Monday, December 18, 2006

WETA's New Audience Opportunity

WGMS, the last classical radio station in Washington, DC, might be flipped to a sports talk format. Now WETA is considering a switch back to classical music.

Here is an opportunity to create the flagship station for a new public radio network aimed at an entirely different audience. It could be a younger audience, a predominately black audience, or even an audience with different personal or social values than the NPR News audience. It could be the beginning of a new form of public radio that advances the industry's overall service to DC and the nation.

But that probably won't happen. WETA could have targeted a new audience when it first dropped classical music. It could have targeted a new audience after each Arbitron survey that showed its news/talk format wasn't working. But it didn't. Not really.

Diversifying the audience is hard and expensive work. Switching back to classical is WETA's easier (but not necessarily easy) way out of a difficult situation. It is understandable, but it is also a lost opportunity for all of public radio.


Blogger Aaron Read said...

What's so wrong with WETA wanting to serve a classical music audience that's about to be completely abandoned?

Granted, it could easily be a situation where there aren't enough listeners to support a classical formatted station...that's why the commercial station is abandoning the format. But I imagine there's enough classical fans in DC to support WETA, no?

I guess I'm not seeing what's so "bad" about this...but I get the distinct feeling there's something about the whole switch that I'm not "getting".

11:40 AM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

The only thing about this switch is that WETA dropped classical because it wanted to serve a more diverse audience and then offered NPR and BBC news as its anchor programming. It had no chance of success. Rather than giving up on the diversification goal, why not take this rare opportunity to start over and do it right? Major market signals don't become available very often. CPB, NPR, and others could make it very attractive to WETA to join them in a leadership role that turns public radio' audience diversity rhetoric into action.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, okay...WETA probably does, technically, serve a more "diverse" audience with news/talk than with classical. Only because classical is so uber-niche these days. But it's not really all that diverse, regardless.

For the record, I don't always agree that more diversity is a good thing for a radio station; it can make it so you end up pleasing nobody.

Anyways, why would WETA as news/talk have no chance of success? Because of WAMU? Is DC too small (or too something else) to support two competing NPR news/talk outlets? Maybe that's the over-arching axiom that I'm missing here?

4:33 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

WETA had no chance at diversifying its audience in its news/talk format because the core of its schedule was the NPR Newsmagazines, Car Talk, and Keillor. That means a predominately white, well-educated, affluent, and slightly more-liberal-than-average audience. The key to diversifying the public radio audience is for individual stations to go after different types of listeners. WETA did not do that by choosing NPR News and it will not do that by choosing classical music. If we want more Black listeners, Hispanic listeners, or younger listeners, we need entire radio stations to go serve them. See one my earlier posts on the topic.

8:08 PM  
Blogger Vladimir Kelman said...

As a result now we lost a great radio station broadcasting NPR in DC area. Where to hear NPR now?

1:28 PM  

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