For the record, my comment followed firepoint's exaggerated statements about how all AM is dead. I disagree. For select AMs, things are still okay. For some, the money still rolls in like mad. If I had my way, the FCC would clean house and get rid of about 2/3 of the stations on the band. That would make things a heck of a lot better for the survivors.
You seem to have difficulty with reading comprehension. Show me where I said "all of AM is dead." You can't because I didn't say that.
The AM in the small town where I grew up is still doing well, as far as I know. BUT
, in the early '80s, they moved their top 40 format over to an FM that they bought about that time. AND
they now have at least one additional FM station, in addition to another AM station simulcasting
that original AM's signal. AND
they are now broadcasting online.
WSM missed the boat when they didn't change over to all sports. There is an all-sports AM station that is doing okay
here in Nashville, but if they had WSM's signal (without all their "heritage" baggage), they might be doing even better now. When the sports talkers weren't able to get WSM, they started taking over the FM stations.
I'd like to see ALL underperforming stations removed from the dial, regardless of which band they are on.
Well I'll admit to being wrong here - you never exactly said "AM is dead". You said a lot of other things that mean the same, but you didn't say that. So, I apologize. Your erroneous comment was about WHAS being the best house in the slums but still in the slums. That was what I took issue with because you were as wrong about that as your comments were about Chicago being some sort of anomaly.
Now, don't misunderstand my arguments here either. I, in no way, am trying to say that AM is doing great. Just want to point out that there are profitable exceptions to the rule - and David actually did some of my work for me in a previous post. One or two successful/viable AMs in each market? Yeah, I'd agree. But those are often some of the most profitable properties in that market. Some AMs still bill like gangbusters - despite the "demos" issue.
Would I buy am AM now? It depends. If that AM is WBZ and the price is right (and I had the money to run it the way I'd like to) then absolutely! If it's W--- 1400 am with 500 watts of daytime power then no. Because there's nothing you can really do with that latter station to make it truly successful. Sadly the vast majority of AMs are like the latter example. Politically it is suicidal to pull the plug on most or all of those, but honestly it needs to be done. Do that, clear up the band, and you might actually put some life back into AM.
As recently as 1994, WMAL was overall 12+ #4 in the market after WMZQ, WPGC and WRQX; it was very close to two of those three, as well. It was, as posted, the end of the very successful morning show that threw the station into turmoil... as well as the slow erosion of the sales demos.
Still nearly 75% of the 12+ population lives in just three counties and DC, and a density analysis shows that most of the additional population lives in the nearest parts of the outer counties. And the day signal pretty well covers all of this... since nights represents so little of the PPM audience, that is not particularly relevant.
WMAL declined due to the decline in AM listening by under-55's and the programming decisions that tried to make the format more relative to under-55's which, of course, don't work anywhere.
The fastest growing and most affluent areas around DC are now more than 20 miles out. And WMAL's signal isn't strong enough to serve those areas with a clear signal. Also, you cited 'programming decisions' as being a factor. Absolutely, a huge one. Trouble is, once you chase people away from a station like WMAL (a 10kw/5kw signal in a sprawling metro with a transient population and lousy ground conductivity), it's hard to get them back. DC isn't a great example of "typical" for a number of reasons. For one, it has
geographically outgrown it's AM stations. Secondly, it is an area with few "natives" who would actually be in the habit of listening to a local legacy AM signal. Thirdly, it's increasing racial/ethnic diversity is a bad omen for AMs there too.
I worked in Fairfax, the city, in 1970 and it was most definitely part of the metro. Manassas was considered "far out".
Small world! I lived in Chantilly at that very time....however, my occupation at the time was '1st grader'!
But I do recall lots of my parents' friends commenting on how we lived 'way out west' as most of the population was from Fairfax City inward. People thought like the relatively new Dulles airport was out in West Virginia. Manassas? Yeah, people went out there for day trips to the battlefield - not to commute! Little could they imagine that 40 years later, people now commute from Charles Town and Winchester and Manassas is considered just as much a part of the metro as Silver Spring.
That was also back when WPGC, WEAM and even WEEL were relevant. But we still listened to WABC and WLS at night because they were daytimers or had poor nighttime signals. Even back then, that was not a good area for AM.
In summary, people will still tune in to AM stations IF the content is what they want or need to hear. Sometimes, that means sports programming, news or talk. Rarely does it mean music any more, though WDIA in Memphis is a famous exception to that. Sure, those formats would probably do better when put on an FM signal. But, here's the thing: there aren't enough FM signals in most markets to include ALL formats. So, some will inevitably be left to the best AM signals. Trickle-down economics, in a sense. However, not hard and fast either. Boston's AM talker has duked it out with the FM one for years. Basically, the AM has managed (despite some horrendously stupid programming decisions by Entercom) to keep Rush Limbaugh and locally popular Howie Carr - and that content isn't available on FM. It's all about content. Move it to FM and those listeners will follow. But, that may well leave room for a different format to find life on AM - if well executed.