Media Bits & Bytes (5/6/13)


Limbaugh and Cumulus anything but cloud nine… News made way over the weekend that Rush Limbaugh’s show may end its affiliate agreement with Cumulus Media, the second largest radio ownership in the U.S. Limbaugh’s camp is reportedly upset at Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey blaming his program for advertising losses following his controversial remarks on Sandra Fluke.

Speculation has been rampant for months that Limbaugh and Cumulus are at some point likely to part ways, but not at the choice of Limbaugh. While Cumulus is the second largest radio owner in the country, Clear Channel is number one, and it is Clear Channel that owns Premiere Radio, the company Limbaugh is contracted to.

While Cumulus has been buying up more and more news/talk stations in recent years, they’ve also been launching their own line of syndicated conservative shows, with Mike Huckabee, Geraldo Rivera and Michael Savage. Huckabee’s show runs  head-to-head against Limbaugh. While Limbaugh’s show airs on many Cumulus-owned stations, including WLS-AM 890 in Chicago and WABC-AM 770 in New York, it’s seems to be a matter of when, as opposed to if, Cumulus will eventually decide to syndicate drop all Premiere programs from their stations, presumably as soon as existing contracts expire. Al Peterson of NTS MediaOnline has compiled the top ten markets that would likely be affected in the event of a parting ways with added speculation on potential alternative stations Limbaugh could land at.

While I’m not going out of my way to defend Limbaugh, blaming him for the problems at Cumulus is a bit unfair. Dickey has himself to blame since he and his company are one of the largest culprits (along with Clear Channel) in the consolidation of radio — something that many argue has already ruined the industry. Cumulus is notorious for cutting staff and forcing individual stations to do more with less. And Dickey wonders why his stations continue to drop in ratings. Memo to Dickey… stop placing the blame on your sales staff!

As for Limbaugh, I’m not holding out any sympathy for him. While in some markets he will be left without a station, many more markets have duplicate news/talk stations that air primarily conservative syndicated shows. Limbaugh will still have plenty of stations to blow smoke at.

Dickey defends consolidation of radio… Speaking of Cumulus Media, company Co-COO John Dickey had some choice comments at Friday’s World Wide Radio Summit. Following those in attendance via Twitter, including Perry Michael Simon and Fred Jacobs, Dickey defended the consolidation of radio, that it will only continue and that radio can’t return to 1975.

Sure Dickey, go right ahead. When your company destroys stations, such as WLS-FM 94.7 in Chicago, those stations just might be better (aka, more cost effective) to adapt a one-size fits all template that shares the same playlist and voice tracked personalities as other classic hit stations around the country. Meanwhile, the rest of planet earth will eventually catch up and get their music fix, if not from their iPods or Pandora,  from possibly other viable outlets such as AccuRadio or Sky.FM. further recaps statements by Dickey and other radio industry folks from Friday’s event, which in all honestly, sounds more like corporate jargon than anything with real meaning.

Twitter’s Head of News and Journalism... Many eyebrows were raised last week when Twitter announced it was seeking someone to occupy their new “Head of News and Journalism” position. From the job description, I get the sense Twitter will still be a clearing house and not an actual originator of news content.

The area of the description that has perplexes me is where it states the person occupying the role will have “an essential part of the operations and strategy of news organizations and TV news networks.” I wonder if Twitter may start a separate dedicated timeline of tweets posted by only the most qualified news organizations or reporters, while this news head at Twitter acts as a liaison of sorts.

Regardless of what it turns out to be, the Guardian’s Michael Wolff outlines how monumentally historic this position can potentially be.

Kurtz feeling the heat… Howard Kurtz has taken several beatings for mistakes he made last week while covering the coming out of NBA player Jason Collins. Radio veteran Paul Harris did an excellent job at putting the entire situation into perspective, while also . Harris also summarizing what took place among Kurtz and other media critics on yesterday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN.

Automobile manufacturers thinking about the future… Though the article title “Automakers tuning out traditional in-car radios” is a bit misleading, I still think the Detroit News’ story on the future of car radios and how drivers will eventually consume their media is a fascinating read. The article omits any mention of the potential for cars eventually driving themselves, leaving “drivers” more free to consume media.

Rocky Wirtz wanted Susannah Collins out… News surfaced later on Friday that it was Chicago Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz who initiated the  firing of sideline reporter Susannah Collins from Comcast SportsNet Chicago. In a letter to CSN Chicago, Wirtz said that the organization was disturbed at the videos of Collins as co-host of the web show “Sports Nutz.” Wirtz stated had he been previously aware of them, objections would have been raised at the time of her hiring. As noted Friday by Larz of Chicagoland Radio & Media, CSN Chicago was aware of Collin’s role on “Sports Nutz.”  There’s also been rampant speculation that the Blackhawks may have already had grievances towards her, while a separate source of mine strongly indicated on Friday she was already on her way out prior to last week’s slip of the tongue.

Who knows how much more lies beneath the surface. If it was a simple case of Rocky Wirtz demanding her removal because of those videos, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s unfair that Collins was let go for something that her employer was fully aware of when hiring her.

Wirtz has fully demonstrated that he is indeed his late father’s son.

[At the time of originally posting this, I accidentally referenced John Dickey as CEO of Cumulus when describing his defense of radio’s consolidation. John is the Co-COO while his brother Lew is CEO. That has since been corrected. I apologize for the mistake.]

Media Bits & Bytes: Jim Johnson announces retirement…

Roe & Roeper Show Gang

Jim Johnson (left) with Roe Conn, Richard Roeper and Christina Filiaggi.

– Jim Johnson, WLS-AM 890 veteran news anchor of 45 years, announced his retirement this afternoon on the “Roe and Roeper” show. Radio Ink spoke with Johnson, who says he made the decision earlier this week with the mindset that he’s done it all. Johnson also said that he’s in good health and ready to do other things.

As a long-time listener of Roe Conn dating back to his days with Garry Meier, afternoons on WLS just won’t be the same. Johnson is expected to hang up the headphones for good sometime this summer.

– ESPN took plenty of flack from various online critics yesterday for their delayed reaction at acknowledging the news of the NBA’s Jason Collins coming out as the first openly gay professional athlete in one of the four major American sports. Instead, ESPN was in high Tim Tebow mode all morning following the news his release by the New York Jets.

In a related note, are the inmates slowly initiating a backlash at the “mothership?” ESPN personalities Bob Ley, Scott Van Pelt and Bill Simmons all voiced some form of angst at the network, each in their own subtle or unsubtle way.

  • Ley tweeted: “Unintended but blessed consequence of Jason Collins’ courageous statement… Muting the Tebowmania.”
  • Simons, the Grantland columnist, which is affiliated with ESPN, shortly re-tweeted Ley (Simons himself was suspended from social networking in March for a tweet which criticized a specific exchange that took place on ESPN’s “First Take”).
  • Van Pelt on his ESPN Radio show stated his unhappiness with the amount of coverage Tebow got that morning by the network. Awful Announcing has the audio and an additional write-up.

Clearly, all of the above would go far beyond what ESPN’s standard and practices would allow. Based on recent history of how ESPN operates, I would expect all three of them will find themselves in hot water, with the high probability of suspensions.

– CNN announced that their new morning show “New Day” will launch June 10. The show will be hosted by former ABC News “20/20” host and “Good Morning America” anchor Chris Cuomo and CNN “Situation Room” anchor Kate Boldaun. Anchoring the news will be Michaela Pereira, previously a news anchor at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. TV News Insider also posted the show’s logo and additional information pertaining to the show.

– While it may be old news by now that the conservative Koch brothers may be among those interested in purchasing the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers (which includes the Chicago Tribune the and Los Angeles Times), there continues to be no shortage of reaction coming from within the media circle.

According to the Huffington Post, about half of the LA Times’ staff indicated they will quit if the paper is purchased by the Koch brothers. The rest of the piece narrates the overall preference for local ownership, while examining the potential  pro’s and the con’s that can happen when a paper is locally owned.

Michael Wolff wrote a sound piece yesterday for the USA Today, examining the sentiment that the Koch brothers would attempt to turn their purchased newspapers into a strong and viable conservative news outlet. Wolff paints a realistic picture of why such a plan would likely be an uphill battle — the obvious hurdle is the dwindling state of the newspaper industry.  Still, this piece provides a reasoned round-up, all of which is still speculation, but fun to read nevertheless.

Continuing on the sentiment that the Koch brothers would attempt to build a strong conservative news outlet is syndicated columnist David Sirota. In his Salon piece last week, Sirota outlines the Koch brother’s plan to build a conservative media empire beyond newspapers.

– Barry Diller dropped a bomb shell earlier today on Bloomberg Television when asked about the purchase of Newsweek. Of course, I’m saying bombshell not because I’m surprised Diller would think such a thing, but because he actually had the gall to say it. Not only did he say he doesn’t have great expectations for the future of Newsweek, but that the purchase itself was a mistake(!). Diller described the idea of printing a weekly news magazine as “”fool’s errand” in an environment where the news is instant (ya think!).

For my money, the only news magazine worth touching is the Economist, which provides a very in-depth and highly education look at important news happenings around the world – something that no other news magazine comes close to doing — the exception would be Foreign Policy, except that is a bi-monthly publication. The Economist and Foreign Policy are also more big picture oriented.

– Digital strategist Fred Jacobs wrote an interesting piece today about measuring the success of a radio station’s app . Jacobs asks and answered how radio brands can optimize their content and the enhance the app experience beyond the basic function of streaming.

– Media strategist Mark Ramsey wrote an excellent blog yesterday detailing the biggest problem in radio. To sum up his point, Ramsey says that if radio ever finds itself irrelevant, it won’t be because of technology, but because of what radio did to itself. Instead of focusing on short-term popularity and monetizing, radio should concenrate more on delivering better content that will truly matter to the audience.  Ramsey strongly emphasizes that radio keeps attempting to be something it is not.

– Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins told Bloomberg that tablets are a failed business model and doubts they will exist five years from now. Though Heins may not be responsible for Blackberry’s failed attempt at their sole tablet, the Playbook, anything coming from that company I can’t help but hesitate to take more than a grain of salt. Even as technology improves, I don’t see mankind being content at consuming extensive videos or reading via a  four or five-inch smartphone screen.

– What if mind reading technology allows you to turn the kitchen light on or off , change the television channel or surf the Internet? A piece from the New York Times reports that such technology is coming sooner than we may think.

Last year, a project called BrainGate pioneered by Dr. Donoghue, enabled two people with full paralysis to use a robotic arm with a computer responding to their brain activity.

From mind reading to voice recognition: Expect Labs, a voice recognition company, is the recipient of a hefty investment by Samsung, Intel and Spanish telco Telefonica.

From Engadget:

The startup’s prescient tech, known as the Anticipatory Computing Engine (or ACE, zing!), aims to guesstimate a user’s actions or information needs by listening in on and analyzing real-time conversations. It’s understandable if the prospect creeps you out — it should — but the end goal isn’t to invade a user’s privacy (though the data mined would be significant), it’s to anticipate and assist.

– Congrats to Larz over at Chicagoland Radio and Media for yesterday’s complete website re-launch. In addition to a new layout and navigation,  the most noteworthy change is the new message board. Not everyone is fully happy with the changes however, including myself, which I voiced on the original board last night (and in hindsight, somewhat regret doing). I do believe it is unfair to fully grade the new message board until the server issues are worked out and it can function at full speed.

Love him or hate him, you have to at least give Larz credit on the growth of that message board and website. Not only is the board read by many working at one of the Chicago radio, television or newspaper outlets, but many of those same people post(!) — some under their real names, many more under an anonymous handle.

For the record, Larz has always been very gracious and helpful to me whenever I’ve attempted my own media-related online ventures. He’s been supportive in the launching of this blog and he was more than kind when I was the new kid on the block in 2007 when attempting to run my own media message board, the short-lived “Blabbin’ Cabin.” Without knowing me and before I ever posted on his board, Larz plugged my new board and wished me well via email. I’ve appreciated his friendship since.

Media Bits & Bytes (4/29/13)

– The Chicago Blackhawks begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow night when hosting the Minnesota Wild. On television, game one will air nationally on the NBC Sports Network and locally on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. As for radio, that may still be up in the air still due to WGN-AM 720 having a Cubs game scheduled at the same time (though WGN is the radio home for both the Cubs and the Hawks, the Cubs have priority).

So far this season, when the Cubs/Blackhawks conflict arised, Hawks games have aired on WLUP-FM/97.9 The Loop, and it would make sense that such would be the case tomorrow night. No such announcement has been made yet by WGN or The Loop though — and the official Chicago Blackhawks Facebook page posted late last night that radio coverage is still to be determined.

[Addendum: On WGN’s 10 a.m. newscast, anchor Steve Bertrand announced the game will be heard on WIND-AM/560 The Answer.]

– The Southtown Star posted an interesting write-up of Mitch Rosen’s visit to St. Xavier University last week. Rosen, program director at WSCR-AM/670 The Score spoke to students about getting into radio and broadcasting. Rosen made no effort to sugar coat just how hard it is to get into sports talk radio — and I would imagine radio in general — by saying that if one is lucky enough to find a job, not to expect to make much money. Instead of going the traditional route, Rosen encouraged students to use social media to network and share ideas.

The write-up wasn’t overly long, so I would be curious to hear Rosen further expound on the social media idea. Overall, the prospect of going into terrestrial radio is no better now than it was when I was in high school or college, 10 years ago. On the other hand, podcasting is slowly becoming a more legitimate way to get your voice out there and can also be useful for practicing one’s craft.

– While listening to Hit & Run yesterday morning on The Score, it was a nice surprise to hear Dave Wills join hosts Barry Rozner and Connor McKnight to talk about today’s White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Wills, previously the White Sox radio pre/post-game show host, is now the play-by-play voice for the Rays. Though I was happy for him, I was sad to see him go when he took the Rays job in 2004. I always liked his work and to this day, think he would make an excellent broadcaster for the White Sox.

– I had a chance to watch most of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner coverage on Saturday night via CNN. This was honestly the first year I made any special effort to watch it live. It goes without saying that the parody video of “House of Cards” was absolutely fantastic. Asides from some previous year highlights and a few other interesting features, I could probably go without the first hour that resembles a “pre-game” you might view on the night of the Oscars.

In short, while I thought President Barack Obama’s performance was good, it was going to be hard to beat what he accomplished last year.

Conan O’Brien, on the other hand, I was disappointed in. While he had a few good jokes, I found his delivery and constant reading off his script distracting. His performance resembled nothing of the Conan you normally see on his late night stage. One of Conan’s best skills is improvising and interacting with his audience- — which he did none of  on Saturday night. Instead, he came across as nervous and possibly rushed. I wonder if he was given strict orders that prevented him for performing in his normal fashion. And if so, then what was the point of inviting him in the first place?

Media Bits & Bytes (4/26/13)

A few news bites and added tidbits to end the work week with…

– While I don’t usually listen to Rush Limbaugh’s show, I heard the tail end of a segment today as my car radio was already on WLS-AM 890 from my drive this morning. Though I wasn’t really paying attention, in that 30 seconds I heard reference to the Tribune, brain injuries in football and how liberalism, not football, is the culprit for brains becoming scrambled.

At that moment, I didn’t think it was possible he was referencing John Kass’s column from earlier this week. That was until I saw the Facebook post by Kass later in the afternoon making reference to Limbaugh’s rant against his column. That same post, I’m guessing in tongue-and-cheek, John clarified he is not a sports writer nor a liberal. So while Limbaugh was  blasting Kass who he thought was a sports writer and a liberal, he obviously had no idea the guy precedes him on his Chicago affiliate. Even if it’s unfair to criticize Limbaugh for not knowing that, I can’t help but to still find that at least a little bit amusing.

– The White House Correspondents Dinner is tomorrow night. For anyone who loves politics or policial media, this is something to look forward to each year. I especially can’t wait to see how Conan O’Brien comes across as guest comedian. According to TV Newser, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC will have various live coverage from 8-10pm CT (both CNN and MSNBC plan to air best-of highlights from previous years during the 8pm hour).

– The New York Times announced to investors yesterday that the company plans to eventually launch new subscription models for digital subscribers. Specifically mentioned was a lower cost option where digital subscribers would have access to select stories or specific sections. The company needs to ensure that the amount of new subscribers — individuals who never in a million years would pay $15 each 30 days to read news online — make up for any current subscribers who drop to a lower priced tier. Having a $9.99 option is likely to attract a lot more people unwilling to pay the $15.

– The television landscape is going to change one day soon. I would like to think the Netflix or Hulu model would somehow break the hold that cable and satellite currently have. But how would they do it? Author, speaker and all-round media guy Doc Searls blogs about television’s 3-step transition and how that change may come about.

– With WGN-AM 720 midday host Mike McConnell off today, CLTV’s “Politics Tonight” host Paul Lisnek filled in during 10am-12pm slot, while WGN Assistant Program Director Alex Quigley filled in during the 1-3pm slot.  With McConnell off again Monday, the same guest hosts will again fill in  at the same respective times.

– Rob Hart is back in Milwaukee tomorrow filling in at WTMJ-AM 620 from 3-7 p.m. Hart, who guest hosted a show earlier this week at WTMJ, is the current morning show sidekick and sports anchor at at WLUP-FM/97.9 The Loop in Chicago.