Friday, March 10, 2017


On Thursday (2/25) we published a calendar of upcoming conferences that may be of interest to noncommercial media folks [link]. A reader reminded us that we failed to include one of the biggest media conferences of the year: the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Spring Show April 22 – 27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center an adjoining Las Vegas Westgate Hotel, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton.
Over 100,000 people from all kinds of electronic media attend the NAB Show each year. Many of people attending the spring conference in April come from television, cable and related video services industries. NAB also stages a much smaller Radio Show each year in the fall.  With the convergence of media, the April show typically has something for someone.




NAB Show claims to be the world's largest collection of vendors competing in media and entertainment. This year over 1,700 vendors will be in Vegas.

The Show Floor is organized into eight Exhibit Categories: Acquisition & Production. Display Systems, Distribution/Delivery/Online Video, Management & Systems, Outdoor & Mobil Media, Post Production, Pro Audio and Radio. Radio exhibits and vendors are located in the North Hall of the Convention Center.

According to NAB, there will be 15 Advertising and Media Sales Solutions exhibitors, 35 DAB/IBOC/HD Radio exhibitors, 38 Radio Automation System exhibitors and 30 vendors showcasing Radio Master Control systems.


The NAB Show offers sessions in several tracks: TV, Radio, Film, Mobile, Advertising, Gaming, Live Events, Sound and Video. New tracks have been added for folks interested in media for Houses of Worship, Military, Government and Augmented Reality.


Delila, Syndicated radio host; Nigel Fry, Head of Distribution for BBC World Service Group; Nate Landau, Chief Digital Officer for New York Public Radio;  Jason Hoch, Chief Content Officer for HowStuffWorks; Tom Bernard, Morning Show Host and podcaster; and, Fred and Paul Jacobs, Jacobs Media Strategies.


Packages range from $185 to $605, depending on the number of sessions and events a registrant wants to attend.  Some other activities have their own admission charges.


The National Association of Gay & Lesbian Broadcasters is hosting the 39th annual gathering for folks of all sexual orientations and political persuasions. LGBT media folks and friends are scheduled to meet April 25 at 7pm at Quadz Video Bar located at 4640 Paradise Road. No RSVPs are required and there is no cover charge.

Lyle Henry from KUSC has stepped down from his role as lead organizer of the event but is expected to attend.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


A new study – U.S. Classical Music Public Radio Workforce – is providing a fresh portrait of the people who make classical music, as heard on public radio, possible. Classical Music Rising (CMR), an initiative sponsored by Station Resource Group (SRG), is releasing the comprehensive fact-fining study today. The report, survey details and background data are available here 

Classical Music Rising is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by participating station partners.

Takeaways from the study show the reality of classical music on public radio in America today.  They include:

• An aging workforce with very few new job vacancies now or in the foreseeable future. 

• A nondiverse workforce with very few opportunities to hire new diverse talent now and 
in the foreseeable future. 

• The need for skills training related to onair presentation, digital production and social media, and fundraising to effectively engage new audiences and members. 

• The lack of a younger ‘bench’ to take classical forward into the future combined with worries that classical music media is not an attractive career choice for younger talent. 

• The ability of hosts and staff to be ‘local’ and ‘engaged’ with listeners in a climate of tight resources. 

• Budgets and human resources are being stretched to thin.
• Substantial concerns at mixedformat stations about the future of the classical format 
on these stations. 

The study was conducted In November and December 2016 and January 2017 by a Working Group assembled by SRG, the CMR steering committee and Wende Persons, Managing Director of CMR. Judy McAlpine of McAlpine Creative Consulting led the group. 

Other public radio classical execs participating were Frank Dominguez, GM and Content Director at WDAV Charlotte; José Fajardo, President, President of Hawaii Public Radio; Daniel Gilliam, Director of Radio at Louisville Public Media;
Ruth Phinney, PD of WXXI FM; and, Rochester
; Maggie Stapleton, Assistant Station Manager at KING in Seattle.

The scope of the research was unprecedented. Respondents were sorted into three groups: All-Classical stations, Mixed format stations and four national organizations that provide programming and guidance to the stations.


In this group there are 51 in-tab stations, such as WQXR, KUSC and KING. The study found that the total number of “content-centered” employees at these stations is 483 people. There are an additional 430 support people.


In this group there are 30 in-tab stations, such as KPBS, WSHU and WFIU. The study found that the total number of “content-centered” employees at these stations is 102 people. There are an additional 60 support people.


All four national organizations participated: American Public Media (APM), National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and the WFMT Radio Network. The total number of “content-centered” employees at these stations is 68 people. There are an additional 53 support people.

The total number of people working in the public radio classical ecosystem is well over a thousand talent and dedicated pros.


The Working Group that conducted the study proposed three major recommendations:

• Create training modules for onair presentation skills and digital skills for hosts/producers. 

• Create a fellowship/internship program to develop new talent at stations with potential to increase diversity of staff, add to diversity of ideas and strengthen local connection. 

• Partner with organizations such as AIR to increase diversity and skills related to classical content, particularly digital content. 

KEN SAYS: This is an important document, destined for the time capsule.  It provides the clearest look I've seen of the human infrastructure of the people behind classical music on public radio and companion media.

I believe that classical music on public radio is at tipping point. I wrote about the tipping point for commercial classical stations in August, 2016 [link].

I strongly recommend reading the entire report

We will high-light various factoids in coming posts.

Personally, I think noncommercial classical radio and companion media needs a national voice - a human being who is not afraid of speaking frankly about the role of music in our society. Listeners need to notice us and consider us a voice of reason. They will support action.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared Monday, July 6, 2015

Paul Marszalek
I recommend a post by Paul Marszalek on his blog In the article, Paul asks a great question: Is Podcasting in a Bubble and Will it Burst?

Is Podcasting in a bubble and when will it burst?

Marszalek is a big-picture strategist.  He sees trends and looks beyond the hype of the moment. Paul co-founded a smart company – Media Mechanics - with partners Mike Henry and Ben Manilla. These are folks who intuitively know media and it’s role in our lives. He has seen lots of fads come and go.

With so much buzz and so much money being thrown around, the podcasting space is starting to feel a little like a tech bubble. How big can it get? Will it burst and when?

With so much good stuff – Serial, This American Life, WTF, Invisibilia, Radiolab, 99% Invisible, Freakonomics, Planet Money, The Moth and The Nerdist — just to name a few long-form podcasts. How much can we, folks with only 24 hours a day, consume this much audio.


How do you divide your media day?  I tend to focus on what matters in the moment. Whenever I add a new media source/platform there is less time available for other stuff on my media menu. There are only 24 hours each day.

In November 2014 we reported on an Edison Research study called SHARE OF EAR. SHARE OF EAR provides measurement of all audio consumption, including AM/FM radio stations, online radio stations, podcasts and even listeners’ own music collections.

SHARE OF EAR is important because it shows how audio platforms compete with each other for the listener’s “shelf space.” The study is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,096 Americans ages 13+ who completed a 24-hour audio listening diary during May 2014.

It reveals that Americans spend an average of 4 hours and 5 minutes each day consuming audio. This chart shows the top-line results of the study:


According to another study from Edison Research [link], more than 40% of Americans ages 18 and older have ever listened to an audiobook, and in the last year fully 22% of Americans have enjoyed one (approximately 55 million persons). The research was unveiled in late May at an Audio Publishers Association event in New York [link].

In addition, the research shows that audiobooks are being consumed among younger adults in surprising numbers, aided by the digital device revolution. After all, says Edison VP Tom Webster, what’s the difference between an audiobook and a long podcast? Our research shows audiobooks are part of the same renaissance in audio consumption.”

Everyone seems to be scrambling to get a piece of The New Golden Age of Audio.


Given this context, Marszalek observes:
The hit podcast Serial, a spinoff of This American Life has focused so much attention on the medium that [big] money is now entering the space, aggregators are cherry-picking the top indie podcasts…

It seems that [podcasting] is indeed having its moment right now – thanks largely to the high-end, expensive journalism, production values, and core values of public radio. Right now we’re listening to the best of the best. Will we have any time for the best of the rest?

In June 2015, the New York Times reported: The largest podcasting operations are attracting sizable audiences and advertising revenue. The ads work. Large and small advertisers report a significant upside to the campaigns they run on podcasts, and ad rates on top-tier podcasts approach $100 per thousand listeners, which is many times what it costs advertisers to reach audiences in most other digital formats.

TRANSLATION: Most podcasts are not reaching many people. Often you can count the number of listeners on your fingers.

FACT: Podcasts are not bulk audience delivery. They require a listener to have the time available and a deep interest in the program.

Marszalek adds an important caution for public media folks:

In television, we simultaneously develop tens of shows in hopes of finding a single hit. There are occasional exceptions. In radio, especially public radio, it tends to be more of a “all our eggs in one basket” approach, with very few programs in development and stakes riding high on the few that are. That’s a monster red flag – an approach that will not work in the current podcasting environment.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


In an effort to make more public radio news programming available to Western North Carolina listeners, WCQS [link] debuted a new full-time News and Information second station yesterday (3/6). With the addition of the second station, the organization is now Blue Ridge Public Radio (BPR).  The new station is called BPR News.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times [link], the move coincides with a heavy investment in BPR’s local news capacity. WQCS will continue its dual format of NPR newsmagazines and Classical music.

BPR News originates from WYQS, licenseD to Mars Hill, NC.  Mars Hill is located about 25 miles north of Asheville. WYCS feeds it’s programming to FM translators in Asheville (107.9),
Brevard (101.5),
Bryson City (99.1), Hendersonville (103.1) and
Waynesville-Hazelwood (98.3).

David Feingold

Regarding WYQS’ relatively small coverage area, BPR CEO David Feingold says WYQS is mainly a “digital play.” 

Over-the-air broadcast service is secondary to BPR News’s online and mobile streaming apps such as NPR One and the new BPR News app. 

Finegold’s logic is that BPR News can be heard anywhere in the world via online and mobile devices.

KEN SAYS: I hope Feingold’s plan works.  However, I recommend a different approach. Of course, digital is the wave of the future but we aren’t there yet. Over 90% of radio listening is still comes from broadcast signals, particularly by listeners in vehicles. It is cool to have listeners in Ghana, but it is unlikely they will support BPR. A local service needs the biggest coverage signal possible.

I would put BRP’s new 24/7 news station on the strongest signal available. That is WCQS’ monster signal.  Here is a comparison of BPR’s two signals:

In WCQS's large coverage area the are a lot of listeners who don’t have a second choice for NPR News.  So, as they say, “fish where the fish are.”

Monday, March 6, 2017


Brown University is close to putting WBRU [link], their legendary college radio station, up for sale. WBRU operates as a commercial station but it is administered by a not-for-profit organization, Brown Broadcasting Service (BBS). 

Last week Board of BBS voted to seek a buyer for the station. The full membership of BBS, 50 students, will vote on the proposed sale on March 11th.

The stated reason for the sale is that advertisers aren’t buying enough commercial time for the station to pay its bills. 

WBRU has reportedly has lost money year after year. BBS’s IRS 990 for 2014, the most recent available, showed the station had revenues of $1.382 million, expenses of $1,463 million, leaving a net loss of around $80,000.

The truth about WBRU is that it isn’t successful as a commercial venture or as a noncom organization. The governance and management of WBRU is so complicated and dysfunctional it is hard to believe folks with a college education actually dreamed it up. Rather than provide a viable plan for the future, Brown has dithered away this precious resource.

Brown University’s move into commercial radio broadcasting began over 50 years ago.  Back in 1965, a local retailer donated the FCC license for WPFM, 95.5 FM, to Brown. At the time, FM stations were considered a liability. Many commercial broadcasters gave up on FM and sold or donated their FM frequencies.

BBS, a nonprofit entity, was established to operate the station.  Brown’s intention was that 95.5 FM be a student station.  BBS was a way to include students.  It made sense in the 1960s when few people paid attention to FM. But the music and media landscapes were changing.

By the late 1960s, WBRU was an “underground” rock station that positioned itself as a hipper alternative to Boston’s WBCN. WBRU played artists such as Frank Zappa, The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine, music not played on mainstream radio. WBRU was also a strident voice of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

People noticed WBRU and the station was known nationwide as a progressive rock trendsetter. The station had a “seeds and stems” budget, and that was fine for the times.

Yoko Ono at WBRU in 1985
In the 1970s, FM rock radio became a big business. To compete, WBRU switched to an Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format and became a major presence in southern New England. However, AOR was a mainstream format and WBRU began to loose its independent cred.

In 1988, WBRU embraced alternative “modern rock” playing new indie artists such as REM, Nirvana and the Talking Heads. Rolling Stone magazine named WBRU one of the best radio stations in the country. 

 Kurt Cobain's last radio interview before his death was on WBRU.

Despite WBRU’s popularity, it continued to be operate like a mom-and-pop college rock station.  It was not competitive with other commercial stations. Brown never changed the governance and management structure to be more competitive.

Then in 1992, Brown’s Board of Trustees tried to sell the station to an unnamed NPR station, most likely WBUR. Students and alumni protested and squashed the deal. WBRU continued as an ineffective commercial station, as it is today.


By any measure, other than the hipness of the music, WBRU is a failure. Consider these facts:

• WBRU’s annual revenue of around $1.3 million is embarrassedly small for a commercial station in a market the size of Providence. Similar commercial stations often have annual revenue of $5 million to $10 million or more.

• WBRU’s lacks a competitive commercial sales effort. According to BBS’s IRS filing, the Sales Manager was paid around $120,000 and two account reps were paid around $50,000.  This many sound like big bucks for a noncom but for a commercial station this is a sign that not much business is being written.

• WBRU does not subscribe to Nielsen Audio’s PPM ratings. Usually this means the station does not have many listeners. For commercial stations in a large market like Providence, most advertisers use the metrics provided by Nielsen to establish rates.

• WBRU began voice-tracking many hours of its programming in 2010 to save money. This compromised the station’s role as a curator.

• The CEO and other top management people of the station and BBS are students. Only 
the Sales manager and account reps are paid. This guarantees frequent turnover that makes long-term planning impossible.


KEN SAYS: Obviously Brown University should choose whether WBRU is a commercial station or a noncommercial station.  If it is a commercial station, pros should operate it.

To me, the best choice is to convert WBRU to noncom. 

Call Mike Henry and change the format to “music discovery” Triple A like The Current oR WXPN. 

In a perfect world, Brown would donate WBRU to Rhode Island Public Media.

Here is a YouTube video with the story of Buddy FM: