Friday, March 25, 2016


A friend of mine who programs a NPR News station in a medium sized market sent me a question I’d like to hear more often: How can we start a new Triple A radio station?

My friend says his organization is negotiating on an FM translator and they want to feed it from one of their HD channels. Without betraying my friend’s station and market, here is where I suggest starting: Examine successful Triple A stations in similar markets.

I’ve done this type of consulting work many times and it usually involves a Feasibility Study, projected budget, programming plan, use of digital platforms and Social Media, and, most importantly, what are the chances a new Triple A station will succeed.

I typically start by comparing a market with other markets of a similar size that have a successful Triple A station. Below are three comparative stations and markets.


WNRN is more that just one station in Charlottesville.  It is a regional player with repeaters and translators strategically placed in several Virginia cities.

WNRN is owned and operated by an independent, non-profit organization and is not tied to any university or other institution. It began broadcasting in August 1996. 

The majority of WNRN’s budget comes from pledging, underwriting and events. WNRN has a small professional staff plus volunteers and student interns. 

Like many noncom Triple A stations, WNRN airs few nationally syndicated programs. The emphasis is local and ties within the community have been a key to WNRN’s success.


In 1976, two men, Paul Bear and Frank Milan, went to a bar (insert your joke here). The night at the La Caverna, resulted in a six year struggle to secure a new frequency and start a community radio station. KXCI debuted in November 1983.

In the first few years KXCI was a typical Lorenzo Milam, Pacifica-type station with a mish-match of programs and the usual governance squabbles. The Tucson Weekly said about KXCI: "If you don't like something that you're hearing at this moment, just wait a minute and something different will be on." Usually listeners got bored and didn’t come back.

By 1995 it became apparent there was no future in narrow, advocacy programming. KXCI evolved into a Tucson-area music and cultural curator.  Most spoken word shows were replaced with Triple A music.  New management entered in 2014 and KXCI began building for the future, including a very successful capital campaign.



WMVY began as a commercial station in 1981.  When commercial radio consolidation heated up in the mid 1990s, the value of licenses went up dramatically. WMVY’s owners sold the FM license and redirected the money into streaming audio.

Mvyradio soon became one of the most popular online music sites. It still is today. Then in November 2013, the nonprofit Friends of Mvyradio acquired the license for 88.7 FM located on Martha’s Vineyard. WMVY built a regional presence by the wise use of translators, repeaters and HD-to-FM.


Thursday, March 24, 2016


Nielsen Audio’s February PPM ratings show News/Talk stations are experiencing record levels of listening. Nielsen say the format is nearly in double-digit listener share territory— a level it hasn’t been since the last Presidential election in 2012. With more than seven months to go before the election, News/Talk radio should remain a political powerhouse on the radio dial. 
 Nielsen apparently did NOT include NPR Stations in their analysis.  To show how NPR News stations are performing, we have done a separate analysis for noncom below.

At right is Nielsen’s chart showing AQH share changes for commercial News-Talk stations.


February 2016 PPM ratings for some NPR News stations were not available because RRC is finalizing paperwork with some stations due to RRC new four-year deal with Nielsen.

Below is our custom chart showing one-year comparisons of weekly cumulative listeners for February 2016 and February 2015.

For the 23 markets we examined, 20 had gains in weekly listeners; only 3 had declines. NPR News stations were up 14.1% in these markets.

© Radio Research Consortium, Inc. // //
These data are provided for use by Nielsen Audio subscribers ONLY, in accordance with
RRC's limited license with Nielsen Audio.
Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+ (Diary markets)
Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 6+ (PPM markets)

Data Copyright Nielsen Audio.
Format designations are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.



Capital Concerts (CCI) in Washington, DC is looking for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO is responsible for the production and telecast of both the Fourth of July and Memorial Day concerts on the National Mall, for Public Television. The CFO provides business, financial, accounting. Both concerts are televised on PBS. The CFO will ensure CCI meets its financial responsibilities, fulfills its mission, and protects its non-profit status.
The deadline for applications is March 31, 2016.
CCI is being assisted in this search by Livingston Associates. The full job posting is at [link].  See more about Capital Concerts (CCI) at [link].
WORTH READING: Is NPR Crazy? Yes, Like a Fox
Consultant/blogger Mark Ramsey provides his perspective about NPR’s decision to avoid on-air promotion of podcasts and NPR One. According to an article in Current [link] the guidelines were announced by Mark Memmott, NPR’s Supervising Senior Editor for Standards & Practices.
Chris Turpin, NPR’s VP for News confirmed the new rules: “These guidelines apply to all podcasts, whether produced by NPR or by other entities.” Turpin said that NPR has been fielding questions “from news staff and Member stations” about policies for discussing podcasts on air. “To that end, we want to establish some common standards, especially for language in back announces.”
The move is thought to have originated from complaints by NPR member stations. They don’t like it when NPR promotes other media that competes with listening to the stations.
Folks at Niemen Lab have been particularly strident in their criticism:
“This seems dumb to a lot of people, both inside and outside public media,” and they supported that point with a series of embedded Tweets proving that if you compile enough anecdotal evidence it evidently adds up to real evidence. 

Ramsey argues that the critics are missing the point:
The premise here is that pushing, promoting, marketing NPR’s on-demand assets is in some way critical to their success, as long as that pushing, promoting, and marketing happens in the presence of the same content on your local air. But this puts the content before the audience, and that’s a mistake.
Read more of Mark Ramsey’s thoughts at [link].

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Last Friday 3/18 I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jennifer Waits, Paul Riismandel and Eric Klein of Radio Survivor [link] for their weekly podcast. If you don’t know them, Radio Survivor provides excellent coverage of college radio, community radio and LPFM stations.

The folks at Radio Survivor took me to task on a previous podcast about my analysis of college radio (Special Report: Inside College Radio) posted on February 29, 2016 [link]. They were particularly critical of my core assertion:  

College radio's self-imposed smallness is a threat to its future. The key to long-term success in noncommercial media is independent financial sustainability. If there is no margin it is tough to fulfill the mission.

Jennifer, Paul and Eric are people of goodwill who love college radio as it is today. But, the Radio Survivor folks and I have different perspective son the best path for college radio to move forward.

You can hear the interview here:


My perspective comes from my years as a station manager and consultant. My emphasis on sustainability comes from my experience paying bills and planning for the future. Clients sometimes ask me to do feasibility studies to see if something new will fly in the marketplace. Calculating anticipated revenue and expenses is vital to this type of analysis.

The Radio Survivor folks tend to focus on the magic of college radio participation. In my opinion, they love the feeling of the college radio experience. There is nothing wrong with that because feelings are an essential part of the brand.

I am not certain that anything was resolved in the interview but I appreciate the opportunity to present my perspective.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


This is an updated story from the blog archives that was originally posted April 1, 2015.

Today I woke up at 5:55am to the sound of a cat vomiting up a fur ball. SPLAT… Now I’ve learned that I am not alone. I am one of the 4% of people who is awakened by pets. Puke comes with the territory.

Last year Larry Rosin and the good folks at Edison Research [link] released a fascinating report about how people use media to start their day. Edison’s Wake Me Up study tracks lifestyle and device usage during this important time of the day. Edison conducted a national online survey of 1,550 respondents age 18-54 in January 2015.


If you don’t like mornings, you’ve got plenty of company. According the Edison, 16% of the survey respondents said they are not morning people. 

On the other hand, 40% of respondents said they are morning people and 44% said they aren’t morning people but have accepted that a morning wake up call is something they can live with.


About half of the Wake Me Up respondents said they use an alarm. A third of the respondents like to awaken using their own internal clocks, a habit that sometimes causes the risk of over sleeping. 

When I was growing up, I was like the 14% of respondents who relied on someone else to wake me up. (My mother’s preferred method was to turn on the overhead light in my bedroom. This was a harsh way to start the day.)


More and more people – 50% of the respondents – were using their mobile devices for an alarm. The other 50% reported they used an old-school alarm clock. Of those folks, 35% use a traditional beep or buzzer; 12% wake up to the sound of a radio station.


More than half of the Wake Me Up respondents said they are awake by 6:30am. This factoid surprised me a bit, perhaps because I like to start the day around 7:30am or so.


 Skylar is on the left and Scout is on the right. Skylar was the one puking this morning. No media was used during the clean up.

My typical morning routine, after getting out of bed, is a trip to my  home office via my laptop.  The first thing I do is check to see if this blog is still there and that today’s post is appearing. 

Next I check my mobile to see if there are any incoming messages.
While checking my messages I usually switch on the TV with the sound down and that is the way it stays for most of the day. Morning Joe is video wallpaper in my virtual newsroom.

Most mornings I listen on my headphones to NPR News on 91.1 KNOW or to music on 89.3 The Current. There are a few days, particularly in the summer, when I don't switch on any media at all. I love the Zen of the morning -- the calm of the silence, the sound of a breeze shaking leaves on the trees outside my window.

As I’ve gotten older, I like mornings more and more.  The world is so fresh and still then. I used to be a night owl.  Not that long ago, I thought a night was still early when it was midnight. Maybe I am older and wiser, or maybe just older.

Monday, March 21, 2016



WWOZ, New Orleans, called a jewel in the crown of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which owns its license, is being publicly criticized for becoming too corporatized, homogenized and oh-so-vanilla. There have been staff and volunteer departures, including longtime WWOZ-FM program director Dwayne Breashears who has resigned, effective April 1.

The center of the storm is General Manager David Freedman. A New Orleans Advocate editorial, published last week, says Freedman should go:

“It seems obvious that David Freedman—who is a great community radio pioneer—has overreached his position at WWOZ, and probably needs to retire for the good of the radio station and its sacred mission.”

There are a bunch of reasons for the unhappiness: Governance squabbles, perceived changes in the station’s programming and WWOZ’s quest to become a worldwide music source at the expense of local listeners.
Arthur Cohen

Another controversial issue is the arrival of former Public Radio Program Directors (PRPD) CEO Arthur Cohen. Cohen retired from the PRPD in 2014 and now takes occasional consulting gigs. Freedman brought in Cohen to be Interim Chief Operating Officer around the first of the year.

Cohen appears to be unpopular for three reasons:

• He is from out of town,

• He is a consultant, and,

• He has worked with some of the most successful public radio stations in the nation.

I find this very strange because Cohen is a person I’d trust with any task, any day of the week. From my own experience, Cohen is sensitive to preserving a station’s brand and mission, provides wise perspective and knowledge and focuses on solutions. It appears Cohen is being unfairly targeted for criticism simply because Freedman brought him in for an interim period at the much-beloved radio station.



The NON-COMMvention is being held May 18-20 at WXPN’s World Café. I am aware that some commercial media folks read this column.  If you like Triple A music and haven’t been to a noncom conference, this is one you should attend.  More information is at [link].



Mark Abuzzahab on his new cellphone

Veteran Triple A programmer Mark Abuzzahab is joining in-store music service provider Custom Channels as a music programmer. Custom Channels [link] is an innovative service that offers customized and curated 24/7 music channels for offices and businesses of all types, particularly restaurants. 

Custom Channels are fed via the Internet for as little as $35.00 per month. The fee includes full licensing of the music with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange licensing and reporting. 

Abuzzahab calls Custom Channels the ultimate mix-tape:

"All my life I've subjected people to my mix tapes and mix CDs. Custom Channels is the next logical step for creating playlists on a much bigger level.”

Abuzzahab is also continuing as Program Director at VUHAUS, the music discovery video channel.


February was Love Month at WFDD in North Carolina. The month-long promotion doubled WFDD’s February revenue from last year and quintupled it from previous years without interrupting programming.
Molly Davis
According to Molly Davis, Assistant GM at WFDD, The Love Month is designed to bring in extra donations during
what has been a typically slow fundraising time. The campaign uses listener testimonials, listener comments on social media  renewal and through in-person fundraising events at area cafes/coffee shops.

WFDD said thank you to contributors with a
special, limited-edition, hand-crafted WFDD Love Mug made by a local artist. 

 Davis told the PRADO list:

“I can’t express enough how heartwarming it is to take pledges directly from listeners face-to-face at these events. It is meaningful to those who contribute, too. They enjoy making a gift in person.”