Radio Waves: 7/26/19

Why don’t radio stations promote themselves?

Reader Victor D’Agostino has a question: why don’t radio stations advertise themselves any more? “I remember when I would drive into a small town, there would be signs for all the area stations. I don’t see many these days, and I still do a lot of long distance driving.” The ads helped him find stations to listen to while out of town.

Excellent question. And I think it shows just how out of touch current owners and managers are regarding the power of their own stations and the power of other media. Not just in small towns, but here in Southern California as well.

It was different in the old days when stations were forced to compete. Even in Los Angeles, stations would advertise on television, newspapers, billboards, and even buses. Part of that was a ploy to try to get those who held ratings diary books to better remember a station and try to get the holder to write the station down whether they actually listened or not, artificially inflating the station’s ratings.

But it also served the important purpose of letting listeners know you’re there. KHJ (930 AM), KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM), and KFWB (980 AM) advertised all over town and in newspapers to attract listeners in the 1960s, back when most listening was on AM and there were relatively few stations. 

In the 1980s, KIIS-FM (102.7), KIQQ (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) and KFI (640 AM) blanketed the town with ads on billboards and buses.

Today, when there are an estimated 80+ stations from which to choose in addition to listening to MP3s, satellite radio, or online, few stations do it. The only ads I can think of seeing recently were billboards from KFI, not counting the one board off the 405 in Torrance for KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM). Nothing on television. Nothing in newspapers. How can you compete if no one knows you exist? 

The best format with no listeners because they cannot find you, is still a failure.

The response from owners I am sure will be: “but we have a website and are on social media.” The problem is, that only reaches people who already listen and know about the station. Potential new listeners? Nope. They won’t see them.

It’s another oddity from an industry that should know better.

More Than One

I was listening to K-Surf (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) on the AM signal the other night and heard something odd under the song they were playing: another song.

Now I know AM and I know that at night especially it is not unusual for another often distant signal to be heard under (and sometimes overpowering) the local station. But this was unusual for another reason: it was a song. As in another AM station, somewhere in the United States, playing music.

I cannot remember the song – it may have been Samantha Sang’s “Emotion,” or it may have been K-Surf playing that one and the distant station playing another. But it was a song from the 1970s. And it was strong enough for me to hear it.

Yet a search for stations on 1260 yields little information: almost every station on 1260 is low powered, and it seems hard to believe that any station running as few as 50 watts would make it very far. I first thought of KSFB/San Francisco, as they run 1000 watts at night, but they carry religious program, not oldies. KBSZ/Apache Junction, Arizona plays classic rock but their night time power is indeed 50 watts.

So I am asking you: do you happen to have any clue as to what other station may be playing oldies on 1260? The fact that other stations do in fact play music on AM — and the 1260 list included jazz and country stations — even if they are not local, somehow makes the universe whole again…

Email Change

I try to answer every email question I receive. But I get about 200 (mostly spam) emails a day, and sometimes if I save one to answer later, it gets lost. My old email address,, is going away, and the server will very soon delete all my old emails. So if I have not answered any question you sent, please don’t take it personally. Send another one to the new address. I will try to stay on top of them better. If not, I apologize ahead of time.