The corporate radio trend of "Jack FM" (and all the clones) seems to be on the wane. For the past 3-4 years, radio stations have been jettisoning heritage formats that were deemed either to be under-performing or having weak future potential to increase ratings and revenue. In place of the old format (usually Oldies), a "new" format intended to capture the huge "variety" found on individual iPods. Jack, Bob, Mike, Ben, Dave...they all try to position themselves as the "We Play Anything" local radio station. "No downloading required." "We play want we want." "We take requests...ours."
Nationally, these formats popped up first in Canada -- some with huge success, some not. The US picked it up a couple of years ago. Again, some hits, some flops (kinda like how the format actually sounds with the songs that are played). 2005 seems to have been the peak year for these format flips...there really hasn't been much new action since CBS Radio's flips in Chicago, LA and New York last spring and summer. Like in Canada, the US entries have a mixed bag of success (with a lot of disappointing results). Some don't have live DJs, some do. They all try to play a wider range of music styles than most other narrowly-programmed commercial radio formats which forgot how to program with passion and listener surprise decades ago.
One common result: a lot of people saying Jack is not like "my" iPod. This seems particularly true in market research as well as with online blogs and radio fan forums across the country. Sure, some markets love Jack's dry "I'm an ass...you're going to listen to me and like it" personality and ratings zoom huge. In their own way, they like how it "sounds" anti-corporate. In some markets, though, Jack just sounds like an ass and a complete corporate lie.
When launched, Jack tries to attract the "whatever" crowd. After not much time at all, many listeners start to say, "Whatever, later." And that is happening more and more lately.
Last August, my favorite newspaper (and "America's Finest", or so it says) The Onion published a story by a writer saying how his local Jack was not the iPod he was told he was getting. It's an achival story...but it still resonates, especially as the Jack movement may be on the quick downslide...
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Friday, April 14, 2006,