Tuesday, January 27, 2015

KCBS Radio The Model Of All-News Consistency In San Francisco Under ND, Ed Cavagnaro; Veteran Exec Retiring In April; 'Remarkable Run'

 A "remarkable run"--that's what a SF-area radio consultant told me about the stewardship of KCBS News Director, Ed Cavagnaro, who will be retiring in April.

Cavagnaro has been at KCBS since 1977--as ND, 26 years, which is remarkable given the state of radio today.

Under Cavagnaro, KCBS has been the undisputed 24/7 all-news radio outlet with a brand that other stations would kill for.

The most remarkable aspect of Cavagnaro's run is the stability of staff at the CBS radio station. Nobody leaves KCBS and if they do, it's because of retirement usually. You hardly hear of KCBS personnel moving in and out because it simply doesn't happen. Look at the extraordinary list of people who have worked at the station: Stan Bunger, Steve Bitker, Barbara Taylor, Doug Sovern, Bob Butler, Kim Wonderly, Susan Leigh Taylor--almost all of these remarkable reporters and anchors have been at the station for multiple decades, quite a list.  And all under Cavagnaro's reign which best explains why KCBS has risen to the top of the SF Bay Area radio rankings which is a testament to their brand here.
 
Cavagnaro and his boss, VP, Doug Harvill, have largely let KCBS be KCBS--in other words, if it ain't broke don't fix it--and the end result is a very successful news operation that continues to be at the top of the Bay Area broadcast domain.

KCBS' success is largely due to the fact that it's consistent. It's not very splashy or excited and that's its main successful entity--you know when a major news event happens, you turn to 740 AM. I wish KCBS didn't repeat so much its news stories and I've complained about it but in a PPM world in which radio is a player today, I understand the business model. It's a small price to pay to enjoy the consistency that KCBS brings to the table.

The future of KCBS, minus Cavagnaro, seems to be destined for a smooth transition which is good news for a Bay Area audience that is lucky to have at its disposal a quality staff still churning out great content.

We wish Ed Cavagnaro all the best in the next phase of his personal life every 15 and 45 years.

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15 comments:

  1. Trust me some young person who wants to put their brand on KCBS will have "bright" ideas to make it better and screw it up completely. He (of course it will be a he) won't be able to restrain himself. It will center on attracting younger listeners who aren't the least bit interested in KCBS forcing the last of us holdouts to satellite radio. Trust me, this is what will happen.

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    1. And now, THE NEWZ, read by Chris Martin! With commentary by Green Day and traffic reports from Bono.

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    2. 10:55

      Please correct your spelling, 10:55.

      It will be DA NEWZ. :-)

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    3. I travel up and down the state.
      KCBS...and KNX 1070 in Los Angeles.
      The two BEST stations in the state.

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  2. I seem to recall you dissing KCBS, and for good reason, with repetitive stories, too many interruptions, crappy and inaccurate traffic reports (or maybe that last was me, but I'll stand by it either way).

    It's the best we got, sure, but that's like saying a one-eyed man is king of the blind.

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  3. I disagree. KCBS will aim for the "news market" of middle agers and on-demand "legacy" listeners for breaking news. Ed developed a much copied and successful formatic that has won the test of time in a market that has buried itself. KGO developed their "heritage" style, but got horribly lazy and one sided. Now, it's dead. KCBS will be the legacy heritage station in the Bay Area without gumming up the works as KGO did. Will KCBS be a 60+ radio station? No. It will be an intelligently marketed 35+ news and public affairs center that will be "must hear" radio for a long time to come. They know the rules. KGO does not. The reason why KCBS works is simple. It takes work, it takes strategy and, yes, it take repetition. KCBS knows its audience initimately. KGO does not. KCBS obviously cares about that audience. KGO does not. And sponsors know that KCBS is the legacy of "all news, all the time" unlike KGO. KCBS is as hometown as anything that KNBAR, KGO or the rest of the market is or can be. A great radio station in a market of disasters.

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  4. I remember when John Madden was on KNBR, until Steve McFartlin drove him off. How much does KNBR wish Madden was still there?

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  5. It's easy to go negative, but I have to concur with 9:22am. We have no evidence that anybody half as smart as Ed will take charge. It will be some corporate whipper-snapper that will tip over the boat and no mistake.

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  6. Hi Rich

    Love the website.

    I was commuting to work this morning desperately seeking some form of entertainment from my terrestrial radio and I stumbled across former KGO-ite Greg Jarrett on Bloomberg 960. Quite a surprise. Of course I can't stand listening to Bloomberg and moved on but it was a pleasant surprise. I always thought Greg's reporting while embedded during the first Gulf War was some of the greatest radio I've heard.

    I would think 910 would try to lure him away and replace those knuckleheads they have after lunch. Not only do I not understand how Corey & Joel got a show but I don't understand how they've been able to stay on the air. Must have pictures. Gil will never be mistaken for the second coming of Jim Eason, but he sounds like Owen Spann compared to those two. Alright my blood pressure is starting to rise so I have to end this.

    Keep up the good work.

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    1. Once again...Cory is the Talk 910 program director. Joel hosts the Dining Around show on the weekends. Putting them on the air during the week saves $$$.

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    2. Why not hire a real hungry talk host who can also be the PD? Does this Cory fellow not realize his station has a 1.0?

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  7. I have no use for KCBS since they became Rerun Boulevard quite a few years ago. I'm sure they perform a valuable service for some people. They used to have many interesting talk shows. I don't recall the name, but there used to be a Sunday night two hour show devoted to the topics and sociology of being a man in the western world. A man's perspective remains underserved in many relationships, was the hosts opinion.
    This was an exploration in becoming multi dimensional.
    Around 1990,

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  8. Meteorologist Mike PechnerJanuary 27, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    9:54 hit it right on the head. For someone the has worked on and off a KCBS since 1968. Harvill is a smart GM and has his legacy to fulfill and I am sure he has put lot of work into keeping KCBS at the top of the heap and running smoothly. The next N.D under his watch will keep things running smoothly. Rich, you are right about the staff, the only ones that leave are by retiring or passing. I have worked with Ed since 1990 and he has had a steady hand on the staff and newsroom as a whole. He is a great editor, knows the market and the listeners and has been able to push all the right buttons. His retiring leaves big shoes to fill and certainly the next next News Director will have to hit the ground running to keep the fires stoked at the "News Leader" as I call it. Believe me, there are enough young millenniums who will turn on KCBS before and after work to get the right dose of news, traffic, sports and weather in capsule form. Try to do that on one spot on the internet unless you are looking at the CBS website. I have been a substitute teacher for 15 years and I know that High Schoolers aren't listening to KCBS now but if they get commuting jobs like most mortals, there is only ONE place to turn to while BARTing, driving, or CALtraining, and thats KCBS on their I-phones. The audience will always be there. Its a captive audience, advertisers know it and thats where there dollars are going. As we get older, the younger ones coming up in the Bay Area are smart, motivated and informed, and they will find KCBS eventually even if at this point they have never listed to Newsradio on A.M. or F.M. its not broken so it doesn't need fixing and I predict any easy invisible transition. The repetition is important because if you miss a story at the end of the cycle you can hear it again a short time later. As more news and breaking news comes into the "News wheel" its refreshed with different stories. Even though I have worked at KSFO, KYA, KNBR, KRON, KPIX, and KTVU, the only place I have ever wanted to work was KCBS. I have been honored to do so and work with Ed Cavagnaro.

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  9. Having worked for CBS elsewhere, I can assure you that the independent nature of each operation, such as the long-term employees of KCBS that you point out, is typical. It's a great company to work for.

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  10. For us news junkies, nothing comes close to KCBS and I hope they never change the basic format. Listen for 30 minutes and you have your news, sports, weather and traffic. Don't need to listen for more than 30 minutes unless it is covering an ongoing major event happening. Ed did a great job!

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