The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

25 March 2006

Atlanta, WWAA, Air America, Jon Sinton


In Atlanta, Air America's Future Looks Bleak

For the increasingly troubled Air America Radio network, is Atlanta next to go?

For their alerts on this story, thanks to a number of readers and bloggers, including TC Lynch and others.

Based on an Atlanta-area liberal publication's report, that appears to be the case for WWAA 1690-AM. Adding to the intrigue: later in the story, highly inaccurate claims are made about the network's performance.

Sure to get conspiracy theorists/ defenders worked up: the likely change is due to a station purchase. That, of course, gives rise to more of the "right-wing is trying to shut us down by buying out the affiliates" nonsense that recently popped up in Phoenix and Missoula.

One problem: according to Creative Loafing, the new owner doesn't exactly appear conservative. From their report:

Joe Weber, president of JW Broadcasting, won't disclose plans for his new purchase. Weber's company currently operates WMLB-AM (1160), an eclectic mix of opera, R&B, poetry and jazz.

Sounds more beatnik than Gingrich, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, for Air America, the story just gets more depressing:

Two-year-old WWAA-AM (1690), the local affiliate of progressive radio network Air America, was sold to JW Broadcasting for $12 million in late January from Intermart, a Scottsdale-based broadcasting company. Intermart says the sale was always part of their plan.

"The station's stockholders wanted to sell the station from the beginning," says Bill Brown, a spokesman for Intermart. "There have been several offers since the station has been on air. The right opportunity just came along."

In other words, selling the operation was always a better plan than hoping for elusive profits from Air America's programming.

Then, suddenly, this story takes an especially weird turn:

"More and more people are turning to the Internet or their iPods [for radio shows]," says Jon Sinton, the Atlanta-based president of Air America. "We have to market unduplicated programming to see growth."

Despite the challenges of new technology, Sinton says Air America is climbing in popularity across the nation. In Portland, Air America is the No. 3 station, Sinton says, and signals in Denver, Los Angeles and Miami have seen a jump in ratings.

According to Arbitron, a media research firm, Portland's Air America affiliate received a 4.1 rating in fall 2005, while Atlanta's station received a bleak 0.4. Sinton says Atlanta's ratings show that the station has a small but loyal fan base. Al Franken affirmed that notion in December when he broadcast from Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points in front of a packed crowd.

While Weber decides whether to keep Air America programming, Sinton says the network will shop its programming around Atlanta.

"There's probably someone out there not making money," Sinton says. "We'll see what we can find and go with the best possible signal."


--- Sinton's never been Air America's president, he's a former company exec who now serves as a consultant, on a contract basis.

--- According to Radio & Records, KPOJ-AM/Portland ranks sixth, not third, with a 4.1 overall audience share. That's down from a 4.5 in the Spring 2005 survey. It remains Air America's most popular station.

--- In Denver, KKZN's ratings have been falling for nearly a year, from a 2.0 last spring to a 1.4 in the most recent Arbitron listener survey.

--- In Los Angeles, KTLK-AM is stuck with a tiny 0.8 overall audience share, exactly where it was last spring.

--- And, in Miami, WINZ-AM has dropped from a 2.0 in spring 2005, to a 1.6 in the most recently released ratings.

Wow, that's got to be a record: zero-for-five in accuracy at-bats. A sure way to get kicked right out of spring training, don't you think?

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Sinking Frankenboat: Pete at IHillary


  • What B.M. considers a weird turn involves internet streaming and MP3 podcasts for iPods.

    B.M. is also a-feared of those new-fangled muskets, blunderbusses, and steam horses.

    By Blogger WHT, at 25 March, 2006 02:36  

  • p.s. Late night listening on the stream out of KTLK from L.A. catching the Marc Maron Show.

    By Blogger WHT, at 25 March, 2006 02:40  

  • Of course, most talk stations show drops from the Fall book into the Winter trends. Want to talk about how conservative talkers do in the winter book? Don't go there.

    The problem with many of these AMs is that there are profitable ways to keep the bills paid with no audience whatsoever. This adds to the temptation to eat the seed corn rather than to grow the corn.

    By Blogger smedge, at 25 March, 2006 05:29  

  • Sinton is technically president of programming, but others have also called him company president. Like Michelle Malkin:

    And Jon Sinton, Air America's current president, told NRO's Byron York...

    By Blogger Justin, at 25 March, 2006 08:17  

  • Smedge

    The Direct quote from the AAR spokesman was how those stations had shown increases in ratings. Now if he had said something like we are down in these markets but that is a normal phenomenon in the winter and expect a surge in the Spring, BM would have no comment. But since that would have reinforced the situation in Atlanta being tenuous, it really was not in his interest to make that point so he fibbed, big time. BM has every right to call him on it. The reporter should have too.

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 25 March, 2006 08:57  

  • Re: Podcasting and the future -

    "B.M. is also a-feared of those new-fangled muskets, blunderbusses, and steam horses."

    The problem with that darn new-fangled podcasting stuff is that -
    as I understand things - podcasting costs money... it doesn't make any.

    But - I could be wrong. Anybody aware of any stations making money from podcast-advertisements?

    Is Air America?

    By Blogger Lokki, at 27 March, 2006 12:18  

  • Re: "Franken packed the house"

    "Sinton says Atlanta's ratings show that the station has a small but loyal fan base. Al Franken affirmed that notion in December when he broadcast from Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points in front of a packed crowd."

    "Our capacity varies from 500 to 1,100 depending on the seating configuration"


    "It rained so hard in the hour before the show that you could only see the road through the 2 or 3 inch clear wedge trailing behind the wiper blades as they were metronoming at frantic disco speed over the glass. Repeated sudden pop-up storms had been burying portions of Cincinnati all afternoon.

    That didn’t stop 4000 fans from spending a close-up night with Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter...

    By Blogger Lokki, at 27 March, 2006 12:32  

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