Webmaster’s Corner: What To Do About AM?
The greater question remains: Is AM 850 in Boston now a throwaway signal? One might make the arguement that the only remaining profitable AM station in Boston, and perhaps all of Massachusetts, might be WBZ-AM 1030, which does News all day and Talk all night. But what does that say about all the lesser signals in and around Boston?
A totally unrelated Facebook post which announced that Rush Limbaugh is returning to 680 WRKO was received with boos. I added a tongue in cheek comment that maybe WRKO would do better inviting Charlie Van Dyke and “Exciting” Mike Addams (who, incidently, is on WEEI-FM SportsRadio) and returning the music format to WRKO. Could it do worse?
Out in Orange, Mass., Steve Silberberg’s former WJOE 700 (the onetime 1390 WCAT) was airing ESPN until earlier this year, when he dropped the service in favor of a simulcast of his lone moneymaker, AAA Formatted 92.5 WXRV – “The River”. One could guess that nobody was listening to 700′s ESPN Sports programming and so, Silberberg probably figured he could save money by dropping the sports contract and simply re-broadcsting WXRV – which incidently is also run on 99.9 FM Athol (used to be the old WCAT-FM in the Dick Partridge days). Now, as of the last two times I was up there… 700 is dark. What does that say about the state of AM? Perhaps not much, since Orange Mass has a local FM station that does serve it’s community, 97.3 WJDF. No matter. The AM is apparently gone, and while not deleted, it’s probably got nine months to go back on the air or disappear into the history of AM broadcasting.
In New York City, I was appalled to hear three hours of infomercials on, of all stations, 77 WABC. Selling, what one facebook poster called, ‘dubious male enhancement pills’. Okay, Cumulus Media is making money on the sale of these crackpot faux talk shows, but surely the audience evaporates when that crap goes on. Or does it? What does that do to the listening audience during the times that Imus, Rush and Hannity are off? To me, the great WABC sounds like its reduced to a cinder.
These are only some limited examples of whats taking place all over the country. At least in Canada, there are still some broadcast standards which have to be maintained even on the AM band. Doubt that? Try listening anywhere in Eastern North America to AM 740 from Toronto. “Zuma Radio” plays everything across the music spectrum, with knowledgeable announcers. Yes, I’d bet my next paycheck that it’s voicetracked. But it’s better than Hate talk, penis enhancing pills and much of the junk that’s becoming standard fare on US AM stations during off peak talk times. Yes, I said penis.
I’ve been saying for quite a while now that AM is deader than Fred Flintstone’s Brontosaurus. I’m just waiting for the the carriers to drop for good on many of these signals… even some 50,000 watt blowhard signals. It’s only a matter of time. But, what if corporate talking heads were to decide it would be cheaper, easier and even GOOD for business to return music formats to AM? No, I’m not talking about CHR or even AC. But Classic Country, Standards, Smooth Jazz and Oldies could experience a resurgence of sorts with an audience that while aging, might tune into a locally produced, if not voicetracked music format mentioned above. At least one of those music formats wouldn’t suffer the kind of listener turn off that anti-aging cream talk shows do.
Sure, we all know the future of radio is online and digital. And nobody under 30 even knows there even IS an AM band. So why not squeeze the remaining life out of AM properties with a music format tailored to an aging audience, and make some money with it before the light goes out at the top of the transmission tower. It makes sense to me.