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Airwaves: November 11, 2005

Radio Time Warp

I entered a time-warp this week when I took a trip to Sacramento. Settling down for the evening in the hotel I turned on the radio, first to Boss 101.9 KCCL, where I heard '80s music. Then over to 92.1 The Flash, where I heard ... '80s music. KFRC from San Francisco was playing ... '80s music. 93.7 KQJK was playing, you guessed it, '80s music.

Of course not every station I tuned in was playing '80s music. Some were playing hits of the '70s. According to the Sacramento Bee, there are eight -- count 'em, eight -- radio stations in the greater Central Valley playing primarily late '70s and '80s rock and Urban hits.

Interestingly, by the way, most of the stations I heard do a netter job of production and formatics than their LA counterparts. Sacramento stations are far less cluttered on the air, and part of that has to do with the fact that they aren't afraid to play jingles. But I digress.

What drives this trend and will it move down South?
According to the Bee, the trend is driven by a desire for advertisers and media to reach a demographic group that is too young to count themselves as a Baby Boomer and too young to be considered Generation X. The age group that truly is the tail end of the Boom, yet too young to have been part of Woodstock, free love or the Vietnam War, and too young to have any personal memory of the Kennedy assassination.

In other words, me.

The Bee says that these late Boomers -- currently in their 40s -- are collectively known as Generation Jones, derived from the '70s verb "to jones," or to have a deep yearning.
That's me. I have a yearning to bring back the great radio stations of the past: KHJ, Ten-Q, KEZY, top-40 KFI, KIQQ, K-WEST, KMET and even KIIS-FM. In my mind, I have every element for a relaunch of top-40 KHJ.

My wife Jean says I'm just weird.

Regardless, while the trend of marketing to the Jonses is solid up North, it hasn't quite hit here in Los Angeles. JACK-FM is a start, I suppose, but the station is so formatically lame that I can hardly count it as part of this trend. But there are so many stations that could potentially capitalize on this movement, you might see some stations trying it out in the future.

Future Shock

Interestingly, on the flight to Sacramento I was thinking about the possibilities for extra formats if HD Radio actually catches on in the future. HD Radio, which sends a digital signal from a regular transmitter, can allow FM stations to broadcast more than one station on the same frequency at the same time.

Think of it, I thought to myself, KIIS-FM could still broadcast as it does now, but KIIS-FM-HD could resurrect the great KIIS-FM of the 1980s, playing, hopefully, current hit music with the classic top-40 presentation. JACK-FM could send out KNX-FM-HD and bring back the mellow sound to Southern California. And of course KRTH could bring back former sister top-40 legend, KHJ-HD.

Just a thought ...


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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