Vay Cay Jay Suspended ‘Indefinitely’

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*** UPDATED BELOW ***

Do you have your BS detector ready? Need a moment to fire it up?

OK, here goes: Vay Cay Jay Severin, he of the long holidays, mega-salary and recycled jokes, has apparently been suspended “indefinitely” for remarks deemed offensive to Mexicans, according to the Globies:

Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for the station, said Severin had been suspended indefinitely. She declined to comment further.

George Tobia, Severin’s lawyer, said it was not clear how long his client has been suspended.

“All we know is it’s indefinite,” he said. “We’re just learning of it, and we’re dealing with it.”

Tobia said the station’s manager had received a flood of complaints in recent days about Severin’s comments about Mexicans and the swine flu.

“It would certainly be unfortunate if someone was suspended because some people didn’t like what he said, rather than it being warranted for being over the line,” Tobia said.

This story is bizarre on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin:

— WHAT exactly did Severin say? WTKK owner Greater Media won’t tell us.

— After so many previous credibility-crushing incidents that left him unscathed, why would he go down in flames over this?

— Why the sudden interest by the Globies in a talk radio story? It’s a subject they often avoid. One clue: it provides an opportunity to bash Republicans, since Severin claims to have been a consultant for the party in the past (although he makes it clear on the air he’s a “libertarian libertine”). Take a look:

It’s not the first time Severin, a former political consultant for the Republican Party, has faced criticism for derogatory comments about minorities. On a 2004 broadcast, he compared US Muslims to a fifth column, and when a caller suggested the United States should befriend Muslims, Severin responded: “You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them.”

— Why remove a host over a “controversy” unknown to almost everyone in the region? Usually this kind of event is the culmination of a public termination campaign, but that’s clearly not the case here.

— Is this really about a company that can no longer afford Severin’s huge ($1,000,000+ per annum) salary and would rather not admit that? New PPM ratings have Howie’s camp crowing, including new promos calling him “number one”, a position once held by Severin.

UPDATE: the Herald’s Jessica Heslam provides important details missing from the Globie coverage:

The Spanish-language daily newspaper El Diario la Prensa in New York City, reported earlier this week that Severin was using the flu to attack Mexicans and immigrants.

“For Severin, Mexicans are ‘criminaliens’ and primitives who export venereal diseases to the United States,” the paper reported. “The shock jock referred to the strain of flu as ‘swine-aka-Janet Napolitano flu.’ ”

“That’s not the end of Severin’s anti-immigrant rants. Immigrants are leeches and their children, he warns, don’t speak English, will retard schools, add to crime and spread disease. Amid all of this, Severin has the audacity to state, ‘I don’t mean to hype the story,’ ” the paper said.

Severin bug eyes image: Stuart Cahill, Boston Herald

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Listener Dedication Is Critical

A few days ago, we looked at the first Boston ratings release under the new Portable People Meter (PPM). One benefit of the system is a much more precise estimate of a station’s actual number of listeners. Even better, it is now disclosed for all to see via industry trade publications.

Here’s how the largest local news/talk and sports stations fared:

WBZ-AM —- February 2009: 824,900 listeners —- March 2009: 806,100 (Rank: 8th)

WEEI-AM — February: 497,700 — March: 554,800 (Rank: 12)

WRKO-AM — February: 339,600 — March: 426,100 (Rank: 14)

WTKK-FM — February: 395,100 — March: 416,900 (Rank: 17)

In overall listener share, the magic numbers we use to determine success and failure in radio, WBZ ranks third, WRKO is sixth and WTKK thirteenth.

So what accounts for the difference? These stations are all boosted by time spent listening (TSL). Ratings are not just a body count but a measure of how long a particular person sticks with it during the day.

When programmed properly, news / talk stations benefit from fierce loyalty, especially when listeners feel they are a part of something important. WTKK and WRKO have virtually the same body count, but TSL boosted the latter all the way to sixth place, while the former languishes in thirteenth.

While WRKO features a powerful block of successful conservative programming between noon and 7pm, WTKK’s schedule is all over the place, with conservatives, liberals, libertarians featuring varying degrees of enthusiasm and dedication to their respective programs.

Look at it this way: what is a Michael Graham listener expected to do at noon? For him or her, WTKK’s programming hits a brick wall at that point. By the same token, an Eagan & Braude fan has nowhere to go at 3pm, except to another station.

WTKK does this to its listeners all day long, giving them no reason to remain with the station beyond the current program. This is the primary reason why it hasn’t been able to achieve more than mediocre ratings results.

Yes, long commercial breaks and a dead-and-gone morning drive debacle also hurt WTKK, but WRKO shares with it the latter problem, yet still manages to do fairly well overall.

As with newspapers hoping to survive via Internet traffic, radio stations must focus on this key element of ratings success.

Deval’s Transparent Tax Stance

Deval Patrick, looking out for taxpayers?

Don’t be fooled: his “tough” opposition to our corrupt legislature’s attempt to jack up the sales tax by 25% is fueled by a painful realization that without an image makeover, his re-election chances are somewhere between slim and none.

According to a Rasmussen poll released last week, only 33% of Bay State voters are offering even some support for a second term for the embattled governor. So much for riding Obama’s coattails.

If legislators can override his “veto”, it’s the best of all worlds: Patrick gets the tax increase he secretly wants, while publicly opposing it.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming number of Globe readers (!!!) oppose the sales tax hike.

Patrick image: Boston Herald

Globies Hit With More Bad News

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If the Boston Globe is really such an essential component of life in Massachusetts, as John Kerry and his elitist cronies would have us believe, then why aren’t readers rallying to its defense?

Faced with the impending threat of closure by The New York Times Company, the Globies held a rally last week, attracting few beyond its own staff and union hacks with a vested interest in its survival. Missing from the equation, however, are readers- they’ve continued to abandon the paper.

According to newly-released data comparing March 2009 to the same period last year, the Globe has seen print circulation drop by nearly 14%, now down to 302,000 average copies. That’s a decline of roughly 40,000 daily, just since March 2008.

Sure, we’ve all heard the argument that readers have migrated to the Internet and additional data released today indicates visitors are lingering a a few minutes longer at Boston.com. But that actually means little: short-term traffic surges usually depress that figure, while declining visits cause it to rise.

Why? It’s simple: temporary links from other sites, such as Drudge, lead to huge increases for brief periods. As opposed to hard-core daily fans of a site, they read one story and move on elsewhere. That pushes down the average time spent viewing number.

Conversely, during a month where there aren’t many inbound links, only regular readers remain at Boston.com, sending this number back up. At the end of the day, as one-shot tourists disappear, the core readership is most important.

As with radio and television ratings, there’s obviously more to this than a body count: how long someone remains with a program or an article has a significant role in setting ad rates. Next, we’ll look at how this affects Boston talk radio.

UPDATE: the Globies are attempting to spin this news as “at least we weren’t down as much as the Herald”.

But the comparison may not be valid: since the latter paper shut its presses and outsourced production, the number of copies sent to newsstands has been cut sharply, which appears to be intentional. It has become much harder to find a Herald in many shops, especially later in the day. There is a deliberate attempt to sell every delivered paper without leftovers.

Another point: while the Herald is run on a shoestring budget, the Globe has tremendous overhead, yet the latter’s circulation (300,000 vs the Herald’s 150,000) isn’t big enough to make up for those extra costs.

Nonetheless, I do believe it is time for the Herald to consider beefing up its Sunday edition, which is too expensive at $2.00 for what little is provided. Sunday circulation has now fallen under 100,000, underscoring the need for improvement. Either cut the price or add something extra to the paper, before this deteriorates further.

New Ratings System Could Mean Local Upheaval

Marking the end of a long wait, yesterday brought the debut of Arbitron’s electronic Portable People Meter ratings service in Boston. The old paper diary system, prone to exaggeration and occasional outright rigging, is toast (but still exists in smaller markets, at least for now).

Because it detects encoded signals in radio transmissions, this method is extremely accurate. Participants simply keep the pager-like PPM device with them as they move about.

As the new system was being tested here, we were not receiving official ratings updates for Boston, so we’ve been in the dark on how local programming was performing. Now, we’ve been given three updates at once, for January, February and March.

In many cities, the debut of PPM has led to news/talk surges and damaging declines for hip hop stations, which is why Obama and his new FCC are fighting its implementation. They have foolishly managed to turn it into a polarizing racial issue, all to protect owners of Urban-formatted outlets. But Boston’s results don’t seem to quite fit that trend.

Boston news-talk-sports highlights:

— In overall share (persons six and older), WBZ has remained relatively flat, with a 6.5 share versus 6.6 in the last diary-based survey. But thanks to the leapfrogging of two music stations, WXKS-FM and WMJX-FM, which saw their numbers skyrocket, it now ranks third.

— WRKO has actually dropped a bit under PPM, with a 4.6 for January, ditto for February and 5.0 for March, versus 5.3 last fall under the old system. That’s good for sixth, behind WROR-FM, another music station that benefited greatly from the switchover.

— Settling in at thirteenth place, WTKK seems to have lost the most under PPM in the news-talk category, with a 3.4, 3.8 and 3.7 versus 4.1 last fall.

Watch for part two, where I’ll have more data and analysis.

Entercom’s Transparent ‘Green’ Ploy

Using every branding and marketing trick in the book, many corporations bend over backwards these days to portray themselves as “green”. Even as the eco fad appears to lose some popularity, few want to be seen as out of touch.

For Entercom’s David Field, however, it’s personal: the embattled radio operator’s CEO aims to convince us all that he’s a decent person, looking out for the “planet”. But to anyone who has followed his questionable past, it’s hard to believe he has a good bone in his body.

Another way Field attempts to convince himself and others in his social circle of non-evil ways is through political contributions to liberal Democrats.

His latest ploy continues his longstanding push to infuse his failing company with flaky, time-wasting “green” initiatives. From Radio Online:

Entercom has announced the launch of the “1 Thing Green Pledges” program, a corporate sustainability initiative designed to reduce the company’s environmental impact and further its commitment to good corporate citizenship. The program builds on Entercom’s existing “1 Thing” platform, an environmental awareness campaign.

Commenting on the launch of the 1 Thing Green Pledges program, President/CEO David J. Field said, “We can make a difference, and therefore we must. And if we do it right, we can run our business more efficiently, we can partner with like-minded customers, we can have a healthier workplace and we can significantly reduce our impact on the planet.”

The 1 Thing Green Pledges program incorporates the roll-out of various green practices at all Entercom facilities. These practices include the implementation of energy-efficient lighting; exclusive use of 100% post consumer waste recycled paper (PCW); paper-saving systems to reduce overall paper consumption; and recommended energy-efficient practices for electronic office equipment.

In addition, company radio stations will produce and air locally-focused “Green Tip” spots, voiced by station personalities who are sustainability stewards in their own communities.

As part of its corporate sustainability initiative, Entercom is pledging a $1 million advertising grant to three leading environmental organizations. Additionally, each of Entercom’s 23 markets will designate its own local environmental partner, which will also receive a grant of advertising time.

If only Field could devote this much energy to his long-suffering company, it might have a future.

So here’s a question for the junior Field: what’s the carbon footprint for your family’s jaunts to the Nantucket beach house? How exactly do you get there from Pennsylvania?

As for his new initiative, it is equally self-serving: those free ads for eco-kooks provide a great way to mask Entercom’s (NYSE:ETM) lack of paid commericials.

Globies Dig In Their Heels II – Rush Edition

Regarding the Boston Globe’s sinking ship, the left’s mantra is that the web killed the print edition, rather than admit a stuffy, dry, biased, agenda-driven and otherwise sloppy product has turned away readers.

Even as the paper faces a potential closure, that’s why the Globies are not attempting to broaden their appeal by dumping the elitist political propaganda. Instead, they’re on a kamikaze mission to pump as much “progressive” crapola as can be jammed into the shrinking publication’s final days.

The latest example is this overtly sympathetic interview with the monitor overseeing Rush Limbaugh for the far-left, George Soros-funded Media Matters. Check out these brutally-tough questions:

Q. One of your co-workers told me that the joke around the office is that “Simon has the worst job in America.”

A. I don’t know if it’s the absolute worst job. It’s a challenge, at times, listening to Rush every day. It’s interesting, though.

Q. What do your friends and family say when you tell them what you do for a living?

A. They praise my fortitude. Nothing but support, and a few condolences.

Q. Does Rush ever push back at you on the air?

A. He came close to mentioning the Limbaugh Wire, but backed off from that, much to our disappointment. He knows we’re out there, though.

Q. What’s the most egregious thing, from your perspective, you’ve heard Limbaugh say?

A. You’d be drawing from a deep well there. Back in 2004 there was that comment he made about the guards at the Abu Ghraib prison “blowing off steam.” And in 2006 he was talking about Michael J. Fox, saying that Fox was either acting his [Parkinson’s disease] symptoms or he was off his meds.

In other news, conservatives kick cute, adorable puppies for no good reason.