Friday, October 28, 2016


Not all NPR News stations are losing weekly listeners like WBEZ. (See yesterday’s post.) NPR News stations in the four markets we are examining today increased their weekly cume from September to October. Nielsen Audio estimates via RRC arrived this week for PPM markets. The biggest story may be in Boston.

WBUR and WGBH have been in an epic battle for the past two years. They are competing head-to-head for NPR News listeners in a rivalry seldom seen in noncommercial radio. Except for one month in 2015 when WBUR had technical problems, WBUR has always been the top dog.  Not anymore.

According to Nielsen’s estimates for October, WGBH topped WBUR in Average-Quarter-Hour (AQH) shares: WGBH 4.0%, WBUR 3.4%.  WBUR maintained the weekly cumulative listeners lead by 1,700 persons.  And both WGBH and WBUR gained weekly listeners.

October was a good month for New York Public Media.  WNYC-FM gained an estimated 113,400 weekly listeners, 14% up from September.  Classical WQXR had its best showing in a couple of years, up 152,600 weekly listeners, 23% up from September.

WNYC-AM fell a bit but that is to be expected because they only have full-market coverage during daylight hours. The results for WBGO look like a “wobble” to me. We will know more after a couple of books.

In the Twin Cities, NPR News KNOW continues to build weekly listeners. CCM powerhouse KTIS-FM was down compared to September. Classical KSJN added around 20,000 weekly listeners.

NPR News station KCFR also increased weekly listeners, up 5% from September. Denver-Boulder is perhaps the most competitive "progressive rock" market in the country. Noncoms on the Front Range compete with two heritage, very hip commercial stations: KTCL and KBCO.  I have the feeling there is a lot of time-sharing between the commercial stations and the two noncoms.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Today is a tale of two noncom news stations in two cities where each station owns the NPR News franchise. WBEZ is the sole provider of NPR News in Chicago and WAMU does the same in Washington, DC. WAMU’s estimated weekly cumulative listeners keep rising but WBEZ’s weekly listeners have declined 152,000 in seven months.

Earlier this month we reported [link] on the decline of NPR News stations between March 2016 and September 2016 according to Nielsen Audio PPM estimates. We found this pattern at several big NPR News stations. WBEZ had some of the biggest losses.  We used a six-month comparison to keep the analysis within election season. Theoretically NPR News stations have increased listening during hot news cycles. Apparently not all of them abide by this notion.

I feel that weekly cume is an important metric because it shows the overall circulation of a station. Station programmers tend to watch metrics derived from Average Quarter Hour (AQH) listening estimates. AQH is important. However, a pattern of fewer weekly listeners means fewer people are entering a station's “listener pool.” This can't be good news in the long run.

On the left is a chart showing WBEZ’s weekly cumulative listeners for the months of March through October 2016.  I sent a copy of this chart to the programming and press folks at WBEZ for comment.  We have not received a reply. If/when we hear from WBEZ we will update this post.

Earlier this month we attempted several times to get a comment from WBEZ and no one replied.  It is hard to believe that (1.) WBEZ doesn’t know about this trend, and (2.) WBEZ isn’t concerned about it.

Here are the October 2016 numbers for all subscribing noncom stations in Chicago, plus one-month trends.


Good news keeps coming for WAMU from Nielsen Audio.  In the October estimates WAMU had 861,400 weekly cumulative listeners, up 3% from the prior month. Perhaps the biggest news was WAMU’s AQH share: 9.6%, up from 9.0% in September.

Hubbard Broadcasting’s WTOP had a 9.2% AQH share and a weekly cume of 1,186,600.

Folks should be aware that Nielsen and RRC discourages noncom stations from celebrating “wins” over commercial stations. Commercial broadcasters pay much more for the data than noncoms. Too much “we’re number one” lingo might raise concerns with commercial broadcasters such as Ginny Morris, the CEO of Hubbard.

Here are the October 2016 numbers for all subscribing noncom stations in DC, plus one-month trends. Note the nice up book for Classical WETA. Meanwhile CCM WGTS keeps losing cume.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


From time-to-time I get anonymous comments from folks who sound like they are industry insiders. I like to get comments from almost any source but I never publish anonymous comments until I’ve had a chance to check out the story. Readers can send emails to me at

One anonymous source claims to be on the Board of WNYC Public Media.  I have no way of verifying his/her claim but the person sounds legit.  Yesterday I received a message from this source.  Here is a portion of it:

“I’ve been saying at WNYC board meetings for years that New York City still has some of the best radio programming I know of including WNYC, WFMU, WNYE and WBAI (less so these days). But, hands down, WKCR is where my radio is tuned most of the time.”

WKCR has just been declared "best radio station 2016" by the unscientific Village Voice Best of New York survey, doesn't even appear in the [Nielsen Audio ratings]. Why is this?”

I looked for WKCR in the Village Voice and, sure enough, there it is [link]:

Columbia University's WKCR is a beacon of uptown grace. The award-winning radio institution has provided alternative programming for 75 years, with shows spanning fringe jazz, baroque classical, and Middle Eastern folk.

WKCR seems to have an ample budget, estimated to be around $200,000. The station occasionally has fund drives but a lot of WKCR’s revenue appears to come from alumni. They don’t subscribe to Nielsen Audio’s ratings because they don’t care. They say they don't need to know.

A former WKCR manager once said: “We pride ourselves on providing content that is uniquely ours. We love our music and we play it with pride.”

That is still the operating philosophy today.


WKCR 89.9 FM [link] is Columbia University’s noncommercial student-run radio station. WKCR is now celebrating its 75th anniversary.

WKCR began at the dawn of FM broadcasting. Edwin H. Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio was a professor at Columbia University in the 1930s. In July 1939 Armstrong’s first FM station signed on near Alpine, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan. 

Armstromg encouraged the Columbia University Radio Club to apply for a FM license. They did and on February 24, 1941 what is now WKCR went on the air. Soon after that date, America was thrust into WW2 and FM broadcasting ceased until after the war.

Today, you could call WKCR “the alternative to all of the alternatives.” It is truly a one-of-a-kind student station.

REASON #1: They never throw anything away.

The library includes analog tapes, records, 78s, compact discs, basically anything classical and jazz that has ever been recorded. Old analog equipment is restored and used, not sold.

REASON #2: Longevity of programming.

One program – Out to Lunch – that airs weekdays from Noon to 3pm began 45 years ago. Columbia alumni are urged to donate their record collections and other media.

REASON #3: Sound quality is of paramount concern.

WKCR airs lots of analog recordings. New student employees are taught how to use and maintain reel-to-reel tapes.

REASON #4: Folks at WKCR know the station is unique and they don’t care if you don’t like it.


Elisabeth Stam
Elisabeth Stam, station manager of WKCR was interviewed in September 2016 by College Media Journal (CMJ) {link]:

 CMJ: WKCR has quite a history, what is one of your favorite stories from the stations past that you think best defines the station?

STAM: One of my favorite stories from WKCR’s past occurred on October 4th 1957, when WKCR students managed to record transmissions from Sputnik’s radio pulses (some sort of beep sound) while Sputnik was orbiting the planet. WKCR broadcasted the recording on the radio before any of the networks in New York City had a chance to. The next morning, the FBI arrived at the station and confiscated WKCR’s Sputnik recordings, much to the students’ surprise and indignation.

This story epitomizes the WKCR spirit where young people immediately sgrasp the importance of developing events and pull together whatever necessary to bring our listeners what they deserve to hear, the best and nothing less. WKCR has always operated in a sphere beyond traditional college radio and that is what this anecdote demonstrates.

CMJ: The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think college radio is not Classical and Jazz, how has the station carved out a place for itself with this unique format?

STAM: WKCR is dedicated to playing genres of music that are infrequently heard, if not at all, on commercial radio and even on college radio. WKCR has carved out a place with our unique format because no one else anywhere on the FM dial devotes so much time and energy to playing large amounts of Jazz and Classical.

We also pride ourselves on playing compositions in their entirely instead of excerpts. During our Bach Festival at the end of December, WKCR plays Bach compositions uninterrupted for a week or more.

KEN SAYS: This is all well-and-good in the here-and-now but a radio person like myself always looks for a plan “B.” Look again at WKCR’s coverage area.  I’d guess there are ten million people who can receive 89.9, plus countless more on digital platforms. Columbia University has such an amazing history of knowledge, innovation and service to humanity, I find it amazing they have not considered a more contemporary and urgent sound for WKCR. This is a major under developed asset.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Last week we reported on Fred Jacobs’ presentation of the eighth annual Public Radio Tech Survey (PRTS-8) at the PRPD Content Conference in September. We featured several graphs showing info from the research. There are many more takeaways we didn’t cite. You can download the entire PRTS-8 report at [link]

One of the PRTS-8 graphs we that I found of interest is Mobile Phone Dependency among public radio listeners (see graph on the right).  Jacobs Media surveyed almost 30,000 listeners and that over 25% of respondents replied “Yes” to this question: “I am addicted to my mobile phone.”

Almost half of the folks in millennial ages agreed that they are addicted to their phones. Thirty one percent (31%) of NPR News respondents and 30% of Triple A listeners also confessed their addition.

I don’t believe Smartphone addiction is as big a problem as some people do. In addition to connecting with others, Smartphones provide real-time news and the latest trends in music, culture and lots and lots of advertising.  Why go to the mall when everything you find there is in the palm of your hand.

Still, there are genuine concerns about the impact of cell phones. A recent study conducted by Baylor University found that some heavy users suffer from “nomophobia,” or the fear of being without one’s cell phone. The study reports that obsessive use of a smartphone has been compared to that of credit card misuse and compulsive buying, impaired self-esteem and impaired work performance.


Also PRTS-8 showed that 51% of responding public radio listeners said they listen to podcasts to hear previously broadcast programs. Are podcasts another way to say rerun? Are on-demand editions of reruns counted as listening to podcasts?

I hope that someone, someday can provide a definition of podcasts – what they are or what they aren’t. Is a book on tape a podcast? Is the rerun of last week’s Wait...Wait, Don’t Tell Me a podcast? Is a bootleg recording of business meeting a podcast? Maybe Eric Nuzum is right [link]. Perhaps we should delete the term “podcast.” 


As you know the 2016 elections will (thankfully) be over in a couple of weeks. In an effort to get another news headline before they are over, Nielsen released the chart on the right Top Rated Formats By Political Affiliation.

First note that some formats, such as NPR News, aren’t listed. In fact, I count only six commercial radio formats in the chart. Then someone came up with an artificial definition of “political affiliations.” Will someone please tell me what is an On-the-Fence Liberal or a Mild Republican?

And what are we supposed to do with these factoids? The next time someone asks you what radio format Uninvolved Republicans listen to most, you can reply Contemporary Hit Radio a/k/a Top 40.


KBIA in Columbia, Missouri uses flow charts to help inform new newsroom employees and students. 

The chart on the left is a step-by-step procedure of what to do when a news source won’t return your phone call.

There are likely great takeaways in this info but the chart layout says “You can’t get there from here.”

Monday, October 24, 2016



WWNO has acquired a primo FM translator in New Orleans and plans on making it a 24/7 Classical music station. Key factors for FM translators are the transmissions location and height above terrain. K285FF FM 104.9 covers NOLA from downtown on a 735’ perch. 

On the flatlands of coastal Louisiana, 99-watts is all you need to reach lots of people. Projected coverage area is shown on the map of the right.

According to GM Paul Maassen, the new translator is a considerable investment for WWNO, but the cost is far less than a full-time FM license:

Paul Maassen

“Our past attempts to launch an all-classical FM station were thwarted by the high cost of a full-service FM license—a likely $3 million or more.  But this new opportunity will allow WWNO to return classical music to FM radio with a capital investment of just $225,000 and a projected initial operating cost of about $50,000 per year.”

104.9 will repeat the 24/7 schedule of Classical programming currently available on WWNO’s HD2 signal. Since few people ever listen to HD channels, Classical fans are eagerly anticipating the new 104.9 FM.

Plans call for 104.9 to begin broadcasting early in 2017.


 Thanks to the FCC’s plan to revitalize AM broadcasting by adding FM repeaters, WBAA-AM has announced the acquisition of a translator at 105.9 FM to simulcast WBAA-AM 24/7. Because of WBAA-AM’s restricted nighttime coverage, 105.9 FM will expand listening options for NPR News listeners in the Lafayette, Indiana area.

WBAA purchased the construction permit (CP) for the translator from another Lafayette area broadcaster for $45,000. The CP was days from expiring.  Mike Savage, general manager of WBAA AM/FM got the folks at Purdue University to more quickly to complete the purchase. In a press release from Purdue [link], Savage, general manager of WBAA AM/FM, talked about the need for 105.9 FM:

"We heard the requests from our listeners to put the WBAA News format on FM. This is the first time our listeners will be able to hear AM920 programming on FM."

According to Savage, the new 105.9 FM cover a 15 to 20 mile radius from WBAA’s tower site, exceeding expectations. WBAA-FM will continue to air Morning Edition and All Things Considered on mainly Classical 101.3 FM.


Life is good in Hilo, Hawaii
Late last week the FCC approved Hawaii Public Radio’s (HPR) application for a new full-power FM station to serve folks in the Hilo area. HPR operates two statewide program streams, one specializing in NPR News and the other providing Classical music. The new station will broadcast HPR’s news network.

HPR’s President and General Manager Jose Fajardo said the new station will be on the air soon: “[We] will go live in Hilo within days.”

Preparation  continues for the new Hilo station
The frequency for the new NPR News station was not announced last week. The new station most likely KAHU 91.7 FM, a construction permit owned by HPR. HPR’s Classical programming is current heard in Hilo on KANO 91.1 FM. KAHU will transmit from KANO’s tower site. According to Fajardo, funds for the new station came from HPR supporters on the Big Island.

There was more good news from HPR last week. The just-completed Fall 2016 Pledge Drive, brought in $872,000 and HPR added a record 922 new members.