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JACK had better watch his step

As I observe JACK stations rolling out nationwide, I’m thrilled to see my prediction that we’d see one of these stations in every market marching toward reality.

At the same time, however, I’m noticing a tendency for the media (especially print) response to the format to take on the tint of a backlash.

What was once fresh and unusual becomes, over time, an overwhelming and “evil” force. As things gain steam and magnitude this kind of evolution is not uncommon.

Specifically, there are a few negative vibes popping up, and they’re all contained in this piece on the format change at WCBS-FM.

Now needless to say, much more heat is likely to be received by a station in a long-time format, especially if that format was once highly successful and even more especially if that station has earned legendary status. Still, the seeds are here for JACK to resemble more Sith than Jedi if we’re not careful.

Spin matters.

First, the format is being called “iPod-like.” While the metaphor is a useful one, I don’t think it serves to paint the picture of what the format provides. And I recommend we stop using it on the air or in our marketing material. It does not serve us to be the halo around the iPod. We need to create our own halo around our own brand.

Second, this piece calls the format change a “flip-flop.” Never has that phrase had a positive connotation, and this case is no exception. If you can’t portray your format change in a positive fashion, you’ve got a problem from the get-go.

Third, the format is described as one which “doesn’t need DJ’s.” Who pitched this one? Nobody ever, EVER said the format “didn’t need DJ’s.” The jury is very much out on that one. What the format doesn’t need is BAD DJ’s. It might really benefit from good ones. Creating an expectation that a station or a format will always and forever be without DJ’s is limiting and dangerous. It establishes a listener worldview with no exit door and limited growth options. We should NOT pitch the format this way.

A “no-DJ” pitch will be spun even more negatively when the DJ’s you’re replacing are some of the most legendary names in the business. Remember, it’s one thing to say you’re catering to listeners’ natural disdain for pointless blather. It’s another to say that all those DJ’s you’ve been loving for years are now being viewed by management as trash. The more legendary the DJ’s you’re replacing the lighter you should touch on this whole “No DJ” issue.

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