Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Me, Myself and I plus NewsTalk Radio on FM; Would it work?

So, thanks for all the feedback here and on the radio where I've been forced to take a detour while my mom continues to recover from her fall. (She's doing a lot better).

I have tried very hard to keep you guys up to date here on the blog. The radio position is still out there and I plan on returning; in fact I'm going to talk to the big guy soon and see what's on the horizon.

...In the meantime...

*Talk Radio on FM. Would it work? I think so but this is a tough market to crack. Mickey Luckoff tried his hardest to work out a deal with CBS to get a talk deal on a local FM frequency but it didn't pan out.

There's a healthy amount of people here who long for quality talk with a variety of hosts and opinion. That is, after all, the very essence of "news-talk" radio. FM here is a lost amalgam of radio stations that are pretty much vanilla playing the same songs with formula, automated formats. The "personalities", save for a few oldies are essentially retreads. The FM sports station that does a lot of shouting is also very tame and wonder bread.

An FM talkie here, (which would probably necessitate an existing station to change formats--think something like a KOIT-like outlet). Is it going to happen soon? No, these things take time and energy but I have a feeling there's people out there with the gravitas, the "goods", so to speak, that have the wherewithal, both money-wise and business savvy to pull off a deal.

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  1. FM talk has done alright in some markets and failed in others like Boston. I think you are right. It will eventuially happen in the bay area and will provide a local alternative to the primarily syndicated content on the AM band.

    1. Even if an FM talker comes to the Bay Area -- and I suspect it's just a matter of time since the format has made it to FM in other metro areas -- you should NOT assume that it "will provide a local alternative to the primarily syndicated content on the AM band."

      As much as I would like to see a new station embracing the talk format, which features local air personalities, including the esteemed John Rothmann, the reality is that it will be exceedingly difficult for such a start-up to compete against national broadcasting companies who have so much syndicated programming and infrastructure.

      So, in all likelihood, what's more likely is that we'll get an FM talker that keeps costs and staffing to a bare minimum by getting away with airing the nationally syndicated stuff and not a resurrected version of the old KGO.

    2. 12:08 is spot-on. "FM talk has done alright in some markets and failed in others."

      What's the likelihood that it would meet with success in the Bay Area market?

      Boston's WTKK-FM dropped its news/talk format in January after its launch in 1999 to provide an FM home for the format.

      Will it work here?

      There's a reason why radio stations are changing formats. They're desperate. A few big players are doing reasonably well, but many are struggling to survive.

      Increasingly, people are searching out alternatives to traditional AM and FM radio. Alternatives in the form of satellite radio, smartphones, tablets and Web-based providers are proliferating.

      News/talk stations are seeing their audiences get older and grayer and, therefore, smaller. Young hipsters aren't replacing this shrinking, aging audience.

      Adding FM simulcast signals to bolster their declining AM audiences is at best a short-term fix, but it doesn't change the fundamental reality. Radio, especially talk radio, is in decline.

  2. Remember KPIX-FM? Decent ratings when they aired the OJ Simpson trial but then they collapsed. 95.7 was sold to Bonneville in 1997 and it continues to be a jinxed frequency to this day.

    1. Point taken. But that was then, and this is now. It's a different ball game today.

      Bonneville, btw, is just a front for the Mormon church: good, bad or indifferent--depending on how you look at it.

  3. Can someone explain to people like me why FM is not conducive to a successful talk format?

    I'm guessing it's because of reception issues.

    1. Content is King will draw an audience whether it is AM, FM or the Internet. "Talk" is not so much in demand as compared to Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) or even Country. They get higher ratings thus better clearer channels ie FM etc. Lucky if you can get Low Power FM or even AM.

    2. Reception issues?

      Not really. To some extent, the Bay Area's hills and mountains do pose a challenge for FM signals, which require line-of-sight from receiver to transmitter for optimal reception. Repeaters help provide coverage to interior and eastern Contra Costa County, for example. However, if widespread poor reception and limited signal coverage due to terrain were a serious problem in the Bay Area, this would render the FM band essentially useless - not only for talk formats but all others as well.

      AM or FM, it doesn't really matter. Two of the Bay Area's talk stations, KKSF 910 and KNEW 960, both on the AM band, suffer from limited coverage imposed on them by directional transmitters and low power, respectively, ordered by the FCC. KKSF blasts virtually all of its 20,000 watts of power (daytime only) in a westerly direction from its transmitter on the bay just south of Richmond.

      With a full 50,000 watts and a non-directional transmitter, their signals would blanket the entire Bay Area and easily 100+ miles beyond during the day and reach the Western states at night.

      AM blow torches KGO, KCBS and KNBR are all 50,000-watt clear channel stations, both day and night; as such, they a greater reach than any other Bay Area station.

    3. Yes, in the end, content is king. A quality product is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient. The AM audience is small and shrinking. FM is where the action is, so to speak. Probably the best way for a talker to maximize coverage and ratings is to have a dual presence.

  4. Talk Radio is DeadApril 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM


    You answered your own question. "Talk Radio on FM. Would it work? I think so but this is a tough market to crack."

    There's a host of questions and practical considerations that would need to be carefully considered before bringing the talk format to FM in the Bay Area, not the least of which is finding the right station for the format change and then the resulting fallout as the loyal listeners to that station bemoan the loss of their beloved.

    1) What's been the experience of FM stations in other metro areas that have adopted the talk or news-talk format, and what lessons can we draw and apply here?

    2) What are the chances of an FM talk station airing mostly local talk personalities (like KGO once did) versus carrying canned nationally syndicated programming (which is in great abundance).

    3) What's the cost/benefit analysis of airing local talent versus syndication? For example, you reported that Ron Owenns' contract on KGO was renewed at $475,000 a year for the 3-hour morning block, which is still hefty even after being cut in half.

    4) Would the ideal arrangement be for an AM/FM pair simulcasting the same programming for maximum audience reach and ratings? Why or why not?

    5) Is the thinking that most listeners prefer FM because of its better audio quality and stereo sound and rarely bother with the AM band? Therefore, by migrating from AM to FM, an all-talk or news-talk station would realize a substantial boost in audience by migrating to the latter?

    6) Although KGO lost about half of its audience when axed the talk format over a year ago, the remaining talk stations have not seen a marked and sustained increase in their ratings. Where did all of those former KGO listeners go to, if not other talk stations?

    7) If you had a magic wand and could make it happen, what the program line-up look like on this new FM talker?

    8) Talk 910 recently fired three well known KGO alums: Ed Baxter, John Rothmann and Len Tillem. If resurrecting the old KGO format and bringing back their on-air personalities was the sure ticket to success, why were they dropped? Was "the loyah" unable to recover the audience he had on KGO? What about the other two: why weren't they given full-time gigs on 910? The answer, of course, is money. Not that it would matter if they were contributing to the bottom line at 910, which, apparently, they weren't (sufficiently). Gil Gross, the remaining KGO veteran, has an added hour extending his afternoon gig from 3 to 7. But, you'll notice, he rarely takes calls. He doesn't believe the talk format works any more.

    There are many other questions or concerns I could post, but these are intended just to get the ball rolling.

    I know, Rich, that you're a die-hard believer in the talk radio format because you're trying hard to make a go of things on 800-watt KOMY in Watsonville. I wish you all the best. So is Len Tillem who now finds himself reduced to podcasts on the web.

    1. For a station like KGO, talk radio not dead. That's what the genuises said when FM came along.

      The era of huge salaries is dead.

      KGO can do it with the right management that has experience running stations on a budget. However, its current corporate owner has shown no willingness to hire management AND PRODUCERS who can do this.

      I'd cut down the news dept. to a minimum for local news and keep the newsbreaks to a minimum and run one hour of news at night. Then back to talk.

      I'd also get rid of most hosts the station currently has, and stop dumbing down Ronn Owens' show. Ronn isn't in the demo his producer is in and that this newbie, inexperience producer and the station's brainless trust seem to think Ronn should be reaching.

      As a result, Ronn sounds shallow and half-hearted when he attempts this. And when he does, that's when I turn on Sirius, which I now have on except on occasion when I listen to Ronn, although I enjoy Pat Thurston and listen to her regularly.

      Dump the other hosts. Just my opinion as a longtime KGO listener since I listened when my Grandma did. I became a regular listener at 13, although I could only listen at night because I lived so far up north until recently moving to the Bay Area. I'm in my 50s now, although no longer a regular listener.

    2. I agree with Glenn. Dim wits like David Weintraub think the era of intelligent and professional talk radio is a relic of the past. They think new under thirty unprofessional hosts somehow represent the ”new generation”, whatever that means. I'm an agnostic but yesterday I was glued to Krasney's program when his guest was a biblical scholar. Today's show was just excellent when the topic was North Korea. Compare those shows to the screamer Tim Montemanure or the shallowness of the dude Weintraub. When they destroyed the previous format KGO was top five in the market. Now that they carry ” hip” and young dudes like Weintraub they are barely top twenty.

  5. The poster at 12:42pm hit the nail on the head.
    Why the hell am I going to struggle to listen to a station that fades in and out with every turn my car makes.
    In Burlingame? near Milpitas.? forget it. No reception.
    Give me an AM signal that reaches all the western US states at night. Think KNBR. For all criticism that station has received, they do one thing right.
    A strong signal at night.

    1. "Give me an AM signal that reaches all the western US states at night."

      KNBR is an anomaly in the Bay Area. It's the only AM station in the Bay Area authorized by the FCC to broadcast at a maximum 50,000 watts of power day and night using a non-directional transmitter.

      A few other Bay Area AM stations also broadcast at 50,000 watts day and night, but use directional transmitters as mandated by the FCC that significantly limit their coverage area.

      KGO's transmitter, for example, directs most of its signal in a northwesterly and southeasterly direction from its transmitter site at the eastern end of the Dumbarton Bridge. That's why its night-time signal can be heard up and down the West Coast at night, but not so well in Reno or Salt Lake City.

      KFAX 1100 and KCBS 740 are 50,000-watt stations with transmitters that are even more directional.

      Many who've posted to this blog have complained about Talk 910's poor signal and limited coverage area. Believe it or not, the station is licensed to put out an impressive 20,000 watts by day, which is greatly reduced to 5,000 watts at night. The problem is not transmitter power, but rather the directional nature of its transmitter. Virtually all of its signal is beamed in a westerly direction, which makes for poor reception in parts of Contra Costa County.

    2. You mean, like Newstalk 910, KKSF, on the AM band?

  6. explain the differenceApril 3, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Could someone explain how FM is different than AM in terms of whether news talk radio could "work" on FM.

    If we're assuming that news talk radio can work on AM, how is FM any different?

    1. The key difference is the much improved audio fidelity, including stereo sound, of the FM band, which makes it preferable for broadcasting and listening to music. This is why the once great AM Top 40 stations of yesterday were toppled in the 1970s. They simply couldn't compete with FM stations. It's amazing that 610 KFRC lasted as long as it did --halfway into the 1980s.

      The other factor that might give FM an edge for talk radio is that if most radio listeners listen exclusively to FM, especially in their cars, then placement of a talk station on the FM band makes it more accessible and arguably more palatable to the radio audience.

      That might seem like an odd point to make, but consider this: there must be a good reason why KCBS 740, with a strong 50,000-watt clear channel AM station that reaches the entire Bay Area, decided to simulcast its all-news programming on a companion FM station, too. There must be some advantage to having a presence on the FM band, even though in terms of signal coverage, it doesn't add anything to KCBS' reach.

    2. I think there's a good deal of logic behind a dual presence on AM and FM, not one or the other.

      Here's the pitch for making the business decision to simulcast a news-talk or talk format on AM and FM just as all-news KCBS does currently on 740 AM and 106.9 FM.

      Simulcasting a news-talk format on FM would offer unique radio content to a wider listening audience. Many listeners in the Bay Area's radio audience have never visited the AM dial. Simulcasting on FM enables a station to penetrate twice the previously available listening audience to better serve the region and its advertisers. We would expect to see an increase in audience share of 15 to 200 percent.

    3. 3:29 PM: Sure. I'd be happy to tell you why. It's like fishing. You'll find that most successful fisherman go where the fish are swimming.

      If you’re not on FM, you’re invisible to most of 25-54 demo.

      New Jersey 101.5 – a station in Trenton, mind you -- is the most-listened-to Talk FM in the USA! They’ve been talking 20 years, so this FM Talk idea isn’t new.

    4. I'm optimistic about the future of the talk radio format.

      There are endless format variations of talk available that can be tapped.

      In the end, whether or not an FM station should change its format to talk is a business decision.

      Talk is the best business in radio today. It has the most loyal and enthusiastic audience, which means it is especially prized by advertisers.

      The key is to try something new and different from the conservative talk that dominates the airwaves now. It all sounds the same. Through precise programming, talk can be tailored for any demographic.

    5. I'm all for an FM interactive news/information/talk radio station. It can work in the Bay Area and has considerable potential if done right.

      It must be a bold and visionary undertaking. I propose an inclusive, intelligent, interactive and independent news/talk radio format unlike anything the Bay Area has ever heard.

      Let's do lunch and talk it over!

    6. News/talk/information is America's #1 radio format.

      The FM talker should be committed to the philosophy of local talent talking about local issues and news for the Bay Area and Norther California and covering what we care about on local, national and international matters.

    7. 6-10 Armstrong & Getty
      10-12 Christine Craft
      12-3 Lieberman Live
      3-4 Len Tillem
      4-7 Gil Gross
      7-10 John Rothmann
      10-1 Ray Taliafero

    8. If you think Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Mark Levin are bad, try Michael Savage, the talk-radio host whose racist, homophobic psychobabble isn't just fueling the car stereos of 8 million Americans. It's fueling the priorities of the GOP.

    9. Producing a local news/talk program at the consistently high level of quality our listeners expect requires nothing less than a full station commitment, comprehensive advance planning, effective daily teamwork and relentless, ongoing attention to program quality.

      Many programs are experimenting with online and social networking tools (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc) in an effort to extend and enhance the content they offer. But the jury is still out on the actual value these efforts add for listeners.

      Always important, forward promotion is critical in talk shows. Focus on placing promos so they promote listening to the next quarter hour.

      You have to be able to ask difficult and challenging questions and the un-answered questions the rest of the media won't cover. The audience expects it.

      Have respect for and cater to listeners who are deeply engaged in contemporary public life and culture; whose vigilant curiosity about the world brings them to public radio for depth and context. They see the world as part of an interconnected web of causal relationships and want us to help them connect the dots by focusing on the "why", not just the "what" of issues and events. They believe in the power to find solutions for the problems of their community, their nation and their world.

      Follow these tips and an FM talk station can be an invaluable and lasting fixture in the Bay Area radio spectrum.

    10. AM has geographic reach, especially at night, that FM, usually, does not have. A torch like KGO, especially at night, can be heard all the way to Mexico to the south, to the east to the Rockies and way up north.

      To understand why, check this out on Wikipedia (hopefully, Wikipedia didn't make its characteristic factual errors:, but I didn't have time to read it for accuracy.)

      I don't think an FM channel for talk will do it because you need the demos, Rich, and demos at night are an important ingredient in any station's success and/or failure.

      One reason KGO is failing is because it is running regurgitated news at night and even in the day. (This is not a knock against KGO's very fine professional news staff. You have fought the good fight.)

      KCBS can get away with running the same or similar loops and cutting back on staff because it has historically been the go-to station in cars or the quick tune-in at home for NEWS. No one in their right mind would listen to KCBS for hours on end (in my opinion).

      KGO, however, should not want to be KCBS, although the KGO brain trust lost its sensibilities and tried. Newbies in radio proved that newbies in radio with ill-thought-out format stations will fail, as they always do.

      Only problem is, these newbies failed by ruining the best talk radio station in America, going all the way back to my Grandma's favorite, Ira Blue.

      When my wife and I recently moved to the Bay Area, I was happy because I could now get KGO locally on the radio when I was out and about for my current job.

      Then, I noticed KGO had changed. For the worse. Then KGO made worse even worse. Constant news breaks that were too long and interrupted the flows of the shows. If I want news, I'll go to KCBS. That's the way it's always been. KGO: give me my general headlines. You have never been a news station.

      Now, KGO is a station with a few quality hosts and other hosts who try their best but who should really be on small-town radio stations like where I worked on the editorial side. Some hosts, in fact, wouldn't even make the cut on those small-town stations because of various factors.

      If KGO were to bring back Len Tillem, found quality hosts and converted back to talk, it would be great. Radio will never be what it was. Too much competition. However, KGO could do itself a favor (which means throwing out the newbies who are part of this idiotic regime that brought in news at KGO and that stifles even Ronn Owens' show, at times, with mundane topics and has reduced his show from its former status by trying to appeal to younger demos. I'd start with a new producer, Ronn.).

      The brainless trust at KGO just didn't or doesn't get it: the young demos don't listen to radio. I have four children and my wife has three. All are in this demo. NONE of them listen to terrerstial radio. NONE. Not even FM. I would be surprised if they knew what AM was. Do you hear that KGO? They are all in the demographic you KGO management and production newbies are trying to get.

      The era of huge salaries is gone. Radio has to adapt, even KGO, so bring in some new, engaging hosts, and keep the one or two you already have. I happen to enjoy Pat Thurston and I enjoy Ronn's show when it isn't being dumbed down to a demo that doesn't listen and when Ronn isn't embarrassingly taking the advice of a newbie producer. When he does that, I turn off the station and on goes Sirius.

      Good luck with corporate-operated radio which usually brings in people from "outside" who have no knowledge of local areas or the station's history. They often fail. Always have. It's a regular part of broadcast. Newbies come in. Newbies go. They leave disaster in their wake.

      Rich, does this mean you won't be returning to the Santa Cruz station? I hope your Mom gets better. Take care.

    11. Rich:

      We all want to know. Are you returning to KOMY AM 1340, or moving on to something bigger and better? I'm glad that the Zwerlings gave you a break. I don't like their extreme right-wing politics, but God bless them for giving you air time. Such a deal. Shalom!

    12. Clearly, the format change has been an abject failure for KGO after its audience has been reduced by half.

      We all make mistakes. Experience is the best teacher, and fools learn from none other.

      So what? It's not too late.

      Could KGO make a respectable comeback by returning to the news-talk format that served it so well for 40+ years?

      While we're at it, how about resurrecting 610 KFRC and bringing back the motor-mouth DJs of a bygone era, including the maestro himself, the one and only Bobby Ocean?!

    13. Could KGO make a respectable comeback by returning to the news-tak form that served it so well for 40-plus years? Not successfully with a 55-plus audience which is what killed KGO over a decade ago.

      Advertisers to not buy AM radio much these days. They buy where the 25-54 year old iisteners are. That would be on FM, where young people don't listen to news-talk except for "Traffic on the 5s."

      Most of those listeners would die first before listening to AM radio. Most were not born outside a world with the internet, cable TV, iPods, computers, socia media, cell phones and smartphones.

      Life has changed.

  7. Rich
    AM/FM CB radio, as long as it's engaging it really doesn't matter what frequency.

    1. * Me, Myself and I plus NewsTalk Radio on FM; Would it work? *

      Rich: You need to make your pitch to a few radio executives in San Francisco. I do think you would be hugely successful in this market in terms of drawing a large and varied regular audience, maintaining high ratings in key demographics, and bringing in tons of advertising revenue.

      I'm sure that in your short time with Michael Zwerling, you've contributed greatly to the bottom line for KOMY AM 1340, a fledgling but fiercely independent and family-owned Santa Cruz radio station.

      So, by all means, talk to the "Big Man" about the near-term horizon and what's in store for you. Are you poised to make a huge leap?

    2. Rich, in your previous radio life you were a sports announcer and editor, weren't you? It's obvious you have a great knowledge of and passion for sports. Plus you're among the top interviewers and commentators on radio in your own right. If I were the owner/manager of KNBR, I'd be ready to sign you on. Something tells me this could be the next turn your career takes.

    3. In a simplistic sense, yes. But, in reality, it does matter, and it matters a lot. Most of the radio audience, especially the younger crowd, listen only to FM radio. For them AM doesn't exist.

  8. Would it work: an FM station embracing the talk format?

    Maybe. And if it works, the question would be: for how long?

    The future of commercial AM/FM radio is bleak.

    Within 5 years of the new FM talk station coming on the scene in a big splash -- in this topsy-turvy and upside down medium of commercial radio -- chances are good we'll be reading about the station undergoing a format change after it finds that talk isn't working.

  9. I'm NOT a SynchophantApril 3, 2013 at 7:36 PM


    Read this all the way through, carefully, Rich. Because, at the end, you have an assignment.

    Possibly. Not that it’s a slam dunk mind you, it never is in this ever changing business. As we all know, news-talk radio today is a combination of the best of our local talent and the best that is available from national syndication. The key to success is to get each exactly right and to strike the right balance. Let's bottom line this. You'll need to do everything possible to maximize your TSL and AQH numbers, and that comes from quality programming.

    Rich, I'd like you to step out of your comfort zone for a moment as a media blogger and aspiring major market radio talk show host. Are you willing to do that? I think you could make a great value-add to this discussion by sharing your thoughts with us. I'm challenging you to role play as a consultant and for you to tell us what it would take to create a top-tier news-talk radio station on FM or AM & FM here in the Bay Area. Assume you've been given a blank chank and carte blanche to build a new station. Give us a glimpse into your winning programming line-up -- that means shows and talent.

  10. Future news release ...

    San Francisco radio station K***-FM's switch from all-talk programming to an all-music format this week comes amid lackluster ratings and a failure to carve out a niche in the crowded San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market, media analysts say.

    A pending change at the FM station has been reported by respected Bay Area media blogger Rich Lieberman, as various talk show hosts have been let go, although the station owner has not made an official announcement.

    A station spokesperson declined to comment on this story.

    It is unclear what kind of music K***-FM will play.

  11. Interesting question, Rich. Thanks for posting it!

    What kind of format did you have in mind, more specifically. One of the following perhaps, or some combination thereof?

    a) A news-talk format like the KGO of yesterday with a heavy concentration of news, weather and traffic plus talk programming.

    b) Talk programming, mostly or entirely consisting of popular syndicated talk show hosts.

    c) Talk programming featuring mostly or entirely local hosts and call-ins emphasizing listener participation.

    1) "Hot talk" format like KSFO.
    2) "Lesbian/gay issues" format.
    3) Liberal/progressive format.

    d) News/information -- the kind of format embraced by Gil Gross on Talk 910. Minimal listener participation/call-ins. Local host covers news of the day and features short interview segments in fast paced format.

  12. FM may be the last and only hope for the long-term survival of talk radio.

    KGO made the decision to abandon the news-talk format for a good reason, albeit too soon one might well argue. Its decline was inevitable.

    Media analysts/trainers like Eric Seidel say that AM radio captures only 20% of the radio listening audience. AM radio needs to reinvent itself to survive. Not that everything is rosy for FM. Satellite radio now has 23 million subscribers in the US and Canada and it offers an impressive array of programming that neither AM nor FM can match.

  13. For what it's worth, Fresno's KMJ simulcasts its news-talk format on AM & FM. Latest Arbitron ratings: KMJ-AM, 5.8; KMJ-FM, 1.4.

    In the much larger Seattle market, FM standalone KIRO has a 3.6 rating with a news-talk format.

  14. How much conservative talk is enough? Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and Levin are so out of touch with reality and too far to the right for the progressive Bay Area. I'm frustrated going up and down the dial trying to find something worth listening to. The result: zilch. Radio, with a few notable exceptions such as stellar stand-outs KQED-FM and KCBS, is a wasteland here. Add another talker to the Bay Area? I don't think so!

  15. In my opinion, we don't need it. AM & FM radio are dying!

    Terrestrial radio’s demise is due to a number of factors. First, the venture capitalist owners don’t care about content, formats, personalities and LISTENERS! These geniuses want to run radio stations nationally and eliminate all local programming to trim costs, so they look good to their investment bankers, while siphoning as much cash as they can before selling off to an even larger entity. (Call it the Gordon Gecko effect.)

    Secondly, Arbitron’s newest measurement invention, the PPM (Portable People Meter), which measures listening through encoded signals broadcast on each frequency. This allows stations within “hearing” distance to garner listeners simply by virtue of being within an earshot of a potential radio listener, whether this particular listener actually “likes” the station or not.

    This plays well into the hands of the greedy radio owners; because cheap repeater formats the play the hits will get ratings and spend little money.

    It is a disservice to the public, because the entertainment value has virtually been taken out of radio listening, but a potentially huge money maker for companies like Clear Channel (Bain Capital), Cumulus Media and others.

    1. what's funny is that you mention Bain when Cumulus is basically owned by Oaktree, which is not only bigger than Bain but more connected.

  16. Atl radio is now crap! It used to be it was something, you could feel a local connection to!

  17. One of the clear trends that is a Catch 22 for stations is that the listening audience is tired of commercial after commercial and commercials are what make the stations money.

    I think the demise of AM radio is in large part because people don’t want to listen to 20 mins of commercials every hour.

    Throw in station IDs, promos, bumper music, half-hour news updates and periodic traffic and weather information, and you're down to 30 minutes or less of actual talk on a typical radio station with the talk format.

  18. I'd be very happy with an FM news-talk station that combines the news gathering and reporting acumen of all-news KCBS with the cream of the crop of local talk show hosts. But I have zero tolerance for another station with nationally syndicated hosts or back-to-back infomercials. Talk 910 sucks on weekends.

  19. Radio has been dying since the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Big companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus bought up most of the radio stations in this country so they can run them right into the ground.

    You can come out ahead, though. Get your Android or iPhone and download an app called TuneIn. You’ll never worry about finding something to listen to again, trust me. If you have bluetooth or an aux jack in your car, you’re good to go on the road.

    Screw these radio people. They made this bed for themselves. They can lie in it.

  20. I hate talk radio. Enough said.

  21. We don't need another station on AM or FM with a talk format. I vote for quality over quantity. Therefore, what I propose instead is that KQED-FM offer John Rothmann a daily slot, perhaps comprising one hour of his informed news commentary followed by two hours of phone calls. Just a thought.

  22. Well, before we add another talk or news-talk station to the crowded Bay Area AM & FM station lineup, it's time to stop, ask and ponder this question: How is news-talk doing?

    You and the many readers of this blog may be predisposed to embrace the news-talk format, but to what extent is this sentiment shared by the masses that make up the radio audience?

    While I will grant you that the most well known and successful radio talk show hosts have upwards of 10 million regular listeners, this may obscure what is in reality a disturbing trend.

    All around the nation, as the Arbitron ratings over time clearly show, stations with the news-talk format have been experiencing a steady and steep decline in ratings. Little wonder then that KGO, which pioneered the format, abruptly ended it over a year ago, or that other Bay Area talk stations have meager ratings. In fact, industry sources say that of all formats, news-talk is the poorest performer.

    Adding another radio station with the talk format will just mean scrambling to compete with the likes of KSFO, KNEW and KKSF for a small and dwindling audience.

    Granted, a new talk station on FM has the potential to carve out a new audience. Many who listen to radio tune in exclusively to FM stations and rarely (if ever) listen to AM stations. Even so, given the precarious state of this format, I wouldn't bank on it being a sound investment. Don't expect another repeat performance of the success that KGO once enjoyed on the AM band. Those days are over. It's a new era, one filled with uncertainty for commercial radio.

    If I were a player in the business, I'd think long and hard about changing the format of a Bay Area station from music to talk. It could very well be a disastrous decision.

  23. Rich: An FM talk stations? Been there; done that. With all due respect, in those markets that have added FM talkers, the results haven't been promising. Five and 10 years ago, a good many FM stations switched from music to a talk format. Many of them have since come full circle, back to music. News-talk ain't doing so well. I will concede that your product, "Lieberman Live," may be an exception. Let's see if any Bay Area media moguls are ready to cut you a deal.

  24. The news-talk format is facing tough, challenging times.

    This is underscored by research that shows that half the news-talk radio audience is older than the coveted 25-54 age group that advertisers prize. Nearly one in three are 65 or older.

    News-talk is in decline. An FM presence might help matters in the short term, but even that's debatable. Many FM stations tried and failed when they switched to the news-talk format. Read the recent headlines from around the country. It's happening everything where it's been tried.

    Aging 50+ angry white conservative male talk show hosts lack broad-based appeal. Their audience is getting older and grayer and dying off. They don't connect with the younger radio audience, the coveted 18-to-54-year-old demographic.

  25. I still care. I really miss KGO. The hosts were like an extended family to me.

    My grandma would be rolling around her grave right now if she only knew, her favorite radio station was no more. When I was a teenager living with her, she would listen near-religiously every night when she went to bed. I guess that's where I picked up the habit.

    There seem to be many pundits slinging words around about this or that station being too liberal or too conservative. KGO was never about that. It was about rational discussion of topics big and small.

    It's 2013 and I wonder, why? Where is my KGO? What good did they think they were going to accomplish? I've never heard talk radio better than KGO...used to be. It remains a great loss for the Bay Area and my heart.

  26. News-talk?

    The Bay Area already has a peerless 24-hour news station in KCBS AM & FM, and listeners who want more in-depth coverage can listen to NPR (KQED or KALW)or KPFA.

    Talk (or what passes for it) can be found on at least stations: KSFO, KKSF and KNEW.

  27. Rich:

    If anyone can make it work (talk radio on FM), it's YOU!

    Go for it!

    1. Mega dittos!

      Rich could pull it off with great aplomb.

      "Lieberman Live," the Rich Lieberman Show, is must-listen too radio.

      Hands down, Rich, you're the best new radio talk show host on the Bay Area scene in a generation.

      Granted, you got off to a shaky start with your weekend gig at KOMY given the early technical glitches and goblins that pestered your show. However, that's all behind you now. Your program has critics raving and understandably so.

      Nobody--and I mean nobody--can match Rich for his uncanny and unfailing ability to consistently deliver the most engaging guests, the veritable denizens of the Bay Area media.

  28. Why is now the right time for a talk station on FM in the Bay Area?

    1. If not now, when?

      I'm inclined to think it can work.

      There's only one way to find out.

  29. KQED / NPR / PBS AdvocateApril 3, 2013 at 10:08 PM


    In the 2006 “Sense of Place” research study done by PRPD and NPR’s Local News Initiative, we found that the call-in format itself tends to alienate an important segment of public radio listeners. Here are some listener verbatims that illustrate:

    I can’t stand call in shows because my time is valuable I don’t want to listen to somebody who doesn’t have expertise.

    You’re not really learning anything. It’s entirely insignificant.
    I like the person being interviewed to have good credentials and the person with the cell phone who pulls over on the side rarely does

    I don’t like listening to people formulate their opinions right in front of me. I like to be informed by people who’ve had some time to think about it and maybe do some research.
    I don’t really give a crap what someone has to say. I want to listen to the experts on particular issues. I don’t care what my neighbor has to say about it.

    Sometimes I wish they would just not take any callers and let the guests talk a little more. I don’t really want to hear what my neighbor thinks. I can go across the street and ask my neighbor. I want to hear what their guests have to say because they have so much to offer and they have such interesting guests!
    That’s usually what turns me off…idiot after idiot calling in – people that can’t form a coherent sentence.

    They’ve got a point of view and when the point ends….once they’ve said it… I’m not sure that they move the content forward.

    I really enjoyed the host’s intro and was dreading the moment the conversation started. I always turn it off because I feel like it’s kind of a lazy way to do the news. I feel that guy gave us a whole lot of information in the space of a minute or two. And as soon as people start talking and he starts talking, it’s just very repetitious and often they don’t have much to say.

    I’m not someone who listens too much to call-in type talk shows and this is just the same kind of thing where somebody’s just chattin’ away.

    They have the same callers sometimes. (groans). There’s this one guy who irritates me so much and as soon as I hear he’s on the phone I’m like “Oh brother!”

    Sometimes the listeners who call in can set (the host) adrift on another point and he goes off on that tangent.

    1. 10:08 gives a good summation of the typical callers that the liberal Alan Colmes engages on his syndicated show. Are the callers that get through and are aired truly representative or do his call screeners intentionally put through the wing nuts?

    2. Is it time for a progressive voice in Bay Area talk radio?

      I'm tired of toxic, schizophrenic, hard right talk radio hosts.

    3. Sadly, talk radio in San Francisco has gone down the drain since KGO axed the format.

      KSFO's current crowd is conservatives, neocons, warmongers, and fascists, and its local hosts, aren't particularly talented. They have fellow conservatives for callers and they all pat themselves on the back agreeing with one another in hating “illegal” immigrants, supporting wars of aggression for no good reason, and being good little Limbaugh-Hannity-Levin-Savage sheeple.

      San Francisco talk radio could be revived with another Gene Burns, Jim Gabbert, or a liberated Ronn Owens. Back in the good old days of talk radio when KGO reigned supreme, they all discussed a variety of issues and many different points of view were encouraged. They were truly articulate and informed people, and had a lot of broadcasting TALENT!

      Talk 910's programming is crazy. Right-wing shouting lunatics Armstrong & Getty from Sacramento in the morning, followed by Rush Limbaugh, and then liberals Gil Gross and Alan Colmes in the afternoon/early evening. Talk 910 needs to go left or right and stay with one; not embrace both.

    4. Talk radio is a great format, but there is NO one that can do it like Gene Burns or Bernie Ward did. Sorry, Rich, but you're no Gene Burns!

    5. Rich: I like you, I respect you, and I admire your talent.

      But you've reached a crossroads where you need to make a decision--if, that is, you wish to retain even a shred of credibility going forward. I know you don't want to hear and be confronted with this unpleasant truth. As both a media critic blogger and radio talk show host, you have a conflict of interest that calls your objectivity into question.

      You have to decide: Am I a small-market radio talk show host (hoping eventually to make it into a major market or syndication) who used to be a blogger, or I am a blogger who used to host a radio talk show?

    6. KGO, in its heyday, will always continue to be the gold standard against which all talk radio will be measured. I'm still mourning the demise of KGO.

    7. I say NO more talk radio! We have enough of it already.

      I'm sick and tired of news/talk stations because their programming is dominated by conservative talking points by stalking horses for the ideology of the Republican Party and selfish big business corporate interests.

      I would only support another talk station if it provides intelligent and balanced programming, not right-wing rants!

      Otherwise, spare us, PUHHHHH-LEEEEEZ!

    8. I tend to agree with this sentiment, but we differ with regard to you thinking the host has to have some type of credential, and I only care that the person can entertain/hold the audience.

      I've worked with hosts who do not take many calls, and when they do they are vetted to the core; making sure the caller is adding to the show's entertainment value.

      When it comes to sports I think it's different because callers are quite often "experts" in a different way, no different from the host. - DW

    9. Also, FM Talk seems to fall into a weird space, as if only someone under 40 knows how to push the AM/FM button on their car stereo. Can FM Talk work? Of course it can, but once again it comes down to talent/execution, like anything else.

      I worked mornings with the guy who was partially responsible for what I believe is the first FM Talk station in the country, 101.5 WKXW FM, and he was not a strong talent, but he did fill a specific role that worked. The station still does well, and even launched Craig Carton into the NYC stratosphere since it landed him the WFAN morning gig. Prior to that, Craig was at WNEW in NYC, which flipped to talk right before I worked there. Opie/Anthony carried the station, with mornings being a mess, the Radio Chick fluttering, and Ron/Fez doing a good job, imo. The idea was to do Howard Stern all day long. It didn't work for a variety of reasons, but it could have worked and at at time was working.

      Yet part of me thinks the Big City execs believe FM Talk is about the young demo, where you'll find Dr. Drew talking to the stars of Always Sunny about how much sex they had when they were single, or maybe Artie Lang lands a sports show there. I think that's a short-sighted model, and believe 101.5 FM proves that.

      But again, it's about the right PD, finding talent, molding talent, and making a station. My gut tells me that locally, Jack Swanson could pull it off. - DW

  30. Should I Promote My Book on Radio Talk Shows?

    1. Um... That depends ... I don't know if Rich really approves of that kind of shameless commercial self-promotion. I, for one, am curious about the main points of your book. Would you share?

  31. Speaking of news talk..Radnich was telling the KRON woman "I prefer talking to woman,they are more sensitive,blah,blah,etc" Of course the KRON woman went along with it. It was the same line he told Krueger a few weeks ago,and Kruegy laughed " Yeah,because woman at parties don't know your act or bullshit",not an exact quote,but close.
    And I'm thinking that Raddy with his how much money he has talk,his narcissism( I made you) and Bentley talk, his new found "I love you" to acquaintances and "I love everybody's" is just one white mink coat short of being the bay area's Liberace of sports.
    He's a regular Mr. Sensitive.

  32. Michael Zwerling, the owner of Santa Cruz-based stations KSCO AM 1080 and KOMY 1340, was full of high hopes that the KGO format change and purge of its veteran talk show hosts in December 2011 would provide an amazing opportunity to breathe life into his two stations.

    "KSCO extends invitations to all displaced KGO hosts to come to a station owned and operated by HUMANS with good hearts, good souls, and diverse personalities and perspectives-- not by cold corporate weasels and bean counters."

    Zwerling managed to sign up only Bill Wattenburg, however.

    Late last year, the prescient Zwerling give Rich Lieberman air time on Saturday and Sunday nights, which met with considerable success and has since expanded into a three-hour daily afternoon show.

    I'd love it if a powerful Bay Area FM station would switch to an all-talk format and carry Rich Lieberman's program, "Lieberman Live." Rich has proven himself a formidable commodity of increasing stature in talk radio.

  33. When does Bernie Ward, the "lion of the left," get out of prison? He'd be a great addition to a new FM talk station. Many of us, his beloved fans from KGO days, would love to see his return to talk radio.

    1. Bernie will have to register as a sex offender when he gets out of prison. He will be poison to the company that hires him. He wouldn't be able to do appearances in public, he has already ruined his wife's medical practice ( she was a pediatrician, how ironic) and his main advocates Mickey Luckoff and Jack Swandon are no longer working here in San Francisco. Keep dreaming of your Lion of the Left returning to the airwaves. You have read the transcripts, haven't you? He is a disgusting human being.

    2. Bernie's spouse is still a highly respected and hard-working physician. She'd be surprised that you had taken her profession away. There is no such person as "jack Swandon".
      Bernie has less that two years to complete his federal sentence for a thought crime. If I owned a radio station, I would hire him in a heartbeat. Ever hear of the concept of redemption? There was nothing, literally nothing in the transcripts which you find so damning,that lead to any charge against Bernie. You are disgusting for implying so.

    3. Christine would stop defending Bernard Ward if the subjects of Bernard's ” thoughts” were dogs...

    4. Bernie was convicted of looking at and transmitting some forbidden images involving human underage sexual content..on the computer. He touched no one. He told no one to touch anyone. He told no one to poison anyone. Once again, your inability to understand that there have to be equities in an analogy leaves you making an absurd one. Sexual images of underage dogs? puppy humping....really? Yes, I'd defend him. Bernie Ward was and will be again, a great radio host, with ironically jesuitical intellect.

    5. Christine, I agree with much of your assement of Bernie, at times I loved his shows, other times not as much, but that is true for most hosts, except Gene and John Rothman. Everyone has their own style based on their personality, I always try to think what it would be like to sit next to that person at a dinner party, that tells me how comfortable I would be talking to them, Bernie could come off as very arrogant, but I would listen to him if he got back on the radio, I often liked his God talk, even though I'm not religious, because he had a unique take on things.

      P.S. I'm sure 6:55 meant to write Swanson, it is easy to make a typo on this blog, d is right next to s on the keyboard, give the guy a break. Other than that I also disagree with his sentiments.

    6. how do you know he's a he? I know and I agree with you that sometimes Bernie and everyone else exerts less effort than they should..But when he was good, he was great. I think Bernie's arrogance and hubris has been, shall we say, greatly modified by his experience.At least he has a brain about which to be arrogant. I communicate with him regularly and am looking forward to visiting with him soon.
      Today , filling for Karel on his syndie show( I've got some inside stuff about Kamala Harris, the president's loose-lipped comments, and her romances with married politicos and married media kingpins. I don't dislike Kamala Harris..but I don't think the President's remarks help her. see you on the radio!

    7. So besides banging Willie Brown Kamela has other sexual dalliances!? I'll have to tine in!

    8. Bernie Ward is in jail. Plain and simple.
      He will never work in this town again!

  34. Mr. Lieberman,

    If you're going to return to KOMY, when can we expect you to resume airing LIEBERMAN LIVE there? Please give us some indication. Have you been dropped or suspended from their daily lineup? Instead of you, I'm listening to Ethan Bearman on that station. You're missed.

    1. KOMY currently is airing Dr. Wattenburg. Come on Rich, what is going on? Are you off KOMY for good?

    2. Loyal Lieberman Live ListenerApril 4, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      I'm going to step in and squelch this foolish, unnecessarily divisive, and purely tangential speculation that Rich has been terminated or suspended from, or has quit, KOMY. Rich is either too busy, too much of a gentlemen, or both, to respond.

      Most of us (meaning those who regularly read Rich's blog and/or listen to his talk show aired on KOMY AM 1340) are well aware that Rich is on hiatus from "Lieberman Live" to care for his 90-year-old mother who recently fell and is recovering from several broken ribs. He will be returning to the air in the near future, but only when sufficient improvement in his injured and frail mother's condition permits.

      So let's all agree to call a time-out on further speculation about whether or not (or when) Rich intends or is going to return to KOMY. Let's discuss more substantive matters, such as the comments and questions posed in Rich's blog posts and the responses posted by readers.

      Rest assured that if there's any change in Rich's plans, he won't keep us in the dark. We'll be among the first to know. If you need more assurance, go to the KSCO/KOMY website and you'll see that references to Rich and his program are still there.

    3. KGO used to have some top-notch talent. I have totally boycotted the station since the firing of The Loyah (Len Tillem), Gene Burns, Dr. Bill, Gil Gross, John Rothmann and others.

      I would love to listen to Ronn in the mornings, but I am so disappointed with the way the management treated the talk hosts and Ronn's squeamish response that everything will turn out just fine. Sorry, Ronn, but you're a sniveling sell-out.

      Adios KGO.

      I was shocked by KKSF's firing of Len Tillem. So much so that I am boycotting that station as well. I used to love listening to Gil Gross, but he didn't stand up for Len, Ed Baxter, or John Rothmann. Guess who benefits from their firing by 910 am? Gil Gross... THAT'S WHO!

      Adios KKSF.

      I'm listening to KQED (88.5 fm) now and occasionally KCBS for breaking news, traffic and weather when I'm in my car.

    4. "Forum" and "All Things Considered" are marvelous shows over on KQED. And no commercials! I'm done with commercial radio.

    5. Rich: An FM station adopting a talk or news-talk format?


      Just what did you have in mind? Put some meat on those bones you threw at us in your post!

    6. The answer to your question, in a word, is NO. Not just no; but, frankly, hell no!

      Am I making myself clear?

      We don't need more simplistic, jingoistic, unthinking reactionary propaganda being spewed from yet one more talk station in the Bay Area. We have more than enough of it already.

      Need your daily dose? Listen to A&G on KKSF 910 followed by Rush Limbaugh or hyper-conservative Sussman and Morgan on KSFO "Hot Talk 560." And there's plenty more throughout the day.

    7. I crave the talk format, and I've found a new home on quirky KSCO and Rich Lieberman's daily three-hour interview and commentary program on sister station KOMY.

      I start my day listening to "Good Morning Monterey Bay," hosted by Rosemary Chalmers, from 6-9 a.m. The rest of the day is a varied and engaging mix of local and syndicated hosts. Rich Lieberman is a big draw afternoons on KOMY from 1-4 p.m., when he holds court.

  35. I've said before and I will say it again.
    Michael Luckoff and Jim Gabbert should join forces.
    The ideal candidate is AM 860. In fact they ought to walk into their studios, knock the doors down and begin with a new format.
    Do we need ESPN deportes?

  36. The reason KCBS FM went down is because the midday announcer showed up on air drunk one day, followed closely by the afternoon guys insulting Penn Gillette on air, and they were fired. Penn happened to be a daily syndicated host. It was an entertaining station but I think CBS local didn't have the stomach for it.

    Look people, KQED FM is basically an FM talker. They're doing pretty well, aren't they?