AM Radio. When was the last time you listened to it?
If you're a typical radio listener, it's probably been a long time. During the past two decades, the AM dial has been giving up a lot of ground to its FM counterpart.Back in 1972, AM radio enjoyed a commanding 75 percent share of the radio audience vs. only 25 percent for FM, according to Radar Data Statistical Research. That same study, however, reports a reversal - in 1988 - only 24 percent listened to AM radio, while 76 percent went for FM.
Still another study, done a couple of years ago by Arbitron, indicated that FM radio had at that time a nationwide audience of 80 percent vs. only 20 percent for AM.
A lot of radio listeners nowadays don't mess with the AM band, unless there has been a breaking news story and then they'll switch to AM for in-depth news coverage.
To win back listeners from the FM side, AM radio stations are striving to be "unusual but not crazy," according to Newsweek Magazine,
Radio statistics also reveal that AM listeners tend to be older and have less income than FM listeners.
AM radio stations have made numerous changes in their fight for survival. For example, an eastern U.S. station is using an "all-Elvis format," while others have experimented with "all-health" or "all-financial" news approaches.
But an "all-weather/all-traffic" station didn't work in Los Angeles last year, probably because "all-news" type formats are the most expensive of all radio formats. (The high operation cost was also the reason why Salt Lake's KDYL dropped its all-news format in the mid-1980s.)
For the Wasatch Front, only three AM-only radio stations - KSL, KALL and KTKK (alias `K-Talk') - rank in the top 12 of the most current Birch/Scarborough radio ratings.
Joe Redburn, K-Talk radio morning disc jockey, says talk-and-news radio formats have saved AM radio from extinction. He believes that more AM stations will have to switch to talk or news formats in the future to survive.
He also said that talk radio is still one of the best ways for Utahns to express their views, to try to change things or just plain help people. K-Talk radio provides a lot of room for listeners to both talk and listen.
"Every guy with an AM station is looking for a niche," said Stuart Stanick, Salt Lake's KLZX-KUTR general manager. He also said that KUTR, with its LDS music format, is doing very well thanks to Utah's predominantly LDS population.
"The main thing that we've tried to do here is diversify," KRSP-AM's Bob Jennings, a longtime midday personality said. "We've taken the 49ers football and the Golden Eagles games and that's helped us widen our audience . . . you have to pick a format, stick with it and find areas to broaden out," he said.
Jennings also mentioned AM-stereo, with its better sound quality, as being another incentive to entice more AM radio listeners. He said KRSP-AM, despite its stereo signal, is always seeking to improve its quality.
(AM radio signals also travel farther than do FM signals - especially at night.)
Since sports and news are never given in-depth coverage on FM radio, Jennings said AM stations have to use them to lure a portion of the FM audience.
The Wasatch Front market, with probably more radio stations per capita than anywhere in the United States, seems to be taking more of a "simulcast approach" to AM radio currently.
Many stations that own both FM and AM stations in the same market broadcast the same material on both signals. Jennings feels simulcasting is simply wasting a radio signal, though he concedes it does save money. He also wonders if stations who are using more than two simulcast frequencies along the Wasatch Front may not be breaking the Federal Communications Commission's law about owning too many stations/frequencies in the same market.
Simulcasting can also be confusing to listeners and may make it difficult for radio ratings companies to obtain accurate figures because of the different demographic audiences served.
(BU) Simulcasting radio stations along the Wasatch Front are:
1. KISN (North Salt Lake, FM-97.1) and sister station KISN (AM-570) used to be separate entities when the old KLUB (AM-570) existed. But now it is simulcasting adult hits, except when Utah Jazz game broadcasts or other sporting events are done on the AM.
2. KMGR (Murray, alias "Magic-107," FM-107.5) picked up the old KLAF frequency (AM-1230) a few years ago and uses that as a simulcast band too for its adult contemporary music.
3. KSOP (West Valley City, AM-1370) is Utah's original country music station and also simulcasts on FM-104.3.
4. KZOL (Provo, previously KFMY, at FM-96.1) has an "oldies" format that simulcasts on AM-960.
5. KJQN (Ogden-Salt Lake, alias "KJQ") does a four-way simulcast at FM-92.7, 95.5, 104.9 and also AM-1490 with its "modern music" format.
(BU) Stations that are exceptions to this local simulcast trend are:
1. KALL (Salt Lake, AM-910), adult contemporary: talk by high-powered personalities, news, sports format (complete with extensive University of Utah coverage) and has a separate sister station, KLCY (FM-94.1), with it "soft rock" adult contemporary format.
2. KSFI (Salt Lake, FM-100.3) has a "beautiful music," easy-listening format, while KDYL (AM-1280) has a "music of your life" format.
3. KLZX (Salt Lake, FM-93.3) plays a classic albums format, while sister station KUTR (AM-860) has an LDS music format.
4. KRSP (South Salt Lake, FM-103.5) is Utah's oldest all-rock station, while its AM counterpart (AM-1060) has a separate "oldies" format with coverage of the Golden Eagles.
5. KCPX (South Salt Lake, FM-98.7) has a "hit music" format, while sister station KEMX (AM-1320) goes for the "easy mix" format with music and news.
6. KSOS (Layton, FM-107.9) has a "soft hits" format, while KNKK (AM-800) plays traditional country music.
7. KCGL (Bountiful, FM-105.5) has an adult contemporary Christian music format, while KBBX (AM-1600) broadcasts gospel talk programming.
8. KTKK (West Valley City, alias "K-Talk" at AM-630) is Utah's talk radio station. Its sister station, KBZE, (alias "the Breeze" at FM-99.5) has a pop/jazz format.
9. KRPN (West Valley City, alias "WKRP") does simulcast on two FM bands (107.9 and 92) playing oldies music but uses its AM frequency (1550) for KZQQ (alias "Z-Rock") for a heavy metal format.
(BU) The other AM radio stations along the Wasatch Front market are:
- KSL (Salt Lake, AM-1160) is the kingpin of Utah AM radio, the state's oldest station and also has the area's only "clear channel" frequency. But, it recently felt the effects of the decreasing AM radio market and switched to an all-news, information, sports format last year. It also covers BYU sporting events.
- KFAM (Bountiful, AM-700) has an easy-listening format.
- KANN (Ogden, AM-1120) is a Christian religious station.
- KSRR (Orem, alias "K-Star," AM-1400) has an LDS music format similar to that of KUTR.
- KLO (Ogden, AM-1430) is adult contemporary with local news and Weber State College sports coverage.
- KSVN (Ogden, AM-700) has an all-Spanish format.
- KHQN (Spanish Fork, AM-1480) airs Hare Krishna religious programming.