Could Randy Michaels Be Thinking More Newsradio Than All-News?

Posted on June 24, 2011

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Randy Michael’s acquisition of three Emmis stations (WKQX and WLUP/Chicago and WRXP/New York) has generated a metric ton of speculation about the future of each station’s format.

One of the most consistent rumors is an all-news format for both WKQX and WRXP.

There are a couple of glaring reasons that this idea sounds ridiculous on the surface:

  • Competition: Both markets already have all-news stations owned by CBS. In Chicago, WBBM-AM is consistently one of the top three stations in the market for 6+ ratings. In New York an all-news station would have two competitors including the legendary 1010 WINS.
  • Cost: The format is expensive. To do it right, all-news is probably the most personnel intensive format you can choose, which means it ain’t cheap.

However, I believe you can make a strong case for launching an FM version of the all-news format when you consider:

  • WTOP: Hubbard’s all-news WTOP-FM in Washington D.C. is the number one station in the market 6+ by a large margin. The station was also the highest billing station in the country in 2010. That probably indicates their demographic appeal is wider than AM all-news station or they wouldn’t be able to bring in that much revenue.
  • PPM: The format is incredibly PPM-friendly. The constant updates and stream of important information leads to a huge cume and lots of occasions of listening; two things we know equate to ratings with PPM.

More importantly, take a minute to consider a re-imagined all-news format. Take the basic principles of WBBM-AM or WINS and tailor them to an 18-49 year-old audience.

That could be fun.

Keep the pacing and timing of the rigid, segmented clock the AM all-news outlets use but insert content for a younger audience.

  • Business reports don’t have to be stodgy, droning stock market updates. Widen the focus. Talk about career management and saving money. 
  • Cover entertainment and I don’t just mean Linday Lohan’s latest breakdown. In Chicago, that means a reporter at Lollapalooza, Pitchfork or Bluefest turning in twice hourly reports that include clips of interviews with artists.
  • Make technology a regular part of the hour. Cover everything from new products to clever apps.
  • Have some fun. Anything from trivia contests and giveaways to a slot in the clock for a :60 second comedy clip each hour.

Then comes the best part; the online presence. All the content can be expanded online.

Using Chicago as an example, imagine a site that combines the best parts of ChicagoTribune.com (news), ESPNChicago.com (sports), Metromix (restaurants and events), C-net (technology),Craigslist (want-ads), Stub Hub (tickets) and Groupon (daily deals). 

All of which would be feeding content to the radio station which, in turn, would consistently point listeners to the site for more in-depth coverage.

It’s a big project but if anyone is going to do it,  I imagine Randy Michaels is the guy.

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