Maine Radio Stations Brace For Cuts
Syndication surge: Citadel and other big national companies that own lots of radio stations are experiencing serious financial difficulties due to declining advertising revenues and excessive debt. That’s prompted online speculation that Citadel’s eleven Maine stations in Portland, Augusta, and Presque Isle will soon undergo significant changes. The trend in other markets has been for troubled corporate parents to save money by eliminating some or all local programming, replacing it with syndicated national shows.
In general, the cutbacks elsewhere have spared top-rated morning shows, such as those on Citadel’s WBLM (102.9 FM) or WJBQ (97.9 FM), both in Portland. But in other day parts and on less-listened-to stations, the era of being able to hear programming originating from relatively near at hand appears to be ending, as the industry becomes ever more homogenized.
Cutting and consolidating: Radio isn’t the only medium facing budget cuts. According to postings on the Web site Radio-Info.com, Portland television station WCSH and sister station WLBZ in Bangor have axed their late newscasts on Sunday nights (following the weekly NFL game on NBC). Channel 6 and Channel 2 had previously dropped their weekend midday news shows.
The same Web site also carries speculation from industry insiders that Gannett, which owns WCSH and WLBZ, will soon be consolidating traffic operations at its headquarters in Denver. (In broadcasting the word “traffic” has nothing to do with commuter problems and vehicle accidents. It’s the term used for scheduling airtime for advertising and promotions.) If that change happens, it will probably cost a job or two locally.
Circulation explanation: I’ve had several e-mails questioning newspaper circulation figures I’ve reported from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. As it turns out, there may be good reason for viewing those numbers skeptically.
According to the Associated Press, the ABC has changed its rules for what constitutes paid circulation. Not only is the bureau now counting papers sold at a steep discount (previously considered to be giveaways), it’s also changed the way it regards online readers.
If a subscriber to a newspaper’s print edition also pays a nominal fee to gain full access to its Web site, ABC considers that person to be two readers. According to the AP, this change may account for almost all the circulation growth reported by the ABC for some large national papers.
While discounted papers may have improved the readership figures of some Maine papers, no publication in the state is yet benefiting from the online double-count. But the bureau’s new math could be enough of an incentive to push some Maine papers into charging extra for full access to their Web offerings, even if it means losing a significant portion of their online audience.
A columnist to call its own: The Portland Daily Sun isn’t fooling anybody when it runs columns by former Boston Globe Washington bureau chief David M. Shribman and identifies him in the tagline as “a regular contributor and New England resident.”
Shribman is a syndicated columnist. Be honest about it.
Less mess: Headline in the Nov. 20 Morning Sentinel:
“Less students in college going abroad to study”
And at home, fewer editors are studying grammar.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.