Friday, July 29, 2016


We have been talking about WXXI in Rochester quite a bit this week.  Yesterday we reported on a new FM translator that WXXI is moving to Rochester to repeat NPR News station WXXI-AM.

I received an excellent comment from an Anonymous reader who seems to know the situation quite well. I added the information on the right to help those of us who aren’t Rochester-ites understand what the reader is talking about.

Anonymous wrote:

I'd wager more that WXXI is thinking about moving the classical content on 91.5 to 1370 + the FM Translator, and then putting news/talk full-time on 91.5 and making 88.5 full-time Triple-A music.

Simulcasting the news/talk of 1370 on 88.5 during drive-time periods has been confusing yet quite successful. The ratings for 1370 have spiked because people say they're listening to 1370 when they're really listening to 88.5FM. 

That's not surprising; Rochester is a diary market and the branding for WXXI's news/talk is all about "1370-1370-1370-1370".

Insiders have lamented for years that WXXI didn't bite the bullet and put news/talk on 91.5 a long time ago. But there's reasons for that. Especially back then, and even now to some degree, there were a lot of major donor prospects that listened to classical. And WXXI lacks the legal control over WRUR 88.5 to just make it all news/talk.

But adding an FM translator to 1370...while obviously it's not gonna cover the huuuuge area that 91.5 does...will allow them to still provide classical on FM to a core market: Brighton, Victor and Fairport NY. All three towns are immediately next to each other, and all are between Pinnacle Hill (where 91.5 & 88.5 are now, and presumably where the translator will broadcast from) and Baker Hill (the next most likely location) and it's a quite-wealthy area where a lot of those major-donor classical prospects likely live.

I can’t vouch for what Anonymous is saying but I agree with the philosophy: Put NPR News on the signal that has the potential to reach the most people.


WXXI is owned by the “WXXI Broadcasting Council,” a nonprofit corporation.
The organization owns PBS WXXI-TV, WXXI-AM, WXXI-FM, City 12 Cable TV channel, various digital services, Reachout Radio reading service and WXXY-FM (which covers a small part of market).

WXXI also operates, via Local Marketing Agreements, WEOS, licensed to Geneva, NY, in partnership with Hobart and William Smith Colleges; and Triple A WITH-FM, Ithaca, which is in the Syracuse Nielsen Audio market.

WXXI-TV, channel 21, began broadcast in 1966, several years years prior to CPB and PBS. In 1974 WXXI-FM 91.5 went on air – one of the first NPR stations in the nation. WXXI-AM 1370 was added in 1984. It allowed WXXI-FM to become a full-time Classical music station. WXXI-AM became a full-time NPR News station but its limited coverage area and fidelity hurt the development of the NPR News audience.

According to their IRS form 990, in tax year 2014, WXXI had combined revenue of $11.3 million. Norm Silverstein, WXXI’s President and CEO, received compensation of around $400,000 in 2014.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


If you haven’t read it already, I recommend the article Chicago’s Vocalo reins in eclectic approach but keeps focus on younger audience in the July 21st issue of Current by Tyler Faulk [link].  Faulk is one of my favorite reporters at Current and this story is one of his best.  

Vocalo is an experimental multi-platform programming source originating from WBEZ, Chicago. The main platform for Vocalo is its 91.1 FM signal but this where it has had the least success.  As Faulk reports, WBEZ is in the process of redefining its sound, hoping to appeal to more people. Since Vocalo began in 2007 it has seldom appeared in Nielsen Audio’s PPM ratings.  No estimate is available for the amount of money spent by WBEZ on Vocalo but it is rumored to be in six figures.

Now with a $450,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). WBEZ’s management is implementing a plan “to develop and refine a fresh format that can potentially be scaled to other public radio stations.” CPB and WBEZ called on Paragon Media Strategies to learn more about awareness of Vocalo with Chicago adults ages 18-44.  When the results came back, according to Falk’s reporting only 21% of the respondents were aware of Vocalo and 13% said they listened in a typical week.

Part of the problem has been Vocalo’s limited coverage area. Its programming is first broadcast on WBEZ’s HD2 channel, then is repeated on WBEW-FM in northern Indiana.  WBEW is then repeated on FM translator W216CL-FM 91.1 MHz, located on top of the John Hancock Center in downtown Chicago.

As we reported on May 5th [link] Vocalo’s downtown translator power is going up from 10-watts to 99-watts thanks to a frequency-shifting arrangement with local jazz/blues station WDCB.
Torey Malatia

The increased power helps but the big problem with Vocalo is its programming. When then-CEO Torey Malatia designed Vocalo, he threw away almost every broadcasting best practice. There was zero consistency, music few had heard and discussion programs that few people cared about.  But it was hip.  Turns out it was too hip for the room. Losses due to Vocalo were a factor in Malatia’s downfall as CEO. (Torey Malatia is currently the GM of Rhode Island Public Radio.)

 Work is just beginning on the retrofit of Vocalo. The schedule is still full of programs about social justice.  These shows cover important topics but they often aren’t suited for the radio platform.. Vocalo’s music has become more focused on alt-rock, Triple A and Latin & Latino music. 

According to its Spotify playlist, the top five tracks on Vocalo this week are:

Phases I’m In Love With My Life
Ibeyi Stranger/Lover 
Azekel Mad About the Boy
San Cisco Isabella  Jealousy
Rainy Milo This Thing of Ours

For comparison, I checked the playlist for 89.3 The Current and most of these tunes also are airing there.  Chicago needs a “music discovery” outlet that is more adventurous than WXRT.  Maybe the new Vocalo can take advantage of the opportunity.

Check out Vocalo’s website at [link] and Facebook page at [link].


Tom Taylor reports [link] reports that WXXI, Rochester, has acquired a FM translator that will repeat NPR News station WXXI-AM. WXXI is taking advantage of the FCC’s policy of saving AM by moving it to FM that allows FM translators to be moved 250 miles to be paired with an AM station. 
WXXI-AM now repeats some its news programming on WRUR-FM. It is anticipated that Triple A WRUR will become a full-time music station when the FM translator – W266CL FM 101.1 goes on the air. W266CL currently is licensed to Marathon, NY.  Its new location to serve Rochester is not known at this time. The translator was owned by WRVO, Oswego. The purchase price is $50,000.


Some things are just different in Madison, Wisconsin, and that is why I like the city so much.  One Only in Wisconsin experience is Wisconsin Public Radio’s (WPR) statewide Ideas network based at Madison’s WHA-AM. Ideas features a 24/7 lineup of mostly local talk programs and no NPR Newsmagazines.  NPR News is heard on WPR’s News & Classical network based at WERN. In Spring 2016, according to Nielsen Audio estimates, Ideas has more weekly listeners in Madison that dual-formatted WERN.

 In Colorado Springs, KRCC recently dropped Triple A to go all news. Time will tell if this move boosts KRCC’s weekly listeners. They fell 21% from Spring 2015 to Spring 2016.  Meanwhile Colorado Public Radio’s news stations went up dramatically.


Full-time Classical in Portland, Maine, is just beginning. But Maine Public Broadcasting’s now 24/7 news station WMEA is increasing.

Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+
These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc. Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


A highly anticipated LPFM station has signed on in the Washington, DC suburb Takoma Park, Maryland. Tacoma Radio, aka WOWD FM 94.3, began broadcasting on July 16th. Takoma Radio [link] is owned by Historic Takoma [link], a 501c3 organization that preserves and presents local history.

Journalist Courtney Sexton, in an excellent story on WAMU’s Bandwidth [link], says Low Power, High Spirits: Takoma Radio Prepares To Bring FM Airwaves To The People. 

According to Sexton, the prime mover behind Takoma Radio is Marika Partridge, a well-known radio producer and longtime Takoma Park resident. Partridge learned in 2013 that a new LPFM station was possible she submitted an application to the FCC. The result was WOWD.

Takoma Radio is designed as a hyper-local service but its coverage includes a decent chunk of the DC metro (map is on the left). Partridge told Sexton:

“I’m talking about a mission to serve the community and pockets in the community. If you look at the radio dial in D.C. it’s a wasteland. I think also our ideas about ‘internet has killed radio’ is a very privileged perspective and that still a lot of people listen to the radio in their native languages, read newspapers in their native languages and in their communities.”

Marika Partridge
Partridge said Takoma Radio, affectionately known as T-Rex, has unique programming:

“We just have to consider who’s not going to NPR programming and offer some really strong programming for niche audiences right up against those shows. Who listens to All things Considered? Well, not people who only speak Amharic.”

The path to the new station was not easy.  After other organizations passed, Historic Takoma stepped up as the project’s fiduciary. It was founded in 1979 with a mission of preserving the heritage of Takoma Park and the nearby Takoma neighborhood in DC.

What does Radio Takoma sound like? According to the station website, there is LOTS of music: jazz, soul, roots, reggae, blues and alternative rock.  There is special emphasis on music by local musicians. One particularly interesting show is The Thought Bowl, featuring interviews with science writers mixed with music. It is sort of like combining pinball with astronomy. May the force be with you!


I love to watch events live on C-SPAN.  I feel like I am in the room with the participants.  Plus, there are no commentators saying the same thing over and over again.  There was a true gem on Monday night at the Democratic National Convention.  Paul Simon sang his classic Bridge Over Troubled Waters, backed by a bluesy band. Gave me chills.


Spokane is one of my favorite noncom radio markets. There are a nice variety of stations and no hesitation to try something new. One such experiment is Spokane Public Radio’s KPRZ-FM which airs PRX Remix 24/7. Many stations use Remix during occasional hours but I believe KPRZ is the only station using it all the time in a rated market. Though KPRZ is not a major factor in the market, the number of estimated weekly listeners went up 25% between Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.

Spokane Public Radio’s other two stations also did well.  News/Classical KPBX was up 23% and all News KSFC was up 17%.  Another noncom station not listed because they are not a Nielsen subscriber, is Classical KSGU.

Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+
These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc. Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


KCRW is expanding its coverage area to San Luis Obispo courtesy of a donated station from commercial station owner El Dorado Broadcasting. The station is KJRW 101.3 FM licensed to Los Osos, California. When the deal is finalized KJRW will become a full-time repeater of KCRW.

According to news sources, El Dorado is in the process of divesting four stations they own and/or operate in the San Luis Obispo market. The donation will likely give El Dorado a nice tax write-off.

KCRW now has one of the most extensive repeater and translator networks in the nation (see map on the left). KJRW is the sixth full-power station owned by KCRW.

The new San Luis Obispo station has one thing in common with KCRW’s other broadcast frequencies: terrific line-of-site coverage.  KCRW’s Chief Engineer Steve Herbert is a master at maximizing facilities.  Look at the Google Earth slide on the right showing KJRW’s transmitter location. Not only does it have blanket coverage of San Luis Obispo, it provides dominant penetration of US 101, a very, very busy freeway.

It appears KCRW wants to be a presence in the entire Southland, a mega-city stretching from San Diego to Santa Barbara to San Bernardino. The Southland is home to more than 25 million people.


TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, is lining up speakers for their FY 2017 season. To encourage applicants TED is offering twenty fellowships to help those without the means to attend. The fellowships pay for food, lodging and travel. Fellows participate in skill-building workshops, deliver their talk on stage, and participate in the conference as a regular attendee. The deadline is July 30, 2016. More information is at [link]. 


Results from Nielsen Audio’s Spring 2016 Diary market continue to arrive via the Radio Research Consortium (RRC). Today we are comparing estimated weekly listeners from Spring 2016 with Spring 2015 in four markets: Tucson, Tulsa, Harrisburg and Omaha.

Both Classical (KUAT) and NPR News (KUAZ AM & FM) are up substantially in Tucson. Triple A KXCI, one of best “community” stations in the noncom biz is holding its own.


In Tulsa things finally are happening for Classical KWTU. Over the past year estimated weekly listeners to KWTU almost doubled. KWGS was a dual format station until about five years ago. KWGS spent a bundle to acquire the license for KWTU.  Now both stations are reaping the benefits.

WITF’s estimated weekly listeners began to climb when they changed to 24/7 news a few years ago. WJTL is an excellent CCM station that has listeners in four rated markets.

Omaha’s KIWR The River is one of my favorite noncom stations. We did a story about them in February 2015 [link]. The River, operated from Western Iowa Tech in “the Bluffs” is the undisputed rock n roll king of Omaha.  Check them out at [link].  Apparently Classical KVNO does not subscribeto Nielsen but they likely have lots of listeners.

Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+

These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc. Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

Monday, July 25, 2016


One of the smartest things these days on public radio news stations is the Anxiety Index research by Edison Research [link] that appears on Marketplace. This is not a rehash of someone else’s work, it is original research done with a real sense of purpose.

American Public Media’s (APM) Marketplace is partnering with Edison to conduct ongoing research to measure Americans’ economic anxiety. The results are insightful and Edison’s co-founder Larry Rosin is establishing himself as a go-to commentator/explainer. Give a listen to Rosin’s analysis on the Marketplace Morning Report with David Brancaccio: [link].  

Larry Rosin
Larry Rosin is a researcher with eclectic tastes and the ability to see big-picture trends.  Though most of Edison’s research biz is not with public media, Rosin seems to value his association beyond just the money. Rosin has always hung with the brightest and most curious folks. He is a graduate of the Wharton School at Penn. Rosin has been doing media and lifestyle research since the 1980s. Back then his weekly newsletters for Bolton Research were required reading when I worked for Bill Moyes at Transtar Radio Network.

In 2014 Rosin presented definitive research about media usage by Classical music consumers at the PRPD.  I don’t believe there is a link to this story but I am glad to send you a copy of the results.  

Some of my favorite work by Edison includes studies such as Wake Me Up: An In-Depth Look at Morning Media [link] and the ongoing Share of Ear [link].

Public radio should commission more original research because the results often make news beyond the noncom world. I’ve heard the Anxiety Index quoted frequently om other news channels.  Stuff like this enhances the “halo” of public broadcasting. Marketplace is a perfect partner/collaborator with Edison because both excel in taking complex topics in ways that are easy to grasp.


Results from Nielsen Audio’s Spring 2016 Diary market continue to arrive via the Radio Research Consortium (RRC). Today we are comparing estimated weekly listeners in Burlington/Plattsburgh, Grand Rapids and Dayton – three very different noncom markets – with results from Spring 2016.

Burlington is one of the best noncom markets in the nation. Vermont Public Radio’s (VPR) News network exceeds expectations. WVPR’s 145,400 estimated weekly cumulative listens tops NPR News stations such as WOSU in Columbus, WFYI in Indianapolis and KSTX in San Antonio, all with much larger populations.

Also in Burlington out-of market NPR News stations such as New Hampshire Public Radio and WAMC’s local repeater station WCEL both gained weekly listeners in the past year.

The Grand Rapids market has strong performers and a couple of mysteries. WCSG is one of the best performing CCM stations anywhere and NPR News station WUOM often has as many weekly listeners to GV repeater WVGR as it has listeners in Detroit.

Mystery #1 is WVGU AM and FM.  I have written before about WVGU’s inability to compete with out-of-market NPR News stations. Now WVGU-FM trails its twisted sister WVGU-AM.  In fact We’re Not Going to Take It by Twisted Sister is playing as I write this post. 

WVGU-AM [link] is known locally as Real Oldies. The last three songs played, in addition to Twisted Sister, were Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan, The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA by Donna Fargo and The Candy Man by Sammy Davis, Jr. This un-hip music mix is likely not found anywhere else on noncom “educational” radio.

Mystery #2 is how many listeners there are to Triple A WYCE.  They don’t subscribe to Nielsen Audio but locals tell me they are doing very well.

Nice to see local Classical outlet WDPR doing so well.

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, LLC.