New Media 101

The following appeared in’s New Media column, an article by Jim Kerr called “The Future Is Now.” In it, Jim describes his experiences with his young teenage daughter, an experience mirroring that of a teenage son — who, however, could care less about radio in general in favor of his iPod and the computer. Both experiences, however, call into question once again the wisdom of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s chucking $50 million of taxpayer shekels at public radio stations to bolster the startup of HD radio, a monopoly enterprise that promises the sun and delivers drizzle. The madcap dash to ensnare the young’uns today appears totally misdirected, landing our public stations pell-mell in a morass of expenditures without hope of return on investment — at the expense of any kind of local control.

My daughter is a huge fan of Kiss FM in Dallas. One reason is that she interned there and has a personal connection with the staff. She feels emotionally connected to the station. This is powerful, and thus it is not surprising that she often asks me to put Kiss FM on in the car or I hear her listening to it in her room. But a strange thing started happening — I stopped hearing her playing music in her room.

Recently I went into her room and saw her working on some homework on her computer. Her being a 14 year old, she was also listening to something on her iPhone. When I asked her what, she said she was listening to Kiss FM on the I Heart Radio app. I looked at her desk. Within arm’s reach was a nice stereo with big speakers. It includes an FM radio. But she wasn’t listening to Kiss FM on that. Also connected to the stereo is her computer, which also gave her the ability to listen to Kiss FM via a stream and those nice speakers. But she wasn’t listening to that, either. She was listening to mobile streaming on her phone. I asked her why.

“Well, I’m texting with my friends, and if I listen to music on my stereo I’m afraid I’ll miss hearing the beep of an incoming text. So I’m listening on my phone because it will interrupt the music with a sound if I get a text.”

Let that sink in for a moment. My daughter, a huge fan of Kiss FM, has access to better sound quality on her stereo but ignored it. Why? Because texting is so important to her that she wanted to use the music feature that worked with her texting, not got in the way of it.

This is how habits change. Radio that works within the lifestyle of consumers today will become ascendant, and those that don’t will fail. This is the tipping point that is reached when technology, new models, and the consumer all merge. As I said, radio is moving this way and consumers are driving it.

So look at radio today. What are the growing consumer expectations and what are the forces at play? Are FM or AM radio able to be in the path of these things? The answer to that question tells us whether radio via towers or radio via streaming is the future.


Name That Tune

In Tom Taylor’s blog on, he posted recently on the flyin’ Purple People Meter of Arbitron, saying:

There are “myths” about PPM, and Jon Coleman is the de-bunker.
The Coleman Insights principal prowled the stage in Baltimore to share some hard-earned lessons. Myth #1 – “Our numbers will be much more stable and reliable with PPM than they were with the diary.” They actually are more stable, in many cases – but there are still more wobbles, drops and unexplained surges than many folks expected. Myth #2 – “We’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t work, immediately.” Well – sometimes. Coleman says “sample issues make this difficult, because the meter count in any individual minute is not very high.” And sometimes, the panel just changes. Case in point – Coleman client “Power 106” KPWR in L.A., where a Coleman-recommended set of tweaks in late 2008 seemingly produced a gratifying pop in AQH audience. Jon says programmer Jimmy Steal was offering “high fives on the phone.” But a bit later, it seemed the gains might’ve come from turnover on the PPM panel, and had little to do with the tweaks. Myth #3 – “Brands don’t matter.” That leads Coleman to a set of his beloved x/y axis graphs, about “the brand” versus the “in-the-moment decision.” Let’s skip to Myth #5 – “Since PPM measures actual behavior instead of recall, we don’t’ need to market as much.” Coleman says 75% of listening comes from “intentional listening” – and to generate that, you should “be well-known, own a position, and build a brand.”

Leave aside the question of whether public radio stations should be sifting the tea leaves of Arbitron to determine what music they should play — the flavor du jour seems to be Triple A. Isn’t that somewhere in their mission statement? Play what everybody wants to hear? That’s what they’d have you believe. (The same Tom Taylor newsletter says that Clear Channel represents 19 percent of Arbitron’s business.)

And let’s not consider that the Media Rating Council just withdrew accreditation for all but three of the 43 markets boasting the PPMs (here). Not even Arbitron itself claims that the data are particularly accurate. Its website carries this disclaimer: “PPM ratings are based on audience estimates and are the opinion of Arbitron and should not be relied on for precise accuracy or precise representativeness of a demographic or radio market.” Other than the fact that the ad flacks for the major conglomerates would sell their soul to be smiled on by Arbitron; that translates directly into ad dollars. For “public” stations, that means underwriting dollars — which, of course, are ads worded very carefully.

No, it’s all about gaming the numbers, figuring what makes the numbers sing your tune, as noted here in a Radio World article. In it, author Randy Stine notes that the beefs remain the same, even with the higher-tech PPM:

Early PPM beefs of programmers ranged from small sample panels to under-representation in samples of minority populations. Arbitron has said sample sizes are on track to increase approximately 10 percent in 2011; and the company has made changes to its recruitment methodology to address concerns expressed by groups including the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

Some programmers also have complained about PPM “wobbles,” seemingly random rating swings, according to Harker Research. It found that “flipping a coin is directionally more predictive than looking at monthly PPM trends.”

Randy writes later in the article that Arbitron is just beginning to address the lack of minorities in the samples — in three cities (Miami, Dallas, and the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx). It’ll get around to your city . . . eventually. But meanwhile, radio programmers have had to learn to tweak their schedules to dance to Arbitron’s tune:

[A]s PPM reveals that people listen to more stations per week than previously thought, it also shows that people spend less time with each station, which is why two other statistics, time spent listening and average quarter hour, tend to be lower using PPM. As a result, programmers now work to get their listeners to come back for more visits, rather than emphasize longer visits for each occasion….

“In a world that has speeded up from sound bites and tweets, attention spans are short and PPM picks up on that. Programmers and talent are confronted with the challenge to get to the point as quickly as possible,” said Alex Demers, president of Demers Programming Media Consultants….

“The most successful music stations continue to be those who distinguish themselves by bonding with listeners with what is between the songs,” said Holland Cooke, president of Holland Cooke Media. “And (talk) stations and hosts who quickly recognize what is relevant, quickly set the topics and avoid windy monologues, will do well with PPM.”

So if your “public” station is sounding a little “snappy” lately — with perhaps a soupçon of “smarmy” tossed in — just remember they’re in a dance contest now. And they’re competing against the big boys, the commercial model they so wish to emulate, the same bunch that saw a 19 percent decrease in ad revenues last year. And they’re all dancing as hard as they can.

A New Day?

Is the FCC showing signs of intelligent life now? Don’t bet on it, though this post on the site Broadcast Law blog — entitled “FCC Commissioner Copps Calls For Stricter Broadcast Station License Renewal Standards — Could It Happen?” — is rife with possibilities:

In his address . . . given to the Columbia University School of Journalism, [FCC Commissioner] Copps specifically suggested a “Public Value Test” for broadcasters when they file their license renewals. If the broadcaster passes the test, the broadcaster would get a renewal. If the broadcaster did not pass — if it does not show that it has “earned” the right to “use the people’s airways” — then the licensee would get a one year probation period to prove that it should keep its license. If it does not improve, then the license would be taken and given to “someone who will use it to serve the public interest.”

Of course, that depends on the definition of “serving the public interest.” Perhaps this is a question best addressed to the solons of public radio. Commercial radio, with its conglomerated monotony, may already be too far gone. But does the “public interest” in public radio include a simpering sycophancy to Arbitron numbers, with an eye to presenting the most popular music possible to listeners? Is that their mission?

Some of the thoughts from the commish on what should be checked:

  • Enhanced Disclosure — requiring broadcasters to provide more information about their programming performance, on the Internet, as the Commissioner believes that information in the public file is “laughable,” and also requiring that the FCC review that information at renewal time
  • Reflecting Diversity — looking to increase the gender, ethnic and racial ownership of broadcast stations
  • Community Discovery — requiring that broadcasters be required to, in some formal way, communicate with their communities to determine local programming needs and the interests of various groups within a station’s community
  • Local and independent programming — requiring that broadcasters provide more local and independent programming instead of “homogenized music and entertainment from huge conglomerates — the Commissioner suggesting 25% of local programming being dedicated to local and independent programs.

Whoa. Dude. That’s communism, isn’t it? “Homogenized music” is public-radio bean-counter Valhalla, the altar at which they worship. And “disclosure”? How about some financial disclosure? As the “What Can I Do?” link on the left notes, public radio stations receiving taxpayer money should be required by law to completely disclose their finances — no more hiding mismanagement behind parochial statute.

And as long as we’re talking about taxpayer money, what about the $50 million that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has poured into local stations as a down payment on HD radio — a sham pseudo-science controlled by iBiquity, a monopoly interest, and boosted by major consolidators in radio. At no other time in history have the public airwaves been offered up for sole proprietorship. NPR itself is complicit in gaining its acceptance, as noted here, for the intended result of marketing its canned programs.

HD radio’s effect on low-power stations and analogue radio in general has been well chronicled in these pages. And as Mr. Copps himself admitted, “Everybody involved pretty much admitted from the outset that the digital radio initiative is all about giving the broadcast industry more avenues to make money rather than actually improving radio from the perspective of the listener.”

So has the commish turned into the great crusader all of a sudden? Or has he, in face of a greater power in the hallowed halls of the Columbia University School of Journalism, undergone some sort of death-bed conversion? If we’re going down that road, there’s much more to the question than just the pop pap purveyed by radio — public or otherwise. And as the post’s author, David Oxenford, takes great pains to note, chances of any of this happening (in an FCC that’s served loyally as an industry lapdog) are slim and none. And Slim just rode outa town.

The Same Old Song

Radio Survivor carried this story yesterday, and it should come as no surprise to those listeners who’ve had their public stations absorbed into the borg of Arbitron-inspired Triple A tripe or talk-talk. “Classical, jazz, and world music on public radio declined by up to 30% over last decade,” written by Matthew Lasar, reports:

A survey of 505 public radio stations from 2001 through 2010 indicates that a fifth of them abandoned classical music formats during those years. Many also let go of jazz, and even more discarded world music during the same time period. The statistics were submitted to the Federal Communications Commission by National Public Radio in October.

“During this time, we saw decreases in classical music (down 20%), jazz music (down 15%), and world music (down 30%) and increases in eclectic music programming (up 54%), popular music (19%) and news programming (up 27%),” NPR wrote to the FCC.

More recently the downturn in classical music on public radio has been less pronounced. Surveys in 2006 and 2010 of the full 1057 public radio stations in the United States indicate that the decline from mid-decade to the present has slowed down, dropping by three percentage points, from 27 to 24 percent.

But the basic trend continues: more news, more pop, less classical, world music, and jazz.

The accompanying chart there broke it down further:

Jeff Boudreau reports that at ‘GBH in Boston — which unceremoniously dumped folk and blues to compete in all talk all the time — the public TV side of the conglomerate picked an odd show to beat the drum in the latest fundraiser: “John Sebastian Presents: Folk Rewind.” As Jeff noted, channeling Arlo Guthrie, they’ve got a “lot of damn gall.”

‘GBH is currently going through contract negotiations, Jeff says, and sent along this website that gives an interesting take on what is transpiring, well worth the read. One basic question author Rachel Wiederhoeft asks that rings far too true in the general politics of the day: “And so my next thought then is, what if, just what if the economy is just a scapegoat for a power grab?” The economy does seem to have a rather gilded tint to it… Check it out, and if you’re so inclined, add your name to the Facebook group involved in the battle.

WUMB’s the Word

The following came from a post on the Fans of Folk Radio WUMB, reposted in its entirety, giving a good look at how songs are chosen at a radio station for incessant replay:

When record companies and some independent artists send CDs to commercial radio stations for airplay they are often stickered with notes “suggesting” which tracks to favor for airplay, as well as “tear sheets,” a one page artist biography and background information.

The theory is the more “spins” a certain song gets, the higher it will place in Billboard and other commercial pop music charts. WUMB-fm is run more as a commercial station than an independent community station in that

1)  it subscribes to this practice,

2)  airplay is dictated by music director, not the program hosts, who allows only certain artists/songs to be played (e.g. “playlist”),

3)  despite their personal knowledge and experience, “on air hosts” are not allowed to deviate from the playlist.

We suspect WUMB’s new CD flow goes something like this:

The music director…

1)  receives new CDs and reviews for “fit,”

2)  selects only one or two songs, the ones best fitting music mix WUMB’s desired sound, to add to the playlist,

3)  has the CD “ripped” into itunes or a similar database,

4)  creates a daily computer program of songs, promotional breaks, station IDs, PSAs, planned breaks for news, etc. The “on air personalty”…

5)  sits in the UMass Boston studio or in their home studio, and like a TV talking head, during the music breaks reads off prepared scripts or list of management-written talking points about the artists and songs.

Some functionary…

6)  Submits the daily “WUMB playlist archive” — — to Billboard, Americana Music Association and/or other commercial trade organizations.

In return…

7)  WUMB-fm management gets some kind of reward from record companies and featured artists’/artists’ agents.

If after a 3-4 weeks the CD is still in the favor of the music and general manager, the original one or two songs are retired, replaced by another one or two prescribed by the record company and publicist, and the cycle begins anew. Playing the snot out of the chosen songs to the exclusion of all others on the album, or previously done by the artist, to many listeners makes songs and artists unwelcome (that song again??!!).

In the wall post in its “friend” page — — titled “Results of WUMB Boston’s annual Top 101 performers, including Chris Smither at number…,” “friends” are asking WUMB-fm management to explain their reasoning behind the heavy play/favorite practice, especially in light of many of the favored artists did not receive enough votes in the recent contest to break the top 120, let alone the top 100.

Richard Danca 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.

Wumb Boston ‎100% the artists on our Top 100 list are in the WUMB Playlist. If an artist makes it into the Top 100 and we have not previously had their music in our Playlist, we add it.

Scott Johnsen ‎@WUMB – Nice!

Paul Martin re “100% the artists on our Top 100 list are in the WUMB Playlist,” but the opposite is not true. The point was many of the favored artists played every day did not make the top 120. I believe that was Mr. Danca’s underlying point. Will those peoples’ votes (or lack of) influence play frequency and possible de-listing

Wumb Boston The Top 100 artists will probably be played more often. However, artists will not be removed just because they didn’t make the Top 100.

Howard Glazer Why not reduce the number of spins songs by those artists get? After all, the voting seems to show that the push being given those artists by your program director (1) isn’t working.(3)

For more about the “favored” artists who failed to make the top 120, read “There are no surprises in the top ten, so let us focus on how the ‘clunkers’ fared” —

WUMB’s “heavy play/narrow focus” commercial practice causes one to wonder, why does WUMB-fm give favor to certain artists and songs to the exclusion of others, is this to “bump” songs the record companies dictate up the charts? That practice serves the selected artists and their record companies and their publicists, but what does WUMB-fm get in exchange? We hope it is not payola (2), can there be another logical reason?

And how does repeating the same AAA artists and songs over and over and over benefit the listeners?

When some non-current favorite song is played, the chances are very hight that it is the one or two or three approved for airplay of that artist. Does WUMB-fm hold listeners in such a low regard that it believes listeners crave only the familiar? One of WUMB-fm’s favorite promotional jingles is “our roots are deep,” which is pure hype and subject to debate. It would be more palatable and truthful if “…but our hyper-played featured artist list is shallow” were added.

Perhaps WUMB-fm will reinstate its “Ask the Manager” feature (not heard since ex-program manager Brian Quinn was on staff) so we could try to get a direct answer. Or hold public forums where members and former members could ask policy questions. In lieu of that, we suggest you call or write station management — — to inquire into their reasoning behind earmarking 1 or 2 songs/album and playing the snot out of them. And why, despite popular rejection of 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 in the popular “top 120” vote, they will continue to receive airplay. And why WUMB-fm has adopted a commercial rather than free-form community radio sound and practices.


(1) Please note, WUMB-fm has had no program director since Brian Quinn’s departure, Mr. Glazer probably meant “music director.” Nevertheless, we are waiting for that answer!


(3) Extracted from To read the entire thread, go to

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” — — 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” — 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 into your browser and see where it leads.


Next, do a “whois” domain search —

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, 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?”:

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 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, 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.

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