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Don't Touch That Dial - Radio Revamps To Battle P2P, iPods, and Satellite

Below are three separate stories on radio's battle to fend off its many challengers.

  • If You Don't Know Jack..

    Radio's plan to meet the challenge if Apple's ubiquitous iPods has several names - Bob, Jack, Dave, etc. Those are the names of no-DJ, expanded hits playlist from the 70's 80's 90's and today, format already running in many major markets. It's the radio equivalent of the iPod Shuffle, and it has generated ratings and industry controversy by way of the unorthodox format. As CNN reports on the format:

    Though it waves the "We play anything" flag with pride, the format focuses on music that appeals to 35- to 44-year-olds while tossing maxims about fit and compatibility out the window. Classic alternative from the '80s is abundant: Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Soft Cell, INXS. That meshes with the acts that first put MTV on the map, like Men at Work, Dexy's Midnight Runners and Duran Duran, and with that decade's pop-rock crossovers from Bryan Adams, Toto, Prince and the J. Geils Band.

    But there is also room for dance and funk from the Commodores, Kool & the Gang and Wild Cherry. Seventies classic rock is another cornerstone, with Foreigner and the Steve Miller Band taking prominent seats at Bob and Jack's table. And don't forget adult top 40 from the '90s and today, encompassing Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Avril Lavigne and Matchbox Twenty.

    In short, it is the only place on the dial where Grand Funk Railroad, Norah Jones and the Georgia Satellites peacefully co-exist.

    Don't be surprised if a station in your town suddenly announces that it's "JACK-FM," playing "the best mix of... everything." That's assuming you set down the iPod long enough to bother listening to a radio.
  • Reviving Brands Online

    Radio conglomerates Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting have announced they intend to stream their terrestrial radio broadcasts on the Web, and both XM and Sirius have pay feeds of their satellite service available on the web. The push into web broadcasting holds the potential to breathing new life in to some of the companies shuttered brand names or transform existing brands that don't deliver ratings wins. WHFS in Washington D.C, and Live 105 in Philadelphia are examples of high profile alternative rock stations that were victims of format changes due to changing market demographics.

    What's different about the shuttering of these stations is their rebirth online. In the case of WHFS, Infinity bowed to listener pressure and launched an online version of the station via the WHFS.com website and has put HFS programing on it's Baltimore Live 105.7 talker in the evenings and weekends. Infinity is eying this arrangement as for other stations changing formats down the road. In Philadelphia, Radio One closed the doors on alternative rocker Y100, but the station has been resurrected online by former staffers online at Y100Rocks.

  • Open Source Radio

    Infinity Broadcasting launches KYOURADIO, the world's first-ever podcasting radio station on on Monday, May 16. KYOURADIO's content will be created exclusively by its listeners and available in San Francisco at 1550 KYCY-AM and streamed online at http://www.kyouradio.com/.

    "We're always thrilled when we can incubate new programming ideas and bring them to life on our radio stations in ways we never before imagined," said Joel Hollander, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "Whether it's creating original formats or adapting new technology to our existing business, Infinity is leading the charge for unique listening experiences. There is a profound shift underway in the way we use technology that allows everyone to have a voice. KYOURADIO harnesses that power by serving our listeners with content developed by them for them and offering a platform to share it with the rest of the world."

    Added Hollander, "We envision KYOURADIO not only as a place to hear a fresh and new perspective created from the outside, but an outlet with which to foster the creativity of undiscovered talent from all walks of life."

    Users can upload their podcasts of varying lengths for free at http://www.kyouradio.com where it will be eligible to be selected for broadcast. Programming on the station will be determined by listener interests and feedback, and be evaluated by producers on a daily basis.

    Podcasters will be able to include music, as the company says it plans to cover the cost of music-licensing fees, something that would be prohibitively expensive for individual podcasters.

With radio there's one thing you can be assured of - even a modicum of success (as the JACK format has shown) will spawn rampant herd-like imitation.

Comments (29)

I sort of like Jack FM here... (Below threshold)

I sort of like Jack FM here in LA. Although the classic rock folks were pissed when it replaced Arrow 93.1

- Theres also been an upsur... (Below threshold)

- Theres also been an upsurge of fully ABSCAM licensed "Radio" rooms on the various chat nets like IRC etc, with room "sistering" to allow visitors to use winAMP and other media players to listen to scheduled "live" DJ's run music sets from their home PC stations in multiple non-Radio rooms. The movement toward more and more web based access will cost broadcast radio even more listener base. The licensing aspect will willow out the less prepared, and steadily improve the product. Look for talk Radio to make the same moves to Blogtalk (tm) soon...... Are you reading this Kevin.... *chuckle*.... Jeff over at protein wisdom is partnering with Bill of INDC to do a weekly on a national network, but the future will have us streaming right from the web on a daily basis using something like shoutcast for discussion rather than music... Interesting times ahead.....

My sis turned me on to "Jac... (Below threshold)

My sis turned me on to "Jack" in Ft. Worth, loved it, and then I found "Bob" in Austin. I suspected it was all part of the same thing, but had been to lazy to research ;). Love the stations!

For my money (actually not,... (Below threshold)

For my money (actually not, 'cause it's free), this is the best Internet radio out there:


In the Triad at NC the stat... (Below threshold)

In the Triad at NC the station name is Simon. Still hate the name but it is nice to turn to a station that does not play the same songs every four hours.

In Philadelphia they just l... (Below threshold)

In Philadelphia they just launched one and the name they gave it was "Ben." As in Ben Franklin, maybe?

Funny, I was wondering why ... (Below threshold)

Funny, I was wondering why a station in Boston changed its name to MikeFM. I forget what it was before, but I'm listening to it now.

Just adding my 2 cents, In ... (Below threshold)

Just adding my 2 cents, In Atlanta we have Dave. My wife listens to it incessantly. I much prefer DayGlo Radio on the internet.

In St. Louis, 106.5 has ado... (Below threshold)

In St. Louis, 106.5 has adopted this format; in straying from the naming convention, they are calling it "the Arch".

I actually like my local ra... (Below threshold)

I actually like my local radio station. They don't have commercials (they run completely on donations) and their morning show is amusing.

I do want an iPod- but not really for music. I ... um... wannalistentobooksontape.



I'd like to say I was podca... (Below threshold)

I'd like to say I was podcasting before podcasting was cool, but I think I started just as it started getting cool.

I also did internet radio for a while. It's fun, but you can't take it with you.

I believe Boston's Mike FM ... (Below threshold)

I believe Boston's Mike FM was Star 93.7 before. Once upon a time it was WCGY, before it started shuffling around between formats.

I'd forgotten about the change until I saw the comment above, but I'd thought it was odd when I caught them saying something like "we play everything" while flipping through stations. Now I see what's going on.

We just got Doug-FM.<... (Below threshold)

We just got Doug-FM.

They should change their motto to: "We play CRAP!".

Taking the worst of the worst from three decades and putting it all on one radio station is horrible. They play about one decent song every half hour. The rest is crap that caused me to turn the dial back then.

But, at least I can look forward to getting broadcast podcasting in my area sometime before the next turn of the century.

Thank God for XM Radio.

You can thank Clear Channel... (Below threshold)
Clash City Rocker:

You can thank Clear Channel for all the shit on the radio these days. They have completely taken the ability to promote new music out of broadcast radio. All the indie promoters got a royal ass screwing when Clear Channel starting buying up everything in site and then stomped on all outside promotion and then took programming to a new and assenine level by instead of letting the stations PM program the station, they now have regional PM who program by region, so you have one PM programming AAA, Country, Urban, etc.. for a whole region. Nice going CC, you have ruined what was once a great thing, now our kids will never know what great radio is. WNEW-FM in NYC, KMET, KLOS, and every other great staion that was willing to break new music.

Yep. I was a longtime list... (Below threshold)

Yep. I was a longtime listner to 93.1 ArrowFM in Los Angeles. One day, I turn on the car radio, and it reads JackFM... Now, I listen more to 95.5 KLOS.

Atlanta's Z-93 became DaveF... (Below threshold)

Atlanta's Z-93 became DaveFM back during the winter.


I still listen to my iPod more.

For all of you old farts ou... (Below threshold)

For all of you old farts out there (like me!) who remember ye olde days when free-form FM radio was a new thing, check out the audio section of www.jive95.com, which is a site commemorating San Francisco radio stations KMPX and KSAN, probably the first to successfully implement what eventually became know as the "alburm oriented" rock format. The audio section contains a number of airchecks, some from as early as 1967, and you can hear real San Francisco hippie music as played by real San Francisco hippie DJs. For those of us who were growing up in that part of the country back then, (as I did), it's a nice jolt of nostalgia. For the rest of you, it's an interesting history lesson.

I am very carefully watchin... (Below threshold)

I am very carefully watching how this will evolve. Recently even got an email from WBUR asking for my preferences for listening to radio. It seems that internet radio and podcasts are threatening the business models of traditional readio stations.

It seems that internet r... (Below threshold)

It seems that internet radio and podcasts are threatening the business models of traditional readio stations.

Exactly so. For those of us who are just sick and tired of being inundated with a constant flow of annoying commercials, Sirius and XM satellite radio at $10/month is already a threat. Combine that with internet radio and I don't see how the traditional commercial radio stations can survive.

Given all this, I think it'... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

Given all this, I think it's pretty clear that a market failure has existed in radio for the past two decades. Although I have my suspicions, I don't really know enough about the business to say why. Nonetheless, it's great to have choices again.

OregonMuse, I know a little of which you speak. Some ex-New Yorkers set up WSIM-FM in Chattanooga, TN in the early '70s, and that was my intro to progressive rock, jazz, and all kinds of things that I'd never heard before.

All this coverage of satell... (Below threshold)
Jock Displaced:

All this coverage of satellite radio and these new i-pod stations, and no one seems to care about a HUGE LOSS OF JOBS in the radio industry.

Isn't anyone concerned with the fact that these new stations are ripping dozens of radio professionals out of the business? These stations are built WITHOUT announcers. The loss of jobs is staggering. Every time one of these new ipod-on-shuffle-random-radio or "we play what we want" stations appear, it costs 4 or 5 people their jobs. Probably 100 or so very good jobs in large markets are GONE. These are the jobs the many of us have worked for years to obtain, and they just vaporize! Many of us have dreamed of working such an eclectic, wide ranging kind of station playing music for people who love music. The cruel irony is, they won't let us!!!

Sure, the listeners love it for the less talk angle, but it is destroying careers, and the medium itself.

If a jukebox is all you want, fine. But I think that American radio listeners should want and could certainly have more.

Please don't let these greedy companies get away with this castration of an entire profession. Demand local service from your stations from real people.

Here's the real rub: Many of us announcers and DJ's on the radio have been telling our bosses for YEARS, that the limited 300 or 400 song playlists with high repetition was killing us. You see, the folks on the air really do listen to listeners. We answer the phones, we meet them at the events. But when we try to pass on the message to our Program Directors, we're met with comments like "you don't get it do you?" or "just do your job" or even "the listeners won't notice/ don't know any better/don't care". These people in control of radio playlists have never had much respect for the listening public. And they NEVER actually speak with them.

So now, these wide listed stations now play over 1,000 or 1,200 songs in active rotation, and those of us on the air feel we've been right all along. Believe me, that's been a hard pill for a lot of programmers, managers and consultants with big egos to swallow. So now, like burying the evidence in a mass grave, they fire the jocks who had the right idea 10 or 15 years ago. They fire the people who have always respected the listener. They fire the link to the audience that could really make the station a little more fun without too much talking. But it's the high commercial loads that piss people off, not the DJ talk from a human being, or so I hope.

Believe me, these stations will slowly whittle their list down to the best testing titles, and they'll trade these "safe lists" among themselves and every Jack, Bob, Ben, Arch, Simon, Tom, Dick & Harry will sound the same city to city.

...and every Jack, Bob, ... (Below threshold)

...and every Jack, Bob, Ben, Arch, Simon, Tom, Dick & Harry will sound the same city to city.

It's that way already. I used to do a lot of business travelling all over the country and it was always depressing to me that whether I was in Boston, Massachusetts or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the radio stations all sounded the same; it was as if they were all coming out of Los Angeles.

The stations I liked to listen to, the local stations with local flavor, were few and far between.

Jock displaced, I (and prob... (Below threshold)

Jock displaced, I (and probably a lot of people) do care when folks lose their jobs. I'm unclear about what you want us to do about it. Listen to radio we don't like? Petition the radio stations to junk their new formats and hire DJs again? Hold a telethon?

I want my Iron Maiden!... (Below threshold)

I want my Iron Maiden!

Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!

Did anyone else read San Fr... (Below threshold)

Did anyone else read San Francisco and think of KYOURADIO as KY OUR-RADIO

Two oldies stations in the ... (Below threshold)

Two oldies stations in the Balto-DC area have fallen victim to this: 102.7 Balto is now The Jack, and what was formerly a family-owned oldies station in Frederick (103.9, I think) is now The Eagle. Neither station has any on-air personalities, and one day, on the way from home, I heard "Legs" on both stations during my 20-minute drive home from the Metro station.

My oldies-lovin' gf originally found both stations after 100.3 changed formats from oldies to MOR. Suffice it to say, she bought a MyFi Sunday past and has pretty much stopped listening to commercial FM radio...except for Nats games.

Economists say that the pre... (Below threshold)

Economists say that the presence of an extensive black market is an indication of deficiencies in the legal market. Do a google search for "pirate radio" and you will find dozens, and maybe hundreds, of low-watt radio stations operating illegally in the FM and AM bands, hoping to escape the notice of the FCC. Many eventually get busted after 2-3 years, but some manage not to. Some do a better job serving their local community than the local Clear Channel affiliate ever could.

Based on this thriving black market in radio broadcasting, I think it is safe to say that the "legitimate" radio market has serious structural deficiencies, and that there is a need for locally owned and operated "community" radio stations that is simply not being met.

Clash City Rocker is wrong.... (Below threshold)
Joe Greenlight:

Clash City Rocker is wrong. Yo, Clash. E-mail me and I'll enlighten you on the real reason radio is the way it is. Clear Channel has nothing to do with it.

Somewhere around 25 years a... (Below threshold)

Somewhere around 25 years ago, when I was in college, I was waiting to be seated in a restaurant with some of my college radio buddies and we started talking about the State of Radio. I said something about the change in attitude of business toward radio, specifically FM radio, in the early 70's, of how once accepted as a viable business venture the "art" (for lack of a better word) of FM radio ceased to exist. As soon as stations started paying more attention to ratings and market share instead of trusting their own instincts on what "sounded good", radio started going down the toilet.

This little rant went on for a few minutes, and as we started off to our table, I felt a tap on my shoulder and an older gentlemen said something to the effect that I was absolutely correct.

While I think this simplistic view is part of the reason why radio is the way it is, I don't think it is the main reason. I think the biggest reason is the equally simplistic view that the majority of people don't really care that much about music to need Quality Radio, and the relatively few people who do care that much about music don't really need good radio that much anymore.

Who needs a radio station to learn about new music anymore?

What I missed for several years after leaving college wasn't a good radio station, what I missed was MY radio station, the radio station I created when I was on the air in college.

Now I have that again, and I can even open it up to the entire the world, run it 24x7, get both instant and longterm feedback, and maybe even make a few friends I will likely never actually meet. I don't care about ratings or market share or anything other than creating a station I personally enjoy listening to - and the kick from having someone in Poland listen to a 'station' in Washington DC.

Now multiply me by a few 100,000 people.

While technically not "radio", I'd say radio is in fine shape, and in some pretty good hands.

And as virtually no vehicle had an FM Radio 35 years ago, can you really imagine not having wireless Internet standard in vehicles in another 5 to 10 years?


radio gnome






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