Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Life at the bottom

Okay, so the early ratings reports show that WYTS in Columbus sucks ass.

Around Christmas time, the station, formerly known as WTPG, dropped their progressive talk format, which had garnered the frequency's best ratings since the old days of Top 40 hits on the AM dial, for lower-tier syndicated conservotalk. Since then, the new format has not caught on, particularly with the sign-on a few weeks later of yet another talk station, suburban FM station WTDA.

So, would this belly-flop convince the braintrusts at Clear Channel-Columbus to reconsider their hasty move? In a word, no.

See, the current strategy of WYTS is to serve as a flanker of sorts. Meaning that they tie up Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly and sports talker Jim Rome and keep other stations from grabbing them. Namely WTDA. Or any other FM station in town that decides to jump into the talk fray. It's an oft-used strategy, and in this case, it prevents competitors from becoming too competitive with Clear Channel's local gravy train, WTVN. In addition, WYTS serves as an account executive throw-in special, meaning that they have a little something-something to offer to clients who purchase ad time on WTVN.

In essence, it doesn't look like Clear Channel will bring back progressive talk anytime soon. As for anyone else, it looks like the best bet may be WVKO (1580AM), which recently returned to the local airwaves with a newly constructed tower and temporary reduced power (soon to increase). Allegedly, the new owner's goal is to turn around and sell the station for a rather steep asking price (though the station had long been on the market with little interest), or try and sell brokered programming on it. If that fails, the owner does know about the demand for a return of progressive talk to the local airwaves. Jones Radio Networks, which syndicates Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and others has been in contact. Air America Radio is in the station's Rolodex. Nonetheless, that's about as far as anything has gotten over there. Progressive talk fans in Columbus will just have to wait for the format to return to the local airwaves.

Meanwhile, Columbus area listeners, particularly those to the southwest of town, can try and pick up WAIS (770AM), a small daytime-only station that recently picked up Schultz and Miller.


Missy said...

Clear Channel's placeholder business strategy isn't how free markets are supposed to work. If O'Reilly and the others are rating bottom-feeders on WYTS, they'll be the same any other place in the Cols. market. The truth is that Cols. is extremely oversaturated with five Conservative stations. It's becoming very,very clear that CC is operating with a political agenda when it comes to their programming. We need advocates of Prog Talk calling Howard Dean and Dems with Congressional media oversight and raising hell. Broadcasters should not be allowed to just pump out conservative propaganda in the swing state or any other place for that matter. When are Dems going to realize that small investments in Prog Talk will pay off with 24/7 political ads.

RussKC said...

Since WYTS has proven that O'Reilly, Ingraham, and Savage DRIVE AWAY listeners, they should drop them right away and PRAY that some other station picks them up.

But that won't likely happen in the upside-down world of Corporate Media.

Anonymous said...

It's not Clear Channel. It's Darryl Parks, the company's regional manager. Markets he oversee include Cincinnati, Columbus and - surprise, surprise - Madison, WI. Clear Channel gives local and regional managers are great deal of latitude and autonomy. In general, this is a sound business practice but the company's confidence in Parks is misplaced. This is the guy who calls himself the "grim reaper" of progressive talk radio. Baroosk has an excellent profile of Parks on his "talkingradio" radio blog. Clearly, Parks has his own agenda that goes beyond sales or ratings. Parks' own political dispositions are very clear from his own weekend talk shows. Something's wrong when a right wing host is put in charge of progressive talk stations. But this is not the first time a PD has killed a format because he personally does not like it.

ltr said...

You've obviously been reading my blog Emacee, since that is exactly what I've been writing for the last few months. I am very aware of Darryl Parks, and have mentioned him in the past, long before even Baroosk has (no offense, of course).

Clear Channel, as has been stated here before, is a collective of little radio fiefdoms scattered throughout the country. Of course, those little territories have gotten considerably smaller since the company sold off most of their smaller market clusters (they just unloaded over 300 stations last week).

And if you notice, I said Clear Channel-Columbus. Most decisions are first made at the local level at CC, then the regional level (a.k.a. guys like Darryl Parks). San Antonio doesn't get involved too often, though they have been known to make 'suggestions,' particularly in rolling out new syndicated shows or branding strategies such as KISS-FM.

In the case of Columbus, Cincy and Madison, I'm sure that was Parks' doing. The Madison PD never really did seem comfortable with flipping to sports, talked as if a gun was being held to his head, and felt like the weight of the world was lifted from his shoulders when those plans were canceled. As for Akron, also mentioned by Baroosk, I'm not sure if that's Parks' turf (I thought it was Kevin Metheney's), but perhaps Keith Kennedy (if you're still out there) can set me straight.

And yes, after reading what Parks had to say on his blog, he does indeed sound like an absolute prick. Though, given that this is Cincy, which was the epicenter of those crazy cowboys known as Jacor Broadcasting, I'm not surprised. To be honest, I really didn't care to give him the notoriety this time around. I've done enough of that already.

Anonymous said...


No slight intended. I did not mean to overlook your earlier reports. Just to point out a current story.

I completely concur with your characterization of Parks. I just didn't want all Clear Channel programmers - including those in places like Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, LA, Denver, Miami AND MADISON - tarred with the same brush.

Radio has always had an affinity for right-wing authoritarian types, all the way back to Father Coughlin (see today's Radio Daily News for an article comparing Coughlin to Bill O'Reilly). I don't know what your experience working in radio has been, but in my time in radio it seems most everybody I ever worked with has been right-wing nut job lemmings or Mussolini wannabes like Parks. What is this affinity between radio and petty fascist types? Right wingers dominate radio and then go on the air and rant about liberal dominance of the media! Talk about a con job.

Missy said...

ltr, I am somewhat new to this website but recall you dismissing a political agenda by CC related to the replacement of WTPG in a previous post. Now you seem to be hinting that The CC Decider in Ohio, Daryl Parks, does have a conservative agenda that affects business decisions.

gregrocker said...

Y'think Clear Channel might have a right wing political agenda? Consider:

They funded their start-up buy-up of stations using funds swindled from taxpayers in Arlington County, Texas who built G.W. Bush a stadium for his Texas Rangers, enriching his biggest backers the Lowry's.

They held pro-Iraq-War rallies which German press claims were identical to Nazi party rallies in 30s Berlin. This was exposed all over the world, in fact, so only Americans are dumb to the fact that they are the radio propaganda wing of the Bush regime.

They generously offered to fill out the station network of Air AMerica at a time it was steadily picking up solid affiliates, but with their lowest powered, failing stations. Then after some of those stations like Columbus are credited by Howard Dean with helping swing the 06 election, they are quickly taken down afterward on false pretenses that they couldn't sell ads. Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller illustrate on their shows for weeks how no ad sales were even attempted and major advertisers couldn't even get their calls returned.

This is begging to be investigated by Congress. No less than three Congressmembers promised Ed Schultz on the air they would hold hearings into the right wing's piracy of the entire AM radio dial and dirty-tricks efforts to keep any opposing voice off. Forget the Fairness Doctrine, just get the facts out to the American people about this #1 source of the poison in our body politic, and changes will follow quickly.

Want to see Parks under oath?

Anonymous said...

Greg, you give Clear Channel way too much credit. You care about politics. Ditto heads care about politics. Clear Channel cares about money. Clear Channel buys politicians to make more money. Clear Channel does support the troops rallies as promotion for their right wing stations, just as they hold concerts to promote their music stations. They are whores, not hedonists.
It would be useful to see hard facts to go with your assertions - beyond hyperbole from some German newspaper writer.

Missy said...

CC's justification to keep WYTS is definately political and not in the best interest of maximizing CC's shareholder value from my perspective. No wonder the Mays family wants it to go back to being a privately held company. Can you imagine a Sports team General Manager saying, "We're going to hang onto all these underperforming players so another team can't snatch them up. That's why we are keeping 15 quarterbacks on the roster." How about TV. Do networks keep underperforming newscasters around so another network doesn't snatch them away. Not for f%$#@@$$ long!!!!

Anonymous said...

Missy, sure they do. CBS dumped Cronkite and gave the Evening News to Rather so ABC could not grab him. Broadcasters are more focused on other broadcasters than on the audience or the customer (advertisers).

Keep in mind: Professional sports is about making money (selling tickets, TV rights, concessions); not winning games.

Broadcasting is about selling spots, not getting ratings.

Clear Channel has also in recent memory flipped Oldies and Standards stations with good ratings to formats (often sports) with lower ratings because they can sell sports - even when ratings suck.
Some people on various radio boards say Clear Channel is biased against older listeners; just like people here say Clear Channel has a political agenda.

People in sales do what makes their job easy. Real estate agents get you to fix up your house (even though you lose money doing so) because it makes their job easier. Easier job means less time invested in each sale, which means more sales, which means more money.

CC sales people have clients who are buying right-wing talk. A 2nd right-wing talk station gives them a more attractive package to offer those clients. A client spends $X on WTVN; they add WYTS to the package and give the client more cume at a higher rate but a lower cost per thousand listeners. More money for the station and sales rep; better deal for the advertiser. Everybody's happy except progressive talk listeners.

It's not about politics. Only AAR and Nova M operate on a political agenda.

The three most important considerations in radio are: Money. Money. Money.

Money may be the mother's milk of politics. It is the oxygen of corporate radio.

raccoonradio said...

Good point: it's about the money. Big radio corporations maximizing profits, and getting to own many stations in the same market. In some
ways there should be no reason why an owner should own only 1 AM and 1 FM per market-- but when they own 3 or 4 you get situations like this(1996 Telecommunications
Act repealed ownership restrictions
and set caps based on size of market)

But even if there weren't companies owning the majority of stations in one market, the "money, money,
money" facet of this would result
in the same thing. It's what they can sell.

Missy said...

Wait a minute, Emacee. Your analogy of CBS dumping Cronkite for Dan Rather doesn't work. Who was the underperformer that was kept around? Rather was a hot commodity.

And, what about the old line about the airwaves owned by the public? I'm in a market with 5 Con stations. I'm against the Fairness Doctrine but don't see anything wrong with regulation stipulating that a certain amount of programming be original or local. Competition is good. Two stations with the same format is ok but others could be mandated to be different.

Eric Klinenberg lays it all out in "Fighting for Air."

Anonymous said...

CBS "benched" Cronkite for Rather so "another team" (ABC) wouldn't snatch him up. Cronkite remained under contract and expected to be used for special reports, documentaries and special event coverage, but mostly he was kept on the shelf.
Meanwhile, unable to get another "name" away from CBS (ABC had already tried that with Reasoner), Roone Arledge dumped the idea of one anchor-star in favor of three co-anchors pulled off ABC's own bench. One worked for an ABC-owned station. Two had already struck out in earlier attempts to anchor ABC's evening news.

I agree. Broadcasting worked a lot better under the old rules (late 60s). Not only were listeners more satisfied but the industry was making money.

There is a lot of misrepresentation - and outright falsehoods - in current discussions of the Fairness Doctrine. In general, it worked well and talk radio did well under it (despite what the neo-cons now say). Talk show hosts (left and right) who "carry water" will eventually kill talk radio.

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