Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Top 10 wherabouts of former progressive talk stations

The holidays are over, we're sobering up and playing with our new toys, and we finally throw down our arms in fighting the mythical and nonsensical War On Christmas. So now, it's time to take a look back on 2007.

In this installment, we'll take a look at the corpses left behind during the year. The stations that gave up and flipped from progressive talk to other, often less-successful formats. This isn't a complete list, as I tried to keep it down to ten. But it does show that perhaps the owners of some of these stations were a bit hasty in their programming decisions.

The year 2007 marked the big liberal purge from quite a few AM stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, Entercom and others. So far, none of the successor formats have done anything in the ratings. Check this out:

1. Cincinnati - WSAI dropped progressive talk in late 2006, going with some kind of advice-talk format. Well, that format blew dog, and it lasted a mere six months or so before becoming a dumping ground for leftover programming from sister sports station WCKY. To their credit, at least the station is getting ratings now, though nowhere near what they got with their half-assed and underpromoted approach to progressive talk.

2. Columbus - After WTPG also dropped progressive talk last December, it's replacement, right-wing babbler WYTS turned out to be a complete joke. Unlike its prececessor, which actually got the best ratings the signal had in years, WYTS has dropped off the chart. Not even Michael Savage can save them. Now, with progressive talk back on WVKO, perhaps we'll get proof that Clear Channel screwed the pooch when they hastily dropped the format.

3. Santa Cruz - KOMY ditched the Air America feed early this year. With their replacement oldies format, the station has not shown up in the ratings at all. At least liberal talk showed up on occasion. KOMY and their sister station are currently on the market.

4. Duluth - KQDS dropped from 2.1 to 0.8 overall after switching to an automated oldies satellite feed in February.

5. Fresno - KFPT was forced to switch to sports when they were sold by Peak Broadcasting to Fat Dawgs 7 in February (there was a no-compete clause in the sale papers to protect Peak's talk station, KMJ). A station that quite often floated around a one share completely dropped off the list.

6. Burlington, VT - WTWK thought the'd have more luck with estrogen, dropping progressive talk and picking up programming from Greenstone Media back in March. They were thrown a curveball when Greenstone closed up shop, and had to scramble to refill their schedule. They also brought back Stephanie Miller. So far, no ratings.

7. Sacramento - After sponsoring a Christmas season contest on their sister station in which they actually killed one of their listeners in public, Entercom killed progressive talk on KCTC in February. It was replaced by a sports format that has all but killed the 1320 AM signal in Sacramento. Locally-owned rival KSAC picked up some of the abandoned programming from KCTC and experienced a 300% jump in the ratings.

8. Akron - The axing of WARF ("Radio Free Ohio") in March completed Clear Channel's "Ohio Trifecta," where they effectively killed progressive talk on all three stations in the state programming the format. The replacement format was (surprise!) sports, and their ratings are currently (surprise!) nonexistent. They are currently getting their asses kicked by an independently-owned sports station out of Cleveland.

9. Memphis - WSMB was a joke when they did progressive talk. The station suffered from horrible promotion, poor sales efforts and serious neglect. No local presence whatsoever. An amateurish-looking website with an ugly station logo. A real shame, since the signal really kicks ass. But Entercom has never been adept at running progressive talk formats (as seen in New Orleans, Sacramento and other places). The result was a signal that was horribly neglected. So the flip to FOX Sports in early September likely came as no surprise to anyone.

10. San Diego - And now we save the most notable for last. Perhaps the most drawn-out format flip in radio history, Clear Channel in San Diego made few friends when word got out that they were about to flip KLSD to sports, going up against two other station in the area already doing the same. Time will tell if it will succeed, but Clear Channel screwed up royally when they ditched a format that was getting decent ratings and reportedly pulling in $2.5 million a year in revenue. Low-powered AM stations are not known for doing that in this day and age.

NOTE: In attempt to save space, stations such as WKOX in Boston, KDXE in Little Rock, WAVZ in New Haven, WLVP in Portland, ME, KOKE in Austin, KHRO in El Paso, and perhaps one or two others were left off the list. Of those, the new formats of WKOX and WAVZ are ratings dogs, some of the others are too early to tell, and only KHRO went up in the ratings, thanks to actually doing a locally-oriented liberal talk lineup after dropping the straight Air America feed.


Kathy said...

This is really an important issue. I listened to 1350AM from Akron. The real statement should be " I TRIED to listen to it". It was torture because there was no bandwith and the static and over programming was horrible. This is true across the country. Clear Channel likes to say there is no market for progressive talk. I know there is but we can't hear it.
Currently I podcast progressive talk and stream live through itunes. Unfortunately many people don't have this ability. I never listened to radio but am now an avowed AAR junkie.
This country is sorely in need for more progressive talk that is audible. The issues surrounding Big Media and market access are extremely important to having a real democracy.

raccoonradio said...

WKOX (and WXKS) in Boston got ratings either similar to, or less than,
the prog. talk format with "Rumba".
Most recently they did a 0.5...generally I think WKOX did
0.4, 0.6 with prog talk. Clr Chnl
makes its money on its FMs in Boston
and may make a slight profit with
Rumba...Ratings aren't necessarily everything.

Boston's syndie conservative talker WTTT (Salem
Communications) doesn't get any
ratings but is still on (Hannity,
Praeger, Medved). Again, may make
a slight profit if anything--
very low overhead. Salem probably
puts as much money into WTTT as
Clr Chnl did with WKOX and WXKS
as prog. talk, but they're still on.

Of course keep in mind I'm using
12 plus numbers here; I don't
know the 25-54s.

AlanF said...

Could you please do a story on KHRO and how its ratings improved after it went to local talk? It's hard to find much on the web. Also, when did that Burlington, VT station reintroduce Stephanie Miller?

Thanks for the overview, and happy new year!

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