Also in today’s Herald
Hub talk radio in turmoil
Stations scramble to get key personalities in place
By Jessica Heslam | Sunday, November 11, 2007 | http://www.bostonherald.com
A drop in morning show listeners over the summer, and a dearth of major broadcast talent, has Hub talk radio stations scrambling to put key pieces in place midway through the crucial fall ratings period.
This is one of the most unstable periods in the modern history of Boston talk radio, said Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of the radio trade publication Talkers magazine. Bostons a very dramatic market.
Nearly every Hub talk radio host lost key listeners over the summer. Experts say the summer ratings period is the least important of the four annual books because listeners habits change in warmer months. People go on vacations and alter their schedules.
Still, the turmoil is severe and has forcefully gripped two key players: WTKK (96.9 FM) and WRKO (680 AM).
An array of fill-in hosts and newcomers like WRKOs Tom Finneran have failed to catch fire, and while stations can paper over those failures in the summer book, which ended Sept. 19, the void has continued well into the current crucial fall period.
Industry insiders say those lost listeners may be tuning into public radio, news radio, sports radio, music stations, satellite radio or their Ipods, a dispersal that could be challenging to reverse.
The fall ratings, which cover the Sept. 20 to Nov. 12 period, are due out in January. They will provide better insight into whether the turmoil is turning off listeners for good. The fall numbers are the ones that have the most impact on the life and death of radio, Harrison said. Judging radio by the summer book is like judging football by the pre-season.
WTKK-FM was hoping to have Howie Carr - the marquee talent of its AM rival, WRKO - behind their morning-drive mic by now. But the courts have blocked the move. The FM station even offered Carr a $50,000 bonus if he started before Oct. 1.
Carr is reportedly heading back to WRKO and has been off the air since September, and every single week of the fall book. During the summer, Carr took five weeks vacation out of the twelve week book - and his show lost key listeners.
He took off a good chunk of the summer. His share among 25 to 54-year-olds fell 39 percent from the spring, meaning 10,400 listeners in that age group were tuning in during an average 15 minutes. Last summer, his afternoon-drive show had 15,500 of those listeners.
WTKK has lost listeners in the morning without Don Imus. The shock jocks new radio show debuts in December but insiders say it wont go into syndication until January and its future in Boston remains unclear.
Officials from WTKK and WRKO did not respond to requests for comment.
Anytime you lose a morning show it sets listeners adrift and in search of new buttons on the radio. With Howie, other stations will benefit, said Tom Taylor, news editor of the industry Web site radio-info.com. Theyll find other things to listen too.
Even if Imus show returns to the Hub, it doesnt guarantee good ratings, although he did decently here in the past. If our idea of exciting programming is Imus Act III, were going to suffer, said Holland Cooke, a news and talk-radio specialist at McVay Media. The guy was a mature act when he fell from grace before, and now hes tainted.
Boston radio is no stranger to shakeups. Harrison said the departure of WRKO hosts Jerry Williams and Gene Burns in the 1990s also marked an era of change as did the 2004 death of WBZ (1030) host David Brudnoy. And Howard Sterns exit from terrestrial radio was a major blow to every station that carried him, including Bostons WBCN [website] (104.1 FM).
Harrison said the heavy hitters currently on the talk dial are sports hosts on WEEI (850 AM) and WTKKs Jay Severin.
Harrison said Carrs listeners will come back. Carrs got a good year to two years before people forget, Harrison said.The others are all quite fine, He said. But those are your stars.
“Howie! Come home. All is forgiven!!” - Whitey
Boston talk radio has been pathetic for some time. Severin is now unbearable and WTKK is mostly the same tired commercials over and over again. I switched to internet stations a couple of years ago.