Does this mean “News doesn’t work on FM?”
Of course not.
It just means these stations in these specific formats executing what they did didn’t work well enough in these markets at this time.
Perhaps these markets are just too news-soaked to reward new entrants without enough meaningful and palpable differences, I don’t know. Maybe the existing options were simply good enough. Maybe all the news bellies were already full. Maybe news consumers who have not already chosen a radio news option have chosen other news options enabled by those fabulously connected devices in their pockets.
None of that means “news doesn’t work on FM.”
I hope this isn’t viewed as a failure of “spoken word,” either. Because “spoken word” is too often translated to mean News or News/Talk, and it should mean much more than that. “News/Talk” is a very narrow flavor of non-music programming.
Indeed, “spoken word” is a horrible phrase because all words are spoken and the term implies “no music ever.” That’s too militant. Even entertainment-oriented morning shows aren’t afraid to play a song or two – plenty of those shows are mostly “spoken word” and when they run “all news” it’s generally guilty-pleasure celebrity gossip. But in that world, that’s news, folks.
Maybe we should use language like “Entertainment-oriented” or “Information-oriented” or “Music-oriented.” That would give us three different categories. And none of those categories would be “all-” anything. Too often we are victims of our own limiting format categories – our label becomes our “box” and our destiny.
So while we may conclude that penetrating large markets with All News or News/Talk competitors is tough, that’s not to suggest that “news doesn’t work on FM” or that music is the format of the future in these markets.
Unless your name is Pandora.
More imagination in formats is the real future.
Embracing what radio can do that other media can’t is the real future.
Let’s bring that future on.