Written Jan. 15, 2008 in Ten Best Markets + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments
In late November, we named Salt Lake City one of our Ten Best Markets For Radio Listeners. Since then, there have already been a few changes. One is the switch of Adult Standards KDYL to Oldies, the second station to go Oldies on AM in two months. But the other, involving public broadcaster KCPW-AM, makes the already wide variety of offerings here that much broader.
Written Nov. 30, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets + Terrestrial Radio with 2 Comments
It was only a few minutes after the e-mail went out announcing that Chicago was No. 1 on our list of Top Ten Markets for Radio Listeners that WBGO (Jazz 88.3) New York's Cephas Bowles posted a comment.
"It seems to me that you have overlooked New York City," he wrote. "They have the format variety and talent of your Top 10 markets. Further, quantitatively, there are more radio stations offering outstanding programming than anywhere else in the country. You also have quality non-comms. What's up?"
Debra Grobman of Megatrax also dropped me a series of notes in support of the non-comms, citing in particular Triple-A WFUV and WBGO's R&B oldies host Felix Hernandez. So far, however, we haven't gotten quite the barrage of cards and letters asking why New York didn't make the Top 10 that we were bracing for.
If this article had been written a year ago, it would have been nearly impossible to make a case for New York in the Top 10. One of the key criteria was consumer choice and, at that moment, there was no Oldies FM audible in much of the metro, no Country station, and no young-end Rock station. The Hip-Hop battle betwen WQHT (Hot 97) and WWPR (Power 105) had bottomed out in a particularly distressing way. And if you were under 25, or looking for today's music, there weren't many choices.
This fall, WHTZ (Z100) sounds the best it has in years, and has the numbers to prove it. WCBS-FM is back and deserves its instant success. The WWFS (Fresh 102.7) vs. WLTW battle has shaken things up. WBLS, as noted earlier this year, has had a lot of impact on the Urban AC paradigm nationally. Hot and Power sound a lot better--if not fully recovered. WXRK (K-Rock) is back, if not yet flowering. And to Grobman's list of non-comms, you should add WFMU, WNYC, and WSOU for starters. In 2007, New York at least bore some consideration.
If I were still trying to make the brief, I would point out that this city still has two All-News AMs, still has Smooth Jazz, and has a Classic Rocker in WAXQ (Q104.3) that reflects the market in the same way that WMGK sounds like Philadelphia. I'd also call your attention to a number of unusual suburbans. And I would have no shortage of marquee talent to reel off.
That said, New York has rarely ever felt like the No. 1 market. It's never been a market where every station has the seven best possible jocks (okay, four best, these days) in its given format. There still aren't a lot of young-end choices. I live next to Newark, a city of nearly 300,000 people, that I hear mentioned regularly only on WBGO and on a pirate station. And even the guy who's going to do radio on the audio portion of a LP-TV station didn't go Country.
One clear lesson from the response to this series, it's that the people in a given market are often the ones that take their radio for granted. We're willing to allow that as a distinct possibility here--but it didn't stop us from citing Philadelphia, also in Edison's backyard, as the No. 2 market. The other recurring theme was that there weren't enough small-markets included. To some extent, that was precluded by our emphasis on both quantity and quality of choice, but we agree that smaller markets deserve some recognition, something we plan to address.
New York radio, meanwhile, is in rebuilding mode, and as somebody who depends on it on a daily basis, let's hope there's a great case for it in the Ten Best Markets For Radio Listeners: 2008.
Written Nov. 30, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets + Terrestrial Radio with 8 Comments
1 - Chicago: A huge, eclectic variety and still the best morning-show slate anywhere (be sure to read our full brief for it below);
2 - Philadelphia: It's made a surprise recent comeback in the "best Rock radio market" sweepstakes, but we're proud to have all of its radio in our backyard, including at least two "best-in-class" stations;
3 - San Francisco: Only Boston rivals it as a News and Talk market. There's local character and a lot of choice, particularly when you add in the South Bay and Santa Rosa;
4 - Miami/Fort Lauderdale: Like radio nowhere else;
5 - New Orleans: Like radio nowhere else, an even more remarkable achievement post-Katrina;
6 - Los Angeles: A lot of undeniable stations and talent. Not quite the bench strength you would want in a market with so much radio;
7 - Washington, D.C.: Pushed into contention by the fiercest Urban competition anywhere, a monster News outlet on FM, and some surprising market entrants in recent years;
8 - Austin, Texas: Radio that matches the city's own eclecticism and appeal;
9 - Salt Lake City: Long the most crowded medium-market: frustrating perhaps for programmers and owners, but great for listeners;
10 - Louisville: A longtime great radio market where the past is still present ... in a good way.
A few days ago, we talked about some, but not all, of the markets that almost made the list: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Kansas City, and Phoenix. In discussions here, we've also argued the case for Seattle, Denver, San Diego, and Portland, Ore. We've also worried if we were shortchanging some smaller markets that offered quality choices but what we were looking for was both quality and quantity of choice.
But we're hoping you'll now chime in and tell us that we're nuts. After all, if there are a lot of radio markets that people feel passionately about now, that says something good about the state of radio as we head into 2008. Only one caveat: you'll have to make the brief not just for your own station and cluster, but for everybody else's.
And to start the debate, here's KWJJ (the Wolf) PD Mike Moore, doing just that on behalf of Portland, Ore.:
"Hope you'll mention the on-going epic country battle, which by the way, The Wolf has been consistently winning. Heck, there's a legendary CHR with Z100, one America's top Classic Rock stations with KGON, KINK a station that truly embodies the personality of the marketplace, 94/7 KNRK one of the most unique alternative station's in America and now a great Hispanic station on FM with EL Rey, KRYP. Portland really does seem like a logical choice to make the list."
And now, we're ready to mix it up with anybody!
Written Nov. 30, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 18 Comments
When we put together the list of the Ten Best Markets For Radio Listeners--those that offered the best combination of quantity and quality on AM/FM radio--there was some discussion about whether our choice for the No. 1 market would surprise people. After all, it wasn't New York or Los Angeles, two places that get a lot more attention. But nobody who has ever been connected with Chicago radio will be surprised. This is a market where radio has always been taken very seriously and held to a certain standard.
Chicago is a great market for listeners because of the choice it offers. There are more head-to-head battles than you'll find in most markets (Top 40, Urban, Talk, Mainstream AC, Regional Mexican, Classic Rock, Urban AC, Sports, and even the Variety Hits battle between Jack-FM and Nine-FM). The city's diversity is matched in a wide variety of offerings--Catholic Talk, all-Polish, African-American Talk. There's also, seemingly, the most student-run radio per capita of any market, and more viable suburban radio than in most places.
Chicago is also still the morning show capital of the world. There's not quite the mega-tonnage of veteran morning talent that there was two years ago. There are more syndicated shows--although at least three (WGCI's Steve Harvey, WVAZ's Tom Joyner, WSRB's Michael Baisden, and WNUA's Ramsey Lewis) have ties to the market. But it's still a long, formidable list of familiar names: WLUP's Jonathon Brandmeier, WGN's Spike O'Dell, WJMK (Jack FM)'s newly arrived Steve Dahl, WBBM-FM (B96)'s Eddie & JoBo, WBBM-AM's Pat Cassidy & Felicia Middlebrooks, WSCR's Mike North, WXRT's Lin Brehmer, WLS's Don & Roma, WOJO's El Pistolero, WILV's Tommy Edwards, WUSN's Ramblin' Ray Stevens & Lisa Dent).
Chicago has what many consider to be the best male/female morning show in the country in WTMX (the Mix)'s Eric & Kathy, who still manage to animate what has become a cliché in other markets, and get more out of their callers than most. And lest anybody accuse us of rattling off a list of the same old big names above, there is also WKSC (Kiss 103.5)'s Dr. Drex, who survived the challenge of being an upstart in such a brand-name market and became a force in a relatively short time.
And the list of talent extends well beyond mornings: WDRV's Bob Stroud and Bobby Skafish, WZZN's Dick Biondi (on an Oldies station that is still more traditional in its focus than most), WXRT's Terri Hemmert, WGN's Steve Cochran, WGCI-FM's Tony Sculfield, WLS' Roe Conn, WVAZ's Herb Kent and WVON's Richard Pegue. You can also put WLIT's Melissa Forman in either this list or the previous one, since she's presently in the rare position of being heard in both mornings and afternoons. Public radio powerhouse WBEZ also deserves a mention as the homebase of both "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" and "This American Life"'s Ira Glass.
It's also a market with a lot of recent activity. WKQX (Q101) has segued from its more eclectic version of Alternative to the cusp of Active Rock, meaning that Heritage Rock sister WLUP has gone more Classic Rock. FM Talker WCKG has become CBS' second "Fresh FM," launching while longtime AC WLIT plays Christmas music. WILV (Love 100.3) has segued from Jammin' Oldies to a broader-based '70s/'80s party format. Progressive talker WCPT has moved frequencies.
The "what's missing" list here might be better described as the "who's missing" list: former WGCI morning man Crazy Howard McGee, WLS legend John Landecker, WCKG's recently displaced Garry Meier, and going back further, Mancow. As for formats, with WCKG gone, there's a hole for commercial Talk on FM. And with Q101's changes, the less rocking side of Alternative has to be pieced together from WTMX and WXRT. And even though it's never been a huge group, there are Dance fans who would like to hear that music before its current 9 p.m. start on Nine-FM.
In its totality, it's hard to dispute Chicago as the major-market where radio most matters, both to listeners, and to radio people themselves. (And as we ponder the daily fourth-quarter bad news in this business, being able to maintain enthusiasm for your own product can never be taken too lightly.) Congratulations to Chicago--the best market for radio listeners of 2007!
Written Nov. 28, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 8 Comments
It's just human nature that the other guy's radio dial is always greener (or, depending on your car radio, amber-er). That's already evident from some of the posts here and on Radio-Info.com from locals who are surprised that their market seems so attractive to an outsider, when they've been fed up with it for years. And as a radio junkie who could rarely be satisfied by any one market, it's understandable. It's very easy to take your own radio for granted.
But working every day within earshot of Philadelphia radio has only deepened our appreciation of it. When Edison President Larry Rosin lived in Philadelphia, he was always amazed by the local inferiority complex that seemed to consume the market. Be proud, Philly. You have some of the best local radio anywhere, and at least two clear "best in class" stations in All-News KYW and AC WBEB (B101). Edison's Sean Ross started hearing Philly radio on a daily basis four years ago, right as the Top 40 battle between Rhythmic WRDW (Wired 96.5) and Mainstream Top 40 WIOQ (Q102) ignited. Since then, there have been changes in almost every sector of Philly radio, and usually for the better.
Clearly for the better is the resurgence of Rock radio in the market over the past year. Greater Media's heritage rocker WMMR re-emerged as a particular force and, with the help of Preston & Steve, one of the truly great local morning shows, has remained so despite the return of Rock to WYSP and the successful launch of Clear Channel's Alternative WRFF (Radio 104.5). The latter, with its complement of '90s "oh wow" gold, is one of the most fascinating new stations of 2007. It is often thought of in the industry as a station made possible by the PPM's debut in Philly, but it's actually filling a "rock for men and women" hole that has existed since the former WPLY (Y100) went Urban.
If WRFF isn't aggressive enough for you, there's WXPN--one of the best non-commercial Triple-As and one that has anticipated the newer lean that the format is now taking on nationally. WXPN is one of a triumverate that makes Philly one of the best non-comm markets, joined by NPR News/Talk affiliate WHYY and the half-Classical, half-Jazz format on WRTI.
There are two sports outlets. The leader, CBS' WIP, is home of one of the nuttiest promotions, "the Wing Bowl," and is blessed with the unique ability to talk 24/7/365 about pretty much just one topic, Donovan McNabb, and still make it interesting and entertaining.
There is WBEB (B101), the most promotionally aggressive Mainstream AC in the format. B101 has evolved consistently over the last few years and still maintained its comfort level with listeners--not an easy thing to do. There's usually something to write about with B101. It recently got a lot of attention for the addition of pre-recorded backsells--not a new innovation, but they're one of the first stations doing them under Christmas music.
There is CBS' Oldies WOGL--the station that survived a year of format change rumors to emerge as one of the poster children for the format and its careful updating. WOGL clearly sounds like Philadelphia, and so does CC's Urban AC powerhouse WDAS, both playing music that isn't on the "safe list" anywhere else. Classic Rock WMGK, too, has always reflected the market (and its own AC heritage) with a unique blend.
There is, led by WDAS, a full slate of R&B/Urban choices, all of which have been challenged by the debut of PPM, but none of which have been forced out of the market. And Radio-One's WRNB and WPHI (The Beat) are in a period of noticeable retooling under new management.
Also part of the mix here: KYW, which somehow has personalized the All-News format into a local institution; a successful Country station, (WXTU) that offers hope for the eventual return of the format to New York; Gospel on FM (WPPZ); the return of Smooth Jazz WJJZ, Rhythmic AC WISX (My 106.1); Radio Disney on a strong regional signal; one of the most distinctive Adult Hits outlets in WBEN (Ben-FM), which was heard yesterday on its '80s lunch spiking in "We Are The World."
To be fair, since we're talking about choice, it should be pointed out here that Philly is only one of about six markets that we can hear at Edison HQ. Then again, most Philadelphians can also hear radio from adjoining markets. So if Q102 and Wired are too rhythmic for your taste, there's also two unique, pop/rock-flavored outlets, WPST Trenton, N.J., and WSTW Wilmington, Del., available as well.
There's another regional outlet, Oldies WVLT Vineland, N.J., that rates a mention for its quirky, older-then-WOGL mix, as well as "Rock Hits" outlet WRFY (Y102) Reading, Pa., which playing Variety Hits long before the first Jack-FM. In town, there's also Adult Standards WHAT, which despite the trappings of its "Martini Lounge Radio" name is considerably closer to true Adult Standards than most of the format's surviving stations.
The rest of the personality roll-call: Angelo Cataldi, doing wildly creative mornings at WIP; Kidd Chris, now in mornings on WYSP; Ross Brittain, Harvey Holiday, and Big Ron O'Brien on WOGL; John DeBella on WMGK; Pierre Robert on WMMR; Patty Jackson on WDAS; Evans & Andi at WXTU, Chio at Wired; Mike Smerconish at WPHT; Lady B on WRNB; and the underappreciated Booker on Q102.
What's missing? Spanish on FM, ever since WUBA's move to AM. Classical and Jazz fans would probably prefer not to have to share WRTI. There's no '90s and now Hot AC, although there's a lot in the proximity (WRFF, WPST, WSTW, WBEN, etc.). Progressive Talk has also been missing since it was a brief, imperfect fit on WHAT.
And as we get closer to the No. 1 market, here's the rest of the top 10:
-- Larry Rosin & Sean Ross
Written Nov. 27, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 5 Comments
Before we return to the countdown for our Top Two markets, here are just a few of those that almost made Edison's list of the Ten Best Markets For Radio Listeners, proving that narrowing the list down to 10 was a gratifyingly difficult decision. (These are not the only other markets that received serious consideration, but we don't want to narrow it down to two markets quite yet!)
* Atlanta: Only D.C. and Memphis rival it for choice on the Urban side. And there is certainly more choice than there was 15 years ago when this was easily the most under-radioed market of its size. There's now a Spanish duopoly, two Mainstream Top 40s and a three-way Country battle. But it still needs an Oldies station.
* Boston: It was telling to see Entercom and Greater Media battling over WRKO host Howie Carr like he was Howie Stern. This is a great Talk market and one that shows what Sports radio can be as well in WEEI. It also offers the most choice in Classic Hits/Oldies per capita. The other side? Not all of the heritage stations are operating on all cylinders these days.
* Dallas: Friend of The Infinite Dial Adam Jacobson suggested this one: Our brief is that it's great for Country choice, not just the battle between KSCS and KPLX (the Wolf), but with numerous other players as well. The best R&B/Hip-Hop battle west of the Mississippi as well, in KKDA (K104) vs. KBFB. And one of the Top 40 format's showplaces in Kidd Kraddick flagship KHKS (Kiss 106.1). Also a great Oldies success story in KLUV and a long-running Christian AC showcase in KLTY.
* Kansas City: One of several endorsed by Radiocrunch's Anthony Acampora: A fierce three-way Country race. An option for almost every taste on the Rock spectrum. Two mainstream ACs. A heritage Urban that holds its own surrounded by an Urban AC and a Rhythmic Top 40.
* Phoenix: Another Acampora suggestion. A market with another long-running Country battle, lots of choice on the Rhythmic/Urban Oldies spectrum, considerable Classic Rock/Classic Hits depth, including a true here-and-nowhere-else choice in eccentric suburban KCDX. And one of the most written about morning shows in KZZP's Johnjay & Rich.
Back on Wednesday with Market No. 2.
Written Nov. 26, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 3 Comments
It has local character. It is rivaled only by Boston and Chicago for quality and variety of News/Talk programming. And, despite a few key absences, San Francisco radio offers a lot of listener choice. Most San Jose stations are audible here and many show in the ratings, thus qualifying them for consideration among the overall programming offerings, as do a number of Santa Rosa stations. Those choices include:
* Preeminent NPR outlet KQED, whose midday host Michael Krasny is praised by one local as "the smartest person I've ever heard on the radio" for his agility with a wide variety of topics.
* CBS' KCBS, which has withstood the ravages of the All-News format better than many others;
* Entercom AC KOIT, the market's consistent music leader during much of the year and an even bigger presence at holiday time.
* Cumulus' longtime Triple-A KFOG: Edison's Tom Webster is a frequent visitor for the themed "10 At 10" -- often organized by year, but sometimes centering around the likes of "10 songs with handclaps." And it's not the only choice in that arena since CBS' Hot AC KLLC (Alice 97.3) took a more eclectic bent.
* Entercom's KDFC: The most mass-appeal commercial Classical station, both in intent and ratings;
* Two very good, very different Country choices in Entercom's Top 40 flavored KBWF (the Wolf) and Empire's more traditional KRTY San Jose; (both KATM Modesto, Calif., and KFGY Santa Rosa, show up in the ratings here as well).
* The best Urban radio west of the Rockies, particularly CC's R&B/Hip-Hop KMEL, which saw Bay Area rap emerge as a force in recent years, and Inner City's KBLX--a little more uptempo now than its "Quiet Storm" handle might indicate, but still doing successful, music-intensive Urban AC without the syndicated shows;
* Mapleton's KPIG-AM: An AM simulcast of Monterey's roots music/Americana showcase;
* A rare remaining terrestrial outlet for current dance music, KNGY (Energy 92.7);
* The availability of two Alternative outlets: CBS' KITS (Live 105), which after several years on the "true alternative" side is moving back toward the center, and CC's recently relaunched KCNL (Channel 104.9), with its heavy gold component;
What's not here? The gaping hole is Mainstream Top 40, which one has to piece together, 1995-style, from Rhythmic Top 40 KYLD (Wild 94.9) and Hot AC KIOI (Star 101.3), and which has been more often absent in the market than not over the last 20 years. "Classic Hits" KFRC tilts far enough into the '70s and pop/rock side that you could still make a case for Oldies here.
Written Nov. 20, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 2 Comments
South Florida radio has always sounded different--and not in a way that outsiders always appreciate. It's always had its own music. (Edison's Larry Rosin remembers hearing Miami Sound Machine's "Conga" at No. 1 on Y100's 1985 year-end countdown, just as it was starting to get played anywhere else.) It's always been a market of less-produced stations with jocks that were offhand-sounding, not "boss." That's the norm now, but Miami was 15 years ahead of the rest of the world on this one.
Laid back or not, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is still an exciting place to step off the plane and turn on the radio. Only New Orleans edges it out for the "sense of place" that the radio conveys, but South Florida offers more dial choices.
Some of the things we like about South Florida radio:
* The revitalization over the last year of Beasley's heritage Rhythmic WPOW (Power 96)--one of the format's starter stations for music-- and Clear Channel's Top 40 WHYI (Y100). It's also been nice to hear at least a little dance music creep back on to both stations after several years' exile in the market. (Power 96 was doing a giveaway where listeners had to know the lyrics to Enur's "Calabria" on Tuesday afternoon.)
* The ongoing representation of local music on both Power 96 and Cox's WEDR--always one of the best Mainstream Urban outlets in the format. WEDR boasts strong talent in all dayparts ("Big Lip Bandit," Shelby Rushin, Lorenzo "Ice-Tea" Thomas, and recent chartmaker DJ Khaled co-hosting nights with K-Foxx) and an sister, WHQT (Hot 105) that was one of the first stations to prove that Urban AC could be a market leader.
* The wide variety of Spanish-language choice, including a Spanish-language News/Talk station, WAQI (Radio Mambi) in the Top 3 and SBS' pioneering Spanish-language Oldies WCMQ (Clasica 92), which also plays unusual English-language disco.
* The all-female air staff (at least until you get to syndicated overnighter John Tesh) on LFG's AC WLYF (101.5 Lite FM), one of the few Mainstream ACs that hasn't ceded the soft R&B of the '70s and '80s to its Smooth Jazz rival, WLVE (Love 94). And unlike most markets, there's a tight AC battle with a very different rival, Cox's more '80s pop flavored WFLC, which itself has a two-woman morning show.
* A CHR-flavored Country station, Beasley's WKIS (Kiss 99.9), that has ridden out the ups-and-downs of the format in a "non-Country" market.
What else is here: Classical just came back to FM on WKCP. There is Classic Rock (WBGG) led by morning hosts Paul Castronovo & Young Ron Brewer, Active Rock (WHDR), an Urban AC battle between Hot 105 and WMIB), a heritage Oldies station in WMXJ (Magic 102.7), which only began to move its era window into the early '70s relatively recently.
On the Latin side, there's an AC battle between Univision's powerhouse WAMR (Radio Amor), SBS's WRMA (Romance FM), and now Clear Channel's WMGE (Mega 94.9), and tropical rivals WRTO (La Kalle) and WXDJ (El Zol), now the station playing the most reggaeton following Mega's change.
What's not here? No alternative rock. No Hot AC, although Modern AC WRMF West Palm Beach, Fla., qualifies for a mention since it does show in the Miami book. (Much of West Palm radio does reach large parts of the market.) There is, surprisingly, no Rhythmic AC or Jammin' Oldies station playing the music that Miami helped make famous.
Like New Orleans, this is also a market with an increasing number of syndicated morning shows (Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Elvis Duran, Ramsey Lewis, Michael Baisden) as the veterans move to other dayparts, but the local honor roll still includes WAMR's Betty Pino and "Desayuno Musical" morning host Javier Romero, WPOW's DJ Laz & the Morning Pimp Show (in one of the few markets where mornings could be so named), WMXJ's Bruce Kelly, controversial WQAM veteran Neil Rogers, WHQT's James T, and N/T WIOD's Footy.
And the countdown so far:
Written Nov. 17, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 0 Comments
Throughout our search for the Ten Best Radio Markets For Listeners, we've been looking for a combination of the following: Breadth of available choices; the quality of those choices; and sense of place: radio stations that convey a sense of the market and couldn't exist anywhere else.
In that last regard, it has always been hard to touch New Orleans. Population shifts and the passage of time helped homogenize the music that endured, even in markets with rich musical heritages, like Detroit or Boston. New Orleans was a place where the local hits never disappeared and (with the help of a thriving rap scene) new ones continued to be made, often played by market veterans who were hard for outsiders to parse.
We're in no way trying to overstate where a loss of radio's distinct identity would have ranked in the hierarchy of the post-Katrina tragedies. But radio and music are very much part of the culture that New Orleans gives the world and it would have been very easy for lose that. Urban radio could have been devastated (and was not unscathed); much of the radio could have easily ended up being outsourced to Baton Rouge. So the endurance of this market's localism alone is not what places it in the top 5, but it is certainly remarkable nonetheless.
Since 2005, the public face of New Orleans radio to the outside world has been two stations: Entercom's WWL, which became the dramatic proof of radio's ongoing indispensibility, and has since extended its brand on to FM and a second AM station, which is positioned as "WWL On Demand"; The other is "Jazz and Heritage" community outlet WWOZ, which recently contributed 7,000 hours of programming to the Library of Congress.
Well-executed more mainstream outlets like Entercom's AC WLMG (Magic 101.9) and Clear Channel's Country WNOE get less outside attention. The latter is a very contemporary Country outlet competing with an even newer-leaning KKND, recently relaunched from its Country/Rock hybrid as "New Country First." Entercom's WEZB (B97) is a one of the country's most musically aggressive and most distinctive Top 40s.
CC's Urban WQUE (Q93) maintains a strong local flavor musically and is one of a handful of stations that can rightfully share credit for the ascent of Southern rap. Q93 and Urban AC sister WYLD-FM control the top two slots in the market, something that couldn't be taken for granted post-Katrina. Citadel's KMEZ has evolved from R&B Oldies to Urban AC in the past few years, but you continue to hear music there and on WYLD-FM that one wouldn't hear elsewhere.
Among the more distinctive stops on the dial: Oldies WTIX-FM, replicating the sound of the market's AM Top 40 powerhouse of the '60s/'70s, suburban Cajun/Swamp Pop outlet KLRZ, recently launched black N/T outlet WBOK with market veteran C.J. Morgan in mornings, Top 40/Dance/Rhythmic AC hybrid WDVW (Diva 92.3)--mainstreamed, but not entirely, since its launch as Citadel's version of NYC's female-lifestyle Blink 102.7 several years ago, and WRBH, the non-commercial "Reading Radio for the Blind" station.
What's missing here? There aren't physically as many radio stations as you'll find in some of the other markets we're spotlighting. There aren't many local morning shows--the market veterans are still there, but in other dayparts--although a few of the syndicated shows like Rod Ryan and Walton & Johnson have previous ties to the market. It's probably also time for a Spanish-language FM (the market is divvied between several AMs).
And the countdown so far:
Written Nov. 15, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 7 Comments
Los Angeles is easily the market with the most national prestige. Big name personalities. Brand name stations. Monster revenue. And a lot of undeniable radio: KIIS (102.7 Kiss FM) one of the first Top 40 stations to rule a market in this recent wave of successes; Modern KROQ, Rhythmic KPWR (Power 106); Spanish AC KLVE; Smooth Jazz survivor KTWV, and KCRW, which has become new adult music headquarters not only for the city's music supervisors but on laptops around the world.
L.A. has the best Regional Mexican battle in the Country, anchored by KBUE (Que Buena)'s Don Cheto, KLAX (La Raza)'s Renan "El Cucuy," and KSCA's Piolin, who left a footprint not only on the immigration issue but also on Spanish-language radio nationally; It has a unique Jack-FM (KCBS-FM) that can go from Bonnie Raitt to the Violent Femmes in a way that makes sense in no other city. It has a resurgent Oldies powerhouse in KRTH (K-Earth 101)--the station that created the format's tight template in the early '90s and now seems to be showing that there's still some life in it.
It is certainly a prominent market for what is, in the aggregate, the nation's best-known air-talent: KPWR's newly syndicated Big Boy, KROQ's Kevin & Bean, KLOS's Mark & Brian, KMVN's Rick Dees, KHHT (Hot 92.3)'s Art Laboe, KDLD (Indie 103.1)'s Steve Jones, KTWV's Brian McKnight, and, of course, KIIS/American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, whose list of available on-demand interviews this week include Hugh Hefner, Bow Wow, and Jay Leno.
There's a lot available here: Country is back with the launch of KKGO; there's Air America, Radio Disney, and ESPN in English and Spanish. There are well respected Classical (KUSC) and Jazz (KKJZ) outlets here.There is Christian AC (KFSH), Clear Channel's version of "soft and contemporary" at KBIG (My 104.3) and its newest Alternative/AC hybrid in the relaunched KYSR (Star 98.7).
There are plenty of innovative efforts here: "Radio Iran" (KIRN), George Johns' answer to Jack, 92.7 Jill FM, KJLH--an Urban AC without Michael Baisden, Tom Joyner, or Steve Harvey, but with guest appearances from owner Stevie Wonder, who could be heard yesterday bursting into a song from "Guys & Dolls". There is a successful bilingual Rhythmic in KXOL (Latino 96.3) as well as KSSE (Super Estrella)'s efforts to make bilingual CHR work in the U.S. There is KRCD, the flagship for Univision's Mexican Oldies format, Recuerdos.
So what's missing? There's no denying the mass-appeal of KIIS-FM, but there's room as wellfor something more mainstream pop along the lines of WHTZ (Z100) New York or WHYI (Y100) Miami, and if you think L.A. isn't that kind of market, well, they said that about New York and Miami not so long ago. There's no Active Rock, and with the evolution of Modern Rock, it's a little tougher for KROQ to be both to the market. There's no older-leaning Triple-A, and while KCRW and KDLE have the cachet of Triple-A, a lot of the music L.A. made famous could use a home.
There's a lot of All-News and Talk radio, but there's only one (KFI) with big numbers, and while fragmentation and the signal challenges of a sprawling metropolis explain a lot, one can't help but think that there's still a way to do either Talk or All-News in a way that would galvanize a diverse market. Urban too has been challenged in recent years, but it's hard to accept that there's not room for a KMEL San Francisco or WPGC D.C. here.
And for all this radio, and all these heavyweights, it sometimes feels like there ought to be more depth within the categories. It wouldn't be hard to assign all 18 car radio buttons in L.A., but in the city of Nip/Tuck, there are surprisingly few format battles that are nip-and-tuck.
That said, we're expecting to hear from a lot of people who are surprised that this market isn't No. 1 or 2 in our estimations. Frequent Infinite DIal contributor Adam Jacobson wrote that it took leaving L.A. to really appreciate the radio. After praising four other markets, we're not suddenly going to turn our efforts to diminishing one. Instead we'll say only that not all the great radio comes from nationally prominent media markets and turn to making our case for the top five.
Written Nov. 15, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 5 Comments
Washington, D.C., has always been an undeniably great market for Urban radio and it remains that today: a great R&B hits battle between WPGC and WKYS, a great Urban AC war between WHUR (which retains some of its '70s progressive feel to this day) and WMMJ (Majic 102.3), a long-running Talk outlet, (WOL) and the recent addition of Gospel on FM (WPRS-FM). And in mornings alone, the choices--local and syndicated--are Donnie Simpson, Steve Harvey, Russ Parr, and Tom Joyner.
There's also name talent throughout the market: DC101's Elliot, WRQX (Mix 107.3)'s Jack Diamond, WIHT (Hot 99.5)'s Kane, WJFK's Don & Mike, WMAL'S Chris Core and now Fred Grandy, WMZQ's Brian Egan and Jeffro (aka Jeffrey T. Mason), WTGB's Cerphe and Weasel, WTWP's Tony Kornheiser, and WAMU's Diane Rehm are just a few.
Other things to appreciate about D.C. radio:
* Bonneville's WTOP -- long one of the best all-news operations in the country and one of the poster children for the format's move to FM, and its "only in D.C." sister, WFED, an AM station for Federal employees;
* Clear Channel WIHT (Hot 99.5), which has shown that Mainstream Top 40 can still work in the market;
* Citadel's WJZW, one of the best executed of the Urban AC-leaning Smooth Jazz stations;
* CBS' WLZL (El Zol), a pop-leaning Tropical outlet that made Spanish-language radio a force in the market;
* Clear Channel Heritage Country WMZQ sounds pretty good right now. But if you disagree, there's WFRE Frederick, Md., and WFLS Fredericksburg, Va.--two nearby stations that have long sounded better than their market size. (We promised to limit ourselves to from-the-market radio here, which is why the availability of most Baltimore stations didn't factor in here, but both WFRE and WFLS do show in the D.C. book.);
* CBS' unusual "green-friendly" Triple A, WTGB (The Globe), launched this year.
* Alternative DC101, which never drifted in to quasi-metal in the early '00s, and as such became one of the templates for the "Rock Hits" approach that is starting to take hold throughout Clear CHannel today.
What's missing: Oldies is the most glaring one. There are probably some people who still mourn Classical WGMS even with the successful emergence of the format on WETA. And while bluegrass isn't something most markets can count on having, it's a significant part of D.C. culture and it's recently been moved from WAMU to its HD-2 channel. One market observer also bemoans the lack of much truly local talk, contending that WBAL Baltimore often covers more D.C. issues than the locals.
And the countdown so far...
Written Nov. 14, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 11 Comments
Part of Austin's strength as a radio market is that people want to live there. "Since so many people, myself included, love it here, and won't leave, I'd say that certain air talent and stations are better than the market size would predict," says veteran programmer Bob Wood.
A lot of this market's reputation for eclectic radio stems from Emmis' Triple-A KGSR, already a frequent topic of conversation in these pages. KGSR is indeed an "only in Austin" radio station, with large doses of Classic/Progressive Country, not just Classic Rock, and where the currents range from Snow Patrol to Taj Mahal. But it's not all that recommends the market, or gives it a sense of place that perserveres even now in the hands of a relatively small number of owners.
In particular, KVET, Clear Channel's yesterday-and-today Country station that also has a "Texas Country"/regional music component. KVET is No. 2 in the market, behind only its more mainstream '90s-and-now sister KASE.
There's also a good variety of Spanish-language radio here, including a Regional Mexican battle between BMP's KHHL (La Ley), a recent surprise market-leader, and Univision's KLQB (La Que Buena). There are two Spanish oldies outlets, including Univision's Recuerdo format on KINV. There's also a true Spanish-language Top 40 (as opposed to Hot AC) in BMP's KXXS (Digital 92.5).
There's a Hip-Hop battle between Emmis' KDHT (Hot 93.3) and BMP's KXBT (the Beat). The latter plays a little more R&B, but both have a unique flavor from being influenced by both Dallas and Los Angeles. (In the paralance of a deade ago, that would have made it the "Dirty Southwest.") There's also:
* Emmis' KBPA (Bob FM) -- one of the format showcases for Variety Hits at the onset and still a top three radio station in the market;
* A revitalized mainstream Top 40 in Clear Channel's KHFI (96.7 Kiss FM);
* A true heritage rocker in Emmis' KLBJ--mostly Classic Rock but punctuated by Seether's "Fake It" or Cracker's "Low."
* KFMK (Jammin' 105.9) -- Rhythmic AC with some interesting '90s titles.
What's missing? There's no Oldies, Smooth Jazz, or even a straight-ahead Classic Rocker (although they all exist on HD-2 channels, and Entercom AC KKMJ [Majic 95.5] is the first station I've encountered in quite some time giving away HD radios on the air). The Air America affiliate went away a month ago. There's no commercial Urban AC, although community station KAZI has an eclectic '70s-style progressive R&B playlist. There's also no major commercial FM talk yet.
Here's our countdown of markets so far:
Written Nov. 13, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 8 Comments
Salt Lake City has one of the format's best and most enduring Modern Rockers in KXRK (X96), featuring, as PD Todd "Nuke 'Em" Noker noted on the air Monday, "a live human being sitting in a room in Salt Lake playing music for you." It also has at least three stations doing something in the neighborhood of Modern AC/adult modern including KENZ (the End), KUDD (the Mix), and KJMY (My 99.5), one of the earliest cousins of the Clear Channel Rock/AC hybrid now heard on WRFF (Radio 104.5) Philadelphia and elsewhere. You'll also find:
* At least six Country stations--longtime rivals KUBL (K-Bull) and KSOP (the Cowboy) and more recent entrant KEGA (the Eagle) got more company lately when KXRV switched to a more '90s-based version from Triple-A. There are also two Classic Country choices: KSOP-AM, which plays the sort of deep '60s/'70s rarely heard on the dial anywhere, and the more '80s-drivenKKAT (Country Legends 107.5).
* A mainstream top 40, KZHT, that does a better job than most stations in comparably sized markets of finding its own hits.
* A non-commercial Triple-A KRCL (Radio Free Utah) where the most-played songs are spun twice a week.
What else is here? A Heritage News/Talker that simulcasts on AM and FM (KSL), at least two conservative talk outlets (KNRS and KLO), Smooth Jazz (KBZN), Jack-FM (KJQN), Classic Rock (KRSP), Oldies (KODJ), a very successful Hip-Hop outlet (KUUU), the Movin' Rhythmic AC format (KYMV); Regional Mexican (KDUT), Latin Pop (KBMG), Radio Disney (KWDZ), three sports talk stations, and many others.
What's not here? As in many Western markets, there's no true R&B outlet--Urban or Urban AC. There's no traditional commercial Triple-A positioned between the eclectic KRCL and the modern-leaning KENZ. In my original post, I wrote that there was a hole for older Oldies--I have since been corrected about that, KKAT-AM recently picked up the True Oldies Channel.
This is also a market where you can stream almost all of the stations written about here.
And here's the countdown so far:
10 - Louisville
9 - Salt Lake City
8 - Coming Wednesday
Written Nov. 11, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets with 6 Comments
1. The Top 40 battle between WDJX and WZKF (98.9 Kiss FM). Louisville was one of the early markets for both Country and R&B crossovers--so it was nice to look up at WZKF's playlist earlier this year and see "Before He Cheats" next to DJ Unk's "Walk It Out." Both stations, as well as Urban WGZB (B96), are also capable of playing an actual local hit from time to time as well.
2. The return of WAKY on former suburban Oldies outlet WASE, which has revived many of the classic jingles, runs a broad playlist, and brought back former PD Johnny Randolph for afternoons. WAKY certainly qualifies as a station that sounds like it's market--one of the criteria here. And it's made some ratings inroads in recent months even though there's already a longtime oldies outlet, WRKA, which sounds the best it has in a while as well. And there aren't a lot of markets that can offer listeners an FM Oldies battle.
What else makes this a great market for listener choice?
* WFPK, the noncommercial Triple-A sister of NPR outlet WFPL and Classical WUOL.Check out "Live Lunch Fridays."
* If you're a fan of Bob- and Jack-FM, one of Clear Channel's most successful and enduring entrants into the sweepstakes is here in WLUE (Louie 100.5). There is also a heated Classic Rock battle (WQMF and WSFR).
What's not there: The market recently lost the Spanish La Preciosa network. A market with this Country legacy could also use a major Country Oldies station. And while there are two young-end rockers (WLRS and WTFX), both have signal issues.
Written Nov. 9, 2007 in Content + Ten Best Markets + Terrestrial Radio with 5 Comments
What are The Ten Best Markets For Radio Listeners? The markets that offer the best combination of quality and variety on free, over-the-air radio? The markets that lead listeners and radio people to say, "I know people complain about the radio around the country but we're pretty lucky here"?
That's something we've been discussing at length here at Edison Media Research. And on Monday, we're going to unveil our top 10 markets, announcing one a day (with a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend).
In an era with so many other audio choices, many industryites may have stopped thinking about "good" and "bad" radio markets. With hundreds of satellite radio channels and thousands of stations streaming on the Internet, the issue of whether there's a Triple-A station available in town might seem quaint. But until the day that wireless broadband brings The Infinite Dial to every car, most listeners are still much more impacted by what's available locally on AM and FM than we think. (And if you doubt this, we'd like to introduce you to several new Edison employees who moved to the New York area and asked, "So where's the Country station?" For most, the availability of Country on the Web doesn't make up for being able to punch it up in the car when you want it.)
So some radio markets are still very much better than others. And if you love radio and music, radio is very much part of the quality-of-life in a market.
Here's what we were looking for when we came up with our list.
* A broad choice of format options for a broad choice of tastes without having to subscribe to satellite radio, own an HD Radio, or stream an out-of-the-market station. A market didn't necessarily have to have every niche--but we were looking to have the basics covered. (Even with Oldies and Alternative back in the market, New York's lack of Country was still a major strike against it.) We were also looking for a decent quantity of stations; there aren't many truly "under-radioed" major-markets left, but they would be at a disadvantage here, even if the existing players were good.
* A unique station or two of the sort that could be in no other market. And radio that conveys a sense of place overall.
* A decent format battle or two, of the sort where competition really does benefit the listener.
* Great local personalities, although the presence of strong national morning shows wasn't a negative; (if you moved from a market that had Steve Harvey, you'd probably want to find him again).
Sometimes the best places to live for availability of radio is between the markets. Here in Somerville, N.J., we're lucky to be able to pick up much of New York, Philadelphia, Allentown, Pa., Monmouth/Ocean, N.J., and Trenton, N.J., as well as our locals. But our search here is for markets--judged on their own radio (except in a few cases where those out-of-market signals effectively become part of the market).
Over the next 10 days, we'll unveil each of our choices in the pages of The Infinite Dial. As they have in the hallways of Edison Media Research, our choices are meant to provoke a spirited dialogue among radio people and a lot of comments from you.
If you read this and feel strongly that your market should have been included, we'd love to hear why. If you read this and feel strongly that our kids should no longer play with your kids, then you're taking it a little too seriously. If, after reading this, there's industry consensus on far more than 10 great markets for radio nationwide, we can be proud of ourselves as an industry.
See market No. 10, Louisville, here:
See market No. 9, Salt Lake City, here:
See market No. 8, Austin, here:
See market No. 7, Washington D.C., here:
See market No. 6, Los Angeles here:
See market No. 5, New Orleans, here:
See market No. 4, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, here:
See market No. 3, San Francisco, here:
See market No. 2, Philadelphia, here:
See market No. 1, Chicago, here: