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Exit Randy Michaels

1-3-14

With the pending sale of the remaining Merlin stations in Chicago, it appears Randy Michaels will once again be out of radio. In the Summer of 2011, Michaels launched what he was hoping would be a new spoken-word format aimed at women, that would sweep the nation. With financial backing from GTCR, Michaels and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan struck a deal and Merlin was launched with signals in New York City and Philadelphia. Money was no object and a lot of out-of-work and respected news people were brought in hoping to part of something big, new, and exciting.

CBS' news outlets were the target. In an October 2011 Radio Ink magazine cover story, Michaels said, "When you look at WBBM or WCBS, the audience is incredibly old. My gosh, if you took the bears out of 'BBM, they don't have many people under 60." In January of 2012, CBS even went so far as to send a cease and desist order to Michaels for using the phrases "All News, All The Time" and "We'll Give You The World." Michaels eventually stopped using the phrases but added, "This advertising does not infringe or mislead consumers; rather it accurately compares Merlin Media's services to those offered by CBS. Merlin does not want to be perceived as CBS and 1010 WINS in any respect." In an ironic turn of events, Merlin would wind up selling that New York frequency to CBS, which is now the FM home to WFAN.

The spokenword format never really caught on with listeners or in the ratings. It was never a serious threat to any of CBS' powerhouse news outlets. Eventually it was dropped as investors began to question what they had gotten into. People with high hopes were gone, like veteran Chicago newsman Charlie Meyerson. Of the original attempt to target women, Meyerson says, "The consensus among many of us was that the first attempts to target women sounded condescending. I don't think they intended it to be condescending, but they sounded condescending. Yet I know many listeners that liked that iteration of the station."

Michaels made the announcement in July of 2012 that his news experiment was over. “Effective immediately, Alternative is back on the air in New York as New Rock 101.9 and Adult Hits are on the air in Chicago as i101. It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change. I’d like to thank the people who poured their heart and soul into the effort and I wish them all the best.”




(1/3/2014 5:38:12 PM)
I'm not sure that Randy Michaels is out of radio. Doesn't he own a number of stations, most of which are either dark or LMAed out, as Radioactive LLC?

- Scott Gilbert
(1/3/2014 12:19:04 PM)
If they had just done what has been done for years at New Jersey 101.5 they may have gotten some where.
Success leaves clues.

- Bob
(1/3/2014 10:31:54 AM)
Talk formats targeted to Women sound great on paper. The attractive demos and spending power, exclusivity in the format, etc. In reality it's a concept that has never been proven, several major syndication companies has attempted it, all failed miserably. Randy's attempt to create a female targeted news station was DOA. I understand the temptation to march out these formats every few years as a panacea to ratings and revenue, but it doesn't work.

- M Riley

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