Sunday, February 1, 2009

Radio One Gets One Right

You would never have known by the clumsy way in which the format change was handled by Radio One/Atlanta’s top management. But replacing Smooth Jazz on 107.5 with an urban AC station that will house Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden shows some brain power within Radio One. Of course, the company does have some super programming minds, starting with Barry Mayo, its President, and Jay Stevens, its Senior VP, Programming Content. And Steve Hegwood, who programs the Atlanta cluster, is well respected.

Magic 107-5, the new format’s moniker, was the station’s identifier during its first 3 years on the air, before the flip to Smooth Jazz. The first version of Magic tricked only Radio One, sawing no competitor’s ratings in half. But you will not be having an illusion when the 2009 version makes Kiss 104.1’s number one ranking vanish.

The new 107.5, presumably to be christened WAMJ, is a more recent Urban AC than Kiss, positioning itself as “The best mix of R&B from the 80’s, 90’s and today.” (I did hear “Le Freak” by Chic, a hit from 1978 at the tail end of the disco craze.)

As we remarked 2 weeks ago, Urban AC is the best format for the 107.5 signal. Of course back then, Radio One/Atlanta management was not leveling with us that such was the plan.

Urban AC will work for 107.5 this time for a couple of reasons. The biggest one is that the Urban Radio landscape has markedly changed. Tom Joyner proved that syndicated product can work in the Urban arena, tearing down the widely-perceived notion that it could not. Michael Baisden and Doug Banks added credence to the Joyner results.

In 2005, TV star Steve Harvey took a shot at syndicated morning radio. Bull’s eye! In market after market, Harvey lifted stations to number one and became the hottest thing in Urban Radio. Radio One’s 102.5 grabbed Harvey for mornings and added Baisden for afternoon drive. Within these giant bookends were Syndication One shows Michael Eric Dyson and Al Sharpton in middays. The station’s ratings soared to heights that most observers had thought unattainable given 102.5’s weak signal. Steve Harvey at times beat Kiss 104.1’s Tom Joyner in key demos.

The second reason is the caliber of talent this time around. With Harvey and Baisden, 107.5 will already have the cream of the crop on the cheap. Several years ago, SiMan (Silas Alexander) made a bad decision, leaving afternoon drive at Kiss 104.1 for a morning show on 102.5. The lure of a morning show sounded great, but one fact he seemed to ignore was the morning show would be on a 3,000-watt station. When Radio One brought in Steve Harvey, SiMan was demoted to evenings, where he continued to do an excellent job. He is one of a few being mentioned for middays on the new 107.5. At the least, he should make a seamless transition to the new frequency, be it for middays or evenings.

Other names being bandied about for fulltime slots at 107.5 are former V-103 morning co-host Carol Blackmon and former V-103 midday jock Magic Man (Myron Gigger), both of whom have weekend shows on 102.5.

The new Magic 107-5 is running automated and commercial free. It’s already sounding good, and Kipp Kelly is absolutely perfect as the station voice. According to Radio One, financial details are being worked out with Premiere Radio and ABC regarding moving Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden over to the 107.5 signal, a plausible reason for the delay. Music formats often leave the starting gate with no jocks in order to get an audience quickly. In this case, we don’t think that’s the best strategy since Harvey and Baisden are incredible draws.

Radio One/Atlanta really fumbled this one by dismissing the Smooth Jazz air staff long before the flip was made. That prompted questions, especially from WJZZ clients, regarding what would become of the frequency. Making matters worse, management told clients that starting on January 21, 107.5 would start simulcasting the programming of 102.5, making no mention of a new Urban AC station on 107.5.

When the simulcast did not start on January 21, clients were told it was because of engineering and call letter issues. Well, simulcasting a station within a cluster is basically a matter of throwing a switch. And, call letters need be mentioned only once per hour. The real reason for the delay was apparently that the Urban AC format was not ready to roll.

Given radio’s competitiveness, most stations adhere to the Nike rule: Just do it; make the flip and then announce it to staff and clients. Radio One should have retained WJZZ’s air staff until the new format was set to go. Flipping and then explaining is understandable; not telling the truth is not.

Mend Quickly Scott Slade
The anchor of WSB-AM’s “Atlanta’s Morning News” suffered a broken leg last week. Scott is a master at running that show. That he loves what he’s doing comes right through those speakers.

My email address is Thanks for reading.

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