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“JACK” Out of the Box

It’s not quite sweeping the country yet, but it will. I’m talking about the new JACK format, whose latest station just popped on the air in Dallas. Nobody knows JACK better than Garry Wall who reps the format through Wall Media.

Garry wrote the following, which throws some light on the foundations on the format and what it’s all about.

If you’d like more info you can contact Garry directly at 615-371-1633 or by email.

Do You Know Jack?

by Garry Wall, Wall Media

The JACKFM format is generating widespread interest as a result of the amazing ratings and revenue performance in Canada, the promising early results in Denver, and now the recent launch by Infinity in Dallas. There has been nothing like it in recent history.

As one might expect there are plenty of questions and healthy skepticism for JACK within the industry.

Some have tried to draw format comparisons to Rhythmic Oldies, Eighties, Classic Alternative, etc., but these represent repackaged variations of existing format themes.

Others have discounted its’ Canadian roots or even questioned the relevance it might have five years from now.

But trying to compare JACK in this way or by using the same old radio prism to uncover the secret recipe is a futile exercise. JACK really is different.

JACK was designed and built for the listener’s paradigm not the industry paradigm.

Ironically listeners don’t require any explanation. They get it, they like it. That’s as deep as it goes.

But the power and success of JACKFM is really part of a much bigger story that has been steadily playing out for over a decade. Here’s the backdrop:

• Radio listening and listener satisfaction with radio are both in decline.

• Music formats have the highest rates of dissatisfaction.

• Younger listeners started the trend, but it is spreading across the demographic spectrum to adult listeners too.

Even though Arbitron has not measured it, broadcasters have seen and heard plenty in their audience research and in personal observation to raise more than casual concern.

We may debate about the contributing factors, however the central point remains that the listening decline continues unabated.

In radio we benchmark our products and performance against other radio stations. This approach is seriously flawed, because it fails to produce real information in the context that listeners live in.

How we fare and compare against the station across the dial is important. But when and why the radio gets turned off should be of paramount concern to all of us. Because radio is being turned off more than ever before and we are not even asking why.

Listeners do not need radio to hear their favorite music, get the latest news, or learn about new products and ideas.

Despite the listener erosion, terrestrial radio still has an advantage over new competitors because of reach and convenience. Radio is free and available everywhere.

But the advantages have been steadily eroded from years of product neglect. Radio programming has gotten stale, while competing technologies and delivery systems have become sexier and more universal.

History shows that consumers have never been driven by new technology alone. But when new technology and good programming hook up change happens fast.

Whether it’s on satellite, internet, wi-fi, or cell, the future like the past will be ruled by the most compelling content.

Based on the current trend, unless there is a radical adjustment in the way we understand listeners and how we create radio content, the tipping point is coming sooner rather than later.

Listeners have power, and they know what their options are.

This isn’t clever rhetoric; it is the law of the jungle.

The record industry is a perfect case study for this.

For years, the labels have strong armed their customers with high prices and refused to sell custom products and configurations that consumers begged for.

Actually, this was the central conclusion from extensive national research of thousands of music buyers’ commissioned by a group of labels back in 1994.

The detailed report and all of its recommendations were subsequently buried and ignored by those who received it.

Also in 1994 a company called New Leaf developed with IBM a technology that would have enabled stores to create products on site and avoid the need to stock tons of physical inventory. This would have dramatically lowered the cost structure while adding the option of mass customization for consumers.

Upon learning this, (during a private NARM presentation for its executive committee) the major labels unanimously refused to support it. New Leaf folded less than 12 months later.

Contrary to popular claims, the internet did not cripple record industry sales. Pissed off consumers did.

The internet and downloading have merely freed frustrated consumers from industry tyranny.

Admittedly the view from the executive penthouse hasn’t been pretty.

But even now long after the downloading horse has left the barn, labels continue to drag their feet to meet consumer demands for fair prices and full choice on what they want.

Change is inevitable, but disaster is not. In this case it was systemically created over a long period.

There are a number of parallels in radio today that look disturbingly similar.

Listeners have been telling radio programmers for years that they wanted more variety, less repetition, less clutter and fewer spots. And the response has been to do the exact opposite. For instance:

• In the past decade spot loads have increased on average by 30% to 35%. Value added promotions and live sponsorships are spread like jam over every day part.

• During the same period a typical radio station music library has shrunk 10% to 20% along with the number of new adds, while the turnover of the biggest titles have increased and been kept in heavy rotation weeks longer.


Don’t pander to the audience. Serve listeners exactly what they say they want. You know…real variety, low repetition, less clutter, fewer spots, great presentation.

JACKFM carefully addresses each point in every layer of the product design, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

The primary purpose of JACKFM is to appeal to listeners as opposed to just beating the competition across the dial.

Again the point is listener tune in.

OK that is the JACK formula… it’s all about the listeners.

Listeners have rewarded JACKFM with dominant market share.

Market share is still the strongest measurement we have for listener satisfaction. It is also the most effective way to increase revenue.

JACK has become a market leader and has held share now going on two years since the first sign on.

JACK represents a successful new idea in an industry that has been closed creatively and financially to fresh ideas for some time.

Frankly where JACK might be in five years is irrelevant.

What’s important is what we are doing for listeners now. Otherwise we may not have five years.

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