Vuolo Commentary: January 2010 Archives

CES: Device-ively unique

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It's been awhile since Art Vuolo has written one of his 'On The Radio' columns for Michiguide.com... but he's out in considerably warmer Las Vegas at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show and files this preliminary report:

The 2010 International CES is exactly that, as attendees communicate in a variety of different languages. There are people here from every corner of the globe with the heaviest representation being from Asia. There are lots of folks from China, Japan, and throughout the far east. There are also many Canadians, French, Hispanics, and South Americans. It truly brings people in from everywhere to experience, first hand, the latest techno gadgets and peer, if you will, into the future, by at least the next 12 months.

The key word at this year's show is unquestionably DEVICE. There is some sort of device in the palm of 99.9% of the people at this show which has drawn far in excess of 110,000 people! On Friday afternoon (January 8th) I felt as though they were trying to recreate the crowd seen in Times Square on New Years Eve. A crushing mass of humanity that made navigating your way throughout the LG booth a life-risking challenge.

This year's CES is unique for me in as much as I have had the distinct privilege of touring it (in part) with the man who actually started the entire event back in 1973 in New York City, Jack Wayman. Jack is a frequent guest on the nationally syndicated Joey Reynolds Show from the WOR Radio Network. Sadly that program is not yet available locally in the Detroit area, but Joey has become a huge fan of this trade show and due to his friendship with Mr. Wayman, both he and I were able to enjoy the festivities on a level not known to the "common man." Honestly, it was like touring Hollywood with a celebrity as Jack Wayman was the constant recipient of the respect he so richly deserves. It's always fun to be in the company of greatness!

On Wednesday January 6th, the day prior to the opening of this four-day trade show, which is NOT open to the public, it was "Press Day" featuring numerous keynotes and presentations. A few that I attended included one with Mircosoft's Steve Balmer. It was a fascinating peek into the future from one of the best visionaries of our time. A couple of others were presented by Samsung, Panasonic and Sony.

On Thursday morning January 7th, we were treated to a memorizing keynote by Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally. He spoke, with the help of others at Ford and contributing partners, about the new automobile of the 2010's and how we will be talking MORE to our cars, while they too will be talking back to us! There was very little reference to radio, either HD, Sirius XM or regular terrestrial offerings. I think it got mentioned twice. At the conclusion I ran into NAB Radio president John David and said, "It didn't take a calculator to count the number of times they talked about radio."

The automobile is the last major stage for radio and it's being pushed off the podium and into the orchestra pit. Scary! I'm not sure if anyone is really trying to raise the slowly sinking ship. I fear that by 2020, when commercial AM radio is to celebrate it's 100th birthday, that there won't be much to celebrate on the AM band. As a radio lover for over 50 years, that hurts to say, but I must be honest as I look into the future.

General Motors hit 100 in 2008, but because of the bad economy and threats of bankruptcy, there was very little celebrating by GM. The last format keeping radio solvent has been news, talk and sports and that is now starting to segue, in droves, to the FM band. WXYT-FM (97.1 The Ticket) is perhaps one of the most successful FM talk & sports stations in the nation.

While on my west coast tour, I even saw a TV spot for Buick which featured a dashboard shot and the announcer stating what pleasure you can enjoy from playing back your favorite down-loaded music. There was no mention of AM or FM radio. While taking a cab from my hotel to the convention center I asked David the cabbie what radio stations he liked in Las Vegas, and he held up his iPod which was "jacked" into his car radio. Yikes! Now we're even losing the cab drivers. When will it end.

Brian, a 30-ish computer researcher in Cincinnati, never even heard of 700 WLW, which is that city's top station with double-digit ratings!

The "DEVICE" that is getting the most attention at the show is 3-D TV and it's getting heavy buzz. High-Definition Television seemed like natural much like stereo sound, but 3-D (although impressive) needs special glasses, unless you want to stay within a very restricted space in front of the set, and requires more new hardware. Some people find looking at their favorite TV personalities on certain shows, or even the local news, to be a bit TOO revealing in HD. When you add 3-D it might simply be TOO much.

At the conclusion of the show I will have some additional thoughts and observations. I also hope to be on Murray Gula's Home Improvement Show on WDFN-AM (1130) on Sunday, January 10th, reporting what I've seen, between noon and 2 p.m.

This is your MIA radio reporter Art Vuolo, Jr., signing off from Sin City. I will spare you the local weather report.

Art Vuolo Jr.

Reach Art Vuolo at artvuolo@aol.com or visit his web site at vuolovideo.com

 

Vuolo: Where's our FM talk station?

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column written by Art Vuolo, Jr.

It's been far too long since last I submitted a column to Michiguide.com, but I have a lot of news and a great deal of opinion about what is going on in the radio industry, which is getting stranger every day. Don't misread me, I still love radio with a deep passion, but the people in charge of running it have been making decisions which are, at least to me, not in the best interest of you, the listener, nor the people working in the radio business.

 

VuoloWe might as well start with very late breaking news that you may have just read about, regarding broadcasts of college sports. Both WJR-AM (760) and Michigan State University have just announced that the current five year deal to broadcast MSU football and basketball, has been extended for the next ten years! This will keep the Green and White on "The Big Stick" until the year 2020, when (oddly enough) commercial radio celebrates its 100th anniversary. Both WWJ in Detroit and KDKA in Pittsburgh went on the air in August and November, respectively, that year.

This news is not good for University of Michigan supporters. Many Wolverine fans hoped that after this season when the five year contract, which was announced on October 13, 2005, would be expiring that the Maize & Blue would revert back to Michigan's most powerful AM station. Ain't gonna happen.

Meanwhile, Spartan fans are no doubt excited to keep their teams on the 50,000 watt blow-torch, but it's not all bad for long-suffering U-M fans who hope the 2010 season of college football will be better than the last two. WOMC-FM (104.3) will again have ALL of the Michigan games this fall, and with nearly 200,000 watts of boost, that's not such a bad deal. Games will also, in all probability, be carried on CKLW-AM (800) which reaches from Fort Wayne, IN to the far side of NE Ohio. However, locally the FM is the clearest and most consistent signal for the games. We like to think of WOMC as standing for Where Only Michigan Counts.

 

According to industry "experts" the two most popular and profitable formats in radio today are country and talk. Yet, in Southeastern Michigan we have only one of each. WYCD has re-claimed its sole lock on country music when WDTW-FM (106.7), when it was known as 'The Fox' gave up as a distant number two. WYCD's only competition comes from far outside the market with stations in Ann Arbor (W4 102.9 FM), Toledo (K-100 99.9 FM), Flint (WFBE 95.1 FM), Port Huron (WSAQ 107.1 FM) and Lansing (WITL 100.7 FM).

For talk, WJR is pretty much it. Sadly, this great station is roughly 70% syndicated programming, as are the great majority of talk stations nationally. WJR's only live and local shows are mornings with Paul W. Smith, followed by Frank Beckmann and later in the afternoon a couple of hours with Mitch Albom and a news feature with Lloyd Jackson.

FM talk is the new buzz and, in many cities, AM powerhouse stations have flipped over to FM. I do not expect that will happen at WJR, but in several cities it has. In Seattle KIRO flipped to FM, as did WIBC in Indianapolis and KTAR in Phoenix. We could certainly use an FM talk station (done properly) in the Motor City. WKRK-FM (97.1) was more successful than WOW-FM (WOWF 99.5) which didn't even last six months back in 1993.

Dedicated radio buffs will recall that the first FM talker in Detroit was WDRQ-FM (93.1) which premiered after Father's Day in late June of 1971. They were truly far ahead of their time. It lasted about 18 months and then flipped to the Top 40 hits format that frequency is probably best remembered for.

In the Garden State, New Jersey 101.5 FM garners ratings that any broadcasting company would envy. They dominate with no syndicated fare, all local programs and originating from the state capital in Trenton. They cater only to New Jersey...not Philadelphia and not New York and it works! Why can't something similar work in Detroit?

 

Bill Doyle and Jeff Deminski were two of the more popular personalities to work on FM talk radio locally, but 2009 was not a good year for the duo while at classic rocker WCSX-FM (94.7). It wasn't a good fit. It was the wrong station. Interestingly the Bob & Tom show (available throughout Michigan, but not in Detroit) is a funny, mostly talk, syndicated morning program that does work and mostly on classic rock FM's. D&D were on a station known to be "music-intensive" and listeners didn't seem to accept their all-talk in the morning format.

Prior to segueing over to 94.7 FM, the boys sat out a full year of unemployment due to a "non-compete" clause in their deal with CBS, which owns 97.1 FM. When music was being interjected on their WCSX program, the handwriting was on the wall. Listeners were unhappy with the lack of classic rock in the morning and operations boss Doug Podell tried appeasing the audience with at least "some" music. It obviously wasn't good enough and at the end of the year their contract was not renewed.

D&D built their largest fan-base as an afternoon drive program at WKRK and didn't like it when they were pushed into mornings, as the station began to evolve as an all-sports outlet. This is unfortunate because Deminski & Doyle are very good and they like Detroit. Hopefully some under-performing FM station will adapt a talk format and make them their first hire for afternoons. Oddly enough both Bill and Jeff came to Detroit from a very successful run in afternoon drive at NJ 101.5.

 

Another morning show alteration, since last we met, was at WXYT-FM/AM (97.1 The Ticket) when Jay Towers either left on his own or HIS contact was also not renewed. It depends on who you talk to. None-the-less, Bill McAllister and Sara were left "Tower-less" until sports radio guru Tom Bigby and Ticket PD Jimmy Powers decided to try out former WDFN-AM (1130) host Mike "Stoney" Stone. Gentlemen you've hit the jackpot! Don't change a thing. Stoney works! It is a programmers dream come true when chemistry in the studio happens. Well, it's happened and just say "thank you God" and leave it alone.

Jay Towers future is, to an extent, uncertain. He has left CBS Radio and is slated to work for Clear Channel Radio, an arch-rival to CBS, as a "morning show consultant." I will have been in radio 50 years by this summer, and I've never heard of such a position. He is also supposedly going to continue working at WJBK-TV Fox 2 doing weekend anchoring and reporting.

 

Over the holidays I was on the west coast and in Las Vegas for nearly three weeks. Don't be jealous, in San Diego I had to scrape ice off windshield and no they don't have scrapers in southern California rental cars. It seems that everyone "in touch with today" has an I-Phone or a Blackberry rather than just an ordinary cell phone. Since I felt a need to be "SoCal Cool" I stopped into the world's ONLY Blackberry store at 14 Mile and Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills and picked up a new Blackberry Tour. My I-Phone friends made me feel inferior but, soon I learned how to get nearly every radio station I like on this phone. Very cool.

If you have one of these type phones, you can tune into nearly any station you want by simply downloading a special program or application (app) and bingo...you are connected. Folks at the Blackberry store helped me with two excellent app's. All Clear Channel-owned stations can be listened to with I heart radio, and you can easily bookmark your favorites. Most other stations can be heard with Radio Companion by Nobex. Both have web sites and are easy to understand.

While out in L.A. I could instantly punch up WWJ or WJR and find out news and weather information back home. I always felt in touch. The three-hour time difference was a problem at times, but it seems somewhat supernatural hearing stations from Detroit or New York a couple of thousand miles away! Best of all, you can run the audio output of these cell phones, via a simple patch cord that has a mini-stereo pin plug at each end, right into the auxiliary jack on most new car radios. The audio quality (in stereo) that fills your car from your cell phone is phenomenal. It will dazzle your friends. No longer, even while driving, will you be limited by the range of an AM or FM radio signal.

This week while Southern California was being slammed with floods, mud slides, high winds and even tornadoes I felt as though I was right there again tuned to WWJ's CBS sister station NewsRadio 1070 KNX. I recall how during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, WJR ran a simulcast of sister ABC station KGO in the Bay Area. Now, we can be instantly connected to anyplace a major news story or situation is occurring!

This technology is changing everything.

 

With a promise to not be so absent from this site in 2010, I want to end with an update on former Detroit radio personality Joey Ryan. Joey is still in rough shape, but he's hangin' in there at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. He truly enjoys hearing from old radio pals in Detroit. He even got a card from WOMC's Dick Purtan. Please send a get well card to him via his real name; Joseph Pietruska c/o Home for Vets, 3000 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49505. If more convenient, longtime friend Kenn Christopher of Plymouth, MI has set up an e-mail account for messages of encouragement. E-mail Joey at joeymrboogieryan@gmail.com.

Art Vuolo Jr.

Reach Art Vuolo at artvuolo@aol.com or visit his web site at vuolovideo.com

 

column written by Art Vuolo, Jr.

VuoloAfter a long dry-spell, it seems I have a number of observations to share with you, the many fans of what comes out of your radio speaker. So, get comfortable.

 

I dislike starting off with sad news, but the recent passing of James H. Quello hit me hard as I first met him up in his office at WJR in the 1960's. I remember saying to him, "Why not call the station Junior Radio with Senior Sound." I think he wanted to throw me out of the 22nd story of the Fisher Building! I last saw him up at Crystal Mountain Resort during a Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) summer conference about 5 years ago. He was pushing 90 and looked sensational.

QuelloAfter his reign at WJR as general manager he moved on, eventually becoming one of the best remembered FCC commissioners ever. He was beloved in Washington, DC. Although maybe he wasn't "beloved" by Howard Stern, with whom he tangled in the 1990s. But I'll bet Howard respected him as a guy who'd earned his way up the ranks. He wasn't an Al Sikes-style bureaucrat (it was Sikes on whom Stern once wished cancer).

Current FCC Chair Julius Genachowski called him, "A role model to generations of FCC employees and advocates, for his decency, personal charm and commitment to his work."

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said, "We have lost an American original."

Jim Quello was one of a kind, the type of broadcaster you can read about in books, but perhaps never actually meet in person. I'm glad that I did.

 

Speaking of Mr. Stern, and I hate giving him more "ink" since that's what he's very good at doing, whenever he feels he's been off the "front page" for too long he starts tongues a waggin' with reports (that he starts) about leaving Sirius XM satellite radio and segueing back to terrestrial FM radio.

Ain't gonna happen.

It's all talk to help him renegotiate his deal with Sirius XM head honcho Mel Karmazin. The entire ploy is so obviously manipulative I don't know why the broadcast and print media can't see through it. Must have been a "slow news day" when this "news" broke.

I found the most hysterical part of this situation the offer from Clear Channel, the behemoth conglomerate that Stern hates, to have him work for them! That ain't gonna happen either.

Funniest photo was in a trade Tom Taylor edits called www.radio-info.com showing a picture of a Clear Channel executive, presumed to be CC radio boss John Hogan, with a bouquet of roses as a "peace offering" to the self-proclaimed King of All Media. Stern said, "I can't imagine the day where I would ever work for them again."

Stern and Bubba still have hard feelings about the way they left Clear Channel nearly six years ago.

Meanwhile Hogan emailed this statement to Business Week, "We clearly have the willingness and the financial wherewithal to consider high-profile talent such as Stern."

Of course any talks with him would be heavily lawyered so that he would have to deliver an FCC-friendly show. Again...ain't gonna happen. So to all who fell for this well orchestrated ploy, how could you all be so freakin' gullible?

 

In an unrelated story, we also just watched the left-leaning Air America Network go off the air, which will no doubt have Rush Limabuagh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck along with the rest gloating over this Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation filing - though some of the conservative talkers predicted this would happen in 2004, soon after Air America's March 31 launch. Insiders felt they didn't have enough experienced radio talent and management, though Al Franken was a pretty fast learner and Randi Rhodes is an obvious radio pro. Now, with talkers like Ed Schultz, Bill Press, Lionel, Stephanie Miller and Rhodes, there is no shortage of left-leaning progressive talk show talent.

The local twist to this story is AM 1310 WDTW. For longtime Detroit radio fans, we can remember when this now beleaguered frequency was once the number one station in the metro area as the legendary WKNR Keener 13 (by the way, radio enthusiasts can go into overload about this top 40 dynasty of the 1960's at www.keener13.com or at www.detroitradioflashbacks.net). Well now that Air America is history, this 5,000 watt signal emanating from those six towers along I-94 in Allen Park, might just start to gain a spot on one of your AM car radio buttons. Since most talk radio is decidedly right-wing conservative with an agenda attracting a largely Republican audience, it's nice to have an alternative offering a different point of view.

The new line-up on WDTW includes: Bill Press 6-9 am, Stephanie Miller 9-noon, Thom Hartman noon-3 pm, Ed Schultz 3-6 pm Replays of Bill Press & Stephanie Miller 6-10 pm, Alan Colmes 10 pm-1 am and Joey Reynolds 1 am-6 am. This schedule is not bad. Sadly, there are no LOCAL shows, it all comes via satellite and network syndication.

In a perfect world I would love to hear it over on the FM band at 106.7, now trying to re-invent itself as "The Beat of Detroit." Truthfully that frequency hasn't been a real winner since it was W4 Country, which vacated Labor Day weekend in 1999 and it became Alice 106.7. It was also known as The Drive, The Fox and now The Beat.

As mentioned in my last column we could really use a decent FM talker in this town. Some of these WDTW shows, mixed in with a liberal dose of local talent, could be a winner for Clear Channel, which owns these stations. Talk radio can be expensive, and nobody is spending money during these difficult economic times.

ReynoldsAside from all of this, I am personally most thrilled with the addition of Joey Reynolds overnights at 1310 AM. Although I am right on the far west fringe of the highly directional night-time signal, I can still hear it at my house in Novi. Joey, who worked at WXYZ-AM (1270) in 1966 for a brief six months, is still remembered by many dedicated local radio fans. He was so outrageous in those days and cycled through 38 radio jobs throughout his checkered career.

He's also one of very few radio personalities enshrined into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (one of the many cities he also once worked in).

Joey did an encore appearance as morning host for a couple of months in 1984 when local (but nationally known) consultant Gary Berkowitz brought him into WHYT-FM (96.3), now WDVD. His current home, for a remarkable 14+ years, is New York's WOR-AM (710) - the oldest station in New York and considered to be America's first talk station. Today, Joey does a variety talk show with little if any talk about political issues. He packs his studio nightly with comics, singers, actors and a plethora of entertainers. It's truly a different type of talk radio and will soon be even more unique as it will soon be a triple-cast on radio, NBC-TV 2 and on the Internet live from a street level showcase studio in Times Square!

Check out Joey's show either late at night or early in the morning. WDTW 1310 AM does not currently stream, but the New York flagship station does at www.wor710.com.

 

Where are they now?

FormicolaLocal country music fans will long remember Joe Wade Formicola at both W4 FM (106.7) and at WYCD-FM (99.5) and have wondered what he's doing today. Well, similar to Tom Shannon, who seemingly bounced back and forth between Detroit and Buffalo, Joe Wade ran a similar track between Detroit and Raleigh, NC and WRAL-FM. Now, the venerable favorite is following the advice of Horace (Go West Young Man...Go West) Greeley. In fact his destination won't be far from the town of Greeley, CO as Formicola pulls his snow shovel out of the attic and heads to Denver where he will work on their syndicated country format. The company is Dial Global (formerly Jones Radio) and it's where CKLW vet, and mostly recently at WOMC, Ted "The Bear" Richards worked doing mornings on their oldies format for over 15 years. The DG studios are in Englewood on the south side of Denver, so perhaps there will be less snow there. Joe Wade most recently was with WRSF in Nags Head, NC.

"Joe has a strong programming background and is a great jock," commented DG's EVP of Programming chief Beau Phillips.

It's nice to see one of the decent people catch a good break.

DonutsBrian Hatfield is another one of the early WYCD jocks who worked with Joe Wade - and Hatfield is STILL in North Carolina. He's from the Detroit area and has been doing very well for a number of years down in Asheville, NC as the afternoon jock and music director for WKSF-FM. So, he's not really working for Krispy Kreme Donuts.

The photo shows a sweet gift from Jason Aldean's record label to kick off his concert tour. After polishing off the box, Brian and his buddies were said to be more glazed than the donuts.

 

Speaking of food, I realize this is a radio column, but who in radio doesn't love to eat? I seriously want to put you wise to a phenomenal restaurant called Jordan's II in Romulus. It's on the eastside of Merriman Road just south of Van Borne, only 2 miles north of Metro Airport. The atmosphere is a C-, but both the food and the prices are an A+. Huge portions, excellent food and (as Crazy Eddie in NYC used to say) low prices that are insane. If you're making an airport run around mealtime this is the place to chow-down. Check it out.

 

A personal note to WXYT-FM/AM 97.1/1270 'The Ticket' big boss Tom Bigby and PD Jimmy Powers, who still seem to be messing with the morning show hosts. As I stated in my last column the combo of Bill, Sara and Stoney is sensational. Don't mess with it. Of course I'm NOT the program director, but I (like many of you) know when something good comes out of the radio speaker.

 

Lisa Orlando, as reported here in michiguide.com, has surfaced at 106.7 FM The Beat along with the Joe Show in the afternoon giving a bit of a human element to the otherwise music machine. She is best known as Lisa Lisa from WDRQ, WOMC, and WHYT. She has been making the rounds hasn't she?

 

Lastly, WDFN-AM (1130) home improvement host Murray Gula, heard mid-days on the weekend, should be streaming his program with video on the Internet by this weekend while he's on the air over the 50,000 watt sports station. He will be at the big Home Show at Novi's huge Rock Financial Center this weekend, January 30-31.

You can watch the remote broadcast on his web site: www.whocanbuildit.com.

 

Art Vuolo Jr.

Reach Art Vuolo at artvuolo@aol.com or visit his web site at vuolovideo.com

 

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This page is a archive of entries in the Vuolo Commentary category from January 2010.

Vuolo Commentary: February 2010 is the next archive.

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