Friday, August 7, 2015


Doug Eichten, President of Greater Public, announced this week that he is retiring from the organization in July 2017.  Though it is too early for final credits, it is not too early to put his leadership in public media in the spotlight.

[Disclosure: Doug and I worked together at Public Radio International in the 1990s – he was VP of Development and I was Director of News. In 1997 I had a very public whistleblowing flap with Doug and other senior officials at PRI over the use of CPB funds to promote The World. This incident does not diminish my respect for Doug but our friendship never recovered.]


When Doug became President of the Development Exchange (DEI) in 1997 the organization barely had a pulse. DEI had around 80 paying members and was being kept alive by CPB.  Now, as Greater Public, there are over 260 member stations.

Back then DEI had an annual conference that was off the grid for most folks working in public radio.  DEI was mainly an idea exchange for underwriting sales folks. Stations had just begun to think about their brand image and private revenue plans.

Now Greater Public is a $4,500,000 (2013 Tax Year) enterprise. Revenue comes from the services it provides to members.  In 2013 membership dues brought in over $900,000 probably the highest for any public radio service organization.  The Public Media Development & Marketing Conference (PMDMC) is now the most-attended noncom radio conference.

Doug has started many initiatives that have benefitted stations. In 1998, DEI launched a member resource website that offered fundraising tools and development plans that worked for all kinds of stations. DEI worked with PRADO – Public Radio Association of Development Officer – to create the PRADOlistserve. It is still going strong today.

I liked Doug’s focus on major donors.  He was perhaps the first to promote the idea that public radio stations are important community institutions, like a library or a theater.  This notion challenged the notion that public radio was not consequential – the age-old inferiority complex so common in radio.  Doug knew that to be an institution worthy of major donor support, stations had to make real their value.  This improved all of public radio.


Back in the PRI days Doug and I had quite few quiet conversations, often over red wine in a hotel somewhere, about differences between the nonprofit and for profit business worlds.  Doug made a comment I have always remembered:

Many public radio folks say they are noncommercial but they are actually anti-commercial. They don’t realize they are competing in a marketplace. They don't have the mindset to compete.

He was right then and is still right today.  Public radio is an amazing Public/Private partnership. Doug encourages responsible business literacy. He seeks out for-profit folks who appreciate the trust public radio listeners have for their stations.  Fred Jacobs, the wisest guru on the radio planet, is head of Greater Public’s board of directors.

Doug had an early start in radio.  Back when he was in college he had a show on the campus station: You, Me and FCC.  You’ve got to love it!

Thursday, August 6, 2015


The first two charts are trend comparisons between Nielsen Audio Spring 2015 and Spring 2014. Then continue scrolling down to see the 2015 results for Triple A stations in Nielsen Audio Diary markets.

My criteria for a Triple A station is that they have a minimum of 12 hours of contemporary music each day.  Please let me know if think of other stations that should be on the list.

Overall, the state of Triple A is good, especially when considering declining radio usage of about 1% - 2% per year.  Still there are a lot of people who hear Triple A stations each week. Some stations are gaining in listeners and most are holding steady.


I compared 20 stations.  Seven stations went up in AQH and Weekly Cume.  Two stations on the AQH chart broke even. Eleven AQH and 13 Weekly Cume stations lost ground.

The unexpected stars are KEXP, Seattle and KDRP, Austin. Both posted nice gains. WFUV’s big declines are dramatic. 



Note the wide geographical reach of KCRW, WNRN and WNCW.  KCRW and WNRN use repeater stations and translators to increase their footprint. WNCW has an transmission sight on an Appalachian mountain peak where you can see parts of five states.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


 From Mary Lucia’s note to listeners, April 2015: 

My life over the last year has involved a series of restraining orders, seemingly endless calls to 911, the installation of security cameras at home, and police photo ID line-ups. I've been constantly looking over my shoulder, dead-bolting doors, and jumping when someone rings my doorbell or my motion lights go off. 

KCMP-FM – 89.3 The Current – host Mary Lucia remains on leave from the station after renewed contact from a man who has been allegedly stalking her. Lucia began her leave of absence last April after repeated incidents were reported to the police.

The alleged stalker is now in jail awaiting trial on August 31, 2015.  His bond was raised to $100,000 after he again tried to contact Lucia again in June.  If convicted of the stalking charge, he could ne sentenced for up to ten years in the slammer.

The alleged stalker’s name was published in local news reports but I will refrain from using it here.  Here is his lovely mug shot:


Mary Lucia is the latest in a long list of radio folks who are or have been stalked.  Radio folks like to feel the love from listeners and are encouraged to have street cred with fans.  But sometimes obsession becomes fatal:

• In April 2004 WHBQ, Memphis DJ Rebecca Glahn, who had complained about an anonymous stalker was strangled to death in her apartment.  UPDATE:
Her killer was found swiftly by the police after discovering her body. His name is Stanley Andrews. He pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence at West Tennessee State penitentiary.

Before her death, Glahn said in an e-mail to a fellow DJ:

 "He felt that I was speaking directly to him. He thought that all of the songs were talking to him, that I was playing them just for him."

In June, 1984, talk show host Alan Berg at KOA Denver was gunned down in the driveway of his home by a member of a white supremacist group. Berg’s story became the plotline for a book (Talked to Death) and the film (Talk Radio).

• In 1982 in Tucson, Bob Cooke of AOR station KWFM has just finished a remote broadcast at a local nightclub when he was shot by a deranged fan.  Cooke was walking back to his car.

• In September 2001, Al Moss, a popular host on Miami’s Rhythm 104.7, was shot to death when he answered the door at his home. The shooter operated a pirate station and somehow got the idea Moss was he competitor.

• In March 2008 WABC, New York radio news host George Weber was stabbed to death by a younger male listener who said he thought Weber was gay.

Mary Lucia is taking ample precautions. But I miss her voice on the air.  I’ve been a fan of Mary since she hosted the program Popular Creeps on the old ZONE 105 here in the Twin Cities. These were the kind of creeps who were welcome in her world.


In my many years on the air I’ve never knowingly had a stalker but I had something close. In 1968 I was working the graveyard shift at a Top 40 station: KISD in Sioux Falls.  It was my first job in radio.   

KISD DJs broadcast from a studio with huge plate-glass windows looking out on a seedy part of downtown. [I wrote about this showcase studio in a previous post at [link].

Around 3:20am the requested line was ringing.  I answered it and a troubled male voice said: Play Honey by Bobby Goldsboro now.

Honey was recent hit record but I had just played it.  KISD had a rule that no records could be repeated for two hours.  The PD was relentless about enforcing the format rules.  He was known to listen anytime day or night.  There was a special red phone in studio just for his calls.  This was my first job and I didn’t want to f*ck it up.

So I told him I couldn’t play Honey until after 5:00am because of the rules.   

The caller didn’t like my response.  He said:

You've gor play Honey because it was playing on the radio the moment my girlfriend died. Play it now or I'll be down to see you.

The caller hung up.  I should have called the cops but I didn’t. I closed the sheer curtain in the showcase window.

Then BANG!  Something unknown hit the showcase window with so much force I thought it would crack.  I saw the shadow a lineman sized man repeated bashing into the window screaming Play Honey.

I called the cops.  By they time they arrived the man was gone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015



Yesterday’s post about the cancellation of WITS by APM apparently touched a nerve.  


Regardless of anything else, the show was WEAK. A national show has to have ambition and regularly demonstrate it is meeting it...and it has to be listenable. And in some ways, be important enough to exist.

What need to did it address? What wall did it break? What new standard did it hit? What delight did it tickle again and again?

All the signs of trouble were there...and no one has the courage to say what we have is ONLY a live event or ONLY a podcast.


No announcement has been made about the future of KUSP, Santa Cruz. The community station is trying to solve a major deficit and contend with the angst of a former employee who wants redemption.

Nielsen Audio released results for the Spring 2015 rating period and they tell a cautionary story:

Nielsen Audio Market #84

NPR News
+ 0.9
NPR News & Pacifica

These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc.
Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+

Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of
Ken Mills Agency, LCC, the publisher of SPARK!

Note that KAZU had a fairly big increase in Average Quarter Hour listening. This means that folks are tuning in more often and/or listening longer. But KUSP’s listening held steady despite the turmoil and uncertainty at the station. This shows there is much to build on with NPR News.

It appears the KUSP Board is not paying much attention to KUSP FORWARD, the whining community radio neocons. Check out this plan for the future from a KUSP FORWARD July town hall meeting:





KEN: I received this anonymous comment from someone who took me to task for hyping a GM opening at a small market College Rock station:


This is not a college radio management job at all, nor is it even a good job, period. It's a full-time teaching job that ALSO has management responsibility of KTSC *and* also for "Today" the student online newspaper. It's a visiting professor job, which means no chance at tenure. And it pays a measly $40,000/yr for an 80+hr/week job, which is a terrible salary for an outfit that is all but demanding a PhD. 


I don't care how popular or "cool" the radio station works, I wouldn't touch this job with a ten meter pole. 


KEN:  No doubt KTSC at Colorado State University – Pueblo looks small-time to someone who has settled into a tenured gig at major university.  But to the people of Pueblo, particularly the students at KTSC, this station means a lot.  Please don’t discount the value a great GM can have for them. Just because the job appears MEASLY to you, maybe someone else will see it as an opportunity.



Monday, August 3, 2015


Last week American Public Media (“APM”) announced the cancellation of WITS – a national program that debuted with considerable fanfare only a few years ago. The reason: WITS was not sustainable as a national radio program.

There are lessons for everyone in public media from the rise and abrupt fall of WITS.  To me, the biggest one is PRODUCE PROGRAMMING FOR THE PLATFORM ON WHICH YOU COMPETE.

Consider this quote from WITS host John Moe after the cancellation:

[We had] no intention of ever *being* a radio show. It was a stage show that snowballed in popularity as the humor got goofier...

It wasn’t designed to succeed as a radio program and it failed because of that fact.


When I heard about the cancellation I went to the WITS pages on the APM website.  Here is the WITS track record according to APM:


WITS was heard on over 100 frequencies but many of these signals were HD2 and HD3 stations or repeaters of large state networks like South Dakota Public Radio.

WITS was broadcast on 15 FM stations in the top 50 markets including KJZZ, WHHY, WUOM and KOPB. Missing from the carriage were stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, DC.  Without these key markets, it is hard to be taken seriously as a national program.


According to APM, WITS had a national weekly audience of 80,000. Again, with so few listeners it is hard to be taken seriously as a national program.


According to APM, WITS was offered free to affiliated stations.  APM certainly intended to charge stations carriage fees at some point but the revenue prospects didn’t look good. I counted 42 potential fee paying stations (called billables in the biz). Based on fees for similar programs, this number of billable might yield $70,000 - $80,000 in annual station fee revenue. WITS was not sustainable.


When WITS was launched as a national program, some observers said it might become a younger, hipper replacement for Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. Keillor has announced his retirement from APHC at the end of the 2016 season.

The search for the Next Keillor has been going on for years, sort of like the search for the Next Bob Dylan.  APM tried to replace Keillor with Noah Adams a couple of decades ago.  It didn’t work.

WITS had an opportunity to work. It attracted big-name folks like Zach Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, David Cross, Father John Misty, Neko Case.  APM gave WITS five years to develop.  But, as host John Moe admitted, it was never intended for radio.

This reminds me of the priceless quote from Yogi Berra: If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.