it to Northeast Ohio...


UPDATE 3/10/09 10:20 AM: An OMW reader helpfully points out a response to the "10 endangered newspapers" item from Plain Dealer publisher Terrance Egger, who calls the report "baseless"....saying the PD has "no plan" that involves shutting down the presses. Egger notes (as has been reported before) that the Cleveland newspaper actually made money in 2008.


Egger said that newspapers are having financial difficulties, but The Plain Dealer made money in 2008. Though it laid off a significant number of employees late last year, Egger said the paper budgeted to make money in 2009.

"Everybody's got challenges and we're going to figure them out," he said.

The PD publisher also helpfully pointed out that despite appearances, the article is not a product of Time Magazine itself:

Though this appeared on Time's Web site and with a Time logo on Yahoo!, the report was from an online-only site, 247WallSt.com.

"People put this out there and associate Time Magazine with it," Egger said, upon hearing that another source produced the report. He doubted readers would notice that distinction. "It's still the Time brand it's associated with."

Our original report is below...and yes, we were tripped up by the "Time" connection, too...the "247WallSt.com" name is only listed in small print in the byline, and a "for constant business updates" link at the bottom...


We're hearing a lot of chatter about a Time Magazine article on the future of some newspapers.

You know, the one that puts the Cleveland Plain Dealer at number 10 on its list of top 10 "endangered" newspapers - as an OMW reader notes, the only one on the list in a "one newspaper town" (give or take Miami/Ft. Lauderdale).

Quoting Time's Douglas A. McIntyre:

10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is in one of the economically weakest markets in the country. Its parent, Advance Publications, has already threatened to close its paper in Newark. Employees gave up enough in terms of concessions to keep the paper open. Advance, owned by the Newhouse family, is carrying the burden of its paper plus Condé Nast, its magazine group, which is losing advertising revenue. The Plain Dealer will be shut or go digital by the end of next year.

Here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we already went on record with our own prediction some time ago, and we repeat it here.

We fully expect, based on nothing except semi-educated speculation, that the Plain Dealer and Black Press' Akron Beacon Journal will not exist as separate newspapers - possibly by the end of this year.

Our gut feeling/prediction/guess is that the Beacon will fold into the Plain Dealer, and provide a Northeast Ohio-wide news focus with perhaps a handful of Beacon staffers taking PD bylines and columns...much like what just happened in Denver, with the demise of the Rocky Mountain News.

That is "just a guess", and is based on no solid information. It just seems likely to us. We don't have a lot of faith in Black Press keeping the Beacon Journal going as a separate entity, and we have felt that way pretty much since day one.

Assuming the economy ever gets out of the current rut, even with the weaker Northeast Ohio economy, we expect the PD to hang in there. Again, assuming newspapers as a whole don't shutter like limbering dinosaurs over the next couple of years.

The article reminds us that Hearst has threatened to close the only major daily newspaper in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle, if it can't implement massive cost cuts or find a buyer. San Francisco has the free daily tabloid Examiner, but it's not the same as the old paper Hearst used to own.

Will the continuing rounds of massive cuts at all newspapers eventually render their content meaningless? And will that mean that shutdown will basically become inevitable?

We hope not. We're still a fan of newspapers, and believe they serve a very useful purpose in our democratic system...and that despite the best efforts of broadcast outlets (those outlets cutting back as well), a lot of malfeasance will go unchecked if newspapers die off...


jk said...

The Plain Dealer would like to note that reports of our death are greatly exaggerated. Or, in the exact word of Publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger, "baseless."

Chuck Matthews Blog said...

CHR was alive and well on 92.3 before AMFM flipped it to "Jammin' Oldies".

I believe 92-3 was Top 6 12 plus when flipped back in '99.

I think there's certainly enough room for a second CHR in Cleveland. In fact, I'm surprised KISS has not had a direct format competitor (or WGAR) for so long.

WNCX... I'd leave it alone.

74WIXYgrad said...

In regards to Chuck's comment, I would like to say that what I'd like to see competing with WGAR would be something similiar to what CBS had when they owned WHOK in Columbus.

Having said that and not being a broadcast professional, I think that WQMX does a far better job as a country station and serving the community than WGAR. Plus they have a strong enough signal to be heard in much of the Cleveland area.

Energy said...

Jammin as a CHR was a great station. Too bad they jumped on the Jammin Oldies bandwagon so quickly.