Tuesday, January 10, 2006

One more reason to go for satellite radio

Radio pretty much sucks in the Washington area. We've got a bunch of R&B/hip-hop stations--some are on my presets on my car radio--but I'm not enough of a fan of that type of music to listen to any of those stations extensively. We have an improving classic rock station in 94.7--they've become a lot better since they started mixing in more 80s and 90s classic songs--but I think that more than the music, I just enjoy turning on the station and going "Hey, it's Weasel" or "Hey, it's Cerphe" when I hear the former WHFS and DC101 deejays. Then we have the post-Howard Stern WJFK, now going by the moniker "Free FM." Yeah, sure it's free, but no one would ever pay for the programming on that station. OK, Don and Mike are still fine, but the Junkies? I used to listen to them occasionally when they were a sports show on JFK a few years ago, but I turned them on one morning last week and after a half-hour found myself frantically searching for a hammer with which I could destroy my radio. The rest of the station? Bill O'Reilly is annoying but can be entertaining on TV; he's just annoying on the radio. And JFK's new evening show is Jay Severin, who hosts a conservative political talk show. Hey, just what we need on radio, another conservative talk show!

Then we have all-sports radio WTEM, or more accurately all-Redskins radio, which is great this week, but kind of boring in May when they're talking about Redskins minicamp and, you know, there's a baseball team in Washington playing. WMAL had an often interesting and thoughful local talk show in the evening rush with Chris Core, who has been in that time slot in some form since the late 1970s, but for some reason, they've now moved him to 9 a.m.-noon to make way for another national conservative talk show--apparently Rush and Sean Hannity just aren't enough.

Ok, back to music. WHFS turned into a Spanish station last year, but despite its ad campaign, it hadn't been "legendary" for years. There's 99.5, which is an OK Top 40 station, but like any Top 40 station plays the same songs every 45 minutes or something.And then we have DC101 and Mix107.3, two stations with popular morning shows but only mediocre music formats. I have no idea why Jack Diamond is popular--do people really like listening to a dumb guy in the morning to make them feel better about themselves? I will say, though, that after listening to Elliot on DC101 a couple times last week, he's not that bad. I especially liked that he seemed to be obsessed with Channel 4 sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak, because I kind of am too. As for their playlists, Mix recently expanded their playlist, which means they have a slightly longer list of songs that they repeat constantly, while DC101, by default, is now "the only station that really rocks," as they used to call themselves, but plays way too much of that that junk they call pop-punk--Nickelback, Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, etc. Or maybe that's just generic, unexciting rock, and not really pop-punk. Whatever it is, I'm too old for that.

So with all those bad stations, two of my favorite stations were Z104 and WTOP 1500 AM, and last week the owner of those two stations, Bonneville, got rid of one and may have permanently damaged the other. I liked Z104 because it played good newer rock and pop music--The Killers and Keane, for example--while also playing some classic 80s and 90s stuff--old REM, U2, maybe an old 10,000 Maniacs song. And they didn't play much of that pop-punk stuff I referred to earlier. It was the perfect station for people in their mid-30s who still want to hear good new stuff but like a taste of the music they grew up with, but apparently that's not a real big audience (maybe it's only me) because the ratings were really low. And radio is a business, so I understand why Z104 is now defunct. But the announcement of Washington Post Radio, and it taking over the 1500 AM place on the dial while WTOP moves to 103.5 FM puzzles me.

First, with the Web chats they do (which I very much enjoy), the interviews on MSNBC and now the interviews and other programming they're goig to do on Washington Post Radio, when exactly do Post reporters have time to write their stories? Is every columnist going to turn into TV star Tony Kornheiser, who writes short "columns" that appear to take him about four minutes to write and are barely coherent?

More importantly, even if the AM radio band is dying, WTOP is one of the highest rated stations in the city and, according to the Post last week, brought in the most revenue of any station in the area in 2004. It's been at 1500 AM for decades. Why would you move it to another place on the dial, just for a little better reception? People are creatures of habit. Are they going to take the time to find the new station?

Most of concern to me, though, is the news, according to the Post, that programs like the Mark Plotkin Politics Show and the "Ask the Mayor/Governor/County Executive" shows will likely move to Washington Post Radio. WTOP has improved immensely over the past decade, and one of the big reasons is programs like these. As a news station, it has to constantly update the headlines, and recycles many of its stories every half-hour to hour. But programs like the ones mentioned above, as well as the interviews the station regularly conducts with Post reporters and people like Chris Matthews and other local media notables about the news, etc. keep the listener on the station for a longer period of time--and mean you might stick with the station after you've heard the "traffic and weather together" for the fifth time so you can hear Steven Hunter talk about this week's movies. Why would you want to move this to another station? (And if you're going to run it on both, why would anyone listen to WP Radio?)

All these changes just made me feel even more pleased to purchase Sirius satellite radio last week. I'll give a report in a future post.


Blogger B and T Crowd said...

Nice summary on the thoughts of our demographic. WTOP is only worth its traffic report on the 8's.

1/13/06, 12:35 PM  

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