Friday, June 16, 2017


One of the nation’s last commercial Classical music stations, KHFM, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, is about to become a noncommercial station. 

The move is part of a larger reorganization of local stations prompted by commercial owner American General Media.

When American General purchased four local stations recently, they were required to divest ownership of some of their existing stations to be in compliance with FCC ownership limits. American General is donating KHFM to the American General Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization doing business as KHFM Community Partners. The station will switch to noncommercial status when the FCC approves the license transfer.

KHFM will be staying in the “family” because the American General Media Foundation is controlled Rogers Brandon, the CEO of American General. According to the foundation’s 2015 IRS 990 tax filing, it has been operating as the fiduciary for KHFM’s public events.

KHFM is licensed to Santa Fe but it puts a strong signal into the Albuquerque metro (the coverage map is on the right).  The call letters KHFM have been used in market since 1954.  KHFM moved to its current frequency – 95.5 FM – in 2001. KHFM has not recently subscribed to Nielsen Audio ratings.  Based on past performance, it is thought KHFM has between 40,000 and 50,000 weekly cumulative listeners.

The change to noncom by KHFM leaves two remaining major commercial Classical music stations: WFMT in Chicago and WRR in Dallas.  Both are owned by noncommercial entities.


Last month we wondered out loud if KNKX (formerly KPLU) had lost its independence mojo.  The May Nielsen Audio ratings show KNKX's mojo is indeed rising. Compared to April, KNKX’s estimated weekly listeners were up over 12%.

Also in “Sea Tac” Triple A KEXP was up 8% from April. Classical KING lost 14% of its estimated weekly listeners.   

It is unknown if these classical listeners move to Northwest Public Radio’s repeater KVTI.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex NPR News station KERA saw considerable erosion of its estimated weekly listeners.  In fact, all of the noncoms in the market except Triple A KKXT, lost weekly listeners.

Most noncom stations in the Twin Cities also saw declines in weekly listeners from April to May. All three American Public Media (APM) stations – KNOW, 89.3 The Current and KSJN lost listeners.

WHYY, Philadelphia had a big gain in estimated weekly listeners, up over 40,000 (10%) from April.

Estimated weekly listeners were up at all three Colorado Public Radio (CPR) stations. CPR’s OpenAir Triple A station KVOQ was up for the fourth straight book.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


One of my favorite ways to check out life in places I’d like to visit is to find "Best Of" editions that published in local media. These candid reviews reveal a lot about the hearts and minds of residents.

Hearts are full and minds are smart and motivated in New Hampshire. The readers of New Hampshire Magazine [link] have voted New Hampshire Public Radio’s (NHPR) daily talk show The Exchange with Laura Knoy the top radio talk show in the state. (NHPR also was voted the best radio station.) 

Knoy is well known for her interviews with presidential hopefuls and in-depth coverage of New England issues. 

She is also loved locally because she was born and raised in New Hampshire, then moved to big cities and then came back home to host The Exchange on NHPR. 

Knoy honed her chops at WAMU in DC and USA Today in New York before returning. 

In 2007 she was named New Hampshire Broadcaster of the Year by the New Hampshire Association of Broadcasters.

Have you been wondering what is the best New Hampshire-made toothpaste? 

Of course it is People’s Paste [link]. Readers heaped praise on People’s Paste because its all-natural, peppermint flavor and local organic ingredients. 

Rumor has it that brushing with People’s Paste makes you smarter, just like listening to Laura Knoy.


The first batch of May PPM estimates have been released and they show that NPR News listeners are sticking with news/talk stations six months after the fall 2016 elections. Of the eight stations in five markets we are reviewing today, estimated weekly cumulative listeners at six have increased in May compared with April.

In Washington, DC, not only did WAMU hold steady in weekly listeners, it again out-performed commercial giant WTOP in average-quarter hour (AQH) share for the fourth straight month. 

According to radio writer Tom Taylor [link], WAMU is number one in all day-parts. These are truly amazing results!

In New York both WNYC-FM and WNYC-AM increased their estimated weekly listeners compared to April. These long days help WNYC-AM because it’s signal is best during daylight hours. Triple A WFUV was also up significantly.

There were not many changes in Los Angeles. Jazz music KKJZ had the biggest gain in weekly listeners on May compared to April.

In the San Francisco PPM ratings, KQED dropped a little bit in estimated weekly listeners compared to April. KQED remains the NPR News station with the most estimated weekly listeners and continues to be the number one station in the market in AQH share. According to Tom Taylor’s reporting, KQED topped CBS O & O KCBS in almost all day-parts.

The intense competition between WBUR and WGBH continues in Boston. It is nice to see WERS’ estimated weekly listeners up substantially compared to April.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Note: Both of today’s stories are based on items I read in the Classical Music Rising (CMR) newsletter. CMR [link] is a collaborative project managed by the Station Resource Group of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio. To subscribe to the CMR newsletter, please contact Wende Persons, Managing Director, at


The San Francisco Opera has created quite a stir with some Bay Area opera-goers by changing its food and beverage policy to allow alcohol drinks into the concert hall. 

According to the Classical music blog Slipped Disc [link] the new policy is a six-month experiment. Drinks must be in an approved cup with lid, available at all bars in the War Memorial Opera House.

The new policy met with considerable disapproval. 

On the right are a few of the comments that Slipped Disc received.

Not all of the buzz has been negative. 

Some patrons feel the new policy is not a big deal. 

They point out the other theaters around the world have allowed alcohol drinks in theaters for many years.

A few patrons have enthusiastically applauded the change because they feel the booze may enhance performances. 

One imbibing patron said:

“Wagner listening needs beer – preferably strong and dark. Can’t imagine red wine with German opera.”


Promo Photo for Classically Cannabis
The Colorado Symphony is sponsoring a series of events called Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series. The events are held at Denver’s Space Gallery and feature performances by Symphony ensembles. Plenty of food, some infused with marijuana, was available to patron over the age of 21.

The events are sponsored by Colorado’s cannabis industry and are intended to be an “experience for music lovers.” Wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.

 There have been no reports of problems at any of Classically Cannabis events.


One of the most helpful aspects of Classical Music Rising is their attention to the operational aspects of “making radio.” Stations use various types of music scheduling and automation devices and software to create the air sound. Websites need organizational templates to present the content.

CMR conducted a Nuts and Bolts survey to learn what systems stations are using. You can download the complete results here.

What music programming system do you use?

Four out five stations reported they use Music Master [link], a major player in scheduling systems for radio and television stations and online programming providers. Music Master is based on the station’s music library. The database contains attributes of each piece of music in the library such as the composer, performers, era of the composition and recording, tempo and mood.

What automation system do you use?
Automation systems are the “spine” of the broadcasting chain. Stations that use automation systems (some stations don’t use them) make certain that various audio events occur at the right time and in the ride order. Stations that make the most use of automation systems interface with outside programming services such as Classical 24 and WFMT’s Beethoven Network.

Use of automation systems at stations is sometimes controversial with staff members because the systems often replace human hands. The two leading automation suppliers (for surveyed stations) are Wide Orbit [link] and Enco [link]. 

What website solution do you use?

Anyone who has created a website knows that there are many ways to build the site. I create SPARK! using a free Google Blogger template. 

Surveyed stations most often use Core Publisher [link] and WordPress [link]. 

Core Publisher is provided by NPR Digital Services. WordPress is private, for-profit vendor.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Since podcasting became a popular way to connect audio content directly with listeners podcast publishers have looked for reliable metrics that show listening numbers and how much of each podcast is being heard.

All Access media is reporting [link] that Apple has announced a new app, IOS 11, will be available this fall. 

The new analytic tool  that will provide in-episode data enabling content producers to see when and how long people listen, what they skip over and importantly if/when they bail out. 

A sample of the time-spent-listening chart is on the left.

Podcast industry observers are saying Apple is doing what was once thought to be impossible. Steven Goldstein, CEO of Amplifi Media, LLC, posted on his company’s blog [link]:

Up until now, Apple, which accounts for around 70% of all podcast consumption, provided sketchy download information which did not correlate to actual listening. Producers knew how many times a podcast was downloaded but no data on what was actually listened to. 

The advent of analytics will likely result in change for many podcasters by revealing real listening behavior. They will finally see what listeners like, and conversely, dislike and creators will be able to fine-tune the content accordingly. 

Apple's new analytics are likely to be a wake-up call for many producers and possibly a reset in the advertising community.

The All Access report says Apple’s updated app will allow producers to define episodes as regular episodes, bonus episodes and will allow seasons to be defined as well. This will give podcast producers a way to track listener consumption of full seasons of podcasts such as S-Town.

While listener behavior will be tracked, individual listeners will remain anonymous. Goldstein says the new Apple app will provide needed universal “currency” that will help quantify podcast listening and bring more ad dollars to podcast publishers.

According to Goldstein, Apple says there are now 400,000 individual podcasts and 14 million episodes in circulation.  Apple says it is approving 1,000 new podcasts each week. It is unknown if Apple will release an aggregated chart that might compete with Podtrac’s rankings charts.


According to the May Podtrac Audience Rankings, podcasts published by This American Life including Serial and S-Town lost 2,725,000 US Unique Monthly listeners between April and May, a 28% drop.

Meanwhile the hits just keep on coming for NPR’s roster of podcasts. 

NPR’s 38 podcasts gained an estimated 913,000 US Unique Monthly listeners, an increase of 7%. 

The publisher that had the biggest gain in US Unique Monthly listeners was the HowStuffWorks cluster, up 32% between April and May.

PRX’s The Moth podcast, dropped out of the Podtrac top ten, likely bumped by The Washington Post’s cluster of 9 podcast. We sent messages to Velvet Beard at Podtrac requesting The Moth’s numbers but she did not reply at the time of publication.

The New York Times cluster of 9 podcasts was up 15% from April to May, likely due to the popularity of The Daily. Podtrac does not provide estimates for individual podcasts.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Our post last Friday about the RTDNA’s latest survey [link] – Local News By the Numbers – received higher than usual reader attention. In that post I was critical of the value of this RTDNA survey and the conclusions of its author Bob Papper. 

I notified Papper about my post and this led to a spirited email debate.

I have included the entire verbatim email exchange with Papper in the lower portion of this post. Here are major points on which we disagree:

1.) Papper’s study does not consider the size of the audience reached. He says: I don’t report audience. Using this methodology, five minutes of news content on a station in rural Oklahoma has the same weight as five minutes of news on WAMU in Washington, DC.

I believe this fact makes the RTDNA study virtually meaningless. Papper, on the other hand, feels there is value in his methodology and findings because they reveal long-term trends. Papper has been using the same methodology for 23 years. and, for him, this provides an apples-to-apples comparison that he believes is meaningful. 

Many aspects of radio and news have changed in 23 years. In 1994, when the RTDNA Local News By the Numbers survey was first conducted, commercial radio had yet to experience the hyper-consolidation of ownership. Today many commercial radio newsrooms have been decimated by debt-ridden, shareholder-driven clusters of stations such as those operated by iHeartMedia and Cumulus.   

Public radio has also experienced many changes since 1994. Format focusing at NPR stations has led to 24/7 news operations on NPR stations in most major markets. NPR stations are hiring and commercial stations are still firing.

Since 1994 the public radio news audience has more than doubled. The commercial radio news audience has gotten smaller. The RTDNA study never mentions this fundamental change.

2.) Papper’s study arbitrarily defines stations into out-dated formats. He puts stations into baskets of “commercial” and “noncommercial” stations. 

The chart on the left is how Papper categorizes radio formats today. To me, his definitions don't jive with reality.

For instance, Papper believes that NPR News/Talk stations are, by his definition, the same as commercial news/talk stations. 

Using this rationale, conservative talker WOR-AM and WNYC AM/FM are lumped together as "news/talk" stations. Both of these stations have similar size audiences, but their programming and audience characteristics are completely different.

Papper believes that his methodology worked 23 years ago and it still works now because [paraphrasing]  we've always done it this way.

Radio formats are in constantly in flux.  NPR News stations have been very successful expanding their reach and impact on digital platforms. “NPR News” is now a national brand that is recognized by listeners from Seattle to Miami and Boston to San Diego.

3.) The RTDNA study – Local News By the Numbers – never defines “local news.” Is content “local” because it is broadcast on a local station, or is it "local" because it is delivered by local reporters, or is it "local" because it arises from a specific geographic area?

4.) Is Papper’s view of public radio news shaped by his personal experiences at WBST, Muncie a/k/a Indiana Public Radio. Public radio news and even WBST have changed since in the past 20 years. I hope Papper does not have a grudge against NPR stations based on his own experiences in Muncie.


Bob Papper has made, and is still making, terrific contributions to journalism and broadcast news.  But, just because something has “worked” for 23 years doesn’t make it useful today. I know that Bob Papper is a person of good will, has sound judgment and knows the landscape continually changes.

I suggest Papper and RTDNA examine their survey and refocus it on factors that matter such as the reach and impact of news content.  Why not stratify results by market size? Or, even better, weight data by using an index based on Nielsen Audio ratings. I recommend they do perceptual studies to measure the impact of news provided via broadcasting and digital devices and systems.

(Note: Some text was garbled when it was converted from the original emails)

Message #1 Mills to Papper

From:: Ken Mills
Sent:: Friday, June 9, 2017 8:40 AM
To:: Bob Papper
Subjject:: Criticism of Your RTDNA Survey

Hi Bob -- Just a quick note to tell you my blog today on my noncom media blog has a review of your recent RTDNA survey about news on radio. You can see it at: misses-point.html
I would appreciate your feedback. I have great respect for you and your work but your survey is sub par. Thank you, Ken Mills.

Message #2 Papper to Mills

From: Bob Papper <> Sent: Friday, June 9, 2017 1:23 PM
To: Ken Mills
Subject: RE: CriPcism of Your RTDNA Survey

I’m always delighted to hear from people commenting on the RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey of local radio and television news.

You’ve asked some interesting questions about the Survey, so let me attempt to answer. This is my 23rd year of doing the Survey, and there have been quite a few changes over that time. Some of those come as a result of people like you suggesting new questions or alterations to existing ones.

You wondered what percentage of the radio sample involved non-commercial stations. It’s 27.7%. You’re the first person who’s asked.

NPR News/Talk is not listed as a radio format because it is, pretty much by definition, “News/Talk.” That’s where it’s listed. The purpose of that chart was to provide a big picture look at where the radio news in the survey sample was coming from.

I’m puzzled by your complaint about my reporting on radio newscasts. Most local radio news is delivered within radio newscasts – and that includes public radio. I spent more than a dozen years as a public radio news director, and we had local newscasts. The station still does. For the most part, the amount of local radio news can be viewed in two ways: by newscast and by overall amount of news ... and I report both. I’m sorry, but I’m just not clear on your issue here. I also compared commercial radio and non-commercial radio in both areas, so I’m not sure what else I can do.

You first question was why I don’t measure “capacity for news generation” and “total amount of news created.” But I do. The total amount of news – including a comparison between commercial and non-commercial radio – was in the article you cited. Right after the average and median numbers on news, the article noted, “Usually, commercial stations run more local news than non-commercial stations, but this year, the average amount of news was identical ... although commercial stations were one-third higher in median amount of time.”

By “capacity for news generation” I assume you mean staffing. The survey data is broken up in a series of articles ... 9 in all. Eight include TV, and eight include radio. The RTDNA website includes last year’s staffing numbers because the new article hasn’t been published yet. I think it’s coming in the next week or two ... and it does include separate commercial and non-commercial radio staffing numbers – as did last year’s.

But don’t expect those staffing numbers to make non-commercial radio look like MPR. As you well know, Minnesota Public Radio is an operation unto itself. I
doubt there are more than three public stations in the country on a staffing par with MPR.

The answer to your question, “Why did you choose not to delineate NPR News stations in your survey because that is obviously where the most radio news now lives?” is complicated. First, I can’t agree with your premise. If the measure is total number of local radio news staffers, I’m confident that the total number in commercial radio far exceeds the total number in non-commercial radio.

You can probably argue that the median (but probably not average) number of news staffers at NPR stations THAT RUN LOCAL NEWS is larger than the median number at commercial stations, but now we really are dancing on that pinhead.

If the measure is total audience reached (either cume or average), then public radio still isn’t going to win the battle ... especially with giant all-news stations like WINS and WCBS on the commercial side. More to the point, I almost always note whatever the numbers are for public radio versus commercial radio ... in all eight articles.

Your last question, on “Why did you not consider the size of the audience reached with news programming?” is partly answered above, but the bigger point is that I don’t report audience. The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey reports on the state of the local radio and television news industry. I don’t report on the networks (although I’d love to do so if they would supply data to me), and I don’t get into audience size for either radio or TV. There are others who look at those areas, but it’s well outside the scope of what I can do.

I hope that helps to explain the Survey. As an aside, I used to work in Minneapolis (at WCCO-TV ... as one of the founding producers of a show called “Moore on Sunday” ... a long, long time ago). And I’m both a listener – and member – of my local public radio station. I’m also a long-time admirer of Minnesota Public Radio ... and I appreciate all the efforts you’ve made over the years to help make public radio even better.

Thanks for your note. Bob Papper

Message #3 Mills to Papper

From: Ken Mills
Sent: Friday, June 9, 2017 2:13 PM
To: Bob Papper
Subject: Re: CriPcism of Your RTDNA Survey


I appreciate your kind and informative reply. Thanks for mentioning your association with WCCO and Dave Moore. Moore’s legacy still looms large here in the Twin Cities.

I have one quick question: May I publish your comments on my blog?

Here are my thoughts on some of your questions:

NPR News/Talk is not listed as a radio format because it is, pretty much by definition, “News/Talk.” That’s where it’s listed.

I disagree that NPR News stations are not a distinct radio format. I am not aware of any commercial stations that program long-form news in magazine programs such as Morning Edition or All Things Considered. For example, you might say that WOR and WNYC in New York are both “News/Talk” but they are almost completely different in their programming. I don’t think they can be lumped together in the same basket.

I’m puzzled by your complaint about my reporting on radio newscasts. Most local radio news is delivered within radio newscasts – and that includes public radio. I spent more than a dozen years as a public radio news director, and we had local newscasts.

Perhaps we have a difference in our semantics. To me a newscast is a self-contained, five-minute or so, discreet entity with “spot news.” I can’t think of a single NPR News station that airs this type local newscast.
When public radio began in the 1970s there were quite a few local newscasts, but now there are very few. Now local reporting is inserted into NPR News magazines. These local reports are not “spot news.” They are long-form programming that mirror the sound and style of NPR.

[The] article noted, “Usually, commercial stations run more local news than non-commercial stations, but this year, the average amount of news was identical ... although commercial stations were one-third higher in median amount of time.”

I disagree. Other than News/Weather/Traffic stations like 1010 WINS and KNX, very few commercial stations carry as much news content as NPR News stations. For example in Minneapolis, WCCO-AM airs maybe a cumulative of three hours per day. KNOW, MPR’s news flagships air news content virtually 24/7.

By “capacity for news genera8on” I assume you mean staffing. As you well know, Minnesota Public Radio is an operation unto itself. I doubt there are more than three public stations in the country on a staffing par with MPR.

Perhaps there was a time years ago when this was true but it isn’t true today. There are now 20–30 NPR News stations that have newsrooms of equal or larger size than MPR. Top-of-mind examples include WNYC, WBUR, WAMU, KPCC, KQED, WBEZ, KUOW and KOPB. Also, there are several regional news cooperatives (sometimes called Local Journalism Centers) that provide news on specific topics and regions. I think the scale and scope of news on NPR News stations has expanded since you were involved in public radio.

The answer to your ques8on, “Why did you choose not to delineate NPR News stations in your survey because that is obviously where the most radio news now lives?” is complicated. First, I can’t agree with your premise. If the measure is total number of local radio news staffers, I’m confident that the total number in commercial radio far exceeds the total number in non-commercial radio.

One of my biggest disagreements with your methodology is to lump all commercial and noncommercial stations into distinct groups. You may be correct that commercial radio stations have more news staffers than noncommercial stations. But this metric is meaningless.

My point in saying “Why did you choose not to delineate NPR News stations in your survey because that is obviously where the most radio news now lives?” is based on looking at listening trends. According to the most recent Nielsen Audio estimates, NPR News stations are now reaching more listeners than commercial News/Talk stations.

In Washington DC, WAMU is beating WTOP (the top billing commercial station in the nation) in average- quarter-hour share. WAMU has three times more listeners than WMAL. In San Francisco, KQED tops KCBS in AQH share. Many NPR News stations now have historically high numbers of listeners. NPR News stations continue to grow audience even as persons using radio declines by one to two percent per year.

Your last ques8on, on “Why did you not consider the size of the audience reached with news programming?” is partly answered above, but the bigger point is that I don’t report audience.

This is my biggest disagreement with your survey. Using your methodology, a station in Peoria counts the same as a station in New York, correct? Are you saying that a station in Peoria has the same impact as a station in New York? No way.

Why not stratify your results by market size? Or, even better, weight your data by an index based on the ratings. This blog and other sources report Nielsen Audio ratings for commercial and noncommercial every month in the top 50 markets.

Despite our disagreements, we both seek to encourage excellence in broadcast news – both is quality and quantity.

Best wishes, Ken Mills.

Message #4 Papper to Mills

Bob Papper <> Fri 6/9/2017 4:55 PM
To:Ken Mills <>;

You’re more than welcome to publish my comments, but I don’t agree with your further comments here in your email.

First, you’re comparing apples and oranges. I report on LOCAL news ... you’re comparing NPR and a handful of extraordinary local efforts on one hand with mostly local news and talk on the other.

My local NPR affiliate runs two to four 2-minute newscasts per hour during ME and ATC. By the way, each contains two stories ... and the newscasts repeat every other Pme (most of the Pme). Frankly, it’s an embarrassment. In fairness, the staPon also runs a one-hour per weekday call-in talk show ... but no reporter ever steps outside of the staPon with a microphone. I think you’re generalizing about non-commercial news coverage based on a handful of excepPons to the rule. Even public staPons that take local news more seriously sPll just run 10-12 minutes per hour ... mostly, again, within ME and ATC. Many NPR news/talk affiliates run no local news. None.

Sure, I can find a few markets where the leading NPR affiliate beats any ONE of the all news or news-talk staPons, but I don’t believe you can find any market where the NPR affiliate(s) beats all of the news and news/talk staPons. That includes DC, San Francisco and Minneapolis/St. Paul ... which are the only markets I know where the public staPon comes out ahead of the single, top all news or news/talk staPon. It doesn’t work that way in NYC, LA, Chicago, Boston, etc. As much as I might prefer it the other way (just to have a more enlightened populace), the aggregated commercial all-news and news/talk audience dwarfs the non-commercial news/talk audience.