The following column was written last Monday evening, the night before the departure of Program Director Marshall Adams was announced.
The opportunity to create an All-News station came at the right moment for Cumulus. Just as the company was digesting the Citadel acquisition, CNN Radio, based in Atlanta, ceased operation. That made a lot of quality news people available for a reported cents on the dollar. Moreover, a Program Director highly qualified to build an All-News station, Marshall Adams, was looking for a new place to ply his craft.
The idea of Cumulus launching a format that's probably the most expensive was a little hard to fathom at first. We then heard Atlanta would be a hub for feeding All-News programming to Cumulus stations around the country, lowering the format's overhead. Whether that eventually happens remains to be seen.
My assumption was All-News 106.7 would be an inferior product, but I was wrong. Marshall Adams did not disappoint and put together an excellent station. In addition to hiring a fine staff, he's been incorporating outside resources--FOX 5, Radiate Media, ABC News and the Atlanta Business Chronicle--to their maximum effectiveness.
The reality, however, is that All-News 106.7 has so far garnered a PPM 6+ share of 1.5% and skews heavily to 50+. Its share is unlikely to go much higher in the short term. Billings are said to be greater than Atlanta's Greatest Hits, the former iteration of 106.7. But that's not saying a whole lot for All-News 106.7's life expectancy.
On day one of All-News 106.7, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey came on the air and smugly said Cumulus was not the first company to think of doing All-News on FM in Atlanta, but was the first to get it done. He added the company planned to launch All-News operations in other markets. For that to really happen, 106.7 is going to have to generate more in the way of ratings and revenue, even if the plan was to amortize Atlanta talent across the U.S.
Are Lew and John Dickey schizophrenic? They want to run stations as cheaply as possible to the point of ruining legendary former ABC News/Talk stations. For example, Sundays on WABC/New York are primarily infomercials. Then they turn around and create a station with a format that's the most expensive to run. I doubt they're schizophrenic. So what was the motivation to start All-News 106.7?
Could Lew and John possibly have big egos? Cumulus has a prestigious All-News station in its home market. All-News 106.7 has shaved a little off News/Talk WSB's PPM share, pushing the station off its lofty perch. In the world of Cumulus, those things are good for the soul.
All-News can be a compelling sell to advertisers. As opposed to music formats, which can be used as background, All-News listeners pay attention and are more likely to catch what the commercials are saying. And unlike music stations, where commercials are aired in long stop sets in order to maximize music sweeps, spots on All-News stations are aired much more frequently and accepted by the audience.
All-News stations tend to bill more than their ratings seem to merit. In fact, according to the latest study by Miller, Kaplan, Arase, which measures radio station revenue, All-News has the highest Power Ratio--percent billings share divided by percent ratings share--of any format, with a 200 index.
All-News is not a format that can be successful when large-scale staff cuts are made. There is no CMT Radio Live or Perez Nights available for All-News outlets. And the local side of the news is always of tremendous importance. It comes down to a choice between doing the format right or not doing it.
The feeling here is that All-News 106.7 ratings and billings will have to increase for the format to stay for the long term. Cumulus is not known for its patience, and unlike young-oriented music outlets, All-News stations take time to build an audience. For now, the station seems to be going full speed ahead. Time will tell whether All-News 106.7 will be a long-term part of the Atlanta radio landscape.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/