Tuesday, December 26, 2006

John Macintire and KDKA... a Long Tail casualty?

Some may not realize that John Macintire McIntire has again lost his spot in the Pittsburgh media universe. His daily radio program on KDKA is being axed. The KDKA press release, media coverage, and JM’s own blog all do not give much insight into why. More than a few people I have heard mention this have jumped to the conclusion that he must have run afoul of management in some way by saying something inappropriate or just being too liberal.

I myself am skeptical that this was anything other than a business decision. There is an allusion in the news to finding another spot for JM on another local station. When you think about it, KDKA’s 50K watt flamethrower antenna was never the right place for JM’s content which I am sure was very Pittsburgh-oriented... maybe even City of Pittsburgh oriented. Yes, he would expound on national politics, but as you move away from the city you get into markets where people just don’t want to hear either Pittsburgh-based or less-than-conservative content. So I bet they had some Arbitron data that said the show was doing ok close in, but pretty abysmal out in the sticks. That or maybe some of their advertisers took issue with the content and the station could not make up for it with more local (Pittsburgh) content. City-based advertisers need to pay for KDKA’s broad coverage area, a cost that does not make a lot of sense for many. In fact, I am surprised they didn’t realize this would be the case going into the deal.

This gets to some interesting issues. Some may have read the current popular biz book The Long Tail which emphasizes how marketing is becoming dominated by catering to multiple niche markets and not the broad middle which used to be the case. At 50K watts, KDKA is the anti-long tail of media outlets. The only way for the station to leverage that signal strength is to appeal to the broadest of markets across a large and diverse region. The legacy 50K watt KDKA station is arguably an anachronism as people get ever more radio content from satellite, the yet to catch on digital (HD) radio , low power stations or innumerable other ways people get news/talk these days. The very purpose of the 50K license was to provide broad service into areas that would not get any other local radio signal.. an issue that may not matter as much as it used to. The poor programming folks at KDKA have this odd problem of programming for a national audience on a local budget. JM's show may be the first casualty, but it may not be the last. He may not be the first actually. Does this argument apply to why KDKA lost out bidding for Pirate baseball broadcasting locally?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for your lucid explanation of John McIntire's recent job loss.The conspiracy theorists will certainly have reason for his most recent reversdal.You know, Bush, Rove, Ravenstalh,Scaife, its all their fault MacYipper can't keep a job.He needs to find one of those local stations where you pay for your time and get to say whatever you want.Bring your advertisers with you.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006 1:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Murray said...

I believe the decision has nothing to do with McIntire's political bent or his considerable talent. KDKA is the victim of FM and it's trying to no avail to find some way to stop the bleeding. It formerly owned the local airwaves here -- Rege Cordic once had an 85 share in morning drive time, an unprecedented mark for any large market (which Pittsburgh was at the time). That was a long time ago, and the audience simply hasn't stayed with AM, pure and simple. Neither Rege Cordic, John McIntire nor Bob Prince could change that (well, maybe Bob Prince).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 1:57:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Rege Cordic... wow. and I like to talk about history.

Is FM KDKA's main problem. Maybe, but I would point out that FM has been around for a bit so I am not sure it explains any recent machinations. for long term trends? sure.

Thursday, December 28, 2006 9:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Murray said...

Cordic ain't ancient history, and he happened to be the biggest thing ever to hit the airwaves in Pittsburgh, except for Bob Prince, of course. And, yes, FM finally has caught up with KD. It's been a steady, gradual process for a long, long time. So, no, this wasn't some "recent machination."

Friday, December 29, 2006 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judge, Rege's been gone almost as long as the Indians along the Allegheny

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