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How to Fight JACK

Not long ago I penned a piece about how, to borrow a phrase, resistence to the JACK format is futile. If you’re a HOT AC station, I argued, you can kiss your Variety image goodbye.

This notion causes great consternation among Hot AC programmers because it places them in the position of either switching formats to JACK or acquiescing in the face of a JACK onslaught. Neither option is usually that appealing, depending on what’s at stake.

Since I wrote that piece, the JACK format continues to roll out across the country. But recent events require me to elaborate on my position.

JACK has begat many clones. And some of these clones are assembled without any but the most superficial appreciation for what the format actually is and does. Some are presented out-of-step with the JACK worldview that has proved so compelling in many markets. Some are under-marketed or on less-than-stellar signals. Some, in other words, are pale imitations.

It is tangibly different to compete against a well-done JACK station versus a poorly-done imitation. And the implications for a competing Hot AC are likewise different.

My rule of thumb is this: If you’re competing against a well-constructed JACK station, you’re toast. Give up. But if you are up against not just a clone but a mediocre clone, then you should try to preempt anything and everything preemptable before the mediocre station wins any ground. The fact of your new competitior’s mediocrity is a direct reflection either of the lack of confidence in that format possessed by that station’s owners or of their general ineptitude. Either way, knock ’em dead.

Not all JACK clones are mediocre. And not all JACK’s are well-done. Know your competition, and act accordingly.

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