May 22, 2003
Liberal radio

Jesse points to this interesting article which indicates that the specter of liberal-themed talk radio may be more than just vaporware:

At a Saturday talk radio industry event put on by Talkers Magazine, Gabe Hobbs, Clear Channel Radio's vice president of News/Talk/Sports, announced that in the near future this corporate owner of over 1200 radio stations is considering programming some of their talk stations "in markets where there are already one or two stations doing conservative talk" with all-day back-to-back all-liberal talk show hosts.

Using the analogy of how music radio stations wouldn't run different categories of music on a single programming day, Hobbs said talk radio was similarly "all about format." This, he said, is why liberal talkers haven't succeeded when sandwiched between conservatives - radio stations shouldn't mix formats but instead should market to specific listener niches. Understanding this, it's clear that only all-liberal/all-day programming can fill the demand for liberal talk radio, Hobbs' comments suggested.

I suppose I should be happy about this, and certainly a pragmatic part of me is, but isn't this sort of market segmentation exactly what's wrong with music radio today? Maybe I'm just being cranky, since talk radio is different in many ways, but when Clear Channel starts talking about why its rigid programming style is a Good Thing, I instinctively recoil.

I'll get over it. The article makes some other good points about market saturation and the timing of this announcement, so check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 22, 2003 to Society and cultcha | TrackBack

The biggest mistake radio programmers face today is when they try to act like cable television programmers. In cable television, you can set up an all-food channel, an all-home shopping channel, an all-sports channel, an all-(ahem) adult entertainment channel, etc.

Granted, all news and all music genre (whether they be classic rock or classical) stations will work, however, the problem occurs when the playlist never deviates. I can only follow one genre of programming for so long before I get bored.

Talk radio is personality driven, not genre driven. If the personality is bad, no one will listen.

Posted by: William Hughes on May 22, 2003 3:40 PM

From what I've read, I have to agree with Clear Channel on this one.

Television evidences the model William espouses - targeting different audiences by time slot - although UPN came close to abandoning the model. Radio has historically targeted by channel - each station attempting to capture one particular demographic. You also have to consider most political talk radio is a daytime phenomenon: the listener is at work and isn't particularly inclined to change stations. Given the characteristics of the right wing (I can't bring myself to consider Rush, et al conservatives) listener base, interjecting Jim Hightower in the middle alienates the listeners on the right and almost guarantees those on the left won't find the program. All in all, a no-win situation for everybody.

Curiously enough, this tendency toward narrow-casting has been more pronounced with the diminished competition brought about by "deregulation" and has in some ways actually broadened our choices. There's essentially no competition between CCs stations in a particular market; instead, they show a narrower focus. However, you now have 93Q running contemporary and classic country stations, something you would never see pre-deregulation. They are competing against the other programmers, not each other.

Posted by: Charles M on May 22, 2003 4:41 PM

Some markets are full of talkers. Dallas-Fort Worth: KLIF, KSKY (Christian), KKDA ("Black:" their label, not mine), WBAP, KCAF, KRLD, KFXR (Sports), KTCK (Sports), KAHZ (Spanish), KERA (NPR and local), KWRD (Christian), KLLI (Stern, et al). Of these, KFXR is owned by Clear Channel. All remaining Clear Channel properties are Rock stations (they have 5 total stations, Infinity (CBS) and Susquehanna have more stations, and ABC is not far behind). KERA and KLLI probably have what liberal talk audiences there are in DFW. They are both FM. Due to where I work (and the type of building), none of these stations are received real well. The best known talkers in town are towards the right: KLIF with O'Reilly, Beck, and Savage, WBAP with Limbaugh, Hannity, and their own syndicated Mark Davis.

Posted by: David Block on May 23, 2003 1:34 PM