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CELEBRATING A 50 YEAR OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

1010 WINS New York and KYW Philadelphia are celebrating fifty years as ‘All News, All The Time’.

Radio Reloj in Cuba started doing All News in 1947.  The only station doing the format longer.

WINS and KYW are remarkable success stories.

Both launched when a few station owners were experimenting with All News. Gordon McLendon being the most notable. Others would follow and many would fail. WINS and KYW have evolved to become digital brands as well.

The stations are famous for the slogan “Give Us 22 Minutes, We’ll Give You The World”.  The format clocks are virtually the same as when they started.

All News matters even as media usage changes and AM listening declines.

Last week the ‘Storm Of The Century’ threatened and then missed New York and Philly. KYW and WINS kept listeners informed with traffic, weather and live press conferences.  Boston took the brunt of the storm and sister WBZ had reporters live from all over the metro.  Business as usual for an All News station  Their cities rely on them during  breaking news and weather emergencies.

Mayors and governors told the public before the storm to keep their phones charged and use them to get emergency information. Radio was barely mentioned as a source for information. These officials apparently didn’t consider the internet, cable and cell service might be interrupted during the storm.  Yet, a battery powered radio would be a lifeline.

Houston is the only top ten radio market without an All News radio station. Houston is prone to hurricanes and serious flooding and home to a major shipping channel, chemical plants and oil refineries. A place with serious traffic problems and perfect for All News.

Radio One tried the format in Houston. But economics and poor signal made it unfeasible to continue. Radio is a business after all.  (Full disclosure, I was Program Director of KROI for part of its run. The digital audience was growing rapidly. But time ran out.)

All News grows slowly. WINS and KYW were not  overnight successes. A big story, disaster or a serious weather event is usually needed for a station to catch on. KROI had none.

But, there is a big opportunity in creating a Houston All News franchise. A great signal, deep pockets and patience  is needed for the format to succeed. Houston deserves and needs a KYW or 1010 WINS.  Hard to imagine the sixth largest radio market wouldn’t support one over time.

By the way, WCBS did a great job covering the storm too. Their 50th is less than two years away.

Another slow starter with staying power.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Radio programming

 

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Getting Back To Fun, Again

Have you ever really given thought as to how you became interested in radio?

The first time many of us heard radio was a frantic man playing records between commercials and jingles.  Oh, the jingles.

Jack Sterling of WCBS was the first personality I remember.  He would have been well into his career at the time.  I was five.

Radio was music.  But for me it was much much more.

People ask me today about the fantastic record collection I must have at home.

Sorry.  I don’t have one CD or record at home.  No collection.

I don’t have a stereo system with big speakers and fancy components.   A small  portable radio preferably with AM and Shortwave is my choice.

The AOR 7030 is overkill for most radio users.  It is an outstanding radio and when coupled with the Quantum Loop Antenna built by Gerry Thomas it is a DX machine.

It’s DXing that helps me make that connection today.

XEB 1220 Mexico City is one of my favorite stations.

So is Radio Rebelde out of Cuba for their baseball coverage during the winter.

Radio has a way of connecting me to the outside world.  I still love listening to the trucking shows overnight and of course George Norry and the cast of thousands on Coast To Coast.

For me radio was and is personality, and connection.  Perhaps for you it’s the music.

Whatever got you into this business is what you should focus on now.

Why do you love radio?  What is it about radio that drew you in the first time?

Go back there.

Then try to use that memory to get that feeling back again.

Emails are coming from people I’ve never met this week. Their passion for radio, not necessarily the ‘radio business’ is impressive.

People who love radio really love it.

We belong to a special club.  I feel bad for the rest of the world that doesn’t hear the magic and feel the connection.

Use that passion and get back to finding something in radio that really makes it fun again.

The economy, owners, budgets and all can take the fun out of it.  But don’t let the magic you felt die.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2009 in Radio programming

 

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Me And My Wifi

A black Emerson Radio made in the 1940s first captured my imagination.

It was around 1960 that my mother brought the radio to me.  I was sick and she hoped it would help me feel better.

Little did she know how that afternoon would change the direction of my life.

The first station I remember listening to was WCBS with Jack Sterling doing mornings I think.

This radio thing was fascinating to a five year old.

Even now you can hand a radio to me and I’ll sit for hours tuning the dial to see what’s on.

But the most amazing device I’ve found is the CCrane WIFI Radio.  It brings the entire world to me.

Pick a location or format and bam you are there.

If WIFI Radio isn’t the future, I can’t wait to see what is.

Having the ability to listen to Oldies from over a hundred sources, or Reggae from WSTX St. Croix and news from 2UE Sydney is great.

It has rekindled my appreciation for local radio.

For a program director it is a great way to hear how other stations sound just like we used the skywave to hear the big Top 40s in the 60 and 70s.

I rarely listen to music radio from local stations.  Now CBS FM, K-Earth or WLNG are a few of the music stations that are always playing in my office.

For variety the morning show on Capital FM in Nairobi Kenya offers something interesting late at night local time.

It’s a good thing I don’t have WIFI in the car.  I’d probably get lost in the radio and drive right by the house.

Any radio junkie will find a whole new world, literally, with the WIFI.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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HD You Ain’t No XM, Or FM

The first FM radio that I remember listening to was a Heathkit my Dad built in the mid 60s.

FM was still a novelty then and factory made stereo receivers were very expensive.

The Heathkit was a way to get a good stereo at reasonable cost.

The New York FM stations at that time were an after though to their big AM sisters.

But the programming was interesting.  This was new territory and everyone was experimenting.

The FCC had limits as to how much programming could be simulcast. So FM stations had to offer something different at least part of the day.

While my parents liked the easy listening on WTFM, WRFM and WVNJ, the rock stations caught my ear.

WABC the big top 40 station had a different version of the AM format on FM for a while.  There was even “The Other Dan Ingram Show” which I believe featured jazz.

Ingram was the afternoon drive personality on WABC AM.

WABC FM  later changed to a progressive rock format called “Love’ with Bob Lewis and Brother John.  Lewis   doubled as a weekend jock on WABC AM.  This was the first real attempt at formatting album rock.

WNEW  FM experimented with an ‘all female  talent line-up in the mid 60s with comedian Peggy Cass, Allison Steele and Sally Jesse Raphael  part of it.   WNEW later shifted to a AOR format and certainly was the most popular station in our high school.

Murray the K, Rosko and others did an early progressive rock presentation  on WOR-FM  until it became  the “Big Town Sound” as a Drake formatted Top 40.

WCBS FM tried a few formats including progressive rock with jocks like Bob Lewis, Tom Clay, Bobby “Your Wizard’s Here” Wayne and Gus Gossert until changing to oldies in the early 70s.

Our local FM station WDHA experimented with a mix of jazz, classical and pop.  By the mid 70s they were deep into the quad sound playing several hours of Quadraphonic music each night.

The entire dial was open to experimentation.

There was a time in the early 70s that WLIB FM (now WBLS) signed on at noon and played jazz all day.

WBAI owned by Pacifica was as radical as any station you’ve ever heard.

All of this was so different from the AM band then and today’s FM that it’s hard to even describe now.

FM was the exciting frontier.  AM was establishment.

Many AM operators simply handed their FMs to the kids to program.  The owners didn’t know what to do or didn’t really care.

Looking back, FM had a huge advantage.  It was run by outsiders who didn’t know there were any rules.

This weekend I decided to give HD a fair shot and thorough listening.

I mentioned in this blog Radio Shack is clearing out HD radios for $82 that once sold for $299.  Worst case I’ll finally have a radio for my office at work.  A low risk investment at that price.

There are several $300 radios in my collection, by Sony, Eton and others.  The Boston Acoustics Radio HD Radio is simply not in their league.  No wonder it’s on clearance.

Every radio I own picks up dozens more stations off their whip antennas than this one does with the supplied dipole.  Now I see why they tried to sell me a $30 external antenna.

The AM section is very poor.

WOAI is 50KW and exactly 100 miles from my home.  It fades in and out on this radio.

WOAI puts a  solid signal on the $30 Sony pocket radio I found at Walmart, but not on this $300 marvel.

Please note, the term ‘marvel’ is used with a little sarcasm at this point in the blog.

The poor dear is what DX’ers call, deaf.

Why would someone from the general public buy one especially at full price?

I don’t know.

To make matters worse, there’s nothing for them to listen to here in Austin.

KUT has two HD channels but either they don’t reach my home,  nineteen miles from Austin or the HD is off.

There are a handful of HD-2 music formats on the air.  All sound like little effort has gone into them.

I didn’t need a whole weekend of listening to figure that out.

HD seems to be run by people who know too much about radio or worse, the accounting department.

They are applying a business model and ‘metrics’ before the art has taken hold.

Sadly, the HD channels sound more stale than the main channels.

The HD oldies channel uses the liner “Good Times and Great Oldies” .

Talk about fifteen years behind the curve.

HD needs the same kind of free thinking FM had it the early days.  Give it over to people who aren’t  locked into traditional business models, and outdated research methods.

Here are my suggestions for programming HD.

Ban sweepers, station image voices and all liners that were ever used on FM.

Think talent.

Start fresh.

Hand a channel over to a group of teens or twenty somethings.   Let them figure it out.

No rules.

Just tell them to make something happen.

Wait five years and see what develops.

Give HD the chance to be the creative playground that allowed FM to develop.

What happened to those stations?

  • WCBS FM became a great oldies station partly because of the success Gus Gossert had with his weekend show.
  • WABC FM became a solid progressive rock station, later known as WPLJ.
  • WNEW FM became a legend.   Then a big company killed the golden goose.
  • WOR FM, went from Top 40 format under Drake, to WXLO, 99X, and eventually KISS adult urban contemporary.
  • WLIB became WBLS  with Frankie Crocker’s “Black Experience In Sound” format and a market leader for years.
  • WDHA became more AC then rock in the late 70s and continues today.
  • WBAI.  Radical as ever.

Not bad for a little experimentation.

Remember FM was the 25 year overnight success.

You’ll never get people to want it by giving them a watered down version of the same old stuff.

Think fresh.

And get out of the way.

Oh, and one more thing.

Build some radios that work, at a good price.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2008 in Radio programming

 

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