Friday, January 20, 2017


Numerous news outlets are reporting that the incoming Trump administration will be pushing to “privatize” the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The proposal is part of massive cuts that include eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

According to a report in Current [link], Trump and Republican congressional leaders are following a plan created by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. The Heritage plan is called Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017. The 180 page document can be downloaded at [link].


First, I want to acknowledge and thank the Radio Research Consortium (RRC) for making Nielsen Audio ratings information available to public media. For over three decades RRC has played the crucial role by distributing Arbitron and Nielsen data.

One task performed by RRC is aggregating listening data in Diary markets to provide totals for each primary station. The raw Nielsen Diary data displays listening to specific call letters regardless of whether the station is a repeater or the primary program source.

For example, raw Nielsen Audio data lists around 30 noncom stations in the Des Moines metro. Only four originate programming; the rest are repeaters. RRC crunches the numbers to reflect listening to primary stations and repeaters of that specific station. This aggregated data is what SPARK! uses for its posts. RRC’s efforts are very much appreciated.

Speaking of Des Moines, dual-format WOI-FM, flagship of Iowa Public Radio’s (IPR) Studio One program stream keeps gaining momentum. Studio One combines NPR Newsmagazines and blocks of Triple A music.  Here is a question for IPR: What is the problem with your Classical programming? It is underperforming Classical outlets in similar size markets.

In Madison, Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) does things “the Wisconsin way.” This includes the Ideas Network, originating from WHA-AM. Ideas features wall-to-wall talk and interview programs but no NPR Newsmagazines. The ratings show that Ideas has lots of listeners.  Grassroots station WORT and College Rock WSUM do not subscribe to Nielsen but likely have significant listening.

Spokane is great noncom media city. All three local NPR News shops posted notable gains in estimated weekly listeners in Fall 2016 compared to Fall 2015. KPBZ is only station we know of in a rated market that airs PRX Remix 24/7. Classical music KAGU does not subscribe to Nielsen but likely have significant listening.

NPR News and Classical WFCR probably has more listeners outside of Springfield than in the home metro. According to Nielsen Audio, WFCR had 43.700 estimated weekly listeners in the Hartford metro, a PPM market. WFCR also has listening in at least three other markets.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Last Friday (1/13) we reported on Colorado Public Radio’s (CPR) purchase of an FM frequency covering Colorado Springs and CPR’s stated intention to establish a statewide news presence. Colorado Springs is of particular interest to CPR because it is the second largest market in the state.

Another factor is that CPR may perceive KRCC as a weak competitor. Even without a full metro signal, CPR News already has a significant number of listeners in the Springs. CPR’s new signal, scheduled to start in April or May, is a direct challenge to KRCC.

Though I am taking KRCC's "side" in this post, I like both stations. So I am not playing favorites.

Now the Fall 2016 Nielsen Audio ratings estimates have arrived and the listener pattern is the same. CPR News already has 18% of KRCC’s weekly cumulative listeners. On the left are Nielsen Audio results for the past four rating periods. CPR appears to be building momentum.

The pattern is the same in Pueblo, 50 miles south of Colorado Springs, where KRCC also competes with CPR News. (Fall 2016 Nielsen Audio data for Pueblo has not yet been released.)

A few years ago I was a consultant for another station in the western US that was in the same situation. My client station had a dual-format, NPR News with blocks of Triple A in mid-morning and mid-afternoon. The competing station from a large city around an hour north of my client signed on a 24/7 repeater airing NPR News. Within two years, the big city competitor had taken roughly 25% of my client’s weekly cumulative listeners. My assignment was to help turn things around. My client’s station now has about 90% of the “news cume.”


What would you do if you were in KRCC’s situation?

First, start with the basics. On the right is a chart with an overview of the two competing organizations. Though CPR is much bigger, there are many similarities.  For instance both competitors received ample “listener sensitive support” – pledging and underwriting.

CPR and KRCC have different types of licensees.  Often a Community licensee can move more quickly than a University licensee.

However, the big, BIG difference is the commitment to news by CPR. KRCC has one (1) person handling all of their news, plus the news person hosts Morning Edition. This puts KRCC at a major disadvantage with news listeners.

Next let’s move to programming. On the left are schedules for both competitors during key listening hours when the most people listen to radio.

Both air Morning Edition during the same hours. After ME you can almost hear the push buttons “click” with people tuning away from KRCC. CPR’s talk and interview program Colorado Matters is consistently a strong performer. Here & Now is now is a popular midday national and global news source.

Some new listeners to KRCC might tune in for the music but two hours is not enough time to build an audience. Rather music, I’d air WAMU’s new 1A. I’d keep Blue Plate Special (a blues program) at Noon.

CPR also has the advantage of being the first station in the market to air All Things Considered (ATC) at 3:00pm.  By waiting until 4:00pm to start ATC, KRCC is letting listeners establish the habit of tuning elsewhere for ATC. This can become a habit.

KRCC can also make better use of The World, currently airing at 7:00pm. I’d move it to 2:00pm and have Fresh Air on at 1:00p.

Both stations are competitive in the key Saturday hours. Both will have to replace Best of Car Talk soon, so KRCC should put something sexy in the 10:00am hour.  Personally, I’d choose The Moth Radio Hour.

The most important thing for KRCC to do is to re-evaluate their lack of commitment to news.  For an example, look at KUNC in Northern Colorado. They are having much better success competing with CPR because of their news focus on their area.

KRCC: Be who you are.  CPR’s biggest advantage, statewide news coverage, is also a liability when competing against KRCC. KRCC should be all about Colorado Springs and Pueblo all the time.  This is your hometown, so don’t give your listeners reasons to tune away. Adding more news and information is essential to compete with the out-of-town interlopers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Life is good for most folks in Santa Cruz, California.  The high today is predicted to be 55. Plans are developing for the annual Fungus Fair. A new community radio station to replace KUSP may be on the horizon.

KAZU is now the undisputed noncom radio king, picking up many of KUSP’s former listeners. They now have the NPR News market to themselves.

Now comes the news that the old KUSP crew may be making a comeback. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports [link] that Central Coast Community Radio (CCCR) has reached a tentative deal to purchase the license and transmitter space of KSRI (90.7 FM) for $265,000. KSRI’s current owner is the Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the same organization that bought bankrupt KUSP in late 2016 for $605,000.

CCCR needs to raise $350,000 in 45 days to complete the transaction. According to CCCR’s website [link] around $23,000 in “crowd funding” has been pledged as of January 17th

As you know, I reported extensively on the demise of KUSP. I wish CCCR success with the pending new venture.  I hope they can raise the cash to purchase the license. However, it appears many of the same people who pissed KUSP down their legs are behind CCCR.  This does not bode well for the future.


The prime mover behind CCCR is author and activist Rachel Goodman, a former KUSP employee and champion of Pataphysical Broadcasting, the organization that used to own KUSP. Goodman led a failed effort to buy KUSP’s license at auction, but did not raise enough money to out-bid EMF.

Goodman told the Sentinel:

“We had told everyone that if we don’t buy KUSP, you get your money back. And we kept that promise. But now, most people are generously putting that money back in the coffers for this new effort.”


Goodman says CCCR has many of the programmers the once were on KUSP lined up for the new station. However, Goodman’s problem is she talks in glowing general language about “community radio.” It sounds like a time-warp the 1970’s – big on concepts and aspirations but very short on reality. Check out CCCR’s “crowd funding” promo video: 

Ever the optimist, Goodman has posted a tentative schedule for the station on the CCCR site. Consider these “music hear” programs planned for the new station:

The Poetry Show: Dennis Morton hosts poetry readings and interviews the poets.

Ask Dr. Dawn: Dr. Dawn Motyka hosts an informational call-in program about medical errors, drug prices and superbugs.

The Earth Show: Interviews with local and national experts talk about water resources, air quality, environmental policy and sustainability.

Get Outdoors!: Hosted by pro surfers and mountain bikers, this show will highlight outdoor recreational sports activities and lifestyle topics.

The Esalen Hour: Recordings of speakers at venerable retreat for holistic healing and new thinking.

Talk of the Bay: Rachel Goodman and Royal Calkins host interviews with activists and commentary about local issues.

Would you pledge money to support a station that brings you these shows?

CCCR is a project sponsored by Media Watch [link], a nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is "Challenging racism, sexism, and violence in media."


Mark Vogelzang
Don’t ever under-estimate Mark Vogelzang, CEO of Maine Public Broadcasting. Vogelzang is builder and visionary, skills he is putting to good use in Maine.

Vogelzang created the template for Vermont Public Radio’s success and brought the programming of WHYY, Philadelphia, into the modern world. He learned about regional broadcasting at his first gig managing powerful CCM outlet KDCR in rural Iowa.

Vogelzang is now developing Maine Public’s Classical music 24/7 channel and streamlining Maine Public’s News channel. The new fulltime Classical service, is listed in Nielsen Audio estimates as “WFYB” – the primary station. WFYB’s signals cover only a fraction of the state but it does reach all three rated markets.

Here are the Nielsen Audio estimates for Fall 2016 compared to Fall 2015:

We unofficially crunched the data to create a “Maine Book” for illustration purposes. Note that there may be some duplication of listeners in this chart:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Kurt Hanson’s RAIN NEWS reports [link] reports that PRX has inked a deal with Market Enginuity [link] to represent PRX for sponsorship revenue for programs and Radiotopia podcasts.

Market Enginuity represents some of the leading public media organizations including KCRW, WAMU, KERA, KUHF, KNKX, KJAZZ/KBAQ, KUT and TPT – Twin Cities PBS. 

The company specializes in hiring, training and managing embedded sales reps at its client stations for digital ad sales and strategy.

Jim Taszarek
In a press release, Market Enginuity Managing Director Jim Taszarek said:

“We’re excited to increase capacity for PRX, helping them grow revenue and scale for their highly talented, creative and inventive producers.”

Market Enginuity evolved out of the Public Radio Partnership Program (PRUP) that started in 1997 with a grant from CPB. A goal of the PRUP was to cross-pollinate best practices of commercial broadcasters to public media organizations.


WCQS in Asheville is one of the most successful dual-format NPR News and Classical stations in the public radio system. According to Nielsen Audio estimates for Fall 2016, listeners seem to agree. WCQS’ weekly cumulative listeners grew 30% over the year since Fall 2015.  Triple A WNCW was also up.

Akron is the home market for WKSU, Kent, Ohio. WKSU competes in Cleveland but most its listeners are scattered throughout northern and central Ohio. 

I wish WAPS subscribed to the Nielsen ratings. They likely have significant listening. Folks say Brad Savage is doing a great job at WAPS.

I’ll bet you didn’t know The World’s Number One Student-Run College Radio Station is in Akron. That is the claim made by WZIP – Z88, and it may be true. WZIP [link] is owned by the University of Akron and is operated by AU students with a bit of faculty guidance. 

WZIP’s estimated weekly listeners were down 9% in Fall 2016 compared with Fall 2015.

As I write this post, an ice storm is starting in Minneapolis.  I wish I was on the beach in Maui listening to Hawaii Public Radio.

KIWR a/k/a 89.7 The River is proof that programming causes an audience. They are the center of the Omaha rock music scene mixing Triple A with alternative rock, a mix that pleases thousands of listeners.  The River is also great at recruiting new students for the licensee, Iowa Western Technical College.

According audited financial information on the station website [link], KIWR operates with a cash budget of around $700,000.  In FY 2015 KIWR received around $270,000 in memberships, $215,000 in underwriting, $100,000 from CPB and ZERO from the College. The River is self-supporting, an example other noncoms should consider for a struggling station.

Monday, January 16, 2017


On Friday (1/13) Politico reported [link] the launch of a new daily, Monday through Thursday, talk program called "Indivisible." It will debut on Monday, January 23rd. "Indivisible" is co-produced by WNYC and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), in conjunction will The Economist

According to a press release [link], the purpose of "Indivisible" is …to convene a nightly gathering for Americans to talk, debate, and find common ground in the first 100 days of the new administration.

"Indivisible" [link] is a 14-week limited series and will be available to stations for one-hour at 8:00pm ET. WNYC and MPR hope for maximum clearance on NPR News stations nationwide. The program will also be available as a podcast.


"Indivisible" will have four hosts, each appearing on a specific evening:


WNYC’s Kai Wright along with co-hosts John Prideaux and Anne McElvoy of The Economist partner on a program that allows Americans to hear and discuss how the world is reacting to the changes that are coming to Washington and what new opportunities and challenges arise as a result. 


WNYC's Brian Lehrer hosts a program evaluating how — and how quickly —American norms are changing. How are language, ethics, the law, and our institutions adopting new contours under a new and unprecedented leader?


Charlie Sykes, a leading voice in conservative talk radio for 25 years, will interview policy makers and engage listeners in conversation that weighs developments in the new administration’s first 100 days against American values and conservative principles.


Minnesota Public Radio's Kerri Miller will examine American identity at this moment of change. Who is a part of the national narrative, who feels left out, and how might our long-term sense of ourselves change? 

Dave Kansas, Executive Vice President, American Public Media Group (APM) and MPR said "Indivisible" will be: “...geared to synthesize what has happened each day during the first 100 days of the new administration and give our audiences a platform to reflect and share their perspectives.”

KEN SAYS: Congratulations to WNYC and MPR for creating this important programming. I hope it receives ample carriage because it is doing what broadcast radio does best: providing urgent, in-the-moment information and analysis. The key to radio’s future is to be the place where listeners know they can find out what is happening now and the implications for the immediate future.


Grand Rapids is an important market for Michigan Radio and Michigan Radio is important to listeners in “GR.”  WUOM’s presence continues to grow, considerably out-pacing local NPR News stations.

I miss WCSG’s presence in this “book” – apparently they did not subscribe to the Nielsen Audio estimates.  WCSG is a pioneer Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) station that is known as an innovator.

After thinking about it, I am sorry I seemed to dismiss WVGU-AM a/k/a Real Oldies 1490 & 850 AM [link]. Last July I implied [link] that I could see no educational purpose for the station.  I still wonder what is "educational" about hearing Patches by Dickey Lee.

Where Real Oldies 1490 & 850 AM excels is maximizing “sense of place.” The voices on the station are/were pop culture icons in the area and are deeply ingrained in the memories of locals. Plus, they appear to be contributing to WVGU’s bottom line.

At first glance, the numbers from Dayton seem to indicate Cincinnati stations taking turf away from local voices.  But WDPR and WYSO are strong shops and won’t displaced.

I listed the Nielsen Audio estimates for WNKU from Fall 2015 because they demonstrate the popularity and reach of the Triple A station.  WNKU still has not been sold.  Last Spring I predicted that it would be sold quickly because Northern Kentucky University had hired Kalil & Company, a broker with a reputation for getting results.  There must be something that is causing the delays – perhaps the fate of commercial station repeaters.  Whatever, my best wishes are with the folks still running WNKU.

Fall 2016 was a very positive “book” for three noncom stations in Tulsa. Nice to see Classical KWTU get a boost. I am not familiar with KLRC, so I don’t know why they lost two-thirds of their listeners since Fall 2015.