The Inside Story with Mike Kinosian: FM Talk.

More Talk/Less Static

External competitive forces and internal clustermate considerations are always part of the equation, but heretofore relatively rare FM Talkers could continue emerging as viable solutions for some under-performing music outlets.

Such was the scenario in Pittsburgh January 5, 2004 when Clear Channel Rhythmic AC WJJJ materialized as “FM NewsTalk 104.7” (WPGB).

Familiar Approach
Albeit separated by a wide margin, WPGB (7.9) was nevertheless runner-up to sister Classic Rocker WDVE (18.7) this summer in the Men 25-54 demo, and maintained the No. 2 spot in that demo mid-days (9.7); afternoons (7.3); and evenings (8.1). “FM Talk works for companies seeing a hole for a certain type of programming and don’t have an AM signal to compete [against],” comments PD Jay Bohannon, who envisions seeing twice as many FM Talkers in 12 months as now exist. “There are many misconceptions that it’s `Hot Talk’ or akin to having all morning shows.”

That isn’t the formula being implemented in The Steel City, where Bohannon oversees a traditional Talk format much as he did at sister WTAM/Cleveland. “That’s really my model as far as where I’m coming from.”

In turn, WTAM was patterned after co-owned WLW/Cincinnati. “We adopted that attitude as soon as Jacor [acquired it].” Bohannon remarks. “[WPGB] came on in the classic, loud, Jacor AM News/Talk station way.”

Contemporary Stylebook
Just as one would find on most other such AM facilities, “FM NewsTalk 104.7” has news at the top and bottom of every hour.

Top of the hour casts are at least three and a half minutes; one-minute updates air at: 30. “There’s also weather and traffic four times an hour in morning drive,” Bohannon explains. “Our production values and stylebook are extremely contemporary, especially when you compare them to markets that have had News/Talk stations for a long time. We bring our own perspective to how these things can be done. There’s a difference in the way it sounds, but it’s basically the same service.”

Satisfied P1s
The most common obstacle for budding FM Talkers is the cross-town 800-pound AM Talk gorilla.

In this case, that’s Infinity’s KDKA, but Bohannon opines, “We have more `attitude’ - while they’re classic `old-school.’ As the anti-old-school AM Talk station, we position everything [about KDKA] as being old. Nearly 70% of KDKA's 12+ audience is 55+. For the first time in its history, they have a competitor people can drive with. [Many] 5,000-watt peashooter AMs made valiant efforts, but you can’t drive too far out of downtown with them.”

Conservative personalities Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage are integral WPGB components. However, Bohannon stresses that compelling radio is more important than conservative or liberal. “It turns out I have a lineup of conservative hosts; an incredibly loyal P1 audience; and an outrageous TSL. There’s not a show on this station our P1s don’t enjoy. If I had an AM signal in Pittsburgh as good as what we have on 104.7 and we were doing exactly what we’re doing now, it would be just as successful.”

Role Model
It was major news when the centerpiece for virtually any Talk station left KDKA for WPGB. “The fact of the matter is [WPGB] was cleaning [Limbaugh’s] clock,” Bohannon declares. “Everyone has a story about how they got Rush off KDKA and onto WPGB. His show has doubled its ratings since he’s been here. I stick to my guns and keep my tunnel vision on exactly what I want the station to sound like and how I can promote him.”

Local personalities managing to get on KDKA automatically enjoy a substantial audience - however Bohannon contends, “Many got fooled into thinking they were really good because they did so well [there]. They lost touch with exactly what it is they were doing because it all seemed to work. But I can’t say anything disparaging about their great news department.”

Programs define themselves on the station positioned as the market’s most stimulating Talk radio outlet. “This is going to be one of Glenn Beck’s most successful major markets,” Bohannon predicts. “He’s got a young attitude and great production sensibility. His show epitomizes what we’re trying to do. It would be great if I could have an FM station that sounds like him all day. That’s nothing against the rest [of our lineup] because they all have their charm and do very well.”

Several Air America shows are carried in the market by Renda’s WPTT-AM, but Bohannon maintains, “We have a much more aggressive attitude in promoting our programs. All our shows are host-driven where [someone] can monologue for 20 minutes in compelling and provocative ways.”

Loose Cannons
In addition to syndicated marquee names, WPGB also has a local flair, including morning drive’s “Quinn & Rose,” and Bohannon doesn’t discount their contributions. “This station is successful because of Jim Quinn [who has] a very good production sense and does conservative Talk radio in the vein of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.”

Mirroring those Premiere Radio talents, Quinn did Top 40 before switching to Talk 12 years ago. “It’s not a Pittsburgh show,” Bohannon points out of the program, which is also heard in Akron, Johnstown (PA) and Altoona (PA). “Everything you hear on Rush has already been on our station in the morning. It’s uncanny how tuned in [Quinn] is to it all. It’s a weird, grassroots thing that I never experienced in radio before. He has an incredibly loyal and militant base. It’s amazing how responsive his audience is to everything he does.”

Former trial lawyer Ellis Cannon does the station’s 6 - 8pm Sports show. “For years, Mark Madden [on ABC’s `ESPN 1250’ WEAE] did great Men 25-54,” Bohannon states. “He’d be second or third every book, [but now] Ellis doubles his numbers. We’ve instilled in him the same Talk radio sensibilities that the rest of our shows have.”

With his FM Talk outlet performing exceptionally well 25-54, Bohannon proclaims, it’s well positioned for 35-44s. “That’s really where we just smash everything. We came in with an extremely focused and high profile presentation of tremendous talent. We also had a philosophical plan and an elemental/formatic structure in place that really makes Talk radio cook.”

Sharing With Music Listeners
Four Pittsburgh Talk stations accounted for 17.2 shares this summer. Figures were nearly as impressive in Boston when Infinity News-Talk WBZ (15 hours a day as all-News/nine hours a day as Talk) is inserted in the mix that includes Entercom’s WRKO and Greater Media FM Talker WTKK.

With an assist from Maximiser, Greater Media VP/longtime WMJX PD Don Kelley explains why he’s not surprised at FM Talk’s Beantown success. “[Boston University-owned public radio outlet WBUR-FM] does incredibly well, particularly in drive times. They’re always top two or three 25-54. If you pull out the 5pm hour, they usually win the demo.”

The initial plan when Greater Media snared Westwood One morning icon Don Imus from Entercom Sports WEEI was to put Talk adjacent to WBUR’s 90.9 on 92.9. “People we’ve picked up the last few years weren’t AM Talk listeners,” Kelley points out. “They listened to NPR on FM and found us compelling enough to hang around for a while and perhaps set a button. We see big-time sharing up and down the FM band with music stations – not other Talk stations. That’s not what most consultants told us would happen.”

Younger Target
Since much of WTKK’s cume comes from FM music listeners, its median age is substantially younger than that of an AM Talk outlet. “We usually average about 12 years younger than WRKO,” Kelley points out. “The joke in the hallway is that 68 isn’t only [WRKO’s] frequency, but the average age of their listeners. That’s a little exaggeration, but not a whole lot. They’ll also skew more female because there are more older women than older men. We’ve been able to come up with shows in different day-parts that will do pretty well, whereas all WRKO is holding onto is afternoon drive.”

A rumor circulated in Boston that WBCN would abandon Alternative for fulltime Talk. The notion made some sense, since the Infinity facility airs Howard Stern in the morning; had Opie & Anthony in the afternoon; Westwood One’s “Loveline” at night; and the NFL’s New England Patriots. “There wasn’t much music on the `Rock of Boston,’” Kelley jokes. “After Opie & Anthony got fired for a second time, they went back to a music show and took Loveline off. So that move to be an FM Hot Talk station [was pushed] to the background.”

Prior to a swap with Infinity that netted Boston stations WBOS and WSSH and Philadelphia Rocker WMMR, Greater Media put FM Talk on KLSX/Los Angeles. “This company has always had an interest in Talk,” Kelley explains. “We had [Howard Stern] on live [3-11am] and he overtook the station’s entire image.”

Trial & Error
Attitude and delivery are critical FM Talk ingredients. Another – which can get tricky - is discovering air talent who don’t sound like AM talk show hosts. “We went through growing pains [because not] everybody you talk to with Talk show experience is an FM talk show host,” Kelley states. “We want to have compelling and interesting - but not necessarily outrageous - shows. It was difficult to find someone who can do that kind of thing and be interesting enough to generate buzz.”

Several people were auditioned as Greater Media prepared to debut FM Talk 96.9. Jay Severin clicked, although Kelley concedes, “We didn’t realize that right off the bat. We thought Imus and [10am- 12 Noon personality/Boston Herald columnist] Mike Barnicle would be the [primary and secondary] draws, but six months into it, we found that the guy in the afternoon [Severin] was getting a lot of email and focus group reaction.”

The former political analyst did occasional fill-in work at WABC/New York and late night summer relief at WRKO, which is where Kelley heard him. “It’s mostly trial and error, but he didn’t sound like an old Talk personality. It’s hard to test people who don’t come out of radio [in a focus group] without putting them on the air. Until [the audience] hears the person, they don’t know if they’re going to like them. They either can’t answer the question or give an answer that could be deceptive.”

It is still unresolved whether Severin – who recently inked an Infinity syndication deal - will be retained by WTKK. That pact begins in January (2006) and he’ll do a nightly (7-10pm) show. “What we’ll do with him is up-in-the-air,” Kelley reports. “We have him off-air in the interim [and recently hired Michael Graham for Severin’s 3-7pm shift].”

Rationalizing The Numbers
The noteworthy paradox that conservative talk fares well in liberal Boston might be best explained by one loyal WTKK listener, who likes hearing “what the nuts are saying” to Limbaugh, who airs Noon-3pm on WRKO. “They want to keep a beat on what the crazies from the other side are thinking,” notes Kelley. “The same thing exists with [Libertarian Severin]. They don’t agree with him, but think he’s interesting. Massachusetts is a liberal state, but people like hearing a side of [an issue] that might not completely align with the way they think.”

ABC Radio/FOX-TV’s Sean Hannity, Talk Radio Network’s Laura Ingraham and Westwood One’s Bill O’Reilly are part of WTKK’s roster and participated in its initial “FM Talk All-Stars” town hall meeting last month (11-5-2005). “Sean likes being on an FM station in a big market,” Kelley comments. “He’s very cooperative and does custom drop-ins. [Former Boston TV news anchor] O’Reilly has done his show from here several times. We had all our personalities in the studio [when the Democratic Convention was held in Boston in 2004]. A TV spot was shot that we ran in the fall. We went through the daily lineup as a campaign parody where people would vote for the radio station.”

Sports Variable
Not everything on the Greater Media FM Talk facility, however, has a conservative slant. Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan and former Cambridge City Councilor Jim Braude (“Eagan & Braude”) discuss local news and politics daily between Noon-1pm. “They’ve filled in for Imus and have also done afternoon drive,” Kelley points out. “One of the most common comments we get is `How come they’re not on more often?’”

Boston College hockey was part of WTKK’s first year package. Depending on the sport and how well the local franchise is performing, Kelley believes sports on FM Talk could be compatible. “We’ve been pitched on things like NASCAR on WTKK and [Country WKLB but] this isn’t a NASCAR part of the world. [WKLB] has no interest in it and wants to [keep playing] Country music. Hockey isn’t a particularly good radio sport and basketball isn’t that great on radio, either. You don’t have natural pauses like in baseball and football, where you can talk about things to make it interesting. It would be great if we could have the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. The big concern with baseball at night is that it takes up so many hours. [Conversely], nights and weekends are where you have the toughest go of things.”

Eliminating a station’s direct competitor has been one of consolidation’s by-products. Boston is an excellent example. WHDH and WRKO both did Talk, but Entercom turned WHDH into Sports WEEI.

The CHR/Pop field consisted of “Kiss” (WXKS-FM) and WZOU, but Clear Channel transitioned the latter into “Jammin” (CHR/Rhythmic WJMN).

Boston radio historian Kelley is quite cognizant that five different companies owned five ACs in the market: WVBF (Fairbanks); WMJX (Greater Media’s “Magic”); WJIB (NBC’s Ultra-Easy AC); WSSH [Noble’s “Wish”]; and WBOS (Sconnix Album AC).”

Those same five are now owned by Greater Media and are now AC (WMJX – no change); Talk (WTKK – formerly WJIB); Classic Hits (WROR – formerly WROR); Country (WKLB – formerly WSSH); and Triple A (WBOS – same calls). “People perceive differences between CNN and FOX; you also have gradations of AC or CHR,” Kelley opines. “It would work the same way in Talk.”

FM Talk Ratings Overview
This week’s featured “Inside Story” ratings analysis details FM Talk Summer 2004 - Summer 2005 ratings fluctuations according to 12+ Arbitron format share.

Following a station’s Calls/City is its Summer 2004 12+ share; Summer 2005 12+ share; and 12+ Summer 2005 market rank.

’04 ’05 ‘05 Rank
02 KLSX/Los Angeles 2.8 2.5 No. 15
03 WCKG/Chicago 1.9 1.6 No. 24
05 KLLI/Dallas 3.0 3.2 No. 10
06 WIXM/WKXW/Phila.** 1.0 1.0 No. 23
08 WJFK-FM/Washington 2.8 2.3 No. 16
09 WTKK/Boston 3.2 3.1 No. 12
10 WKRK/Detroit 2.5 2.6 No. 16
14 KQBZ/Seattle 2.5 2.1 No. 20
16 WFMP/Minneapolis 1.2 1.4 No. 15
19 KFTK/St. Louis 2.5 2.6 No. 17
20 WHFS/Baltimore 2.8 3.4 No. 09
23 WPGB/Pittsburgh 4.8 5.5 No. 06
28 KLSX/Riverside** 1.5 1.7 No. 19
31 KSL-FM/Salt Lake City 3.5 2.0 No. 18
34 WTKK/Providence** 1.5 1.2 No. 20
36 WLNK/Charlotte 3.8 3.4 No. 13
37 WIXM-WKXW/Middlesex**4.6 4.8 No. 02
39 WTKS/Orlando 3.7 4.4 No. 09
44 WWTN/Nashville 3.8 3.3 No. 13
45 WZTK/Greensboro 1.5 1.6 No. 14
47 WZZR/West Palm Beach 3.5 4.0 No. 06
57 WYDE/Birmingham 2.3 2.2 No. 17
61 KHNR/Honolulu 1.4 1.1 No. 19
69 WIXM-WKXW/Allentown**0.8 1.4 No. 12
70 KAGM/Albuquerque 3.5 1.5 No. 24
71 WNOX/Knoxville 2.9 6.1 No. 05
73 WNIR/Akron 6.9 6.9 No. 01
87 WSCC/Charleston, SC 2.9 3.1 No. 12
91 KWQW/Des Moines 2.8 2.6 No. 12
95 WXXM/Madison 1.9 2.3 No. 12
98 WFHG/Johnson City 1.5 2.4 No. 09
106 WGOW-FM/Chattanooga 4.6 4.9 No. 05
122 WFMN/Jackson, MS 2.2 3.8 No. 08
156 WJFK-F/Fredericksburg**NA 2.1 No. 13

FM Talk Fluctuations
The 3.2 share summer-summer improvement (12+) notched by WNOX/Knoxville was the largest by any FM Talk station.

More than half (55%) gained; 39% were down; and 6% remained flat.

71 WNOX/Knoxville +3.2
122 WFMN/Jackson, MS +1.6
98 WFHG/Johnson City +0.9
23 WPGB/Pittsburgh +0.7
39 WTKS/Orlando +0.7
20 WHFS/Baltimore +0.6
69 WIXM -WKXW/Allentown**+0.6
47 WZZR/West Palm Beach +0.5
95 WXXM/Madison +0.4
106 WGOW-FM/Chattanooga +0.3
05 KLLI/Dallas +0.2
16 WFMP/Minneapolis +0.2
28 KLSX/Riverside** +0.2
37 WIXM-WKXW/Middlesex**+0.2
87 WSCC/Charleston, SC +0.2
10 WKRK/Detroit +0.1
19 KFTK/St. Louis +0.1
45 WZTK/Greensboro +0.1
06 WIXM-WKXW/Phila.** Flat
73 WNIR/Akron Flat
09 WTKK/Boston -0.1
57 WYDE/Birmingham -0.1
91 KWQW/Des Moines -0.2
02 KLSX/Los Angeles -0.3
03 WCKG/Chicago -0.3
34 WTKK/Providence** -0.3
61 KHNR/Honolulu -0.3
14 KQBZ/Seattle -0.4
36 WLNK/Charlotte -0.4
08 WJFK-FM/Washington -0.5
44 WWTN/Nashville -0.5
31 KSL-FM/Salt Lake City -1.5
70 KAGM/Albuquerque -2.0
156 WJFK-F/Fredericksburg**NA

FM Talk Shares
WNIR/Akron’s 6.9 was the strongest 12+ share registered this summer by an FM Talker; the typical 12+-share for FM Talkers was 2.88.

73 WNIR/Akron 6.9
71 WNOX/Knoxville 6.1
23 WPGB/Pittsburgh 5.5
106 WGOW-FM/Chattanooga 4.9
37 WIXM-WKXW/Middlesex**4.8
39 WTKS/Orlando 4.4
47 WZZR/West Palm Beach 4.0
122 WFMN/Jackson, MS 3.8
20 WHFS/Baltimore 3.4
36 WLNK/Charlotte 3.4
44 WWTN/Nashville 3.3
05 KLLI/Dallas 3.2
09 WTKK/Boston 3.1
87 WSCC/Charleston, SC 3.1
10 WKRK/Detroit 2.6
19 KFTK/St. Louis 2.6
91 KWQW/Des Moines 2.6
02 KLSX/Los Angeles 2.5
98 WFHG/Johnson City 2.4
08 WJFK-FM/Washington 2.3
95 WXXM/Madison 2.3
57 WYDE/Birmingham 2.2
14 KQBZ/Seattle 2.1
156 WJFK-F/Fredericksburg**2.1
31 KSL-FM/Salt Lake City 2.0
28 KLSX/Riverside** 1.7
03 WCKG/Chicago 1.6
45 WZTK/Greensboro 1.6
70 KAGM/Albuquerque 1.5
16 WFMP/Minneapolis 1.4
69 WIXM-WKXW/Allentown**1.4
34 WTKK/Providence** 1.2
61 KHNR/Honolulu 1.1
06 WIXM-WKXW/Phila.** 1.0

FM Market Rank
Paced by WNIR’s No. 1 showing, the representative FM Talk station this summer placed 13th (13.11) in their respective markets; 32% could be found somewhere in the Top Ten.

73 WNIR/Akron No. 01
37 WIXM-WKXW/Middlesex**No. 02
71 WNOX/Knoxville No. 05
106 WGOW-FM/Chattanooga No. 05
23 WPGB/Pittsburgh No. 06
47 WZZR/West Palm Beach No. 06
122 WFMN/Jackson, MS No. 08
20 WHFS/Baltimore No. 09
39 WTKS/Orlando No. 09
98 WFHG/Johnson City No. 09
05 KLLI/Dallas No. 10
09 WTKK/Boston No. 12
69 WIXM-WKXW/Allentown**No. 12
87 WSCC/Charleston, SC No. 12
91 KWQW/Des Moines No. 12
95 WXXM/Madison No. 12
36 WLNK/Charlotte No. 13
44 WWTN/Nashville No. 13
156 WJFK-F/Fredericksburg**No. 13
45 WZTK/Greensboro No. 14
02 KLSX/Los Angeles No. 15
16 WFMP/Minneapolis No. 15
08 WJFK-FM/Washington No. 16
10 WKRK/Detroit No. 16
19 KFTK/St. Louis No. 17
57 WYDE/Birmingham No. 17
31 KSL-FM/Salt Lake City No. 18
28 KLSX/Riverside** No. 19
61 KHNR/Honolulu No. 19
14 KQBZ/Seattle No. 20
34 WTKK/Providence** No. 20
06 WIXM & WKXW/Phila.** No. 23
03 WCKG/Chicago No. 24
70 KAGM/Albuquerque No. 24

FM Talk By Owner
Clear Channel and Infinity (six each) have the most FM Talk stations in Continuous Measurement markets.

The Clear Channel stations are: WPGB/Pittsburgh; WTKS/Orlando; WZZR/West Palm Beach; KAGM/Albuquerque; WSCC/Charleston, SC; and WXXM/Madison.

Infinity’s FM Talkers that are rated four times a year include: KLSX/Los Angeles (which also shows in the Riverside book); WCKG/Chicago; KLLI/Dallas; WJFK-FM/Washington (also appears in the Fredericksburg, VA book); WKRK/Detroit; and WHFS/Baltimore.

Citadel is the only other group owner with more than one (three) FM Talk station in Continuous Measurement Markets: WNOX/Knoxville; KWQW/Des Moines; and WGOW-FM/Chattanooga, TN.

With one each are Bonneville (KSL-FM/Salt Lake City); Bristol Broadcasting (WFHG/Johnson City); Crawford Broadcasting (WYDE/Birmingham); Cumulus (WWTN/Nashville); Curtis Media (WZTK/Greensboro); Emmis (KFTK/St. Louis); Entercom (KQBZ/Seattle); Greater Media (WTKK/Boston also in the Providence book); Hubbard (WFMP/Minneapolis); Jefferson-Pilot (WLNK/Charlotte); Media-Com (WNIR/Akron); Millennium’s WIXM & WKXW which appears in the Philadelphia, Middlesex and Allentown books; Salem (KHNR/Honolulu); and Tele-South (WFMN/Jackson, MS).

FM Talk Overview – Fine Print
This data is based on Arbitron’s 102 Continuous Measurement markets – with the exception of Puerto Rico and New Orleans and “Client Exclusive” markets Stockton; Muncie, IN; Olean, NY; Cheyenne, WY; and Great Falls, MT.

No AM & FM combos were used.

Stations like WORD/Pittsburgh, KPDQ/Portland, KWWE/Riverside, KNKT/Albuquerque, KSPO/Spokane and KCVW/Wichita do Christian Talk and will be covered in a future “Inside Story” article.

By Mike Kinosian


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