Day One: What A Mess

Thoughts on Day One of the big Boston talk radio switcheroo:

— WRKO/Entercom blew it on a number of fronts, but these three stand out the most:

1) Rather than point the finger at Clear Channel/Premiere for yanking away WRKO’s marquee talent, Entercom used local media to make it appear it was their own idea, all in the name of going “local”. But that’s clearly backfired as longtime WRKO fans vent their anger at station management.

2) Of course, because it was “their idea”, they had to have a new local host in place in time for Rush’s removal from WRKO, so they rushed into hiring a rank amateur who will quickly be in way over his head with 15 hours of programming to fill every week. A clear tip-off: loading today’s show with big guests (as a crutch) instead of allowing the new guy to show his stuff.

A better plan: try out a number of people in the slot to see how they’d fare against the Talk Titan.

3) If it had any class, Entercom would have acknowledged Limbaugh’s role in BUILDING WRKO over the years and thanked him for his enormous contribution. But this is Entercom, a bottom-feeding outfit.

— The new station is baffling for several reasons as well:

1) There’s almost no outside promotion. How are listeners supposed to find where Rush has gone?

2) “Rush Radio” clearly wasn’t ready to go, even to the point where the schedule isn’t settled.

3) The new station’s weak signal locks out a lot of Rush’s former WRKO coverage area. Forget the South Shore, it’s now up to outlying stations such as WXTK 95 FM on the Cape to fill the gaps.

4) Rush himself has said little (nothing?) about the move and it was only mentioned at his site late today.

It’s one bizarre situation all around, with talk fans left scratching their heads. It can’t be fun for Howie Carr.

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Boston Media Does WRKO’s Bidding On Rush Move

In a breathtaking display of corporate PR infused into local news coverage, Entercom has successfully been able to portray Rush Limbaugh’s move to a new Clear Channel-owned station as its own decision to cancel him.

But that’s a flat-out lie and everyone should know better. Clearly, local media outlets have allowed their dislike of Limbaugh to cloud good news judgment.

Lies! ALL LIES! Where is Frau when we need her?

Think about it this way: without the new station in town, which is owned by the parent company of Rush’s syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, would WRKO willingly give up his show at any point during the next century? Of course not. This is a joke.

The Globies stand out with the worst coverage, claiming Limbaugh’s ratings are weak here. Did Entercom provide the paper with bona fide ratings data from the most recent reporting period (January 2010) to back up the assertion? Did the Globies independently confirm it?

Note the corporate spin here:

With Limbaugh leaving WRKO, the station will replace him with well-known Republican operative Charley Manning beginning Monday. “The Charley Manning Show’’ will air from noon to 3 weekdays on WRKO. Manning has served as an adviser to former Massachusetts governors William F. Weld and Mitt Romney.

“We think this is the best move for us,’’ said Jason Wolfe, New England vice president of AM programming at Entercom Communications Corp., which owns WRKO and WEEI. “Charley Manning brings top-notch insight and great credibility to us at a time when Boston politics are so intense and top of mind.’’

Obviously, we never expect honesty from The Globies on any subject, but using a well-known local advocate of liberal talk radio as some kind of an independent analyst on the subject of Rush Limbaugh is laughable:

“Charley Manning is very well connected locally,’’ said Donna Halper, a radio consultant and media professor at Lesley University. “He has a passion for politics. He has a tremendous amount of credibility. . . . There’s just so many stations that can air Rush Limbaugh.’’

Ask yourself why “conservative” Manning is praised by the left- what does that say about where his new show is headed?

Even funnier is the notion that a guy who briefly co-hosted a show 15 years ago is a threat to Limbaugh’s dominance.

And from the Patriot-Ledger, here’s another ominous sign on the Manning front:

Manning said he had heard “some complaints” that talk radio had focused too much on Scott Brown during his campaign for the U.S. Senate. He urged all campaigns to make their candidates available for talk shows.

“I’m just going to throw out the welcome mat to everyone,” he said.

Manning must know little about talk radio (and clearly doesn’t listen to Howie’s show) or he’d understand that stations are REQUIRED to invite all candidates. Coakley turned down repeated interview requests from Carr and many other area hosts.

Beyond that, talk radio’s demographic and Brown’s support base fit like a glove and the huge January ratings boost confirms that fact. Coakley appealed to the NPR / Globie crowd. Does he really not know the difference? Next time, Charley, think before you speak, if that is possible.

Ultimately, however, none of this changes the fact that WRKO is doomed without Rush. He’s been WRKO’s premium product for decades and provided Carr with a sizable lead-in audience. Manning will not.

Unfortunately, however, the new station appears slapped together and certainly won’t win these public PR battles until Clear Channel decides to get serious about creating a major market talk powerhouse. What we’ve seen so far is less than encouraging.

But Rush’s listeners will follow him anywhere and that won’t change no matter how inept the new operation might prove to be.

Rush Radio 1200: Winners And Losers

Here’s how I expect the Boston talk radio landscape to look from here forward:

— WRKO: watch as it limps along without Rush Limbaugh and is put to sleep when Howie somehow manages to exit the building for good. Until then, expect a slow and painful demise. Given the troubles at both WEEI and WRKO, I’d hate to be a Entercom salesperson right now.

Hope Rush’s “replacement” enjoys the futility of competing against him for the next six months or so, until the show is inevitably cancelled and replaced with fee-free syndicated programming.

— Rush Radio 1200: Limbaugh himself can prop up this otherwise-weak station to a point, but ultimately it will require major-market management and a real commitment to programming.

So far, it appears to be run from Providence (by the same people who have failed to make an impact with WHJJ and resent any intrusion from Boston radio types into their market) and will be burdened with some of Premiere Radio’s unsuccessful syndicated shows. That’s not a recipe for ratings or revenue.

Beyond Rush, syndication has never fared well in New England and I doubt that will change now.

— WTKK: with WRKO and the new station struggling in the ratings, WTKK might appear to “win” on occasion (by ranking higher than either one), but I’m still not sure how it can afford a live-and-local lineup without a viable programming focus or successful air talent.

The bottom line: we’re entering a new era where no one station really dominates the market (even WBZ ain’t what it used to be) and the audience is carved four ways or more.

KISS 108: Rush Switching Stations In A Month

Is Rush Limbaugh switching Boston stations much sooner than previously believed? During this morning’s Matty In The Morning Show on KISS 108 FM, host Matt Siegel (below image) indicated that Limbaugh would be moving to his sister station at 1200 AM in just a month.

Until now, it seemed shifting Limbaugh’s show away from his longtime home at WRKO would take some time as contractual issues needed to be resolved.

Click here for the audio, it’s about two minutes into the segment.

ObamaRadio: Does It Know Where You Live?

Took a look at Obama’s ridiculous seminar calling site and it immediately instructed me to phone Vay Cay Jay’s program. But Vay Cay isn’t actually there, of course, as WTKK’s Lite Talk FM is in drivetime advice mode.

Refreshing the page produced this result:

Here’s my “advice” to Obama: drop this foolish idea before your supporters embarrass themselves.

Boston Ratings: The Scott Brown Effect Lifts All Boats

As we’d anticipated last month, the latest batch of Boston ratings brought a huge surge for local talk stations. As nothing else could explain a January spike, we’re safe in calling it the Scott Brown effect.

Even sad-sack WTKK benefited, which ought to prove instructive to Greater Media’s generally-clueless regime, but probably won’t.

A brief rundown:

— WBZ-AM moved up to 5.9 share of overall (6 and older) audience from 5.7. Good for second place. Dan Rea’s now-infamous interview with Martha Coakley (Schilling / Yankees debacle) provided WBZ with a tremendous (nationwide!) publicity boost. He deserves the credit for any January gains, even if they came during other dayparts.

WBZ actually lost listeners during this period, from 822,400 to 740,900. But those who remained tuned in longer, leading to the overall boost. That normally signals talk show over drivetime newswheel listenership. Again, this one goes to Rea.

— WRKO scored explosive share gains, now tied for seventh place with 4.8, up from 3.6. Body count: 379,000, up from 347,800 last month.

— Beleaguered FM talker WTKK also saw a rare boost, to 3.7 from 2.6, tied for eleventh. It actually has more listeners than WRKO, by about 50,000, but has lower overall ratings because it fails to keep them tuned in for longer periods.

Interestingly, it was political talk that fueled WTKK’s rare bit of success, but it promptly returned to “lite talk FM” after the election. Why is an advice host filling in for Jay Severin? It makes no sense whatsoever.

Nationally, talk stations are also way up, but it’s mostly confined to outlets that carry Rush Limbaugh.