Thoughts On Merlin Media’s FM News

FM News 101.9 FMNews Merlin Media WEMP WWWN 101.1 New York Chicago Walter Sabo Randy Michaels Merlin Media

Merlin Media has finally completed its process of launching its “FM News” brands in Chicago and New York. With that comes the point where we can now play armchair PD and begin to analyze the current product.

The biggest key is that it doesn’t sound like any other All-News programming block on any other radio station in the country. That will either become its biggest strength or lead to its downfall. The closest comparison is to a local television morning show with a very conversational and light-hearted approach to delivering the news.

That includes more of what would be identified as “fluff” pieces. In the aircheck we featured on Friday there were stories about The Go-Go’s getting their Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, New Jersey’s Governor getting charged for a beach tag, how to get bumped to first class on a flight, and a woman stealing newspapers in order to get coupons. What you didn’t hear were sports scores, stories on the latest corporate financials, and other news radio staples. The only traditional programming element is traffic and weather every ten minutes.

The television style newscast should transition to radio. With the conversational style of the anchors and light banter between stories there isn’t much difference between what Merlin is doing and WNYW-TV’s Good Day New York or the opening segments of Regis & Kelly and The View. There is still some awkwardness between the anchors as they need time to build their chemistry as there are times when they are stepping on each other or dead-air waiting for the other to speak.

It will definitely take time. I’m sure plenty of online observers will deem the format to be a failure when it doesn’t show growth right out of the gate, but any spoken word format needs time to grow. This will take at least a year to build if not longer. I have total confidence Merlin will give it the time it needs as they have already put a lot of money and resources into acquiring the stations and staffing the new format.

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  1. MattParker says

    Very interesting. The CBS-CBS news stations (in contrast to the Group W-CBS) all-news stations have gone in for “anchor chat” and have dumbed down their stories in recent years, as well. This could push WBBM even further in that direction, or they could adopt a more straight-forward Group W style approach, although possibly with more tabloid stories and gossip to pull in younger demos. Instead of being like the morning shows, they could become more like the early evening syndicated tabloid-gossip shows.

    Either way, these moves could drive anybody with any interest in anything resembling real news to public radio (WBEZ in Chicago).

    In general, it’s sad to see radio going even further in trying to imitate TV.

  2. e gill cvi says

    This approach to News/Talk (or as locals around here might call it, “the New Jersey 101.5 format”) seems like it’s past-due. I think if it’s done right (and I think Merlin will do it about as well as it can be done), it will catch on in lots of markets. But it WILL take time, no doubt about it.

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