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Radio AM to FM: June 16, 2000

Radio Free ...

Radio and Records, long the newspaper of record for the radio industry if not the music industry, has given radio junkies another source of information on the web.

Actually it's always been there, but for most of its existence, most of the site has been available as a subscription-only service. And an expensive one at that, as readers couldn't subscribe to the internet site without subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper, and the print edition alone costs $299 per year. Add in the web site and you're looking at over $400 per year.

Yet perhaps due to the fact that much of the information on the R&R site was available free on the numerous other radio-related web sites, Radio and Records has decided to offer the site fee-free. A letter from Ron Rodrigues explained it this way:

"Dear Readers: Good news! R&R has removed subscriber restrictions to all areas of the web site. This means that all users can now access Today's News. Look for a redesigned menu, as well as additional features, next Friday, June 9. Thank you for your continued support. Sincerely, Ron Rodrigues, Editor-In-Chief."

June 9th came and went without a redesign, but the information on the site is interesting and well worth checking out.

All Commercials All The Time

I've heard the stories about a station called K-ADS, that played nothing but classified advertising throughout the day. Well KLSX (97.1 FM) is going one better, approaching all commercials throughout the day.

Radio historian Don Barrett recently documented a commercial set on KLSX's Howard Stern Morning Zoo program that actually went at least 30 minutes; it may have been longer but Barrett ran out of tape.

"But Howard goes on for extended time periods," they'll say. "Howard's fans don't mind listening to extended commercial sets." True, maybe. But even Stern himself is complaining about the spot load on KLSX. Seems that KLSX not only tape-delays the Stern program for local time, it also delays the delay by extending the commercial breaks even longer -- adding more and more ads to a program already known for having many ads.

And its not just Stern's show. The primary reason KLSX does so well in ad revenue lies not with attracting a certain audience or performing well in the ratings. KLSX has one of the highest commercial spot loads in the industry. More commercials = more revenue.

It's a short-term profit grab that will eventually hurt radio (and talk radio) the same way that high commercial loads on AM radio stations of the 1970s paved the way for a massive move to FM. It hurts both advertisers who don't get heard among the clutter, and personalities like Stern, who lose listeners and thus net worth. The winners? Listeners, who move on to other entertainment sources like CDs, cassettes and perhaps in the future, satellite subscription radio.

The difference between then and now? Those AM stations were playing only 15-20 minutes of commercials per hour.


Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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