May 10, 2006

Arbitron winter ratings: Air America, KPTK is tied with KIRO!

Our cursory glances at the new Arbitron ages 25 to 54 rating book for last Winter, shows local Air America station KPTK statistically tied with former news talk leader, KIRO.

(The 25-54 is the all-important "money demo" used by advertisers. Radio (and TV) lives or dies by this survey. It's  stupid, really- how many 25-year olds do you know who listen to the same stuff on the radio as a 54-year old? I come up with the same number- zero to none. Yet the listening habits of both ages are bunched up together, crunched in a million different ways, and the broadcast world hinges on the results. This isn't the only reason it's called the Arbitrary-tron rating by snide insiders).

"Time spent listening"- (TSL) numbers show that KIRO's average listener between the ages of 25 and 54, spends less than 5 hours a week tuned to the station during the day, 6a-7p.

That means they spend less than an hour a day listening to the morning news, Dave and Dori.

People are sampling KIRO, tuning in for a traffic report or hourly newscast, and then fleeing. KIRO's TSL is only marginally better than KOMO's, but KOMO's product is designed to offer elements at predictable times so listeners know exactly when to tune in for traffic or sports.

KIRO's abysmal TSL has allowed KPTK catch up. Between 6a and 7p, KIRO ranked 11th among people 25-54. KPTK ranked 12th, but ITAL it was behind by only 200 listeners. Statistically, that's a tie.

KIRO has three times as many unique listeners as KPTK, but KPTK keeps its listeners for more than 2 1/2 hours a day.

Continue reading "Arbitron winter ratings: Air America, KPTK is tied with KIRO!" »

May 09, 2006

Tuesday oddems: dog poop, small talk, reichertsblog, reagan voodoo audionomics, sprince sprints, cigar show goes up in smoke...

~~How would we know which talk host in which Seattle music station insists on bringing her small, ill-tempered dog into the studio every day? You know, the one who craps around the management suites and has bitten people in sales ?

~~Reader John wrote to recommend Equal Time, which is broadcast (but not broadly) on Fridays at noon on tiny KLAY (1180 am) in Lakewood, Pierce County. We gave it a listen and  it's hosted energetically by a couple of very dedicated Pierce County libs- Frank "Motor Mouth" Blair and Audrey Chase. Audrey chairs the Democrats 25th legislative district, Blair is a local business man very active in the local Democratics. Podcasts are available at Democratic Radio.org. Check out the 2006/04/21 program featuring an interview with 8th District Democratic congressional candidate, Darcy Burner.

~~Ace blogger, and hard-working researcher Dan Kirkdorffer over at On the Road To 2008, has dissected Dave Reichert's voting record, and it ain't pretty. Republicans like and including Reichert stuck in swing districts, are scurrying to the middle in order to get out of the way of the Anti-Bush tsunami aimed at their fat asses (Bush got a Nixonian 31% approval rating, today). In order to appeal to independents and Democrats, Reichert's people are claiming he voted 55% of the time on the same side as the majority Democratic position. Kirkdoeffer says: "Problem is that almost half of those votes (206) were undisputed procedural votes, and hence meaningless when determining voting tendencies. Furthermore, his overall voting record has him voting 94% of the time with the majority Republican position." Read the facts here.

~~It's been heartening that KIRO's new schedule added the well-informed and amiable Ron Reagan, (m-f, 12-1p) a local progressive host doing local progressive talk, albeit for only an hour a day. The re-interjection of Dave Ross (KIRO m-f, 9a-12p) into the ayem fray has also helped. It's all kind of a push, since we lost liberal hosts when Erin Hart was riffed and Mike Webb imploded. Nobody much listened to Erin; and Webb did little more than pluck the low-hanging fruit of the Bush blatancies which are already well-covered nationally. Local progressive activists never considered Webb a local talk host. Democrats need hosts like KVI's Carlson and Wilbur.

~~Reagan's producer and on-air sidekick is none other than Sprince Arbogast, the weekend Metro traffic person with the made-up sounding name. She's kind of mysterious about her background, but she's been doing traffic around here for quite a few years. That she surfaced as producer of the hot new Ron Reagan show is impressive and she still does traffic in her spare time.

~~We haven't seen the important "money demo" yet of the Winter ratings book recently released by Arbitron, but Air America's KPTK in Seattle is pulling a respectable 2.8 in the 12+ survey. They're doing it with no local programming. It's mystifying why they won't take a big chance and hire a jock to do local stuff it's only money to be made...liberal tlk in Seattle? what a concept!

~~On May 5, Rush Limbaugh (KTTH m-f, 9a-12p) denied any similarity between his and Rep. Patrick Kennedy prescription drug problems. Big Pants was confronted by a caller over his acceptance of a deal in which he pleaded not guilty on April 28th to one charge of doctor-shopping to get illegal amounts of drugs. Limbaugh asked: "Tell me ... where they're similar. I had a problem. I admitted it. I went and dealt with it. I have been clean from the painkillers for almost two years and eight months." The Big Fat idiot got honest about his addiction to painkillers only after reports of his problems surfaced based on allegations from his housekeeper. Limbaugh said Kennedy's case differs from his because "there's a cover up" in Kennedy's case. Media Matters reports, "Yet, when the caller confronted Limbaugh about reports that the investigation into his abuse of painkillers had initially included, according to the New York Daily News, an examination of whether Limbaugh was 'buying thousands of addictive painkillers from a black-market drug ring,' Limbaugh refused to answer, stating only that he would not 'dignify such tripe.'"

~~Remember how we complained about the cigar show and the wine show on Saturdays?
We got a snide note from someone over at KOMO: "And I know you have to hold your nose to listen to KVI, but the Cigar Lounge with Mister Anderson hasn't been on for weeks and it was only a half hour when it was on. Maybe it just seemed longer...Doc Vino aired exactly twice two months ago. We are currently in the process of selling the 6pm hour on Saturday to another show." Blatherwatch got the information from the KVI website that they had hurriedly altered shortly before writing us their petty complaints. May be they should bring their website into the 21st century as KIRO did a few months ago.

~~There's a certain guy in a certain Seattle music station who's threatening to kidnap and eat a certain small, ill-tempered dog brought into the studio every day who craps around the management suites and bites people in sales. Bon Appetite! as we always say...

April 21, 2006

MIKE WEBB UPDATE, the inevitable postponed, new york mikey, blather on crack, effseesee entercom anal probe, homophobics classes, we stand corrected, the cheese stands alone

~~Michael Kenneth Webb, (as he's known downtown) former KIRO talk host postponed the inevitable again today. His attorney appeared in Judge Helen L. Halpert's court this morning to set over his omnibus hearing and trial dates for the charges of insurance fraud against him.  This is the fourth time he's delayed the proceedings. New dates:  omnibus hearing, June 30; trial, July 12.

~~We're sorry for the blogging hiatus this week- Old Man Blather was working/romping/mange-ing up a storm in New York and pretending there's no such thing as bloggery, puffery or buggery. We did, however spy Sean Hannity walking along 7th Ave. near 32nd St., talking on a cellphone and spitting out bits of butter that apparently wouldn't melt in his mouth. This is the closest The Blathe has had to a talk radio celebrity sighting since we found ourselves (you know what we mean) at adjacent urinals with Lt. Bryan Suits (KVI m-f, 5-7p) at the EMP in 2000. Both encounters were sad and strangely forgettable.

~~Better late than never, dep't. Finally the Bush FCC has been shamed into getting into the act and it's more troubles for Entercom. Since 2004, they, with Clear Channel, CBS Radio, and Citadel have been investigated for payola (illegal play for pay) by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who sued Entercom in February alleging that execs had implemented institutional systems trading cash for airplay. Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission launched formal investigations of the four large radio corporations. Entercom not only owns the Seattle talk stations, KIRO, and KTTH, we're always blabbing about, but also big gnarly music stations around town like The Mountain, oldies KBSG, rocker KISW, new country KKWF, and alternative KNDD. Entercom has denied the charges.

~~Mike Webb can't quite make up his mind whether we're homophobic or gay- or both, as he is. Could someone please explain this mysterious message posted on his website this week?
"So tonight we'll hear some feedback from readers and listeners about the "piece" written by Seattle Weekly and we'll match it up with the latest Front Page Headlne and see if a story about a Radio Blogger named Michael H. Butterworth visiting gay nightclubs really ranks or not. You decide."  HUH?

Continue reading "MIKE WEBB UPDATE, the inevitable postponed, new york mikey, blather on crack, effseesee entercom anal probe, homophobics classes, we stand corrected, the cheese stands alone" »

March 06, 2006

It's the money demo: KIRO, KTTH peeking over the edge...

As we've reported, the midterm ratings known as 'trends' are out and the news ain't rosy for the Seattle Entercom talkers, KIRO, and KTTH. We reported Friday that the ages 12+ numbers were poor, but now we've seen the important-to-advertisers 25-54 surveys and they're devastating.

Overall (6 a.m. to midnight), the station slipped, even with the Seahawks' playoff run. Because of easy possibilities of sampling error, monthly ratings aren't usually that important to advertisers, but KIRO's terrible January is a blow.

That's because, as a source so poetically put it, KIRO was "counting on the Seahawks for a killer January, but instead, they got killed." (Sports talker KJR AM, on the other hand got a nice Seahawks bump).

KIRO ranked 12th; KVI 13th, Air America's KPTK 14th, and KOMO 18th. (If KIRO's February is even half as bad as its January, they're saying, KVI will easily beat it in the next trend.).

KIRO's morning drive, (5-9a) the news bloc with Jane Shannon and Gregg Hersholt used to rank consistently in the top 3, if not number one in the 25-54 demo. It sank to 8th place over the three-month trend. (January numbers were especially bad; ranking 11th, behind Stephanie Miller at Air America.

In the midday (10a-3p), a time slot where Dave Ross and Dori Monson used to kick Rush's ample fundament, John Procaccino and Dori have now pulled it down to 15th. Thom Hartmann and Eddie Shultz at Air America's KPTK beat them in 8th place. In January, KIRO midday performance ranked behind KDDS, a Spanish-language FM station out of Olympia! (and would have been even worse were it not for a relatively good December).

Dave Ross (m-f, 3-6) is wasting away in the afternoon drive (3-7p); and the numbers prove it- he was 18th in the three month trend. Al Franken and John Carlson beat him coming in at 11th. Ross's mere 19 minutes per hour of programming floating like scraps of meat in an off-putting ragout of traffic and ads has driven off many dedicated listeners such as BlatherWatch, and just about everyone else we know. (KOMO came in at 14th;-back when KIRO did news in this slot, it was usually in the top 10 in this demo.)

Continue reading "It's the money demo: KIRO, KTTH peeking over the edge..." »

February 28, 2006

Tuesday oddems: mike webb flies de coop, medved cries fowl, laura kiel makes a squawk, bryan suits lays an egg, SUV runs over chicken hawk, blatherWatch crosses the road

~~ Mike Webb late of KIRO, who will be facing a judge on March 21 in the City of Seattle's case against him for felony fraud, has gone missing. No, he hasn't jumped bail as far as we know, he just hasn't done his podcast for a few weeks. He's been running KIRO tapes of his old show complete (yawn) with commercials and traffic. Also moldy Stephanie Miller Shows apparently ripped off the Net. The website says he's on vacation. Our sources bet he's out looking for a job- there's nothing in this market for Mike Webb, we're betting.

~~We're all about words around here, so every once in a while, we have to mock Michael Medved (KTTH m-f, 12-3p) for his, shall we say unique? pronunciations. We've bitched about his mangled "Nawlins," when he's trying to sound like Loozyana down-homeboy (kinda hard when you've gotta yiddisher kopf and all that Ivy League education). Then there's his Ku (rhymes with pew) Klux Klan, which gives us hives and today, he again said BOO-fay for buffet sounding like a realtor putting on airs at the Royal Fork. (In France, the slang buffer, pronounced  BOO-fay, means to wolf your food- farmhands, teenage boys, and reporters buffe). He also says ISSaquh (rhymes with duh!) instead of Issaquah (rhymes with kiss-a-squaw). Knowing Michael (which we don't) his pronunciation is probably the correct Salish; but for people who live around here it just sounds like he's from LA and has the words but not the tune.

~~Quote of the Day: "Why do people still keep tuning in to KIRO? Isn't that like continually opening the refrigerator door, hoping that one of these times there will be something interesting to eat?" ~Sparky in our comment threads.

~~Quote of the Month: "It's hard to be a conservative these days." ~Laura Kiel, of Kiel Mortgage, Republican stalwart, patron, and principle sponsor of Republican Radio, the snide Saturday snorefest (KVI 3-5p) where we heard this in a discussion of Hell-with-port-security-everything's-for-salegate. It shows how deeply the Bush ineptitude and guile is rumbling through his own party. If Laura Kiel is doubting out loud on the radio- you know they're in trouble- and so do they.

Continue reading "Tuesday oddems: mike webb flies de coop, medved cries fowl, laura kiel makes a squawk, bryan suits lays an egg, SUV runs over chicken hawk, blatherWatch crosses the road" »

February 17, 2006

Friday oddems: arbitron smokes dutch cleanser, snow falls up, heather bosch gets crazy, vinnie eats bob brinker, steve scher goes ballistic, judy nicastro gets married, purity products make a mess in the KIRO kitchen, mahalo justice, deconstructed rabbit

~~What will we do when KIRO radio fires the last man standing? We woke up with the cold sweats last night with fevered dreams that Dave Ross trekked off to an NGO in Africa; Dori Monson was busted for payola involving dog food; Procaccino got a soap; Vinnie ate something he shouldn't have; Shiers put his finger on something he shouldn't have, and Ciscoe went to Muscle Shoals to cut a record. There was no one left but Tom Douglas, Heather Bosch and Carl Jeffers. Tom was noodling around the KIRO kitchen with a Top Ramen, Heather was frantic (if you can imagine such a thing) looking for the door; Carl was burning to the ground unattended.

~~What will New York Vinnie do on his new sports show when the Mariners get going? (we realize that's a stretch) But who'd wanna listen to Vinnie talk about the Mariners while they're actually playing over on KOMO? How long can this last, this 7-9p sports blather

~~Seattle Weekly Editor Knute Berger wrote us about being stuck in his Eastside home that windy Saturday two weeks ago without electricity. Of course, local TV crews were standing out in their storm parkas all over Western Washington, giving the tedious minutiae of how hard the wind was blowing, where and when it'd begin and end; who had electricity, how many puppies were impacted and all the other attendant drammer around the storm. This was lost on Berger, and everybody else who hadn't the juice to crank up the TV. When he went to get storm news on his car radio, all he could get was gardening with Ciscoe Morris, (KIRO 10a-1p) Home Front with Tami Michaels (KVI, noon-2p) and Republican Radio (KKOL,10:30a-12:30p).

~~And speaking of sports (and you know we'd rather not) Everett's KRKO is going to 50k watts. The idea is to splatter across the Seattle market, but...with what? They're ESPN now, but that would conflict with KJRAM, also ESPN and huge in this market. May we suggest progressive talk radio with local talk hosts? Nobody else does it in this liberal town. (we know, we know, it won't happen, but we never give up).

~~Is Lou Pate gay? that's the question asked in about half our mail. Of course not, is the answer. As a matter of fact, Pate is heterosexual to a fault according to the other half of the mail. Despite the conspiracy theories about race-crazed Hawaiians, mahalo justice, and a million dollar a year offer as a weather man on Iraqi TV, the longtime overnighter left on his own steam, despite his every effort to get fired.

~~We've seen the Fall Book and we don't believe it. Tony Snow, (KVI m-f, 9-noon) the big-haired, small-minded, vanilla neocon suit more than leads the pack with nearly a 14 share, which we wouldn't believe if it were half that high. All other talkers in town are down in the normal 3 & 4 % range, except, of course Big Pants (KTTH m-f, 9-noon) who's half that. (He once ruled here, but the drug addiction, trading his 3rd wife in on a CNN anchor, the on-air blow-job talk, the celebrity farting and the distortions have apparently caught up with him with the local values crowd). As for Snow's astounding numbers, some Arbitron glitch has him towering over everybody in town- not only in that time slot- in any time slot. He might be steady, he might be doing OK, but not that OK- it's anomalous to anything around it. There's plenty of opportunity for glitches in the pseudoscience of radio ratings.

Continue reading "Friday oddems: arbitron smokes dutch cleanser, snow falls up, heather bosch gets crazy, vinnie eats bob brinker, steve scher goes ballistic, judy nicastro gets married, purity products make a mess in the KIRO kitchen, mahalo justice, deconstructed rabbit" »

February 15, 2006

allen prell crucifies christian radio

Former KIRO talk-host Allan Prell is putting the finishing flourishes and furbelows on his tell-all book, Pulling the Plug on Talk Radio, and already he's pulled the plug on some BlatherWatch reporting.

And hey, in this case, we're glad he's got it right!

We recently wrote a heavy-breathing post about Salem Communications, the right-wing radio group that Mother Jones Magazine described as the fastest-growing Christian radio chain in America; the company itself claims to be

"...the largest U.S. radio broadcasting company, measured by number of stations and audience coverage, providing programming targeted at audiences interested in religious and family theme radio programming.
We own and operate 92 radio stations, including 58 stations in 22 of the top 25 markets. This makes us the sixth largest operator measured by number of stations overall and the third largest operator measured by number of stations in the top 25 markets."

The company is pumping up the wattage in the next few months on their local property, KKOL, (1300 kHz). Locally, they carry such right-wing dingers as Mike Gallagher, Hugh Hewitt, and Dennis Prager; and in their national stable they boast such heavy hitters as Michael Medved, Randall Terry, James Dobson, Bill Bennett, Janet Parshall and Laura Ingraham. (Has anybody heard of any of these people besides the localite Medved, "Hold 'em or fold 'em" Bennett or the scaly Christian gobstopper Dobson? Or a better question might be: have you listened to any of these people?)

With KIRO and KTTH in the pooper, we were concerned that KKOL could, with a strong signal and good programming, become a player around here.   

Mother Jones chronicled Salem's origins in the California extreme right-wing, their partisan mission and their low-flying national political influence as they buy up small stations in large markets.

We were afraid of the faith-based reactionary colossus with an evangelical master plan taking over our non-sectarian paradise.

But Prell blows this up real good. He made a market-by-market study and found that Salem's just a flim-flam paper Messiah shaking down old ladies.

Continue reading "allen prell crucifies christian radio" »

February 07, 2006

Wednesday oddems: the hank & the pank; perfect score for erin, siegel goes 'down under,' the gas rushes thro' gotham; bloody mary walks the halls of KIRO; shiers is out

We've been in a news drought lately- gosh, KIRO hasn't fired anybody in hours. Here are some dribblings from February's wicked spicket...

~~Not to worry, shoes are being lined up for the dropping now that the last droplets are being squeezed from the Seahawk short-time towels...The 12th man, sad for a few days, is now getting bored. And his wife wants him to come home. Now that the Hawks have flown away, it's back to the giant holes in the programming, the bum ratings, the dissatisfaction, the micromanaging from the home office, more firings- it's reality time down at Eastlake, and reality, as they say, is a bitch.

~~We're hearing storm clouds are gathering for some more evening and nighttime folk, and a mad scramble is on to sign somebody- anybody- for the 9-ta-noon, the shift John Procaccino has been  care-taking.

~~A KIRO intra office email intercepted and sent to us: "...given the way the chips seem to fall around here, I'm loathe to even speak the words "on vacation" into a microphone. I've become some sort of Bloody Mary, wandering through vacant shifts with my head tucked underneath my arm. Every time I say I'm filling in for someone who is 'on vacation,' they seem to have booked their return passage on the Titanic."

~~More embarrassing public flatus from Rush Limbaugh. This time it could be costly. The tabloids are full of an incidence in a Manhattan elevator where a Premiere vice president had to be taken to the ER after the big guy broke wind on a 44-floor descent. The victim, who suffers from asthma, reportedly had to be given CPR and is considering a lawsuit. Big Pants' farting has been the talk of New York radio industry and the five or more incidents in the last year, including one in the presence of Lynn Cheney and another in a Black Hawk helicopter with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, are seen as the basis of rumors of his retirement this year. Because of his gaseous exudations and his on-going drug possession problems in Florida, Limbaugh was not invited again this year to the Presidential Inauguration.

~~The hank and the pank? Who are the married talk host and the "partnered" producer getting it on despite the warnings of a certain PD? If this relationship should get out, or get out of hand (so to speak) repercussions would be mighty. You won't read it here, unless there's an obituary.

~~A winter break for all: Frank Shiers will be on vacation next weekend.

~~We've been looking at the numbers from the Fall book (we'll be sharing our impressions soon) but one number jumped out at us. Erin Hart, before her recent firing from weekends at KIRO, pulled a perfect 0.0 rating in the Fall book- we saw it in black and white. It's a first in KIRO's long history, we're told. An old hand said, "It's more anecdote than rating." It's one for the record books, and BlatherWatch, it seems is the record book. 

~~A reader writes today that our favorite ex-talk host, Mike Siegel (KTTH) "has a brand new 'temporary' gig! He's now on WDAY-AM in Fargo, ND. Two veteran hosts left 'DAY abruptly last month to return to the station they were fired from (KFGO-AM in Fargo) the year before. Apparently Siegel is a close friend of 'DAY host/GM Scott Hennen (who occasionally fills-in for another buddy, Sean Hannity). Siegel is supposed to be in Fargo only through the end of February, however word on the street is that he's here to stay." Mazel tov! Mike, wear wool and talking like those Dakotans would definitely be an improvement over your native Brooklyn-ese. Another plus: North Dakota doesn't have performance audits- Siegel's bests and single issue.

January 19, 2006

KIRO according to joe

Whenever KOMO radio's veteran Sales Manager Joe Heslet sends out one his wry letters to his sales staff or advertisers, it's leaked to BlatherWatch almost immediately. We know he has an agenda- it's selling ads for KOMO AM and KVI, but we always appreciate his take because it's a fair-minded look at his world (and ours) that's always provocative and funny. We offer it uncensored for your discussion:

Sales Folks:
I haven't addressed KIRO (Their Positioning Slogan: 10 Hours of Plan B Programming Everyday!) for a while now for a variety of reasons:

a) They haven't done anything that's been terribly interesting to talk about.
b) KOMO and KIRO aren't really competitors anymore.
c) A ship this big sinking doesn't really require play-by-play; everyone can see what's happening.
d) I really hate to kick anyone when they are this far down. But...

With ratings coming out tomorrow, it will appear as though KIRO had a good fall book on the "full week face of it." Closer scrutiny will disclose that the Seahawks' success will be driving the full week ratings and can be separated out by doing a simple weekend vs. weekday ranker.

I thought this would be a good time to take a look at the  KIRO weekday programming--

Continue reading "KIRO according to joe" »

December 14, 2005

Allan Prell tells all: pulling the plug on talk radio

In a mass email to fans, veteran talker Allan Prell sent a sample chapter of his upcoming book, a work in progress that spares no one- not even himself. [He'll send you one, too just write and ask: [email protected]]

Prell was ignominiously frog-walked out the door at the end of his KIRO 9-noon shift in September, and hasn't yet been replaced by the dizzy, yet skeevy Entercom management.

In a funny read that sounds like Prell does on the radie-yo, he describes how he was fired by his old friend, Program Director Tom Clendening after a focus group he describes as "made up of about a dozen people moderated by the very management folks who were considering ending my professional relationship with the station."

The real culprit, according to Prell, is someone he identifies only as a "Sales Weasel," but whom we know to be Entercom General Sales Manager, Dennis McCormick, who reportedly headed the drive to oust Prell.

This particular Sales Weasel had clearly stated to the Overseers at KIRO that some advertisers didn’t wish to be a part of the Allan Prell Show, or they wouldITAL cancel. Heavens to Betsy...CANCEL!!!!  The worst possible of words to be heard by Overseers from a Sales Weasel. The worst possible words to be heard by a Sales Weasel from an advertiser. That would mean defending the station’s programming. That would require the Sales Weasel to work. That would require...thinking. The only sane “solution” for a Sales Weasel to recommend (or perhaps slyly hint) to Overseers...fire this guy who is receiving complaints (valid or not).

It’s so much easier to have a nice radio station, one that doesn't receive complaints from advertisers, one that makes tapioca pudding seem like three-alarm chili. Unless, of course, if the Gabulator is of a conservative bent, then the rules don’t apply. For many years now in talk radio there have been few complaints about conservatives and their points of view.

He was fired on a Wednesday (not the usual Friday) a few days before the new ratings trends were due out (talkers are usually fired after the numbers come out). The next week, a few dozen Prell fans marched in protest in front of KIRO as Prell chained himself to a mailbox, wrapped himself in the flag, then "threw off the chains of oppression.

The listener response to his firing was surprising with Prell, BlatherWatch and KIRO receiving thousands of letters and emails. Local sports-announcing icon, Tony Ventrella was fired at the same time, with hsardly a ripple in comparison.

I had been on the air for nine months at KIRO. In that time five new sponsors had already signed on for the Allan Prell Show, two of which had re-upped for longer runs. They had purchased “endorsement spots” which are ads created and delivered by the Gabulator rather than being with standard issue. Endorsements sell at a premium, and are highly sought after by Sales Weasels and by the on-air talent. The endorsement contracts generally run for a longer period than standard contracts—a minimum of 13 weeks; if successful, for a year. They command a premium price because the advertiser has a personal spokesman, someone the listener will pay special attention to, and trusts, someone like...tee hee, like Allan Prell.

~~
You got a problem? with the so-called insider radio info you read here at BlatherWatch? Is it wrong and misguided and unfounded and erroneous? Is it salacious gossip, without the added advantage of being true? Quitcherbitchin.' We're tired of hearing about it from you who give us nothing. So write us at [email protected] and tell us what's what, or...shut up awready. You can take our discretion for granted, but that's about all...

December 12, 2005

A radio pro's secret predictions: KTTH, KIRO, john procaccino, new york vinnie, tom leykis, and more

We'll be blogging lite throughout this holiday month -talk radio is talking lite, talkers are on vacation, news is lite for  talk radio topics over the holiday season, if you can ignore war and corruption.

We're busy like everyone- but never fear, dear readers, we'll keep you apprised of any late-breaking programming changes or news. Plus our usual brilliant political commentary.

Right-wing talk radio topics in this down season are either the phony "war on Christmas," or pathetic defense of the real war in Iraq that Republicans and Democrats in Washington all know is already lost- at least militarily. Everyone is either admitting it or denying it, each in their own special way. The President and his bumbling boyz are busy redefining victory, shame-on-you-ing the critics, and wrestling in the tofu of ifs, ands, and buts. But the Pentagon knows in its heart of hearts (maybe heart's not the best word) that a real victory must be political; and unfortunately that prospect looks as bleak as the second of January.

Besides wondering what to do with the $2.5 million in the Queen Elizabeth Royal Lottery we've apparently won, (as luck would have it, we've been contacted by a Nigerian banker with a promising investment opportunity) we're thinking about talk radio 2006

Someone leaked us a fascinating a letter sent advertisers by KOMOAM/KVI General Sales Manager Joe Heslet. This has made its rounds in the local industry, but it's a rare look for the rest of us into some corporate reading of the tea leaves for local radio. We don't know Heslet, but we hear he's a consummate professional, respected by his peers, including competitors. He has an obvious agenda in writing this- that would be selling more ads for Fisher stations, but we think his predictions and commentary for 2006 are noteworthy.

Heslet apparently writes every year like this to his accounts, summing up the past year's adult 25-54 Arbitron ratings (4 ratings "books") to help them plan for the next year's ad buys. This year, he says,looking at 2005 might not be all that helpful because of the many programming upheavals and special circumstances bolloxing the status quo in the Seattle market.

We're reprinting his letter in its entirety at the end of this post, but here's a few grafs we were especially interested in. The bold type is ours. 

The AM band presents some interesting challenges to the annual buying status quo as well. In the 4-book average, KIRO is the highest rated AM station Monday-Friday 6am-7pm in adults 25-54. But that includes the Fall 2004 book where Dave Ross was still on 9am-noon, no one had ever heard of Allan Prell and they still did news and traffic on your drive home. KIRO's programming has gone through many changes in 2005 and it will see more changes to come. The John Procaccino Show is not the show Entercom wants in that time slot. Check the web-site under 'shows'...every host's show is listed, but 9a-12noon just says 9a-12 noon. Will they settle for the John Procaccino Show? If they do, it will certainly be "settling" and not part of a grander strategic plan. And I don't think anyone believes that New York Vinnie is the answer to evenings on KIRO.

In the Summer 2005 book KOMO is the highest rated AM station in Adults 25-54 Monday-Friday 6am-7pm. KOMO along with KVI and KJR AM are the AM stations that have seen little or no changes in the line-up in recent months...even years.

KTTH just released long-time morning host and well known personality, Mike Siegel and replaced him with two relatively unknown producers. Are rookies in Morning Drive on KTTH a permanent fix? No...you can bet on it...unless they've given up trying. There are more changes on the horizon at KTTH and at KIRO. Bookmark the previous sentence and bring it up to your rep (who's telling you "there are no more changes coming") three months from now when it's all gone down.

No, Rush isn't going to KIRO...they should move him there but Dave Ross would probably quit.

We'd love to hear a counter argument or predictions from other radio marketers from Entercom, Clear Channel, or Infinity, but we have a feeling we won't be hearing from them any time soon. They'd rather not acknowledge BlatherWatch, even though they probably hate the shit out of Heslet's admittedly self-serving opinings- they'd rather let them stand than admit they read us. Which, of course, they all do.

Here's Heslet's missive uncensored, check out the "stable top 10" stations list at the end. Again the bold type is ours.

Continue reading "A radio pro's secret predictions: KTTH, KIRO, john procaccino, new york vinnie, tom leykis, and more" »

November 18, 2005

the most popular talk station in seattle

What's the most popular talk station in Seattle?  No, it's not KIRO. Forget pip-squeaks like KVI and KTTH or Air America. It's none of those screaming, hypermanic AM talkers with their cranky conservatives, drive-by debate, chug-a-lug politics and wham-bam-thank-you-sir prurient interests.

It's the gentle, measured, cerebral (someone would say boring)  KUOW-FM (94.9) the Seattle talk format NPR affiliate.

Arbitron doesn't include public non-commercial stations in the 12+ numbers it releases--they're listed separately by the Radio Research Consortium.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer's Bill Virgin, whose weekly "Radio Beat" column is the only regularly reported MSM radio news we have in this town, put together both lists and found that not only was KUOW the highest rated talk station, it was the #2 in the whole market (second only to the mighty country music format KMPS).

This has always been common knowledge in the radio business around here, but Virgin does a good job of crunching and integrating the numbers and documenting it for us lay folk.

KUOW isn't the only non-commercial station to register in the combined overall rankings. KPLU-FM (88.5), along with Port Angeles outlet KVIX-FM (89.3), finishes in a tie at 16th on the adjusted rankings, while KEXP-FM (90.3) places 27th. Also registering on the list are Bellevue Community College's KBCS-FM (91.3) and Clover Park Technical College's KVTI-FM (90.9).

Yes, Seattle is different. Virgin writes that public radio does well in certain markets, like San Francisco, and Minneapolis -St. Paul and college town markets like Raleigh-Durham. He says "...KUOW's ranking has to be one of the highest in the country."

(A little disclosure: we love NPR here at BlatherWatch and have had many commentaries on the national "All things Considered" and have appeared many times on KUOW).

One of the reasons that right-wing talk has become so powerful in the Northwest, is that so many of us liberals are escaping the crassness of the commercial-strewn AM stations and tuning in to the nuanced and intellectually satisfying NPR.

Meanwhile many other folks, apolitical or non-aligned, and trapped in their cars, have become politicized by the repetitive drumbeat of conservative talk. While we're getting the finer points, others are having partisan polemic literally pounded daily into their brains at the cellular level.

It's a big problem for Air America or other liberal AM talk. The commercials, the tone of voice, and unmitigated bias of AM talk is a turn-off to the on-the-other-hand crowd.

Nuance is cool intellectually but Sean Hannity, Kirby Wilbur, John Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, et al, not only deliver punchy intense entertainment, but also turn listeners into passionate partisans. They have perfected- written the book on- making political rhetoric a popular entertainment medium.

NPR doesn't try to do that, but while they get big numbers in Seattle, their listeners are kept naive about the reality of local partisan politics.

~~They have, through salacious repetition, helped poison the minds of people against politicians, government and government process. While skepticism about government is good, the total distrust is unwarranted and problematic to the Republic.      

~~The extreme anti-tax I-912 was conceived by two talk hosts who used their shows to accomplish the amazing feat of getting it on the ballot in record time. It took a huge effort and millions of dollars to defeat the regressive measure.

~~Tim Eyman and his monkey-wrenching tax revolt initiatives would be nowhere without Seattle talk radio. Neither would the anti-affirmative I-200. Or the one-size-fits-all justice of "3-Strikes You're Out."

~~The attempt to unseat Christine Gregoire, though a failure in court, was a tremendous political success for Republicans. They succeeded, through talk radio, and triangulation with blogs, in convincing citizens that a) the King County Elections Dep't committed fraud and b) that Christine Gregoire had something to do with it. They put her numbers in the tank, a place from which she is only now recovering.

During all of this, we progressives in Seattle were listening to KUOW, considering all things and were amazed when the fruits of the talk radio conservative activists fell from the tree.

Who needs to address this is the Democratic Party, who incredibly blows off AM talk radio. They should, like the Republicans, recruit and groom young people to get into broadcasting; and take the medium seriously- they're getting their ass-kicked. The talk radio audience are, for the most part, the swing voters--they can be won over

This is our favorite rant, we'll stop now. Here are some interesting factoids about KUOW from Virgin's piece:

So what are people listening to when they tune in to KUOW? The most listened-to hour of the week, according to program director Jeff Hansen, is the nationally syndicated "Car Talk" at 9 a.m. Saturdays.

That's followed by the 7-8 a.m. weekday hour of "Morning Edition," "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me" at 10 a.m. Saturday, the 8-9 a.m. segment of "Morning Edition," "This American Life" at 11 a.m. Saturday, the 6-7 a.m. segment of "Morning Edition," the 8-9 a.m. segment of "Weekend Edition" on Saturdays, the Sunday rebroadcast of "Prairie Home Companion" (it actually outdraws the Saturday broadcast) and the 5-6 p.m. segment of "All Things Considered."



November 16, 2005

liberals make talkers magazine list, slinky's suck, sleek geeks are peaking, dr. laura perky after all these years, michael savage kicked to death by donkeys

It's the talk radio doldrums again...Blathereaders will remember July, August and September when hosts were all stretching and tap-dancing and changing topics every hour and talking about sitcoms and movie stars.

It's after the elections, and the good guys won one--so conservatives have little to say. The Bush administration is struggling and paying the piper for their years of incompetence, guile and dissembling--so most right wing talkers are changing the subject, if not spinning the debacle as a birthday party with a new pony for everyone.

Dori Monson talks about the his troubles with Slinky's and even liberal Erin Hart recently led a thrilling conversation about geeks being the new hotties.

Yes, we're all bored...readers are bitching that BlatherWatch is dropping the ball. We wish something would happen at KIRO (we're hearing it will). We wish something would happen at KTTH (we're hearing it might).

The latest (yawn) Talkers Magazine semiannual "Top Talk Radio Audiences" list of the top 15 spots in national talk radio came out and it was more interesting than usual--the liberals finally broke onto the list!

Last spring's list made right wing blogs such as our friend Brian Maloney over at RadioEqualizer scream that Air America (which had only celebrated a year in business) had not made a showing.

This year, we're happy to say, four new liberal talkers made it to the list. Ed Schultz, (sharing 11th place with Bob Brinker) Al Franken (shared 13th place with Jim Cramer and Tony Snow) Stephanie Miller and Allen Colmes (shared 14th place with liberal Dr. Dean Edell, Phil Hendrie and Rusty "Pants" Humphries).

The Radio Equalizer failed to mention any of this in a recent post, instead he criticized the list and its methodology.

(It's the shooting the messenger for how we say it: one of the few tactics conservatives have left. Instead of addressing criticisms, they scold us for being "shrill," or "hateful" or "hysterical" or "inappropriate)."

Besides being in deep partisan denial that liberal radio is growing, Maloney has a point--it's not scientific. Most in the industry don't trust the Talker's Mag survey-  especially if they lose their place on it.

But it's influential because it's the only attempt at making a public national talk radio ratings list and media always refers to it.

The survey is conducted through a suspect and dubious process of listener interviews, chats with radio professionals and advertisers; a Ouija board is involved, also tea leaves, nepotism, (or incest) and intrigue.

In the '90's there was a great kerfuffle when Big Pants, the king of talk radio ratings, was displaced by Dr. Laura or Howard Stern or somebody and he made such a stink, he was re-installed after some "new calculations" by Michael Harrison, the dapper, high toned publisher who's ubiquitous on talking head TV whenever a talk show host gets his butt in a sling and makes some headlines.   

This time, the top five were essentially the same as last time and as we said then--it's a discouraging commentary on the taste and entertainment threshold of the consumers of talk, not to speak of any assumptions you might make about their politics.

Designated GOP Liar Sean Hannity at #2 (an appropriate number) again is within shooting distance of #1, Rush Limbaugh. Many speculate Hannity has passed Big Pants in reality, but Harrison is too timid to publish the powerful Big Pants in 2nd place. Many think the big guy's peccadilloes (drug addiction, trading his 3rd wife in on a CNN anchor, on-air blow-job talk, the celebrity farting) might very well be catching up with him and losing the values crowd who make up so much of his audience.

The well-scrubbed Hannity, whose on-air persona is that of sexy het altar boy is, so far, squeaky clean in the morés dep’t. (Oh, how we'd love to see him caught with his penis in a strange location. Some say Hannity's penis is in a safe deposit box in a New Jersey bank, and is taken out only on Holy Days in the presence of his wife or a priest). 

Hannity got a tremendous knee-up back when he was first syndicated. ABC Radio actually bought his show into major markets all over the country. Here in Seattle, Michael Medved was literally shoved out the back door at KVI when Fisher got the big offer from ABC to install Hannity in the noon-to-3 spot. (In retrospect, considering today's ratings, it wasn't a bad business decision).

Hannity and Bill O'Reilly have perfected (or have had perfected for them) the cross-marketing of cable TV shows, and radio syndication, which have boosted book sales which have boosted audiences. It's brilliant, and depressing.

Michael Savage is at #3, by himself this time--Howard Stern has dropped down to #4 with evil nag, Dr. Laura, (we can't help it--see her perky naked self here) who jumped up from #5, proving that the S&M crowd really is a viable market.

BlatherWatch sincerely believes the most potent sign that American culture is declining is not "freaky dancing," or bellybuttoned fashions on 5th grade girls--it's the popularity of Michael Savage, the snarly homophobic nutbuster whose schtick it is to pounce on pathos and gut out empathy and compassion wherever he sees them skulking.

Stern won’t be a contender after January when he goes to satellite radio.

We were happy to see Big Eddie Schultz (KTTH m-f, 12-3) make it up onto the list. He's the midwestern talker who can speak to red staters like nobody else on our side of the political fence. He's smart, well-prepared, and if his good ol' boy manner grates on urban ears, just be happy to know that his politics are right in there, he's doing the Lord's work and taking it to the outlanders. Ed recently got re-accepted recently by Armed Forces Radio after the powers that be reneged on their offer to make him available to the troops who'd otherwise had little in the way of talk radio other than Limbaugh.

Michael Medved has come back up to 9th place from 11th last time. He's sharing it with liberal newcomer Jerry Doyle, and our favorite KTTH talker, Digital Goddess® Kim Kommando, the sexy, technobabe. (Maybe geeks are the new sex symbols, except our darling Kim doesn't talk geek or blonde, even though she is and she is.

The bombastic coot Bill O'Reilly, who ties Sean Hannity for highest talk radio ratings for lying and lying about lying went from #9 to a shared # 7. A relative newcomer to radio, he reaps the benefits of cross-marketing and can be counted upon to make it into the MSM with his impolitic remarks.

Bill Bennett, the disheveled, disgraced former "virtues" czar, went from 14th up to #10; probably the fruits of the publicity stirred up around his racist misspeaks a few months ago. He's such a blow hard, you can hear the cigar smoke in the back ground. He should be giving advice to poker and horse race fans, an audience that's growing and a subject he's well familiar with.

Still well below the tropic of cancer in ratings is Michael Reagan, the half-witted adopted son of Ronald Reagan pere and Jane Wyman. He was at the level of his incompetence as a playboy racer of motor boats, but just had to demonstrate the Peter Principle to became one of the most ungrammatical, ill-spoken, slow-studies on talk radio. He has a reading disorder and no cliché filter.

Also missing is misinformation guru Matt Drudge (KVI Sun. 7-10p) whose talk show show reaches hundreds across the nation each Sunday night with such revolting regular guests as Luciane Goldberg, the Republican pit viper who helped set up Monica Lewinsky. (The post-menopausal Goldberg shamelessly flirts with the peculiar 40-something Matt, which can bring up some very disturbing images for some of us more imaginative listeners).

October 24, 2005

Arbitron ratings: kiro's back! ktth is not, kvi's in the pooper, ALLAN PRELL, COME BACK--ALL'S FORGIVEN!

Corks from magnums of RockStar have been popping at Eastlake after the release of the latest Arbitron ratings covering the long, not so hot summer.

KIRO, whose demise has been predicted by BlatherWatch and many others for months, had it first good book in a year! In the overall 12+ demo, KIRO went dramatically from 7th place in the Spring book, to tie with KOMO for 3rd.

This demographic, of those 12 years old and older, is kind of a show demo and the only one released to the public, (you can see the whole thing here).

Air America's KPTK (1090AM) didn't show up at all in the top 20. KIRO ugly sister KTTH (770am) dropped even further into the poop going from 17th to 19th. KVI made a dismal showing in the 12+, going from 10th place to 16th.

The 25-54, "money demo," is the survey that advertisers and therefore everybody else in radio cares about.  Sneak-peekers and rumor mongers claim that KIRO went from 19th place to 14th--an impressive jump.

Air America's KPTK, made it from 23rd to 19th.

Conservative talkers KVI, and KTTH both have dropped out of sight on the top 20 in that all-important demo.

"KTTH is probably the worst-rated conservative talker in the country," a radio pro told us after seeing the numbers. We recently found out that one minute of ad time on Rush Limbaugh on KTTH can be bought for $120! Or, for the same price, you can buy a minute on obscure morning talker Mike Siegel's show. At those cut rates, even BlatherWatch could afford a little promo--maybe somebody in sales could drop us a line.

We've been hearing that John Carlson, (KVI, m-f, 3-6p) is negotiating his contract (up in Dec.) w/Fisher Broadcasting; and is even talking to Entercom (KIRO & KTTH). But the Summer book wouldn't seem to give him much to negotiate with. In the 12+, his time slot (sharing the last hour with Bryan Suits) went from 5th to be tied for 12th place. In the money demo, where he was already very close to the bottom, he dropped a point.

According to sources and the trade message boards, KIRO midday made an impressive improvement. That would be in the 10a-3p, shared last summer by Allan Prell and Dori Monson. The hourlies, not released yet, would break out these numbers between the two hosts, and some smart people are opining that Allan Prell, who apparently was just catching on when he was fired, is accountable for this up-tick.

No one can know that for sure, yet; but as you know, if you read this blog, there was a huge--some say an unprecedented--uproar from many loyal listeners after the firing that caused fusillades of mail to be pelted at KIRO, BlatherWatch, and Entercom. We're still getting fresh inquiries about where the hell is Allan Prell. (Seattle sports icon, Tony Ventrella was fired from KIRO a few days later and it was like the proverbial tree falling in a forest--there seemed to be no affect).

Mysteriously, Prell was fired just days before the summer trends numbers were to come out. And when they did--they showed a significant upward trend in his listenership. Now a month later, the book comes out with a big jump in midday? Some are saying: "It ain't Dori Monson!" Or you could read or comments strings, if you doubt us.

Or maybe Dori's self-promotions last summer--like jumping out of that plane or selling kisses at Bumbershoot did the trick...

We always love to blame Program Director Tom Clendening for everything bad that happens at KIRO, but in this strange business, he actually fought FOR Allan Prell with Chopping & Splitting Division Chief Jerry "Swingblade" McKenna.

What's really crazy is that they fired Prell without having anyone to replace him. Now we never know who's gonna show up for the 9 to noon: and KIRO frequently falls back on the miserable Frank Shiers. Prell's people were of the liberal persuasion and fled like sugar bees to a rump roast on over to Air America's Thom Hartmann on KTPK--especially after hearing Shiers' smug, self-satisfied conservatism. Read our comments strings about Frank, if you don't wanna hear it from us...

(BlatherWatch was caught flatfooted (once again) by Prell's popularity--we'd cast nasturtiums on him since the beginning. After all this, however, we've come to believe that Prell, an acquired taste, was fired prematurely and might very well have become a strong player in Seattle morning radio).

In other crow, we might have to eat: Mike Webb has won some good numbers. His show, (with one hour of Tony Ventrella) went impressively from being tied for 12th to the #4 spot in the 12+. He did well in the money demo, too, we hear. (Expect Webb, who's obnoxious even when he's down, to be insufferable now that he's back up. We're not looking forward to it).

KIRO is not out of the woods-- their new good numbers will drop like a rock if they don't get someone into the 9-noon spot soon. (Dave Ross performed well in this book; and many think he'll end up back in the morning. Others say he loves his early morning Tai Chi class, and wants to write a book). We predict NY Vinnie's numbers in the 6-9p won't be good next time--there's still lots of work to be done at KIRO. Clendening's job, wonder of wonders may be safe again...

KVI made a stunningly mediocre showing...Are Fisher suits wondering if all this on-air politickin' by Carlson, et al and the subsequent Public Disclosure Commission and other legal problems including the prospect of civil suits is worth it? We shall see.

KTTH is in the deepest trouble of them all...they can't even get good rating out of Limbaugh, the most popular talker in the history of the world.

Stay tuned for more hardheaded analysis.

October 04, 2005

butt lickings, wea culpas, trends, prell fall-out, passing the buck and the gas

~We're grateful to Allan Prell for answering our plaintive, ingratiating, butt-licking pleas and responding via BlatherWatch to his legions of fans who've pelted us with supportive emails. He didn't' have to--especially after the way we kicked him around for months. Wea culpa, but we're sure sorry now, Allan...But don't hold your breath waiting for KPTK PD Jim Trapp, to bring you in and localize the Air America station, he never listens, and apparently speaks only to God...

~More bad news from KIRO: the self-satisfied, self-congratulatory Frank Shiers will be filling in all week on the 9-to-noon. He's sucking up to listeners with lavish compliments and florid flattery, hoping perhaps, to win Prell's spot by acclamation...judging from our mail there's fat chance of that...

~Flattery it wasn't for Erin Hart (9p-1a Sat. & Sun) who followed Shiers Sunday night: What in the hell did he mean when he said, "You want fire in the hole? You'll love the Erin Hart Show..." Was it a mixed metaphor or was he just glad to see her? Couldn't been the former--Shiers never screws up a cliche...

~Our generous and well, spiritual offer to KIRO management (Tom & Dave) to commune with pissed-off listeners on Blatherwatch after last week's firings sure fell flat. We thought for sure they'd use this site in a Jimmy Carter moment to intervene with listeners and help heal the wounds caused by their ineptitude. We're here to serve, and as with so many wannabe saints and choir boys, we were blown off.

~We wasted another Sunday night monitoring Rabbi "Danny Rabbit" Lapin, (KTTH m-f, 7-10p) hoping he'd comment on the metastasizing scandal around his friend Jack Abramoff. The disgraced

Continue reading "butt lickings, wea culpas, trends, prell fall-out, passing the buck and the gas" »

October 03, 2005

ALLAN PRELL SPEAKS

Dear BlatherWatch People:
This is a self-serving message.  I want to stay on the radio.  I want to stay on the radio in Seattle.  I feel more at home here after less than one year than 30 years on the East Coast..  Never have I enjoyed working with a group of folks as much as those at 710 KIRO, especially in the programming, news, and production departments. There is no producer better than Ann Wog. And the program director who fired me, I consider to be one of  my best friends.  On September 21, one day after my birthday, I was called into the program director's office and told, "We're pulling the plug on the Allan Prell Show."  I was shocked, but not surprised.  After all this is radio, where going one day without being fired is a day filled with sunshine.

Three reasons were sighted for this precipitous action.  From the least important to the most: 1)  A "focus group" had been held. A significant number of the participants apparently did not like The Allan Prell Program.  Most people who understand focus groups would agree: focus groups are formed to re-enforce the preconceptions (opinions) of management, i.e. "That New Coke sure sounds like a good idea to me."   

Continue reading "ALLAN PRELL SPEAKS" »

September 28, 2005

wednesday oddems: wheredeego? whydeego? the mystery of allan prell, the nerve of lou pate, KIRO, KIRO, KIRO!

The station is abuzz. KIRO staffers can't figure out wha hoppened to 9 to noon host, Allan Prell who disappeared into dead air so suddenly in the middle of last week. As we reported, staff was surprised he was fired on a Wednesday; not a Friday, customary for this kind of termination. This has the appearance of a sudden punishment or purge for something embarrassing or compromising. Why was he fired just two days before the Arbitron trends came out?  It's more logical, and customary to boot somebody after bad numbers. They were amazed he was fired so soon after the major promotional event, the Battle of the Talk Show Hosts. Did management know his days were numbered, employees wonder, even as they promo-ed him?
~~
Today at BlatherWatch, Prell's disappearance and firing rivaled the buzz and the hits we got when in April we reported on Rev. Ken Hutcherson, the Kirkland evangelical mega-preacher who stared down Microsoft last year in the name of the Lord, and defeated the landmark gay rights bill before the Legislature. We were surprised at this intense interest in Prell--KIRO's firing of local sports icon Tony Ventrella Monday didn't generate anywhere near the interest. (A reader wrote today that Ventrella "made the mostly benign Dave Ross, seem like a wild man.") Ventrella's picture and bio is still on the KIRO website, Prell's was wiped before anyone missed him. Prell just disappeared, Ventrella was fired, then allowed to stay for one last show last night and he bid the listeners adieu. That's rare on radio--also rare was the memo in the employee mailboxes saying that Ventrella was returning to the business world or some such.
~~
If BlatherWatch commenters had anything to say about it, Prell would have been saved and Dori Monson would have been booted.
~~
The name on everyone's lips is Ciscoe Morris, the quirky ex-lawnboy and who does the gardening show on Saturdays. He keeps popping up in conversations as the next 9 to nooner to replace Prell. His Wisconsin accent may be a liability, but on the upside, he  still speaks better English than New York Vinnie and has more broadcasting experience than Frank Shiers.
~~
Last week, while we were porking out in the Palouse, we missed that the vote on the union contract at KIRO and KTTH was completed and the AFTRA contract was decertified. In other words, the fools led by Lou Pate, (KIRO m-f, 1-5a) threw out their own union representation. The first vote was in May and it was a tie, with three votes in dispute. The NLRB examined the questioned votes, and disqualified two, leaving one to decide: union, yes; or union, no. An email from the union, identified to all concerned that the person who cast the disputed vote was none other than Michael Medved (KTTH m-f, 12-3p), the nationally syndicated neocon who broadcasts from Seattle. Medved is one of those who made no public stance on the union. Now, of course, everyone knows that he voted for decertification of the union he'd been a member of for nearly 30 years. At least he was true to his conservative union-hating principles. Not so true to his alleged progressive principals was Lexus liberal Mike Webb (KIRO m-f, 9p-1a) who favored the union-busting, even as he class-baits and decries "corporate masters," while hypocritically blowing off his own right to collective bargaining. 
~~
Speaking of blow-jobs, a quick-fingered producer cut conservative overnighter Lou Pate's remarks at the Battle of the Talk Show Hosts, when he reportedly said  that blow-jobs were the only thing about Bill Clinton he could identify with. The audience at home didn't get to hear that, but they did catch Pate's remark suggesting  KY Jelly for Mike Webb's penetrating problems. Mr. Clendening was not amused.
~~
Got any inside radio poop to scoop? Discretion assured. Send us an email at [email protected]

September 27, 2005

tony ventrella, 2005-2005 R.I.P.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered...
forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives...
be kind anyway. --In the Final Analysis by Mother Theresa

Tony Ventrella won't be back tomorrow.

The Big KIRO Purge that began last week with 9 to nooner Allen Prell, continued tonight with Ventrella's well-shorn head falling in the basket. No warning, no party, just the sad sound of a desk being cleaned out and the smell of flop sweat around the tense cubicle ranch ravaged by rumors, paranoia and intenuendo.

Who's next?

Mike Webb, directly following Ventrella and his brave-hearted swan song, stirred out of his usual ennui and acted actually interested and energetic on-air as the landscape literally shifted around him--nothing like the smell of death to perk a guy up...

After a normal show packed with inside baseball about football, Tony Ventrella, like the motivational speaker he is, read In the Final Analysis, a corny but uplifting bit of poesy by Mother Theresa. He then said goodbye to his few good listeners and that he'd be around for his Seahawk's Huddle Thursdays (7-9p) and would otherwise be doing TV, and finishing his second book.

We missed his first one, Smile in the Mirror, a primer for his positive energy work which might give you a toothache if you don't brush right after reading.

Ventrella, the collegial Mr. Nice who has graced the KIRO airwaves since January, never really clicked-in with the snarly talk radio audience who loves to see blood in the water at least once a day. Ventrella, a barber and a son of a barber, treated listeners like they were haircutting customers asking after their mothers or if they'd like a little more off the top. It didn't work. Listeners said, "Hell, if I want nice-nice, I'll just talk to my barber."

Who's next?

The rumblings and cataclysms heard around the once-mighty KIRO are not the pitiful seismics of the lame Eastlake management. An insider wrote us today and said, "What you need to know is that the decision to fire Prell came from way over Clendening and Pridemore's head. They did not want to make this move right now."

Who's next?

Apparently the slow-moving suits at Entercom headquarters in Bala Cynwyd, PA. finally began the inevitable for the foundering station. Our guy wrote, "Radical changes are needed in the line up and management structure, and most of us hope this comes soon."

There's real turmoil at Entercom, they don't need this right now. Today, they also fired Peter Blute, a former GOP Congressman and morning co-host at Boston's WRKO where there was a major recent management upheaval. 

We're hoping that the Entercom makes management replacements as well as offing the talent so mishired and mismanaged. That means Clendening must go or... something. It'll happen--as an insider wrote: "Bottom line is, when your programming decisions start coming from corporate, you are in deep shit."

We've been writing about and predicting this since March. When we got into this talk radio blog, we never dreamed that KIRO, our favorite station, and the only remotely liberal one in the market at the time, would ever be the object of our intense scrutiny and criticism. But we've watched the programming slide, the ratings tank and good staffers become disillusioned, dejected, fired and flown.

A not untypical remark we hear is like the one we heard today from a longtime Eastlake employee: "Most of us are dumbfounded, depressed, and disgusted that the station has been taken into the toilet like this."

Who's next?

September 26, 2005

allan prell, 2005-2005 R.I.P.

While BlatherWatch was careering through Oregon with a deadweight laptop on a wine country press junket and foodie glutfest, the first shoe, that is to say, talk host, was dropped like a peach pit in the upcoming the KIRO see-change.

As the story unfolded, (and the hopelessly unplugged Blathering Michael was blithely mange-ing his way through oregonic cheeseries, orchards and wine chateaux) readers wrote to tell us that Allan Prell (KIRO m-f, 9-12) had gone missing, and that his photo had been expunged overnight from the KIRO website like that of a misbehaving Bolshevick from Stalin's high school yearbook.

This was no surprise to those who read BlatherWatch or have an ounce of Seattle intuitive talk radio sense. Prell's schtick was that of the playful ass-hat; the self-deprecating fool with a smart mouth. He was liberal, and did his homework, but his style was too quirky for Seattle to swallow in one bite, especially in the hallowed space left by the infinitely reasonable and absurdly mature Dave Ross (KIRO m-f, 3-6p).

Prell was an acquired taste; and there was evidence he was beginning to wiggle his way into audience hearts just as he was frog-walked off the air. Perhaps if he'd been gently shown in through the side door of evenings and given a longer run at winning the hearts and minds of Seattleites, more of them might have acquired a taste for what he did.

Instead, he was pushed out into the glaring kliegs of KIRO's key morning slot, the one that should provide an anchor for the rest of the day. Prell was no anchor. As a matter of fact, says a now-former colleague, "He killed the momentum for the rest of the day." Ross's listeners fled in droves finding Al Franken and Thom Hartmann just around the corner at KPTK; or discovering anew "Weekday," KUOW's local NPR wonk-fest.

Staffers are as baffled as you and we--not that he was fired, mind you--he'd never done well since he started in January and got only a pathetic 2.3 share in the last book.

They're surprised he was fired on a Wednesday; when Fridays, with their weekend padding is usually the day to off somebody. They were surprised he was fired just two days before the Arbitron trends were coming out-- it's more logical to boot somebody after bad numbers. They were amazed he was fired so soon after a major promotional event, the "Battle of the Talk Show Hosts." Did management know his days were numbered, employees wonder, as they shamelessly promo-ed him?

Some claim there must have been something else which speeded Prell's quick demise, but no one can guess what that might be.

Some were surprised that Tony Ventrella (m-f, 6-9p) or/and Mike Webb (m-f, 9p-1a) hadn't been booted first, they with their 1.9 share, the lowest numbers at Eastlake.

Staffers were surprised to hear Don O'Neill's voice filling-in Prell's vacancy. Described by one Entercomer as "a Neanderthal weightlifter," O'Neill is a former morning shock jock whose "Ron & Don Show" failed abysmally a few years ago on Entercom's The Buzz ("Radio For Guys," KQBZ-FM, 100.7)  After leaving Seattle, he blew up quickly in a job in Grand Rapids and eventually got to a New Orleans Entercom station. Lately, he's gotten some corporate attention by doing "hits," (short on-location news spots) from the hurricane disaster area.

O'Neill and his homey, Ron used to drive around Seattle in a white truck with painted orange flames and "Chick Chaser" written on it, yelling "hola!" at wenchola. That this guy is sitting in the Dave Ross Chair is a sad marker of how far down KIRO has fallen.

We can only pray to our Deity of Choice that Program Genius Tom Clendening is the next to go. That's the only way to be absolutely sure that another loser like Prell, O'Neill, Mike Webb or Frank Shiers won't be put into Prell's spot.

Rumors, as always, are rife. A KIRO staffer who's privy to not much of anything, says Ross is coming back to the 9-noon. A KOMO exec, privy to even less is sure that Rush Limbaugh is waiting in the wings to be moved in from KTTH, Entercom's other failing talk station. We've heard that before, and if it happened, it'd cut KTTH off its life support and put the station into free fall.

Meanwhile, Clendening is running this hurry-up ad on Craig's List Seattle--who the hell runs an ad for a talk show host on Craig's List?

Seattle’s number one radio station is looking for a talk show host with a ratings track record. Must be passionate, creative and entertaining. If you have a sense of humor, a wide breadth of knowledge and can debate people with an opposing point of view send application/tape/resume to:

Tom Clendening
1820 Eastlake Ave East
Seattle, WA 98102
No phone calls please. EOE

Of course he's lying through his teeth about KIRO being the No.1 radio station--even in its glory days back in the '90's, it was No. 3. KIRO has slid to an overall 19 in the 25-54 money demo.

Stayed tuned, as always it promises to be, if nothing else, entertaining to watch.

September 06, 2005

UPDATE: air america, liberal talk radio make gains in seattle

The mid-book radio ratings trends, Summer, Phase 1 are in, and though most of the numbers we have are far from decisive--they're in the fairly useless 12+ demo--Air America's KPTK (1090AM) has made another step up, whereas most other talkers have fallen. View the whole market's ratings here.

What's even more important, in the 25-54 demo, July only, last month of the trend, KPTK dayparts ranging from 3.1 to 4.0. Take it from us, that's worth noting.

Radio trade message boards are abuzz: Is liberal talk taking hold in Seattle as the Bush Administration is unraveling? Will it see the same success in Seattle in a year or so as it is seeing in Portland at KPOJ? Will Infinity spend one fucking cent to change the lineup from all syndicated talkers to include some locals? Can KIRO's bright star, Dave Ross or someone of his stature be enticed to the new station?

"If Infinity would add a local morning show with an extreme talent like Dave Ross and a smart news anchor who could keep up with him, I'd listen," writes one radio pro.

Former KIRO news anchor Maura Galuchi's name is frequently mentioned as a good fit for KPTK with Ross.

This is probably California Dreamin'--connecting Bush's political implosion with a migration from KIRO to KPTK--especially with a big talent like Ross.

"They, like the majority of the other AAR affiliates nationwide must attract and retain the "psychographic" who are avid NPR listeners if they listen to any radio at all," says one nay sayer who may be afflicted with an overactive sense of reality. "So far, they've only made inroads in Portland and Denver and are trending down in markets where they have been on longer."

The gains made by KPTK certainly look huge compared to the once-mighty KIRO's numbers. They faltered again losing a couple of 10th's and were finally passed for the first time ever by KVI, who gained a couple of 10th's, making them the number one talk station in the market--at least in the 12+.
(loyal reader Umo: please take note.)

KTTH gained two 10th's, and without seeing more data, we can only surmise that it was because Mike Siegel took so much vacation during the period.

While KPTK is still far down in the basement, (no.24 in the market,) it has seemed to hold its own as the explaining industry has trended downward this year.

As far as we can tell, this is due to nothing they've actually done--but rather because of the downfall of KIRO, the only other station with liberal programming; and the slippage of popularity of George W. Bush.

Infinity, who owns KPTK, also owns market leader KMPS, (the shitkicker that's been no.1 for years) as well as two other music stations (KZOK and KBKS) in the top 10.

It's beyond us why they won't take the next step to develop some local talent for KPTK--they might just have another top 10 station if they'd suck it up and take a risk.

August 23, 2005

kiro dog days: in front of the fire hydrant

It just gets weirder around Eastlake. Long, long days of what's next? Everyone knows that something's gotta give, must change, and change majorly at KIRO and KTTH.

The ratings suck, the programming needs major boots in the ass; management needs to go and come. Most employees have been through similar--even less dire circumstances--at other stations. They know it's upcoming, the staff's uneasy they know the tectonics are as inevitable as Labor Day.

But nothing happens. We thoroughly reject the notion we hear frequently that it's to spite BlatherWatch that Bala Cynwyd's so slow moving.

The author of the disaster, program director Tom Clendening takes a vacation, which the help thinks is like the captain of the Titanic taking a nap.

Meanwhile, there seems to be indecision and confusion. There's been no replacement for night time news editor Ed Schmacher, so Lan Archer keeps pulling doubles which gives him something new and seemingly endless to talk about.

Reporter Jim Valley had a major meltdown in the newsroom that was just short of throwing things, which stirred everybody out of their ennui for a few days.

The big guys: Dave Ross and Dori Monson take their annual vacations and Frank Shiers, the former voice track guy from KBSG fills in--he's becoming the voice of KIRO. This hasn't made this unexperienced guy who won't talk to anybody around the station very popular. People resent that he gets all the fill-in time. Folks around the office were almost beginning to wish ol' Dori were back. It's just a sign, we guess, of the distractedness of the management.

Then there's the guy who replaced the vacationing overnight jock, Lou Pate, whose name is Styble, (rhymes with "bible"  he keeps telling us over and over). He makes Pate seem reasonable and liberal even. We found ourselves laying awake at 4:30am wishing Pate would burst into the studio brandishing a blunt instrument to drive out the interloper.

Even the dulcet tones of Frank Shiers would have been welcome at that point. We're afraid that if something competent doesn't happen down there soon, this Bible Styble may get a drive-time slot.

Readers keep wondering why all these people seem to be vacationing at the same time--they read the direst of scenarios into the absences and the 2nd rate replacements. But this is par for the course in August--in and of itself doesn't mark the beginning of the changes that are sure to come.

Don't touch that dial...

August 05, 2005

friday oddems: welcome entercom's david field; boo inferential divinity; yay unintelligent design; get your hands off me, bill o'reilly...

--It may be true, maybe not...but it's so darned fun, what the hell--we're going with it: this came in over the transom this morning with a phony name and a real Entercom IP address: 

David Field is in town this week. Those of you who want to meet Mr.Tom Clendening, might stop in at the Unemployment office on Monday. Dave Pridemore, is going to be demoted this week to his Sales Director role...

If you haven't been following the degeneration of the once-great KIRO radio and its sister station KTTH, Program Director Tom Clendening and Dave Pridemore are responsible for its demise. David Field is CEO, Director of Entercom from Bala Cynwyd, PA. Whether Field's here or not--Tom and Dave's got some splainin' to do and we're glad.

 

~BlatherWatch gets a lot of hits from Bala Cynwyd, so we'd like to welcome the Entercom boys to Seattle. A tip: have the salmon, the halibut's probably not fresh. 

~A reader writes some news probably too late for Mr. Clendening: losing baseball doesn't have to kill a talk station. In Atlanta, ratings went UP at WSB after losing the Braves.

~The "Intelligent Design" discussion continues to froth all over talk radio. This faith-based "science" (known to some as "Inferential Divinity") is a Trojan horse to sneak creationism into the public schools. Conservatives and religious activists apply political tactics to smear science these days, a dangerous development. They're doing it to the theory of evolution, just as they did to the previously nonpartisan medical procedure framed by them as "partial birth abortion." Yesterday, Dr. James Dobson likened embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments; and Bill O'Reilly said, “Whatever your belief, it should be respected. But the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science both reject intelligent design and don't want it mentioned in science classes. That, in my opinion, is fascism.”
Need some science? For get those boring old values-neutral scientists--call a talk show host.

Continue reading "friday oddems: welcome entercom's david field; boo inferential divinity; yay unintelligent design; get your hands off me, bill o'reilly..." »

August 02, 2005

seattle arbitron ratings: kiro, as we know it, is dead.

As we've been predicting for months, Entercom's once-mighty KIROAM is being officially pronounced dead by industry insiders speaking with BlatherWatch.

They say the white light is seeping through the doors and windows of conservative little sister KTTH.

This, in a talk radio radio market that's down, down, down. Folks seem to be harkening to their musical selves.

With programming genius Tom Clendening as the undertaker, KIRO's grave was dug months ago, though he just kept digging. BlatherWatch has sadly chronicled this--but we're liberals around here and take no pleasure seeing the plight of the mostly progressive station.

The all-important 25-54 ratings demo puts the KIRO, once Entercom's Seattle flagship in overall 19th place in the market--down from 13th. KIRO's now locked out of ad buys for major agencies, who usually look for the top 10 stations in this demo.

Continue reading "seattle arbitron ratings: kiro, as we know it, is dead." »

July 18, 2005

limbaugh losing to liberal talk, hannity scavenges the carcass

The right is always pronouncing Air America and liberal talk radio dead, even though it's growing like the well baby it is.

There's more good news to fuel our customary sunny liberal outlook.

The Raw Story.com got an advance peek at Miami talk radio trends that show Big Eddie Schultz (1090AM, m-f, 12-3p) whacking Rush Limbaugh in the large, supposedly conservative, southern-fried, metropolitan market in the Big Bobo's own back yard.

In particular, The Ed Schultz show actually passed Limbaugh among the 25-54 age range in the nation's twelfth largest radio market. Schultz scored a 3.4 rating to Limbaugh's 3.2, climbing 1.1 ratings points from the winter figures.

Al Franken, whose Air America program runs head-on with Rush in the noon to 3 p.m. slot, also made strides, posting 2.1 ratings among 25-64, up from 1.5 in the winter.

BlatherWatch likes what we hear in Ed Schultz.

In a feckful, personal piece about her secret love affair with talk radio, essayist, fiction writer and much-admired former Stranger Editor Emily White wrote last month "Schultz talks like he's sitting in a bar about to order his third beer." We grokked that Big Ed wasn't exactly Emily's cup of, er...tea.

But we say Schultz's beery demeanor and that he's nearly irony-free is why he may be the liberal's great white hope for talk radio.

He's a plain-talking, ex-pro-football player; an unapologetic hunter and fisherman from Fargo. He's no girlie man, like we are--but he's just as liberal--plus he's likable, smart and has a good grasp of what's what. What's really important about him is that he can talk progressive in a commonsensical way to which red state folks--men in particular--will listen.

We don't need more preachers to our sardonic choir, we need spokesblabberers who can help us bring back the blue collars, the farmers, the salty earthpeople who used to share our vision (read: vote Democratic).

Aside from Schultz's talents, and upward trending, Limbaugh still has other problems--such as the recent progress in the prosecution of his pill-popping drug abuse case, which you'd think wouldn't sit well with his religious right-wing fans, reportedly legion. (Now we know about the "head" part of "Ditto-head.") His latest divorce (no. 3) which reportedly involved a third party, the glamorous CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, and his using the word, 'blowjob' on his show has lost him Christian listeners as well. He's been seeing an internist about his uncontrollable flatulence but not before being disincluded from Washington and Palm Beach political and social events. Airtight underwear has not gained him the re-acceptance he was hoping for.

Sean Hannity, they say, is pulling ahead of Limbaugh in many markets-- seeing that is for us like watching a rat eating a slug--who do you root for?

Meanwhile back in the Seattle market, the big sweat is on for the Spring Book numbers, due out at the end of July. 

We'll be trying to answer the burning questions.

--Will the national downtrend for newstalk radio continue? 

--How bad will it be for KIRO?  (Do the numbers make any difference to them anyway?)

--How far down will KTTH go before something drastic is done to programming or operations?

--Whither KPTK? Is the political activists' dream of having local liberal talk hosts, just another promise broken by a company too timid to venture outside the safety of syndicated talk? 

July 01, 2005

seattle ratings: kiro frowns, kptk smiles, kvi grins, mike webb wears a bra

KIRO management and their mouthpieces like Gregg Hersholt keep writing us.

The snappish management writes nastily and anonymously in our Comments columns and make rude insinuations about our family tree and our sense of humor. Gregg, the funny morning news guy writes well-written signed letters to our email account that he BCC's to whomever he's trying to impress.

They should be impressed: Gregg writes a good and loyal letter for the company--so good in fact, we thought he was management...(memo to Mr.Clendening: promote Gregg).

They don't like the way blatherWatch has shone the light on KIRO's race to the bottom and think all we're about is an "eagerness to look for negative things to write about KIRO."

One thing they always say is: "KIRO is still the no.1 newstalk station in Seattle. PERIOD." (but what they don't say is that KIRO has also steadily descended from its longtime lock on no.3 down to no.6; and their dayparts looked like the Fallujah Hilton after the "liberation."

Well, they can't say that any more.

Sadly, in the latest Arbitrons Spring Phase 2 ratings, KIRO has sunk to no. 9  over all, its lowest ever. KOMOAM, its newstalk rival came up to no. 5. Only last fall, KIRO's share was at 5.0, they've now fallen to 3.7 from a 4.3 last month.

It's true that the Mariners playing baseball on KOMO has something to do with it--though no one could say with a straight face that the hapless M's are the reason for all of KIRO's problems.

There's more going on here.

The bigger picture is, as we've said over and over, some terrible programming decisions making it much easier for KOMO, much easier for Air America's KPTK, much easier for the Voice of Vashon, a radio station with a heart but no license. (As opposed to most stations who have a license but no heart).

What are the programming screw-ups? I guess we could reiterate them, again. PD Tom Clendening and his boss Tom Pridemore hired the annoying Allen Prell who is a total bust in the important 9a-12p slot, and put their ace-in-the-hole Dave Ross (m-f, 3-6p) in the afternoon drive where he must compete with "All Thing's Considered" and the Mariners.

They hired Tony Ventrella, (m-f, 6-9p) a good guy whose heart's not in it and his ratings sadly show it. (We hear he's seriously thinking about running for 8th District Congressman Dave Reichert and about to leave anyway).

Dori Monson (m-f, 12-3p) is jumping out of planes and giving away gift certificates for lap dances to get listeners. It's not working. 

Drag queens don't have the gravitas they used to, so Mike Webb's decision to cross-dress at his emcee gigs (god Mike, drag queens are so '90's!) has proven to be another bad career move that hasn't helped him get callers on his weeknightly disco nostalgia and political monologue show.

We were heartened to see liberal talker KPTK gain back a tenth point after losing two last month. Don't know where they're at in their promised quest for some local talent, but they'd better do it sooner than later.

We say that because the reason for another local success story in this book is directly accountable to local talkers with local issues.

KVI, (who lost Rush Limbaugh a couple of years ago to Entercom's startup KTTH) jumped four tenths and passed KTTH. They said it couldn't be done, but the local drivetimers, Kirby Wilbur (m-f, 5-9a) and John Carlson (m-f, 3-6p) drove the gubernatorial unvote and now the anti-road repair initiative into the winner's circle.

KTTH is programmed by the same geniuses (Clendening & Pridemore) who made KIRO what it is today--this failure is apparently a sin of omission. They thought they could ignore their little station once they got Big Pants on board. They were wrong. 

You know how blatherWatch feels about what KVI's Carlson and Wilbur are doing politically over there. We're flaming liberals, they're working for the Republican party, we hate it. But it's great for ratings--they've galvanized a community of loyal listeners that any talk-jock in town would trade a vital body part for.

When will the hammer come down at Entercom? How far can this descent go without someone being held accountable? When will Air American dare to stick its neck out and hire a local talker? We hope it's soon. The news coming out of these stations never changes.

Come on, boys, fire somebody, we're bored...

June 16, 2005

air america/THE NUMBERS: one healthy baby...

It's conventional talk radio wisdom, ditto the conservative blogs, right-wing print, and Bill O'Reilly. Air America, they say, is going down like a burning ring of fire. Left-wing talk radio, they say, was over before it began.

But like all so-called wisdom coming from the Republican gaseousphere, better check the facts before you believe it.

Continue reading "air america/THE NUMBERS: one healthy baby..." »

May 16, 2005

talkritique: talk radio's top 3 most narcissistic talk-jocks/seattle edition

We hate to say it, but the talk-consuming radio public loves self-obsessed, self-quoting, self-pleasuring blowhards and bragging narcissists whose idea of entertainment is the exquisite drilling down into their fascinatia with...themselves.

It’s the standard set by the most successful talk host of all time, Rush Limbaugh, who has made bloaty self-aggrandizement a family value (perhaps his only family value).

This is certainly the case of national, syndicated level talk jocks--read BlatherWatch’s authoritative talkritique: Talk Radio's Top 5 Most Narcissistic Talk-jocks/national edition.

We chronicled and ridiculed the likes of the Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity, the self-congratulatory hot air bags any one of whom could have single handedly saved the Hindenburg on a cold day.

In Seattle, it’s different. We say we like personal modesty--it could be part of the Seattle Nice mythology. Or the influence of the repressed, reserved Scandinavian fisher folk who supposedly shaped our underwhelmed civic psyche.

(We’re sorry, but blatherWatch doesn’t buy that old chestnut, too many arrivistes--who, thank god, have been flocking in for decades--have changed the city into something quite different, better than it was in the days when Ivar Haglund, followed close behind by pickled herring were what passed for excitement around here).

We go for the occasional immodest, overdressed, large-talking big-head, coveting them as exotics, but then we cycle them out or they go back to California where braggadocio is a lifestyle or New York, where it’s a lifeskill.

As if to contradict BlatherWatch generalizations- Limbaugh, Hannity, etc., do very well in Seattle. But their success probably reflects our repressed penchant for guilty pleasures. If we were truly as nice as we pretend, we wouldn’t listen to talk radio at all. But when we’re alone in our cars feeling all libertarian and free-wheelin,’ our fingers will punch up any old body we damn well please, even if it’s a Republican, a crazed egomaniac or Thor Tolo (KGNW m-f, 4-6p).

(The truly free-wheelin’ listen to music turned up to nine. Wonky left-brain talk junkies comprise less than 15% of the total radio audience).

Making our Seattle narcissism awards was way harder than for the nationally syndicated bloviators, because our most successful locals use aw-shucks as a schtick and useful competitive strategy.

Take, for example, Kirby Wilbur (KVI m-f, 6-9a) the seriously deluded conservative at the top of the Seattle newstalk morning drive heap. He’s very partisan and sounds like Kermit the Frog; but he’s nice, darn it, and polite to everybody, and never confrontational with his guests. He’s like that neighbor who is a little nutty when it comes to politics, but you like him and you’d trust him to feed your dog when you’re on vacation.
   
John Carlson (KVI m-f, 3-6p) has an on-air personna like that of your favorite nephew, the one who wears a bow tie, and calls you ma’am or says yes sir. He’s also not afraid to invite guests who might disagree with him and debates them respectfully, (though he loves to gang up on them with the help of thuggish listeners). Carlson has an ego to match the Harley he rides, but like Wilbur, he creates community. This glues listeners to their shows and makes for a potent political tool for the Republican Party and their conservative causes.

KIRO’s Dave Ross (m-f, 3-6p) has built his considerable career as being even-tempered, rational, and self-effacing. Politicians will talk to him because they know he won’t be argumentative or dismissive. And though he’s moderate to liberal, he casts himself as an info-seeker frequently playing devil’s advocate to his own beliefs. No one else does that on local radio and his audience loves him for it.

(Don’t get us wrong, humility doesn’t guarantee talk radio success. You gotta be passionate or be able to churn up some heat one way or another. Note the sad case of the humble Tony Ventrella (KIRO m-f, 6-9) the long time TV sportscaster who let himself be talked into a radio gig by his friend, Dori Monson (KIRO m-f, 3-6p). Ventrella’s nice, but he’s timid. He steps on no toes, raises no ire, won’t step out of the box, much to the frustration of his producer. Audiences have responded accordingly--numbers go from a 3.7 share when Dave Ross leaves at 6 o’clock, to a 1.9, then on down to 1.6 before they give it up and send Ventrella  home).

Humility is not the criteria that guides talk radio audience listening habits. If it were, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Savage would be at the bottom of The Book instead of the top.

But verbalized ego is what blatherWatch hates most about a talk host. So we’ve made a list of the three of the worst local offenders.

Our criteria for judging these awards are based mostly on subjective judgments by our A&E staff and readers, but also on “I, Me, Myself “ (IMM) rating, which is the number of times a host uses the personal pronouns in one hour. The Maha Rushee, O’Reilly, or Hannity--these are world class egos--can top out at a 60+ IMM. Our locals, Mike Webb and Allen Prell, at the top of their game can do 40+; Bryan Suits can push over 50, but then again, his ratings are better than those others giving him the advantage of an Ebullience Boost (EBO). An EBO is an Unwarranted Overconfidence (UNWOCON) in a Gloat Matrix (GLOMA). If you’re not familiar with the EBO, think of George Bush’s speech the day after the election about “spending his capital.”

And the winners are:
1. Bryan Suits
The “Bad Lieutenant” of Seattle talk radio is not bad, like “evil,” but rather in the way that “boredom kills.” In that sense, Suits is a natural born serial killer. Talk radio listeners pay for Bryan’s service to his country not only with our tax dollars, but by having to listen to him and his interminable army jargon and endless Army acronyms in detailed war stories whose punch lines are  often a self-quotation. Bryan’s distinct advantage for competing for this award is his unique ability in 3 short hours, to 1) make a truly astounding number of references to himself; 2)references to those who have referred to him, and 3) sarcastic responses to those who responded to his sarcastic responses to those who have made references to himself. The wall of self-centered verbiage he erects daily and his neverendendending fascination with his own self image is approaching O’Reilly-ness.
~~
2. Allan Prell
We hate kicking someone when they’re down--especially a liberal in an important time slot. But in the interest of truth and service to our long time listeners, we just can’t help it.

And boyoboy is Allan Prell down! Some of KIRO’s best ratings (besides those of top-rated Lou Pate (1-5a) are for the Morning News (5-9a). But when Prell sits down in front of the microphone, the numbers drop like drawers on prom night.

And since he’s down, and since his schtick is to be annoying, he talks about himself in a self-criticizing, whining sort of way; daring listeners to love him and filling them in constantly why they shouldn’t. In the end, they don’t. He’s made a few converts,(and we hear from them!) but most of his predecessor’s (Dave Ross) fans flew long ago over to Air America’s Al Franken (AM1090 m-f, 9a-12p) or Steve Scher's Weekday (KUOW 94.9 fm 9a-12p). Allen Prell throws lot of topics at listeners, but too much of the time, the topic is Allen Prell.
~~
3. Mike Webb
Webb (KIRO m-f, 9p-1a) was once our flagship Seattle talk liberal, we knew this because he told us so. Back in the day, he’d get guests like Janeane Garofolo, whose Majority Report now competes with him from over at Air America, (AM 1090 m-f 10p-1a) Michael Moore, or Rep. Jim McDermott. The loquacious, self-congratulating Webb would deliver 2 minute lecture/questions, (ala Sean Hannity) for 20 second answers, successfully sopping up the airtime of guests we all wanted to hear speak. Webb’s arrogance and self-importance is coupled with unresolved resentments and an anger that makes listeners feel sorry for the conservative assholes he yells over and then hangs up on. He disdains and bullies callers if they disagree with him. He interrupts, mocks, and even plays blue grass music (slurring their suspected rurality) over their attempts at making their points. Webb’s numbers drop a full point when Garofalo and Seder come on at 10p. Then, sadly, Webb starts playing oldies as calls dwindle down to pissed-off drunks and 50-something women requesting disco tunes from the ‘70’s.
~~
Got any insider talk-radio poop to dish? Blab it at [email protected] Discretion assured.

April 29, 2005

WINTER ARBITRON RATINGS ARE HERE!!! AND SURE ENOUGH, KIRO SUCKS.

The Arbitron ratings are in. BlatherWatch’s vast network of moles, plumbers, leakers, deep throats, blathermonkeys and bag men located in strategic cubicles in the belly of the beast are coming up with reliable numbers from the Winter Book (Jan, Feb, Mar).

BlatherWatch knows this stuff is snarky, and a little complicated. But we get more requests for ratings that anything else (except, of course, for us to put some pants on and get a real job). For a rundown how Arbitrary-tron works, (it’s quite the travesty) click here for our definitive post, Cooking The Book.

We don’t have much yet from KVI, KTTH, KOMO or Air America. But we’re loaded with the KIRO goods and as we predicted, the goods are bad.

The new out-of-the-box line-up, so highly touted by its perps, PD Tom Clendening and afternoon talk host Dori Monson, has been an abysmal blow-out.

KIRO sank to 6th place in the the not-so-meaningful “all listeners 12 and older,” demographic, going from a 5.0 to 4.2 audience share.

But even worse, in the vital 25-54 year old adults demo, the place where radio stations live or die, KIRO went from 8th to 13th place.

KIRO’s January numbers were strongest, but eroded each month. When the January numbers go away, (Arbitron trends are a rolling 3 months) and are replaced by KOMO’s high Mariners’ ratings, KIRO will really be in the House of Poo.

Devastating is KIRO’s fall from 4th to 9th in the morning drive (6-10a). This has always been a time slot KIRO could take to the bank. “With it weakening,” our guy says, “it's abandon ship time ...horrible for the sales department, because many ad buys are based on the top 3 or 5 morning drive stations in the 25-54 demo.”

Allen Prell and Dori Monson’s 10a-3p: fell from 13th to 16th. There’s huge overhead with these two highly paid hosts, producers, and a bevy of newsies.  And all this, says a source, “for numbers that some of the tiniest, bare bones operations are now beating. Not only is Prell DOA, says our guy, “but Monson is in absolutely huge trouble.”

(Sources say Al Franken came in at 18th in this time slot, which we say is not too bad).

Dave Ross in the 3 to 7p ratings period, gave KIRO a ray of hope, though meager. The news block he replaced was 14th in the fall, Ross made 10th. That's a little lower than he scored in his old slot and last year, and the news he replaced was in 9th place in the comparable 2004 period.

Tony Ventrella and Mike Webb (7-midnight) are a catastrophe. They went from 9th to 15th place, and in the baseball season, they'll be lucky to stay in the top 20.

Sources deep in the bowels of Entercom now say KIRO firings are not likely quite yet. Ratings are in a free fall and no one knows where the bottom will be. When they stabilize, look for some of the help being frog-walked scross the street to the Azteca for a good-bye single malt. 

We can tell you that in the 12+ ratings (which don't tell you much), AM1090 (Air America) gained a half point, a good thing, but not a great thing. KVI lost nearly half a share, the lackluster KOMO lost a couple of points; (but they’ll perk up next month with baseball). KTTH lost a half share but stayed ahead of KVI by a single point.

Stay tuned and stand by and we'll get some more definitive 25-54 numbers for these stations.

rainy friday oddems: allen prell, ol’ mutton leg, dori monson, arbitron ratings, putting your ass where your mouth is

  • Arbitron ratings out today! BlatherWatch will get' em to you as soon as we can. Will KVI  pass KIRO? Will Air America make it into the top 15? Deepest Throat from KIRO says that if the Winter Book is as dire as everyone fears, drastic changes in management and programming will be made sooner than later. It’s baseball from now on--KOMO stole the Mariners 2 yrs. ago--and KIRO ratings will go down naturally. Our guy says: to be fading before baseball even factors in, would ring the loudest possible alarm bells at Entercom headquarters at Bala Cynwyd, PA.
  • Allen Prell: thanks for the mention. the bad news--only two people were listening. The good news: they both wrote to tell us about it. Prell denied blatherWatch’s charge that interns and sales people were assigned by KIRO management to make fawning calls to his show so it’d look like someone’s listening.  Blatherwatcher Talkfan said it: “Allen claimed that KIRO would go bankrupt if the sales staff were required to call his show. Isn't that the point? The ratings are tanking all day because of him (listeners tune out at 9am and don't come back for the flagship Monson/Ross shows) and the sales people have plenty of time to puff up his show.” Based on the many versions we got of this, BlatherWatch is sticking with our story.
  • “Thanks for your service” is the parsley on the plate of talk radio. Smarmy, talk-hosts (most of them draft avoiders) routinely thank soldiers, sailors, Marines, militia members and Power Rangers at the drop of a battalion number. Self-righteousness and antiquated military jargon was thick yesterday as John Carlson (KVI m-f, 3-6p) kissed up a self-satisfied Vietnam era blowhard getting his 15 minutes because he went near a Jane Fonda book signing at Costco and muttered something about blood money and treason. Though it’s doubtful she heard him, he taped it, of course; was thrown proudly out by security and will appear heroically triumphant on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes tonight. Tune in at 6p for some riveting TV.
  • Why is it that the most patriotically correct talk hosts never volunteered to serve, if they love their country so much? John Carlson says he got a low lottery number; but he supported the war in those days, he could have joined up. Michael Medved covered himself with glory by playing the going-to-college deferment racket: he says he was opposed to the war at the time. The sheep’s bone installed in Kirby Wilbur’s leg (KVI m-f, 6-9a) gave him a medical deferment. (We’re not saying he had the surgery to dodge the draft, but it did earn him the nickname,“Ol’ Mutton Leg” over at Queen Anne High.) Not sure how Mike Siegel got out of it--unmitigated gall bladder, maybe?  What about these young conservatives like the tight-sphinctered Medved Show producer Dan Sytman (KTTH Sat 6-8a) or KTTH utility man David Boze (m-f, 5-6a). They’ve got a lot to offer the war they love so much--youth, brains, loyalty uber alles; but we can’t help but think: patriotism sure is easier in a clean, dry cubicle than it is with small arms fire zinging by your head. Credit where credit’s due: Lt. Bryan Suits (KVI m-f, 6-9p) put his ass where his mouth is, although some of us wish that now that he’s home from the war, he’d re-configure and, well, sit on it.
  • The gala Dori Monson 10th anniversary mini-party at KIRO last week didn’t set well with many of his colleagues, though they did like the kuchen and pupus. He’s not popular around the office after his rank-pulling tactics to get his friend Tony Ventrella his job and manipulate the new scary line-up. Many kissed Monson’s ring, (Greg Hersholt actually put on lip gloss) but speaking into a blatherWatch microphone cleverly hidden in a punch cup, a coworker noted, “This Pope won’t be around long, either.” He’s the fourth-ranked 12-3p talker in the market, trailing Hannity and Medved. The syndicated shows are had for free, but our guy lowballs Monson’s salary at $150,000. How long can KIRO afford the cranky Ballardonion conservative?

April 25, 2005

kiro: waiting for godot

“We’re holding our breath,” says a staffer.

There’s an eerie calm around KIRO, like finals week at Auschwitz. The shoe ready to drop (maybe ‘boot’ would be more accurate) is the Winter Book, the decisive quarterly Arbitron ratings, and they're coming soon and inevitably.

It’ll be the first total picture of what’s widely expected to be the devastation wrought by Program Director Tom Clendening’s new programming lineup begun in January.

The midterm report card--the Winter Trends--still looms like a pregnant pole-vaulter over the station. They were the worst anyone at the No.1 Seattle news-talk station can remember.

Trying to save KIRO, execs, informers say, have neglected right-wing l’il sister KTTH. The joke around town is that she’s now only a “life support system for Rush Limbaugh.”

While no one at KIRO admits to reading blatherWatch, they all keep tuned to our end of the dial to see what their colleagues are telling us. “Your info is so accurate, it's downright creepy,” a producer told us, “I read things on blatherWatch before I hear it officially.”

Speaking of creepy, several insiders say that interns and sales people are being required (they’re on a schedule, we’re told) to make fawning calls to the Allen Prell Show (KIRO m-f, 9a-12p) whose phones otherwise ring only when a telemarketer gets by the dozing producer.

A Fisher (KVI, KOMO) exec gives fascinating perspective to these mystifying, counterintuitive programming decisions that seem to have sent KIRO racing for the edge.

“We actually herded them into the position to have to make some of those programming decisions. We've known since we went all news on KOMO (AM1000) we’d put KIRO in a box between KVI (all talk) and KOMO (all news). We didn't know they'd make that box smaller by creating KTTH.”

Eventually, he says, “they had to make this move (more talk, less news)” Sure enough, the new skej dropped KIRO’s long-running hour long news at noon and two news hours at 4 pm and Clendening fired anchor Val Stouffer and business reporter Kevin Ebi.

Fisher never dreamed Clendening and Entercom would make such a
“monumentally stupid move” as hiring Allen Prell. It was a perfect storm. “God bells them for that one,” says our guy at Fisher. “Please don't tell them how awful he really is.”

Somehow we don’t think we have to.

BlatherWatch, with the help of worried Entercom staffers, has detailed the sad deterioration. The new lineup put progressive Dave Ross (said to be fretting) into the afternoon drive (3-6p) where he’s burdened with a heavy spotload, incessant traffic reports which turns off a lot of his liberal former audience hard to pry away from NPR’s “All Things Considered.” This is the guy who in the morning used to kick Rush Limbaugh’s formidable fundament on a daily basis.

We hear they’ve diddled with Ross’ spotload somewhat, (we know that sounds dirty, but ‘spotload’ refers to the number of commercials) but insiders fear it’s too little too late.

Dave was replaced in the morning by Clendening’s ol’ buddy, ass-hat Allen Prell, whose schtick is being an obnoxious little boy, albeit a liberal obnoxious little boy. He ran off Ross’ audience right off the bat, and Air America’s Al Franken (AM1090 m-f, 9a-12p) was poised to welcome them in. 

Dori Monson, (KIRO m-f, 12-3p) flexed his muscles as a longtime host, and even though his own numbers sucked against KTTH’s Medved and KVI’s Hannity, they listened to him, fired the news staff, offed Fred Ebert and hired Monson pal, veteran TV sports-mensch, Tony Ventrella from 6-9p. Ventrella languishes. Jesus wept. 

They gave the liberal Mike Webb an extra hour earlier (m-f, 9p-1a), dropping him into a more mainstream audience who has run away and won’t come back. You can always tell when Mike’s phones aren’t ringing--he plays oldies with a codgerly running monologue down memory lane.

What will happen? Don’t go away, we’ll be right back...
~~
Got any inside talk-radio poop to dish? Blab it at [email protected] Discretion assured.

April 07, 2005

elitist, intellectualized snits, kiro, air america, ktth, and arbitron ratings pigs

No numbers, yet, but according to sources, new ratings are devastating to KIRO radio. What’s more, it’s official: KVI has passed  KTTH, KIRO’s Entercom l’il sister, whose ratings have dropped as fast as they went up last year after they stole Rush Limbaugh.

The station, meanwhile, has been left dangling slowly, slowly in the wind by the new management frantic to save KIRO as it slips below the surface.

At least that’s what the help says.

Radio biz Cassandras all over town are predicting the mighty 710 KIRO blowtorch of local news-talk will go the way of the old KING1090, for decades on top of the Seattle AM heap before it tipped over rather suddenly in the early ‘90’s.

(Interesting footnote is that KING, owned by the enlightened, liberal Bullitt family, tried Rush Limbaugh on in the late ‘80’s, as he was just starting in national syndication. After a few months, they decided he was not a fit for them...or Seattle. Ironically, a few years later, the KING was dead and Big Pants was king). 

Herein is a lesson for Air America affiliate, 1090AM: stations with little more than syndicated programming won’t make it--even when one of the syndicated is Limbaugh. At least that’s what radio hands tell me.

I never agree with Brian Maloney, the conservative KIRO talk jock fired because he called on-air for CBS’ Dan Rather’s resignation after the pre-election faked memo scandal. It was bad form--KIRO is a CBS affiliate. The now long-gone PD Ken Berry denied Maloney was fired for that reason, but he never came up with any other reason, and despite that it made cable news for a week, fired he was. Maloney left the local market.

Maloney’s ambitious blog, The Radio Equalizer is well-received by the pleistocene crowd both on the East coast where he now resides, and locally. As a conservative host on KVI and KIRO, he used to infuriate me, but he blogs convincingly on talk radio biz, a subject about which he knows considerably more than I.

In a post that should provoke thought by anyone interested in the success of liberal talk radio, Does Sean Hannity Help or Hurt Talk Radio? How Stations Benefit From Local Programming, he writes:

“Ratings are still strong overall for news/talk stations, but the future is much less certain, especially for AM "heritage" stations.
While competition heats up from every angle, including talk television, blogs, Internet broadcasting, podcasting, satellite radio and more, talk radio programmers have been ordered to focus on cost-cutting rather than battling the new threats. Would you slash the defense budget at the height of wartime?
The result has been a severe decline in what talk radio had long been doing right: spurring discussion on local issues where there had been no previous outlet....Stations had the opportunity to sell to clients these area personalities for endorsements, events and community involvement. Commercial sales opportunities are greater by far for local programs than syndicated ones.
So why were the local shows cut? To satisfy a shortsighted, relentless, cost-cutting push that undermined the very success talk radio had created.
At first, stations blended local "drivetime" programs with syndication to fill other parts of the day. Then, bean-counting cut even that away, removing successful area shows for sometimes marginal national shows. These lack the ability to discuss what's going on at the local or state level, leaving a station's schedule with show after show, beating to death the same few issues.
There are only a handful of nationally syndicated shows good enough to build a strong radio station. The rest are barely airworthy.”

KTTH’s sad story should be a cautionary tale for Air America, not only in Seattle where 1090 AM has nobody (!) live and local, but elsewhere in the country where liberal talk is gaining much too slowly for my taste.

Maloney cites KTTH’s sin of omission as a cogent example of how the all-politics-are-local dictum came to kick KTTH’s ass:

“When the controversy over the heavily disputed Washington state governor's race heated up to explosive levels last November, KVI was able to capitalize on enormous local listener interest in the controversy, while KTTH squandered the opportunity with national shows unwilling and unable to address it.”

It also kicked Democrats’ ass because this is more than radio biz, this is politics. The Republicans drove that debate, because we have no John Carlson or Kirby Wilbur to pound Republican sand up the public’s culo day-in and day-out. We have our NPR with its metered reporting and Dave Ross with his balanced style. We have our Allen Prell who no one listens to. We have Erin Hart and Mike Webb, voices ringing in the evening dead zones.

Radio is first and foremost a business. But what makes sound business, here--the marriage of local issues and local talk programming--also makes good politics.

I’d love to see Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt use some of his celebrated recruiting talents to find and prepare a field of broadcasters. I’d love to see some energy and money spent on an infrastructure that would encourage and help young progressives interested in broadcasting. The right did it and it’s paid off.

Talk radio is a powerful medium, one used well by the right. Whether it can work for progressives, has yet to be proven. If it doesn’t work for us, my prayer is that it’ll be because we gave it a good shot and failed--not because we walked away in one of our famous elitist, intellectualized snits.

Got any talk-radio poop to dish? Blab it at [email protected] Discretion assured.

March 29, 2005

Whither KIRO?: here’s some radio poop you can scoop

Boy, did I get an earful from insiders after my last post about Allen Prell. It seems that the problems at KIRO, for years the top-rated Seattle news-talk station, and its li’l sister KTTH are inspiring a lot of rodents to think about ejecting from the Entercom Mothership.

Radio management is secretive, so it’s hard to see the whole picture, but emails from Entercom staffers describe what they see as major strategic programming and business screw-ups.

Here are the headlines according to the help:

  • Michael Medved (KTTH, m-f, 12-3p) is reportedly moving his syndicated kulturkampf  to KKOL, the little Christian station soon to power up to 50,000 megatons. This would bring another Seattle right-wing station into ratings relevance, and perhaps help sink KTTH in the process.
  • Low-rated, brow-beating Mike Siegel (KTTH, m-f, 6-9a) could be replaced today, tomorrow or the next day (it might have even happened yesterday). Entercom head-hunters are beating the bushes for his replacement.
  • Lt. Bryan Suits’ (KVI m-f, 6-9p) first act upon arriving home from his Iraqi duty was to apply for Siegel’s KTTH morning job. This despite being on the KVI payroll and getting a triumphant KVI homecoming worthy of Gen. MacArthur. With uncharacteristic clarity and vision--perhaps remembering the Bad Lieutenant’s tepid KIRO ratings--Entercom suits took a pass on Suits.
  • Dori Monson (KIRO m-f 12-3p) was the driving force behind what insiders fear is a disastrous new line-up at KIRO. They say he got his friend, nice-guy Tony Ventrella (KIRO m-f, 6-9p) a job he’s not suited for; put Dave Ross in a morass of commercials and traffic reports that cramps his thoughtful style and drives his thoughtful listeners to NPR.
  • Monson’s getting killed by Medved and Sean Hannity. Recent ratings put him in 11th place, with 25-54 adults, the main demographic. He blamed the noon news lead-in, so they canned it. He then pushed for the scheduling changes, which resulted in the firings of anchor Val Stouffer and business reporter Kevin Ebi. “Dori's out of people to blame,” says a co-worker, “so now the ratings better go up or he, along with his buddy [new Program Director] Tom Clendening’s going to be in big trouble with corporate for pushing for this horrible station revamp.”
  • KIRO is dead last in the news-talk wars at night. Mike Webb's (KIRO m-f, 9p-1a) time slot (shared with Ventrella) scored only a 2.4 share for a 15th place ranking. Webb reportedly struggles to get callers. Ventrella misses lots of work.

Entercom, the media giant out of Bala Cynwyd, PA, owns not only KIRO, but KBSG, KISW, KMTT, KNDD, & KQBZ. Last year, they stole Rush Limbaugh from KVI to anchor programming for their con-talk upstart, KTTH.

The coupe was, some say, payback for the theft from KIRO of Mariners' baseball by Fisher's KOMOam.

Entercom thought they could kick back after they stole their rival's top ratings winner (the Big Fat Idiot is no.#1 nationally with Hannity not far behind). And yes, there was a ratings surge for KTTH at first, but the trend didn't continue.

KVI was the original right-wing format in Seattle and for years a con-talk monopoly. The station's success was about Limbaugh, and listener-loyalty inspiring local talent like Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson. (KVI is owned locally by the Fisher family who also own KOMOTV, KOMO, KPLZ).

With KVI's emphasis on local talkers, and KTTH's dearth of them (they've only got Mike Siegel) they made an impressive jump in the Winter Arbitron Book out last month, while KIRO went down from 3rd to 4th.

Many media observers are predicting the worst for KIRO, though it may be schadenfroid and hoping the big dog can be brought down. I’d hate to see this mixed-format station decline or go desist--it’s the largest piece of progressive talk we’ve got in Seattle.

Although...an Air America with Dave Ross might be worth it all...
~~
Got any talk-radio poop to dish? Blab it at [email protected] Discretion assured.

February 24, 2005

cooking The Book

"Honesty underlies everything
we do, and everything we say,
to every customer."
                     -Steve Morris, Arbitron President and CEO

"We're Number One!!!" Even when they're in the same market, stations and their hypermanic talent blatantly promo themselves as at the very pinnacle of the local ratings. Unfortunately, they're light on the details and here's why:

For a fee, Arbitron, the subscribers-only ratings service (known as The Book) will make its local and regional radio ratings reflect the numbers a station wants to see; that is: numbers it can sell. Customizing survey areas, dayshares, demographics and time periods to support stations' ad-selling strategies, Arbitron serves up the numbers in any manner of configurations to help sales departments demonstrate the value of their audiences to advertisers.

Frinstance: if the "Lush Rimjob Show" can be heard in three cities, but is number one in just one , and only among 18-35 year-old married male Chinese Volvo drivers who drink coffee and own one or more labrador retrievers, Arbitron will provide customized results conveniently sans the embarrassing survey areas or more inclusive demographics and make Lush Numero Uno even though many other stations are kicking his ample ass in overall ratings in the three city coverage area.

Accuracy in the overall ratings are questionable as well. Arbitron compiles numbers from a list of  "listener diaries," mailed out to people they allege are randomly selected. They're supposed to fill out the long and rather time-consuming surveys and mail them back.

Arbitron says these diaries are sent to some two million people in the US over the age of 12; but admit only half send them back. Since there are over 230 million people in the US in that age category, the sample is pretty pathetic in terms of the population as a whole.

NPR and other public broadcasters are not surveyed, since they're non-commercial and Arbitron is nothing if not about business.  That leaves a large part of the local listener story left untold especially in liberal markets like Seattle where NPR is widely tuned in.

It also throws into question the numbers that conservative talk supposedly enjoys and the conventional wisdom that there's not enough progressive interest in radio talk for it to pencil.

Air America has shown that with entertaining and substantive formats and hosts it can succeed. Much will be riding on whether it can entice station managers to try the new daring format and attract the hidden audience that Arbitron ignores.