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On Radio: What listeners can expect in 2008: Some insider soundings

January 3, 2008

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On Radio: What listeners can expect in 2008: Some insider soundings

By BILL VIRGIN
P-I REPORTER

So, what's ahead for radio in 2008? Instead of guessing ourselves, we thought we'd ask people who are actually in the business.

Robert Unmacht, radio industry consultant, iN3 Partners, former owner of stations in the Northwest: "I think we will see a lot of action in the regrouping of the major players. Clear Channel will be much smaller, Citadel is selling off properties, and new midsize groups are being formed.

"Will less dominance from CBS and Clear Channel lead to more variety and innovation or a lot of small groups squeezing out every penny and all the quality from their stations? Clear Channel is really cutting the quality lately.

"Keep an eye on Internet radio. On the plus side, it is getting closer to the car; on the negative, those pesky royalty rates for songs."

Edie Hilliard, former executive, Jones Radio Networks and GreenStone Media: "Public radio's audience will continue to grow, as listeners look for information not available from most commercial stations.

"Commercial radio's audience will continue to shrink as younger listeners find music on other technology, and listeners of all ages (especially women) go to public radio and other media for information.

"People are still tuning in to commercial radio at about the same rate as 10 years ago, but they're not listening as long. Time spent listening has dropped overall by 15 percent (three hours and 15 minutes per week), even more among younger listeners and women. High turnover is a sign listeners aren't finding what they want ... and they're going elsewhere to get it."

Bruce Wirth, general manager, KSER-FM/90.7: "In 2008, Seattle will be a test market for new products to deliver audio to mobile devices via wireless Internet access.

"Congress will pass legislation to roll back the recent FCC ruling eliminating ownership restrictions in major markets. (President) Bush will veto the legislation, and the issue will wind up in the courts. Nothing will be resolved until after the election.

"Public radio's share of radio listening will show slight gains in 2008, but overall radio listening will continue to decline at an accelerated rate."

Jeff Hansen, program director, KUOW-FM/94.9: "Current radio listening trends are mostly flat or down. The worst case scenario is that current trends continue. I don't have a prediction, but our goal here is to turn the tide."

Rebecca Lambert, senior account executive, Bustos Media Seattle (operates KDDS-FM/ 99.3 and KTBK-AM/ 1210): "We expect to see continued rapid growth (in Spanish-language radio), due to the Hispanic population growth rate, and changes to music formats reflecting the more Mexican demographic of the region, such as the recent format change of Pop Latin to regional Mexican on Bustos Media's Ke Buena 1210-AM station.

"I think we can (expect to see) some changes in format and placement in the market in the coming years as the Seattle market matures, and as new media enter the marketplace."

Bryan Lowe, program director, KING-FM/98.1: "KING-FM will continue to expand its presence online and on HD radio, allowing us to present even more of this great classical music.

"The new mantra is 'what you want, when you want it,' and our HD and online channels will deliver. Listeners will be able to tune in and listen to operas on demand or devote their weekend to the great symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms or Tchaikovsky."

Thor Tolo, afternoon host, KGNW-AM/820: "The radio industry will begin to be driven by profit margin as opposed to quality programming. Oops, I'm sorry -- that was my prediction for Nineteen EIGHTY-eight."

Mike West, retired radio host: "My predictions for 2008 are: I will not be hired back at The Mountain in 2008. Robin and Maynard will call me every day asking if I know of any job openings. I will continue to wake up at 3:30 a.m. in a cold sweat, thinking I have to go to do a morning show."

We did invite participants to make an off-the-wall prediction if they wished, and one did. At least, we think it was in jest:

Dori Monson, afternoon host, KIRO-AM/710: "Dave Ross and I will both quit radio in 2008 so we can focus all of our time and energy on our training for the two-man bobsled event for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Up till now, Dave and I have just been doing it recreationally."

In other radio notes:

  • The Metropolitan Opera performs Verdi's "Un Ballo In Maschera" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM.

     

     

  • Evelyn Bosker performs on "Sonarchy" at midnight Saturday on KEXP-FM/90.3

     

  • P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or billvirgin@seattlepi.com.

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