Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Consultant, researcher and blogger Fred Jacobs wrote a thoughtful commentary Tuesday (10/17) about the importance of including folks from the baby-boom generation in strategic planning for future radio programming [link]. Jacobs’ Op-Ed – Look Who Just Made The Case For Targeting Baby Boomers – focuses on recent marketing efforts by T-Mobile to reach new customers that are now between the ages of 53 and 71. 

John Legere
John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile, says advertisers, and competing wireless carriers, should show boomers “a little respect.” Legere makes his point in a hilarious and insightful 5:40 Twitter video [link]. In the video, Legere roasts a recent AT&T ad campaign that he says “belittles boomers and is absolute bullsh*t and degrading at the highest level.”

Legere continues: “Boomers are the most loyal, long-term customers in the world. Why are they being patronized…in AT&T’s ‘Senior Nation Plan.’ [AT&T] that boomers are a bunch of older people stuck in the past and can’t figure out how the Internet works. News flash! Boomers invented the Internet.”

Jacobs applies Legere’s logic to the commercial radio industry where the 25-54 age demographic is still the only one that matters. Boomers are now almost completely out of the prime demo that advertisers seek and programmers covet.  

Commercial radio, Jacobs says, is ignoring a huge opportunity by writing off appealing to boomers.  I think this it is also an open door for public radio. Commercial radio’s obsession with the 25-54 demo has caused some operators to quit investing in News/Talk formats.  This is yet another reason that NPR News/Talk stations are often beating heritage commercial stations in ratings and influence.

Jacob’s cites a core philosophy of commercial radio programmers, the so-called “demographic cliff” as particularly simplistic. That theory shows a basic difference between commercial radio and public radio. Commercial radio is about reaching bulk audiences, public radio is about reaching and engaging each listener.

Of course reaching younger listeners is important. However, I don’t think there is a public radio station in America who would turn down a generous pledge by someone over the age of 54.


On the surface, everything is quiet at Pacifica and WBAI, though I am certain that there is plenty of angst behind the scenes.

Pacifica still must come up with $2.4 million in cash they owe to the Empire State Building.  

I keep reading Pacifica-oriented bulletin boards and it seems like the people who are running the network and stations are in denial. Folks at Pacifica stations in LA, the Bay area, Washington, DC and Houston appear to be think what happens to WBAI in New York won’t affect them.

Now a just-released report from R. Paul Martin, treasurer of WBAI, should be wake-up call.  In the report Martin says:

• Pacifica has a total debt to all creditors of about $8 million.

• The management of WBAI still is counting on political pressure to make the estimated $2.4 million owed to Empire State go away. The amount owed continues to climb at a rate of $50,000 per month.

• Meanwhile, another big debt has surfaced. Pacifica is also must make unpaid pension payments for employees dating from 2014-2016. Not making the payments is against the law. The amount due now is estimated to be between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

WBAI treasurer R. Paul Martin ended his report with this ominous quote:

“These are difficult times for WBAI and Pacifica. While WBAI is leading the way in terms of financial distress, the other Pacifica stations are following along. I hope that WBAI can survive the current financial crisis.”

1 comment:

  1. IANAL, but AFAIK no court can compel the "seizure" nor "sale" of the most valuable (if not ONLY valuable) asset that Pacifica owns: the license to broadcast on 99.5FM. That's because it's not an asset, it's a license. It's not "owned" by Pacifica, it's "assigned" to Pacifica by the government via the FCC. The FCC has the right to revoke that license, at any time for almost any reason.

    Worse, the is legal precedent that may block any attempt to force WBAI off the air, too. A creditor cannot block a debtor's only means of repaying the creditor. There have been several court cases that allowed a broadcast tenant to keep broadcasting even though they were in arrears on their tower rent and the tower owner wanted to kick them off the tower.