Friday, February 17, 2017



Last Monday (2/13) we reported on the latest podcast publisher rankings from Podtrac Analytics.  In that story we compared the Top 10 “US Unique Monthly Audience” in January 2017 with October 2016.  All of podcasts in the Top 10 had fewer listeners in January. Declines ranged from 2% to 40%. Our chart is on the right.

We wondered aloud whether the decline in audience reflected a larger trend or had Podtrac changed it’s methodology. After an initial contact with Podtrac, I was put in touch with Mark Mccrery, Founder & CEO of Podtrac.  I asked Mccrery whether he stood by Podtrac’s numbers and what could have caused the decline in podcast listeners in a four-month period.

Mark Mccrery replied:

Mark Mccrery
Hi Ken,

Thanks for your interest in the numbers.  Yes, we stand by the data.
I’ll also add two points:

- Election conversations took place in the fall in many podcasts regardless of podcast genre/category.   

- There is seasonality, variation and spikiness in podcast activity, so that in over 11 years of measuring podcasts, counts can change up or down by 20% or more from month to month.  Below is a chart of stream/download activity by month for a top podcast for the last 2.5 years, as an example.

KEN SAYS: Podtrac is trying to establish itself as the go-to provider for podcast metrics, something the industry needs. Mccrery’s response shows reaching that goal is a work in progress. As Mccrery said above, counts can change up or down by 20% from month to month. When we report Podtrac’s data, should we add a disclaimer that the actual listening may vary by 20%?

The primary reason for the drop cited by Mccrery is that the number of podcast listeners spiked in October because of the election. This may or may not be true. Seasonality might also be a factor in podcast listening.

That said, I am very impressed with Podtrac’s response and the overall approach by the company. The Podtrac monthly charts are a valuable service and we will continue to publish their rankings.


This is a very personal comment and reply, so I hope readers will read it with that in mind. On December 3, 2015, I published [link] “The Dream Is Over.” It told the story of how a Twin Cities area couple, Kevin and Jill Rische, decided to start a new noncommercial, independent Christian community station. They applied for a short-spaced full-power channel at 88.1 FM.

They won the construction permit for 88.1 and signed on WAJC in 2011. Operating WAJC proved to be a challenge, especially financially. After a few years of tireless work and hand-to-mouth realities, the Rishe s sold their beloved station to their church, Maranatha Assembly of God Church. They are still active in station but they are no long on the hook for operating funds. You can hear WAJC here.

A few weeks ago, Jill Rische contacted me. She was concerned that my article contained errors and misrepresented the Rische’s and WAJC. Below I have posted several pages of Jill’s complaints. Some of her concerns have merit but most were debatable at best and wrong at worst.

There is one comment Jill made that is certainly true: My tone was snarky and unforgiving, almost like I was enjoying seeing their failures. I re-read my post and Jill is right, my words were stark and painful.  This caused me to reflect on what caused me to published my hurtful post.

The truth is I was channeling my own unresolved feelings of pain for my own failures for a station (K-SKY FM) I built and operated and then lost.  I told Jill I was truly sorry for adding to her own pain because I felt deeply about my own failure. I apologized to Jill and Kevin, which they accepted.

At KSKY I made several big mistakes that cost me my ownership stake. Basically, my big ego and pride made me blind to the problems I faced.  A case in point was my failure to realize the physics of radio signals and my hype of things that were not true.

Ken at the top of Terry Peak • July 1982
Very briefly, here is what happened. In 1982 I won a construction permit for a new 100kw station licensed to Deadwood, a small town in Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.  I secured a tower site on Terry Peak, a 7,100 foot mountain that was 3,000 feet above the city of license and 4,000 feet above Rapid City, the only metro area in the region.

My engineer told me I didn’t need to worry about translator because he was installing a 10-degree beam tilt on the antenna bays.  I trusted his expertise, which was a big mistake. 

I had extensively promoted the signal reach of the new station. When K-SKY signed on September 2, 1982, I was immediately confronted with the reality of the situation. Because of the height of antenna and terrain shielding, the 100kw signal could be heard in places 100 miles away but it was spotty in many areas of the Black Hills.  The signal was so spotty in the foothills that I needed a translator to put a signal in the city of license. I had major egg on my face.  The truth was that I failed at my “dream station” because of my own myopic decisions.

I left K-SKY in September 1984 to enter grad school at Arizona State University. After I left, K-SKY (with well placed translators) went on to become the number one station in the Rapid City market. I had the vision, but I wasn’t there to enjoy the success. It still hurts. But this was no reason for me to deflect my self-anger on Jill and Kevin Rishe. They loved WAJC as much as I loved K-SKY.


(Note: I have posted Jill’s corrections and comments about my 12/3/15 story verbatim further down in this post.)

I sent Jill a summary email on Tuesday (2/14) and asked her to respond to three key questions: Did WAJC lose money? Why did you promote WAJC as a full market station when it wasn’t? What responsibility do you and Kevin take for the lack of WAJC’s success?

To: Jill
From Ken

Thank you for the documents and clarifications.  I am planning on publishing the update regarding WAJC this Friday 2/17.  I have a few questions and hope I can include your answers in Friday’s article:

QUESTION ONE: Jill wrote: you see it never was a “Please buy my failing radio station” scenario. The 990s you referred to in your article are not ours—you can look us up under Religious Information Network. We are small but were in the black the entire time we built and ran WAJC.

KEN: I did look up “Religious Information Network” (RIN) in the IRS database and I found the following information for the three most recent tax years. According to filings with the IRS, WAJC was not “in the black” during any of the three years for which information is available. What you assert is no true.

• Tax Year 2014: RIN reported $19,612 in revenue, $25,706 in expenses and a net loss of $6,094

• Tax Year 2013: RIN reported $45,968 in revenue, $56,127 in expenses and a net loss of $10,159

• Tax Year 2012: RIN reported $35,284 in revenue, $42,964 in expenses and a net loss of $7,680

So, during the three years combined, all during the time you were operating WAJC, according to information you filed with the IRS, RIN had a net loss of $23,933. Is the information you provided the IRS correct?

JILL’S 2/16/17 REPLY:

My error as to the ownership of the statements—I looked at a general graph for all three years and should have viewed our individual statements. 

Please be fair—as you know—the measure of a non-profit’s success is different than a commercial one.  Net Assets carried over each year determine viability, not profit/loss numbers.  If you look at our 990s you will see that our Net Assets were always in the black. (Net Assets is what I was comparing on our graph.)

This is common knowledge: “In a for-profit context, revenues less expenses is called net income or net profit and is an indicator of the firm’s success. For non-profits, the change in net assets is a surplus or deficit that is carried forward. Rather than focusing on profit, a nonprofit focuses upon fulfilling its mission. Therefore, the annual surplus or deficit is not necessarily informative about a non-profit’s success.”

During the build-out of the station, when large sums were spent to buy the antenna and equipment, our surplus and deficit went up and down, but the balance carried over every year was in the black. Why not state this fact and credit us for building a full power station on a shoe-string budget with the intent to use it for community radio?  

QUESTION TWO: Though WAJC was the last full power frequency available in the Twin Cities metro area, WAJC did not cover the whole the whole area. In my original article I questioned whether WAJC’s use of a logo featuring the skyline of Minneapolis was appropriate considering that WAJC did not put a reliable, dependable signal into downtown Minneapolis. Do you agree that WAJC was incorrectly implying that WAJC serves downtown Minneapolis?

JILL’S 2/16/17 REPLY:

As we talked about on the phone, this logo was designed and used by Northwestern students for years to symbolize their 1 watt station and student programming. That was the ONLY reason we chose to use the logo. I’ve attached WAJC’s Longley Rice map to prove coverage is much better than you think and Minneapolis falls within the 50-60dbu range.  J  But this was not the reason we chose the logo.


Jill wrote: We are beginners, but we’re learning and hopefully, we can be encouraged to do so even though our ideologies differ.

KEN: One thing I haven’t seen in all of our correspondence is you taking responsibility for what happened with WAJC.  What mistakes did you and Kevin make and what would you have done differently? 

JILL’S 2/16/17 REPLY:

Ken, we turned down several offers that would have brought in a large profit on WAJC and instead, donated it to our church. Are you saying we need to answer for that?

The station is still up and running and doing fine—we’re still very much involved with it—why do you think we need to “take responsibility” for donating a full power radio station? It would be great if you could clarify this before publication.

One thing Kevin and I would have done differently is to involve our church a lot sooner—not because we needed them financially, but because of their outreach to the community.  It’s one thing to dislike our approach or methods, and another to assume a negative intent. Please be fair. I like the words of Jesus here, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Thank you, Jill.


1 comment:

  1. "If St.Cloud regrets the loss of Twin Cities coverage, then isn't this frequency useful and beneficial?"

    What fresh hell is this? This is the most casuistry-laden justification I've ever seen? It means no such thing at all. Radio is not a zero-sum game, it's a negative-sum game. It's hard to be zero-sum and even harder to be positive-sum, but because it's quite easy for one small new signal to destroy reliable reception of an existing station, without realistically gaining any reception for the new one, it's quite easy to be negative-sum. That's all WJAC ever was. She can babble about a signal map all she likes, but given the close proximity of KVSC, by definition reception of WAJC towards Minneapolis will be limited to its 60dBu contour and little more; that doesn't even reach the airport.

    Given that WAJC never should've existed, and it took a vibrant station like KVSC and totally shivved them in the back for some tiny little sliver of uselessness, AND repeated demanded outrageously high purchase prices whenever KVSC approached them about buying out WAJC, I think any schadenfreude is thoroughly warranted.