WUMB-Founded II

A Boston correspondent sent along news of a WUMB poll with not-so-surprising results, according to the Fans of Folk Radio WUMB Facebook page (link also on right):

“You voted — and we’ve tabulated the votes — all 3,741 of them from 42 states and 5 countries!” Now the WUMB home page announces the final results:

11.21.10 | WUMB TOP 100 COUNTDOWN — YES, HE DID IT AGAIN! Our Top 100 Countdown for 2010 is complete. Yes, Bob Dylan did it again, and topped the charts at #1. Thanks, so much to those of you from 42 states and 5 countries who voted this year . . .

The top 10:

10 –  Chris Smither
9 –  Neil Young
8 –  Ellis Paul
7 –  Emmylou Harris
6 –  Joan Baez
5 –  Nanci Griffith
4 –  Richard Thompson
3 –  Joni Mitchel
2 –  Cheryl Wheeler
1 –  Bob Dylan

There are no surprises, congratulations to the top 10.

In “Wumb Boston” — http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814915243 — Richard Danca poses “My question: How does the the top 100 list compare to the playlist? The station’s format has changed a lot over the past few years.” Fans of Folk Radio WUMB can supply a partial answer, we’ll leave the complete answer to WUMB management. WUMB management would do well to take notice of the artists it heavily favors who did NOT make the top ten, or the top 100 or even the top 120, specifically those who are given heavy airplay weekdays 6am-10pm.

From our November 21 note “78-100.

Does anyone have predictions for the top 25? Mark these names: Dala, The Guggenheim Grotto, Back Yard Tire Fire, Birdsong At Morning, Golden Smog, Ingrid Michaelson, Anders Osborne, Feist, Good Old War, The Tallest Man On Earth, Tom Jones, Sass Jordan, Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Samantha Gibb & The Cartel, Greg Laswell, Vetiver . . . you know, the “artists” WUMB plays every day, over and over, like a top 40 pop station. Hey wait, “top 100” contests are a favorite marketing tool of top 40 pop stations. . . .

So how did these heavily played artists fare in the popular vote?

3741 people who took the time to cast votes for their favorite artists have FLAT OUT REJECTED WUMB-FM general manager Pat Monteith’s and her NPR consultants’ favorite pop flashes in the pan. NONE of the heavily played artists mentioned in the 11/21 note finished in the top 100. None finished even in the top 120.


The highest any clunker artist identified by the 500+ members of NEFolknRoots in its “WUMB’s Clunkers” database (read more about “clunkers” in “WUMB-FM’s “Clunkers” — http://www.facebook.com/notes/fans-of-folk-radio-wumb/clunkers-927-930/160762317283137) were Vienna Teng (117) and The Weepies (110).

“Fans of Folk Radio WUMB” strongly recommends that general manager Pat Monteith and her boss Kathleen Teehan take note of this fact and removes them all off the WUMB-FM playlist, as the WUMB-FM “programming committee” did with folk revival artists like Jack Hardy three years ago. The next logical step is to throw away the playlist, and allow program hosts to PRODUCE THEIR OWN SHOWS, to play the music they themselves select.

Ms. Monteith has a BA in math. Will she take the results as an opportunity crunch the numbers and to re-think the WUMB-FM pop AAA strategy, or tomorrow morning at 6am will she dictate Dave Palmater continue to play Dala, The Guggenheim Grotto, Back Yard Tire Fire, Birdsong At Morning, Golden Smog, Ingrid Michaelson, Anders Osborne, Feist, Good Old War, The Tallest Man On Earth, Tom Jones, Sass Jordan, Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Samantha Gibb & The Cartel, Greg Laswell, Vetiver and company?

. . . and we will be watching the “Wumb Boston” friend page to read WUMB management’s answer to Mr. Danca’s question.

Also, noted a correspondent, the station continues to spend money as if it were a big supporter of the folk and roots music it abandoned:

In the well-documented purge of the “f” word (folk, that is) from the WUMB-FM website and e-newsletter, there is one place it remains. Copy and paste http://www.allaboutfolk.com into your browser and see where it leads.


Next, do a “whois” domain search — http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/allaboutfolk.com

Current Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
IP Address: (ARIN & RIPE IP search)
Record Type: Domain Name
Server Type: Apache 2
Lock Status: clientTransferProhibited
WebSite Status: Active

Registrant: WUMB Radio
UMass Boston 100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125



Dig deeper, clicking on the domain registration page’s “AboutUs: ALLABOUTFOLK.COM” leads us to http://www.aboutus.org/AllAboutFolk.com, where we see more information about WUMB-FM.

Why does a “public” radio station licensed to a state university that has a a pop AAA format need such a domain supported with taxpayers dollars? Especially when it has gone out of its way to send the “f” word down the memory hole!

Oh, but there’s more. As another Boston correspondent asks, “When a public university has graphics arts and computer science departments, what justification is there for it to spend federal and state tax money on website and promotional material done by a private party?”:


Internet Ads Top Radio

This small note on Radio-Info.com’s Taylor on Radio reported that advertising on the internet has become big business:

Internet advertising revenue has passed radio, and it’s up 17% in the latest quarter.

At a wild guess, we’ll see the Radio Advertising Bureau third-quarter results either tomorrow afternoon or just before Thanksgiving — Jeff Haley probably has them in his desk now. They’ll probably show something like a 4% to 6% gain for July through September, and that’s a very good thing for an industry whose revenue dived an average 18% in 2009. (And this quarter’s performance for radio compares favorably to newspapers, which are down another 4-5%.) Now we’ve got the quarterly numbers from the IAB, the Internet Advertising Bureau, and they show revenues jumping 17% from a year ago, to $6.4 billion. The IAB research comes from the New Media Group of PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers], “compiled directly from the information supplied by companies selling advertising on the Internet.” But in this era of ultra-slow growth, even the Internet isn’t growing exponentially. The IAB chart shows a dip in the first quarter of this year, and Internet revenue was flat in the middle of 2009. Check the IAB’s release here.

You can see the numbers on the IAB site, here.

A FAIR Share?

The organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has criticized public media — as reported here — for its conservative leanings, not the “liberal bias” that the right has conjured up in its legerdemain as part of its design to control the agenda. In particular, it chided the “public media” for suspect behavior where donations make it beholden to corporate interests, saying, “What is needed is a call for public broadcasting to fulfill its mission, bringing independent, provocative programming that features voices ignored or marginalized by the commercial media.”

Jack Balkwill of LUV Media takes it ten steps further, saying NPR toadies to the multinationals that provide funding, banning the mention of single-payer health care, trumpeting the benefits of outsourcing for the unwashed masses (reported here), and beating the drums leading up to war in the Middle East. “It is now,” he says, ” just corporate darkness and propaganda at the local NPR stations” (reported here).

Now, in this posting, FAIR takes on the PBS and the show Charley Rose, where “viewers are hearing only from supporters of the center-right plan to cut spending and lower taxes for the wealthy”:

The first Charlie Rose discussion on November 11 featured Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein, who found the report “very bold,” though he thought “it didn’t go far enough.” The other guest was David Walker of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who found it a “courageous plan” that “could have been even more aggressive with respect to some of the reforms.” Walker went on to complain, “It is amazing how much controversy there has been, especially from the left, with regard to the Social Security reform proposals, because they are not dramatic or draconian.”

That controversy is apparently not the kind of thing the Rose program wants to share with viewers.

The non-debate continued on the November 15 show, which featured an interview with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a member of the commission who cheered (among other things) the lower corporate tax rates in the Bowles/Simpson plan.

At one point host Charlie Rose asked Paul, “So the point of the commission is to start the debate?” If that was its intent, it was a complete failure when it comes to public TV’s premier interview show.

And who is scheduled to appear on tonight’s broadcast of the Charlie Rose show? Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the deficit commission. That means that five guests will have discussed the deficit commission plan on the show, and all five are enthusiastic supporters of the austerity-themed blueprint of spending cuts, Social Security cuts and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

It’s not difficult to find progressive critics of the deficit commission’s work. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (11/10/10) called the commission a “waste of time,” since the report failed to deal seriously with the dramatic increase in healthcare costs that are largely driving the projected deficits. Other revenue streams that have been championed by progressive experts, like a tax on financial speculation, are not considered in the Bowles/Simpson plan. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (11/12/10), who labeled the whole commission a “compromise between the center-right and the hard-right,” critiqued the plan’s arbitrary cap on federal revenue and called its tax suggestions “a mixture of tax cuts and tax increases — tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increases for the middle class.”

Listen now for the treatment on NPR and see if you can tell a difference.

Keep Your Hands Off My Stash

There’ve been some ominous signs coming out of the political world about funding for public radio. An initial Republican sally against federal funds in Congress wasn’t expected to yield results, but it’s likely just the first volley. A Huffington Post article called it a procedural trick:

The proposal to defund NPR was the latest winning item on the Republicans’ gimmicky YouCut site, which allows the public to pick the cuts they would like to see receive an up-or-down vote on the House floor. In order to get these votes, they try to make a procedural vote on an unrelated piece of legislation the vote on the YouCut item.

It would seem that there are a number of far more important items that should be brought to the floor for an up-or-down vote — but that never seems to happen. Tom Taylor’s blog on Radio-Info.com had this to say:

Yesterday’s 239 to 171 vote was symbolic because Republican leaders knew they’d lose — but they’ll be back in January or February, with stronger numbers. The question is how Americans feel about NPR, and whether NPR fans once again reach out to their elected representatives, as they did during the Newt Gingrich-attack days of the late 1990s. Another question – how strong is the support among NPR stations and on the NPR board for President/CEO Vivian Schiller? The board’s hired Weil, Gotshal & Manges to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Schiller’s seemingly-quick decision to fire senior news analyst Juan Williams. That was the proximate cause of the current conservative attack on NPR. But what lies underneath that is the long-held belief by some conservatives that NPR leans left. You see that in Fox News chief Roger Ailes’ no-holds-barred conversation with Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast.

Of course, many on the other side of the equation argue that NPR is drifting way right of late, assuming also the form of the giant radio consolidators and driving local content off the airwaves. A second note in Tom Taylor’s blog said:

The House vote was barely tallied before NPR issued a release saying that “Today, good judgment prevailed, as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news.” It called the bill “an unwarranted attempted to interject federal authority into local station program decision making.” But this is a highly unusual position for NPR to be in, defending itself so publicly. 2011 is going to be interesting, for lots of reasons.

So NPR is safe for the moment, but on the state level, that’s not the case. In New Jersey, for instance, the governor acted to cut public radio off from state funding, as reported here on Radio-Info.com, where reportedly: “NJN, the state’s public television and radio station, issued layoff notices to its 170 state employees, and additional notices are pending.” Comments touched on the possibility of a private corp taking over the TV and radio or maybe absorption into the New York or Philadelphia borg.

And New Jersey is not alone, as Tom Taylor also reported the following:

State-funded public broadcasting is threatened in Mississippi, too. Yesterday’s TRI told you about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slashing NJN’s radio/TV budget in half this year, and zeroing it out after December 31. Now here’s Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Like Christie, he proposes having MPB turn itself into an independent operation with no contribution from the state. That’s probably not going to happen in New Jersey, given the shortness of the calendar, and its four TV licenses and nine non-commercial radio licenses may be up for grabs. Governor Barbour – a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate – is offering his state’s operation a bit more time to find its own funding.

An Engineer Explains Why HD Sucks

A typically lively discussion on the Radio-Info.com discussion board featuring engineers gone wild started out with the usual swipes at HD radio:

Chuck: Yeah, but it is pretty hard to find any sign of HD radios in most cars. Sure there are a few, but not enough to make any difference. Most people are not going to rip out a perfectly good factory radio to make the switch to HD. It isn’t easy to do and most cars because the factory radio is deeply integrated with other systems on the car. What’s more, the current factory radios sound and work pretty well. Most people simply don’t care enough to do it. This isn’t the 1970’s when people routinely ripped out the horrible factory radios and replaced them with after market units.

On the other hand, Internet connectivity is available on a few cars right now, and will become much more common as time goes on. It is a good bet that it will be very common in the coming years. That’s because it brings a lot more to the table than just a few additional “free” channels, and people are willing to pay for it.

KB10KL: Actually right now they have no clue that HD even exists, let’s be realistic here.

Savage: A large number of factory-optioned HD-capable radios are only available as part of a VERY pricey entertainment and navigation package. In Mercedes-Benz cars the HD-included bundle runs from $3500 to $8000. In Jaguar it’s over 3K. Even Ford’s HD bundle approaches $1K.

The Ford Sync system, OTOH, is a really cool and capable option. It does a lot of thing very well, and very intuitively, seamlessly melding cell tech, internet access and music from a variety of sources including radio. Given the choice most consumers will opt for Sync in vast preference to an additional expenditure for weakly-performing, interference-addled HD.

Then, in response to an HD apologist who claimed that a power increase would make HD hum, the engineer took over (if your idea of major electronics is the TV remote and it still mystifies you, pass on this):

DaveBayArea: Well, it works fine under certain conditions. You need a specific threshold to get above the noise level, and the blanket “so many db below the carrier” doesn’t cut it. Consider two stations, both with theoretically the same Analog coverage. One is 50,000 watts at 500 feet. The other is 4,000 watts at 1580 feet. These are two real stations, both running HD. Their injection level is -20 dbc.  The station with the lower elevation is running HD at an RMS carrier power of 500 watts. It provides an effective HD signal, locking in most vehicles, out to about 30 miles in flat terrain. The station with the higher elevation, however, has superior FM multipath performance in analog mode and can easily be heard on car radios 50 miles away. The HD signal, at 40 watts, drops below the noise threshold of the average HD receiver just a few miles from the transmitter. It’s physics, and the signal diminishes as 1/r-squared. So even though the higher transmitter is still line-of-sight to the receiver the HD signal is gone.

So bring on a power increase. Yes, that can help. But the average signal variation in a moving vehicle is on the order of 20 db (we’ve all noticed bad reception at a stoplight, and you move forward a foot & the signal is good, right?) So even with a full 10 db increase that only brings the high-transmitter signal up to 400 watts, and the HD coverage approaches that of the lower-elevation transmitter. Now, realistically the increase will be 4 db because nobody in those sparsely-populated areas (where they can go up 10 db) is going to shell out the $$ for the high-powered transmitter just so the prairie dogs can hear HD.

Consider also the development of receivers. The new Lexus sports an FM Diversity radio with an unbelievable noise figure. It’s actually two radios in one, connected to two antennas. It samples the noise around the pilot carrier and switches to whichever antenna is receiving the best signal. No more stoplight fades. I rode in one last weekend to Lake Tahoe and we listened to KVMR (Nevada City, CA — check out the theoretical coverage map) from Stockton, CA to Kirkwood along highway 88. This is WAY out of their predicted contour and in mountainous terrain, yet the signal was clean for pretty much the entire trip. There’s strong stations on 89.7 (in Lodi) and 89.3 (in the hills East of Stockton) but the Lexus radio didn’t care.

Interestingly enough, KVMR can’t be heard clearly much closer to their transmitter in Sacramento, because there’s a station on 89.3 running HD. It’s now seven years since HD first appeared in the San Francisco market, and the number of listeners deprived of signals due to interference still far exceeds the number of listeners capable of hearing HD. It was a noble effort, but let’s face it — digital needs a new radio band.

But, hey. What do engineers know? The laws of physics are subject to the vagaries of advertising — and, apparently, the FCC.

On the Mark

A post on the Mark Ramsey Media website headlines this dire threat: “New Survey warns: Radio must be Irreplaceable.” Mark undertook a survey of 1,000 radio listeners along with VIP Research, asking the following question:

If your local radio stations went off the air tomorrow and you had to get your news, information, and music from other sources, how would you feel about this?

A)   I would be very unhappy and miss my radio stations a lot

B)   It would be too bad, but I would find other ways to inform and entertain myself

C)   It wouldn’t matter much to me; I can get what radio provides elsewhere

The results should give pause to PDs of all stripes, as answer “B” nosed out “A,” as shown below:

In other words, those who said they’d get by or wouldn’t care make up 63% of the study. Answers varied with sex of the respondents (men cared less) and format (News/Talk would be most missed). Mark’s conclusion:

So the lesson for us all is that while attracting usage may be relatively easy, evoking passion is a lot more difficult.  And the key in this process is investing in unique and quality content that listeners care about [emphasis added].

In the long run, the best way to avoid obsolescence is to be worth missing.

The best way to avoid substitution is to be irreplaceable.

I think radio will matter to one degree or another for a good long time, even if we do nothing.  But it sure won’t matter as much as it used to — unless we do something.

In the case of public radio, it seems that the logical choice would be to first ask the local listeners what they want to hear — rather than blindly follow what ratings say most people like and precipitously careen off on the next good idea that some bean counter comes up with. Or conform heedlessly to the dictates of the mass collective driving the machine.

WUMB-Founded II

There was an interesting exchange recently on a North East Folk ‘n’ Roots radio group, with the initial question posed in this manner:

I’m wondering if this is fact or fiction: Pat is doing all the music programming now and won’t let JL have anything to do with it, even though he’s the “Music Director.” You can say what you will about him; however, I couldn’t think of a more unqualified person than Pat to fill this role. Word is that she makes every decision regarding playlist (somewhat explain the clunkers). I’m not sure how long this has been going on, or again, if in fact it is true.


Which ignited this reply:

Despite what I know and have seen of Monteith’s desire to have complete personal control over her station and everyone and everything in it, I find it difficult to believe that even she, with her ego, would believe that she is in the least bit qualified to select the music. From what I saw, she paid little attention to the music played on the station, and knew very little about it.

However, she may be doing it based on selections made by AAA format (“Triple-A” or “Adult Album Alternative”) radio consultants that she uses from time to time, the ones who suggested the format change from “Folk Radio” to the current “WUMB Music Mix” a couple of years ago. They are outside consultants, not staff at the station.

If so, these are the same consultants who program the very successful WXPN in Philadelphia, and moderately successful WFUV in NYC, but WUMB (for other reasons as well) has been sliding further downhill in ratings and revenue ever since their advised format change.

Philly and NYC are very different radio markets with very different circumstances and history from Boston. What works for them there won’t work here, but those consultants aren’t familiar with the Boston audience and the very different heritage that WUMB once had.

I know that, ever since the firing of former twenty-year Program Director Brian Quinn, Monteith has been the de-facto Program Director as well as only-ever General Manager. (The person listed as “Programming” on their website is someone who simply takes orders from Pat, and has no actual input).

I believe that the reason why she doesn’t utilize the knowledge and talent of her own staff at the station (past and present) to make such decisions is because she finds it threatening to her absolute control to allow anyone who works for her to become particularly successful at accomplishing anything, and then take the credit that they deserve for it. She would perceive that as giving the staff member a little more power within her fiefdom, and to make them a little less subject to her manipulation.

For example, any intelligent radio programmer would know that it would not be a wise decision to pre-empt a portion of your stations highest Arbitron rated and highest pledged-for show, Barnes Newberry’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” to air syndicated program specials. When something is successful, you don’t fool with it.

It never would have happened under Brian Quinn, who always aired such specials in slots where there were no established and particularly popular programs. It was more important to her to demonstrate her control over that program than to continue it as it was, and then she (probably) wonders why the stations ratings and revenue keep declining under her rule and places the blame on everyone and everything else but herself.

And this:

Myself being a UMass alumnus, I feel I could do a better job as the program director. I’d fire all the consultants and get the station back to its folk and roots beginnings. I’d also bring back “As Young As You Feel,” “Black Expressions,” and “Fusion Latina” to the station. This way, we could bring a very well balanced diet of folk and roots programming.

%d bloggers like this: