Friday, March 16, 2007

If a radio station falls in the forest...

Okay, I ran across this one yesterday. I was in a bit of a hurry, and didn't get around to posting about it. Then again, I admittedly didn't really care. Actually, I'm not the least bit surprised by this move at all.

What is this? Well, we finally heard some vague, cryptic message from the powers-that-be who run KHRO in El Paso, TX. And the news ain't good for anyone who listens to Air America on 1650AM (if anyone even knows that they are an Air America Radio affiliate, that is). It seems the station is looking to shake up the on-air lineup, and adding a few local shows.

Paul Strelzin, a longtime El Paso radio personality, has been doing a morning show for the station since last June. "El Paso on the Move" airs weekdays from 7-10AM. Station management decided to program a conservative counterpoint to Strelzin's liberal commentary with the addition of local blogger David Karlsruher, a frequent caller on Strelzin's show. His one hour show will be called "The Other Side" and will air immediately after Strelzin's. According to Strelzin, “David K. has no radio experience and has never even been on the radio before, and David Candelaria (general manager at Entravision) gave him a show. He’s a Republican and will give another a view.” All fine and dandy, but station management has other plans in store for KHRO as well, and it looks like Air America will not be a part of those plans.

Candelaria says he "wanted to have a democrat, republican and moderate. We are also talking to Sito Negron as the moderate host. We want to keep people in El Paso to be better informed and have two main shows that can come together and talk about the issues in a friendly debate fashion. I would like to call it 'Radio Free El Paso,' from 7AM to noon, and at 12 o’clock flip it to 50s and 60s oldies. The music part starts in April, and Air America will end. El Paso is way behind the eight-ball when it comes to local talk."

So, why didn't I care? And why am I writing about it now? Well, KHRO ain't much of a station. Their previous new rock format didn't play well on a weak AM station on the 'extended band' (1600AM+), so they blew it up early last year and added a straight Air America feed. They didn't do much with it. In fact, their website, who's domain name hasn't changed from the rock format, has consisted solely of a white page with a solitary link to Air America. Heck, they didn't even bother to take down the rest of the site! Hopefully, they didn't pay a webmaster to do all this.

If you guessed that the station didn't do a whole lot of promotion for the station,then you get a cigar! And remember kids, just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come. Which is why liberal talk's weakest links have been falling by the wayside in recent months. In fact, aside from blurbs announcing broadcasts of UTEP sporting events, this is the first time I've read about KHRO in the press. Actually, management has been thinking of dropping Air America since last December.

KHRO has had an uphill battle with their liberal talk format. In a market where people of Hispanic origin make up roughly 82% of the population, an Anglo-oriented talk format was obviously going to struggle. On top of that, Entravision, a relatively large broadcasting company programming mostly Spanish-language formats on stations across the country, didn't even bother to announce the initial flip to talk in the local media. Or promote it. Or even slap up a website.

Same could be said about KCCT in Corpus Christi. The 1,000 AM station has also reportedly dropped Air America programming from the schedule and replaced what little of the network's programming it still aired with oldies and a few more local shows. On a positive note, they are keeping some of their left-leaning local hosts, though it would be nice if owner Manuel Davila could shell out a couple bucks and slap up a station website, instead of relying on staffers to do it themselves. KCCT wasn't much of a station. Listeners have informed LTR that the station occasionally disrupted Air America programming to run a shopping show (or something loosely resembling a shopping show) and infomercials during the weekday. On-air hosts often joked about how the station couldn't sell advertising. In essence, the station itself is a joke, though it deserves credit for airing local progressive programming.

I've said many times before that it is very possible to succeed with liberal talk on the radio. Of course, just like with any other format, even cash cows like country or sports, it won't go anywhere without proper promotion. That means press releases to the local media, advertising, publicity, and even a working website. The fact that they're going to flip formats once again should come as no surprise to anyone.

4 comments:

Bob said...

>>Which is why liberal talk's weakest links have been falling by the wayside in recent months.

Yes...AAR/PT stations have been placed on daytime signals, in the expanded band, weak signals, etc. and these are indeed changing format...you have to wonder if AAR/Jones might be better off trying to market a few
of their shows to the bigger, mostly conservative stations.

There is way too much talk/specialized talk on the air
these days (put on by cheapskate owners): Conservative talk (more than enough), progressive, women's talk, black talk, sports talk (a huge amount), religious talk. What's next: talk for seniors, talk for gay/lesbian, how about talk for kids? Yes, RADIO DISNEY TALKS (OK, made that up),
with 12 year olds talking about whatever.

Quality, not quantity, is what's needed. What's also needed is station owners who don't just put on "a computer in a closet" without even thinking about local shows,
promotion, etc.

It was amazing that Boston's AAR
stations didn't add a local host till a few months before the format was dropped and even then it was Sunday only. Not daily...they couldn't find someone to do a local prog talk show? Or...CC was being too cheap.

And now it's CC, senor: Rumba...
with local content, promotion,
and a better signal AAR Boston
could have been a hit.

Emacee said...

Absolutely!
AAR was willing to take any station under any circumstances, most of which were doomed to fail.
They spent money on bloated staff, inexperienced talent and fancy offices and left out the essential ingredient: promotion. No, having even friendly newspapers write articles picturing AAR as idiotic (possibly even crooked) does not count as promotion.
They should jettison the weakest links - both stations and shows. Concentrate of their two strong shows and on signing up stations with decent signals. Then they should spend money to promote them - and provide stations with incentives to do promotion and local shows.
They should pull the plug on morning drive and instead provide a prep service, bits and interviews for local morning shows.

Aletha said...

In defense of KCCT, it may be going through some changes right now, changes that may not accurately reflect what the current radio personalities desire, but the station remains an accessible outlet for people who might not otherwise be able to host a show. It is nice to have an affordable 'bullhorn' available. One of the personalities has been actively recruiting people to host shows, a community radio project, if you will. He has conjured up excitement and, I have to say, our little station is growing. Lets just hope it goes where we want it to.

I have enjoyed co-hosting gigs in the past and am now testing the waters with my own show. It is tough to get your groove on and KCCT has allowed me to feel my way. Ok, so my fellow hosts have really helped me have a go! That said, anyone can host a show which is not always a good thing. I know with my first show, I was alone, trying to host and produce (I had never even touched a production board before that night)and I forgot to turn my mic up. Twice! I thought "what the hell am I doing, I can't host a show on my own!" But the guys were there to encourage me and it has been so much better since. A small station like ours may seem like a 'joke', yet some of us believe in what we can do and will continue to press on.

In my short time with KCCT, I have come to realize that, for the most part, the radio personalities do care about the direction and programming. I know I do. I also know that I would like to keep Air America on. I know that as a result of its recent 'disappearance' I have lost listeners. Unfortunately, when you don't own the station, you don't have much control, now do you?

When you also do not have a say in things, it is frightening to spend your own money for promotion. What if you walk in one day and it has been decided for you that your services are no longer needed? All of that money you spent on whatever promotional materials is gone. You don't get a dime back.

I pay for my air time; I do not get paid for it. Period. If I am able to seek out my own sponsers (which I am actively trying to do), I can off-set my costs. I know I rationed a rather modest amount for the promotion of my own show. My website you link to is the only one KCCT has. I just happen to be married to a man, with mad skillz and an abundant amount of patience and love for me, who has taught me a bit about making a webpage. It is my first attempt and like my show, it will only improve as I do.

Promotion is key. There is no other way around it. But what do you do when it is left up to you and you don't even get paid?

Riddle me that, Batman.

monte said...

Yeah, except for randi and rachael. there's really not much to listen to.


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