Why Local Radio Is No Longer Local

Dear Phil, regarding your response to my response to ... I too have no dog in this fight. No, I do not work for Jones (although I have, but not recently), and I do not work for Air America. As a radio consultant, I've trained both righties and lefties, so this is NOT about my ideology-- and I don't think you know me, so I doubt you know what my politics are. What I am about is good radio. I love to listen to stations that inform and entertain. Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller do good, entertaining radio. Rush Limbaugh used to do good radio. I used to listen to him in fact. There are many rightie talkers who are very entertaining, whether I agree with them or not (and no, I don't agree with all the lefties all the time either). Regarding your insistence that I provide 25-54 numbers, you know I cannot do that. Arbitron is very strict about not permitting list-servs or public forums (fora?) to quote the official ratings numbers beyond the 12+. So, you can think I am being cowardly, but in fact I am being legal. I have seen the 25-54s in about five markets other than Portand where Big Eddie wins his daypart over the rightie competitor. I imagine there are others. Last year, Talkers magazine, which leans very much to the right, named Ed the 5th most influential talker in the United States. I doubt they'd have done that if he didn't deserve it-- it's based on ratings and revenue figures. I wonder what figures you saw for NPR. There was a published report (I wrote an article about is last year) that showed the demographic breakouts as well as the political breakouts. I agree the majority of its listeners identify as Democrats or independents, but NPR has a surprisingly large percentage of Republicans who listen. I think NPR is giving the public thorough and interesting news and talk programs, and that's why their audience continues to grow. And I still say that stations who want to attract an audience need to be live and local whenever possible and reach out to the audience, whether the format is music, talk, or Lithuanian folk songs.
— January 5, 2009 10:45 p.m.

Why Local Radio Is No Longer Local

Oh Phil, your comments wound me deeply! First, I must remind you that unless you are in the industry, you only see the published numbers, which are the 12+ ratings. Progressive talk gets the 25-54 year olds, and I offer as an illustration of that the success of both Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC-- their total ratings look only average, but their 24-54 year old numbers are not only competitive with Fox but even beat them some nights. Ditto for the 25-54 numbers of Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller-- very solid, ratings book after ratings book. Also, it's a myth (and thanks for expressing another rightie talking point) that NPR is mainly lefties and liberals. According to numbers I have seen (I am a free-lance writer, and wrote an article about this last year) more than 35% of the listeners to shows like "All Things Considered" identify as conservatives and Republicans. But we do agree on one thing-- Al Franken was a better comedian than a talk host. An abject failure? Not true at all. In some cities, his show did quite well. But he never should have been doing it, no offence to Al, whom I happen to know (although we are not best pals). Air America's fatal error was choosing comedians and people with no experience doing talk radio. Jones, on the other hand, chose people with experience in talk radio. That is why I believe their syndicated talkers, who know how to make a show interesting, have proven more durable and more profitable. Markets where Ed or Stephanie beat Hannity or Limbaugh? Yes, believe it or don't, there are some. But the point is that Ed and Stephanie are radio professionals and not just polemicists. That's why they ought to be back on the air in San Diego. Letting both sides of the issue be heard is good for democracy. Let the best talkers, on both sides of the political divide, be heard. That's the way it used to be done-- on LA Radio in the 60s, Joe Pyne, the Michael Savage of his day, was followed by Michael Jackson (not the pop singer-- the erudite liberal talk host). Both sides got heard and ratings were huge.
— January 4, 2009 3:48 p.m.

Why Local Radio Is No Longer Local

Regarding KLSD, there are quite a few cities where progressive talk not only works, but gets good ratings. And some progressive talkers are even turning a profit-- for example, Ed Schultz, whose syndicated show was on KLSD, is about to celebrate his 5th anniversary;his show has been profitable for the past 3 years, and is heard on about 100 stations nationwide. Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, and Rachel Maddow are also successful and profitable. Yet Cliff Albert continues to offer right wing talking points about how progressive talk stations are failures because all they do is bash president Bush and bash corporations (not true, but never mind.) That's puzzling: rightie talkers constantly bash liberals, bash Democrats, and bash the supposedly liberal media... but I guess that sort of bashing is okay. Cliff sounds like his mind was already made up about KLSD, and now he needs to justify what was absolutely the wrong decision. And one other subject-- I also don't understand why owners haven't figured out that a station needs personality. The detached, automated sound just drives people away. I consulted for 25 years, and we always took a chance on new music, reached out to our listeners, and created stations that were entertaining and informative. These days, the corporations and owners seem puzzled that listenership is down. Well why would I want to listen to something that isn't live, isn't local, and isn't unique in some way? Many of us still love radio. And I believe radio is still capable of being a companion, a friend, and so much more. Perhaps it's not too late for things to change. That's my hope for the new year.
— January 3, 2009 9:45 p.m.

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