Monday, February 23, 2009

As We While Away the Days

The next Atlanta radio shoe will undoubtedly drop at any time. The rapid-fire schedule and delivery of Arbitron’s PPM ratings will make sure of that. I’m going to take advantage of this lull by making a few observations, the first two of which have some relevance to the consolidated radio landscape.

Observation #1: Radio One’s Simulcast
When Radio One’s plans to simulcast its new urban AC 107.5 with 97.5 were let out of the bag, I wrote I felt this would be a waste of a signal. While 107.5 has better northern penetration and 97.5 is stronger to the south, the stations pretty much duplicate coverage. Moreover, both stations have proven they can get ratings on their own.

The other result of the simulcast was the relocation of Praise from 97.5 to the weaker 102.5 signal.

On the Friday prior to the moves, Radio One released a PowerPoint presentation to clients outlining the plans. The presentation included coverage maps of 107.5 and 97.5 that showed a fairly dramatic difference. The 107.5 city-grade circle covered all of Atlanta as far south as Union City; the 97.5 circle bordered Midtown to the north and passed Peachtree City to the south. Overlap was primarily over the southern half of Atlanta.

Even taking the maps at face value raises the question of why 97.5 is really a necessary part of the equation. After all, 107.5 provides city-grade coverage to the areas that matter, including Clayton County. Furthermore, face value is not reality.

Both stations, while officially non-directional, have maximized their signals toward Atlanta, 107.5 from the north and 97.5 from the south. In fact, I was in the 97.5 transmitter building on a Sunday in 1997 while the maximization was being performed. (Those outside tower guys are a rough bunch, by the way.) The two coverage areas overlap far more than the maps indicate.

Does Kiss 104.1, Majic’s most direct competitor, have a better signal than 107.5 in the southern part of the market? Absolutely. But, Majic has destination programming in morning and afternoon drive, featuring Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden, respectively. The 107.5 signal, while not equal to Kiss, would be easily found by anyone looking for these star performers. Just ask the airport parking-shuttle drivers, who always seemed to be playing 107.5 when it was a Smooth Jazz outlet.

All of that notwithstanding, Radio One, which has always played third fiddle in this town, sees the opportunity to pick up big ratings quickly. And having a signal that stops the scan in its tracks in the southern end probably will help the company realize that goal.

If Radio One were not a public company with big debt in a PPM world, I probably would be on its case for not unwrapping the new urban AC package on just 107.5, keeping Praise at 97.5 and seeing how the ratings unfolded. In this pressure-cooker environment, however, the company is understandably anxious to make things happen, and the sooner the better; and to do so even if it means wasting a profitable signal.

Observation #2: The Braves Can Only Hope for Such a Bench
As we all are painfully aware, a byproduct of the huge debt among radio conglomerates has been a significant decrease in higher priced—and higher quality—on-air people. Here in Atlanta, some of the best are sitting on the sidelines.

The first two who come to mind are Sandy Weaver and JoJo Morales. These are people with talent oozing out of their pores. Happily, Sandy seems to be loving her new life as a voiceover talent (, and JoJo is employed as the afternoon personality on Sirius XM’s “90’s on 9.” Yet it seems amazing that stations let these two sit there while fighting for ratings with far lesser talent. Well, it seems amazing until you think about budget realities.

Then there’s Tripp West, who is completing an outstanding 11-year run at Star 94. I’ve always felt Star 94 was the perfect platform for Tripp; he fits in just right, sounding comfortable and congenial; and putting out the quintessential Star 94 sound. So now Tripp joins the ranks of the Atlanta All-Stars who made the trip but are not in the game. Our guess is Tripp will land something good in another market. We wish him the best.

Longtime Atlanta radio fixture Steve Mitchell is another member of the club. Steve is a solid jock and an absolute wizard in the production studio.

Observation #3: Mark Arum Develops as a Talk Host
When I listened to Mark Arum fill in for Herman Cain on WSB-AM last Friday, I was thinking about how good Mark sounded, and how far he’s come as a talk-show host.

Mark’s voice is not going to win any awards, but that’s okay; his overall performance overcomes that. He has developed an excellent style and keeps things on an even keel, no matter what is thrown at him. Mark also shows intelligence and insight, and is knowledgeable on every pertinent subject in both the news and sports universes.

Mark deservedly was awarded an early-evening show on two Cox stations in Connecticut. As a Connecticut native, Mark knows the lay of the land and comes across as a local to listeners.

So what does this excellence portend for Mark’s future in Talk radio? That’s hard to answer because Mark does face a couple of obstacles. For the most part, successful Talk stations spew the conservative viewpoint, which is the case with WSB. Current thinking is that airing one brand of talk is as important as airing one type of music. Yet Mark is an independent thinker and does not fit the WSB brand of talk, or that of most Talk stations.

Mark is also honest with his viewpoints, which I find refreshing. However, Talk radio is really about entertainment, ratings and revenue. Rush Limbaugh is a great entertainer. Does he believe everything he espouses? Who knows? But I do know Limbaugh and other talk hosts realize that being honest plays second fiddle to entertaining, getting ratings and making money. Limbaugh admitted as much when he signed his recent mega-millions contract.

I still have to think, based on his smarts, talent and versatility, that Mark Arum has a very promising future in broadcasting.

Finally this week, thanks to Dan Steele for pointing out that “Are we human or are we dancing?”, the song line that runs through my head after I listen to Dave-FM, is done by The Killers and is on the AAA chart. And yes, my AAA benchmarks are the KINK’s of the world, that lean modern.

My email address is Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the props, Roddy! I am indeed loving life doing the 90s channel from my home studio in Johns Creek. Would love to do something local as well, but no one has asked even though I've sent feelers out. The sad thing is, most who were in this business before the hard times are pragmatic with regard to the realities of present day compensation, but this somehow escapes those doing the hiring. Could be they just want to prevent an escalation in the quality of the airstaff that could lead to a spike in compensation costs. Who knows? Many theories abound, but the reality is there are many like myself who are ready willing and able to step up, for less, and there are still no takers.

    And so it goes....