So this morning Stern said his parting words, and left terrestrial radio. Almost as soon as the mics were silenced WXRK-FM in New York (known for about the last twenty years as one version or another as K-Rock) went jockless. Despite all of Stern’s success for much of the past twenty years the rest of the station had struggled to find an identity and today with Stern gone and the mics off iit moved even further from the radar of its target audience: men. On January 3rd, the CBS Radio (newly renamed from Infinity Broadcasting) will debut its new format, Free-FM, in New York and a handful of other markets, it may be too little too late.
The idea for Free-FM is nothing new, but it is simple; talk for men. Actually, in the past, Infinity Broadcasting (this the same ownership group) has actually tried this recipe before in 1999 on New York’s storied, WNEW-FM. Back then, the station revolved around afternoon radio bad-boys Opie and Anthony with a smattering of other programs. The station struggled and after that show was silenced the poorly performing format was replaced.
Nonetheless, despite the format’s lackluster history, it seems to be the wrong time to revive an all-talk format for men with Stern’s departure. The management at Infinity argues that men want talk and therefore they should build an entire station filling that void. (Keep in mind too that they are trying to keep men listening to their traditional station opposed to turning to the options on satellite radio.) But this logic is twenty years late, Infinity should have taken this approach at the beginning of Stern’s career, not at the end.
At this point, with Stern’s show leaving the airwaves. rock stations like K-Rock in New York and WYSP-FM in Philadelphia should refocus on the music and turn-off the talk before their male listeners tune out for good.