Thursday, July 16, 2009

Indy looks at radio

The Colorado Springs Independent's Bill Forman looked into the decline of local radio today.

I think it's a decent overview - he focused on Buzz Corona, formerly of KPHT (95.5 FM), Vicky Gregor of KRCC (91.5 FM) and CK from KDZA (107.9 FM) (well, I'm not sure if he's still of KDZA, but CK will always be around somewhere).

However, he doesn't really address whether Clear Channel and Citadel played a role in the decline of radio, or if it's a technology driven decline and the big radio conglomerates are simply the ones left holding the bag (I'd argue that's mostly the case, although see my note about KILO below).

I think KCME is a better example of the toll internet streaming is taking on local radio. It lacks KRCC's news and popular syndicated programs, so it's more heavily reliant on people tuning in just for the music - and more of those people are finding their music through other sources. KCME recently held an off-season fund drive to make up for falling donations (although so did KRCC).

On the other hand, Forman doesn't really explore what KILO's comparative success means, although he has a quote from Ross Ford in the box. Obviously, part of that success comes from lack of competition in the last couple of years, but even when it wasn't on top, KILO was pretty much always top three. You could make a couple arguments here: the importance of listener loyalty and brand strength - both of which would argue against the frequent format flips Clear Channel and Citadel are known for, and maybe the importance of local jocks (which, sorry guys, I think gets overplayed, but it may have a role).

KCMN (1530 AM) is an interesting case, too, making a go of things as a near-independent (Don Crawford Jr. owns KCBR, too, but it's a very small operation).

What's the model that will give radio a future, either for-profit or not? Heck, I dunno. As I'm always saying on here, though, it was newspapers first, now it's radio, next it will be TV. Is "local" dead, or does it just need a heart transplant?

The best thing I can come up with right now is that local media will have to deal with falling revenue for several more years, but that there will be a plateau at some point and that, at some level, local newspapers and radio stations and TV stations will stick around for awhile.

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