Friday, July 25, 2008
As the spring 12+ ratings roll out I tend to glance over the numbers in the trades. I seem to gravitate to the markets that I have been involved with--which over the years has been more than sixty. So when the Providence, RI numbers rolled out I was taken aback to see WHJJ-AM so far behind WPRO-AM. PRO-AM was at the top of the ratings, #1, and 'HJJ down at 14th.
History: WHJJ-AM was a station that Bill Hess (now VP Programming at Air America) and I resurrected some years ago from mostly paid programming to respectability with compelling local shows and a top notch news department. [I think even the PRO-AM guys would admit that WHJJ was a strong competitor back then.] Success came 25-54, besting PRO more than a few times. Never could overcome the power of the Red Sox, however!
So what's driving Pro to the top of the ratings? --Something that has not happened since Salty Brine was the morning man. F-M baby!!! It should be the next big thing...for AM News-Talk stations. And in some markets in might be the only thing to save them.
Markets like Washington, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis and others have had success migrating their heritage AM stations to FM, sometimes as in the case of Providence--an AM/FM simulcast, or simply launching the format on FM like has been done in Boston and here in Minneapolis. Of course, public radio has been broadcasting, news, talk and information for years on FM. And in many markets very successfully.
Over the next number of years we will see every market with a N/T station on FM. I think there's room for more spoken word formats on FM--lots more. And it will happen. Maybe not out of desire, but necessity. In most markets the AM band is a road less traveled and much older than FM (and that's aging too). This trend is not likely to change.
There will be more hybrids--music and talk formats mashed up together. Talk shows that play music and music shows that talk. In many ways this philosophy flies in the face of current thinking and is opposite of what a research tool such as a format finder might indicate. Remember, people can only adequately react to what they know and it's simply unrealistic to expect an average person to be able to imagine, "what if" when it comes to something they have never heard. Additionally, how people say they behave isn't always a mirror image of what they actually do when nobody is watching.
If you are operating a station that is the fifth or sixth station "hyper-focused" on targeting women 35-44 or men 30-39 and achieving so-so results the day will come when your best option might just be to reinvent, create and succeed with something you never imagined could be. It takes guts and vision. That is for sure.
There in no hugely successful business person I know of that has not has his/her share of failures. I like to say, "if you haven't failed you wouldn't recognize success."