And judging by how far the fortunes of Talk Radio KCMO (710 AM) have fallen in the last three years, the local powers that be at owner Cumulus aren’t even trying.
Three months after popular morning show host Chris Stigall bailed for a gig in Philly in January of 2011, KCMO replaced him with Greg Knapp, a journeyman talk show host who moonlights as a fill-in guy for talk stations in other markets. And it’s been a downhill slide ever since.
How bad is it?
In December 2010 with Stigall still leading the charge, KCMO had a 2.5 share.
And in the recent May ratings for listeners 12 and up it barely eked out a lowly 1 share.
In other words, KCMO had two and a half times the listenership just prior to installing Knapp and loading its lineup with a mishmash of syndicated nut ball, has-been, over-the-top oddball personalities.
“It is what it is,” says a former KCMO AM executive. “It’s like that all over the country- you have one AM station that is still holding on – and usually has Rush Limbaugh – and the rest of them are going to be like 1 shares unless they have a sports franchise.”
A reasonably strong case to be made that most local talk radio listeners have long since forgotten KCMO AM still exists.
Take talk radio habitué and News/Talk KMBZ frequent flyer Paul Wilson.
“It’s sad because KCMO was a flagship talk station in Kansas City,” Wilson says. “There were very few dials that weren’t turned to the station if you were a talk radio listener, but they just gave up after Stigall left.”
KCMO’s primary problem: too many inexpensive, syndicated filler shows and just one that passes for local with a dude who’s not even from here.
“I’ve listened to him,” says a prominent local talk radio listener who asked that his name not be used. “And I listen to him periodically, but it always sounds like he’s preaching. Maybe it’s the way he presents things. Obviously it’s not working based on the ratings.”
“The station’s live morning show features an evangelical preacher named Greg Knapp who regularly quotes scripture,” reads the Wikipedia page on KCMO.
Preacher or not, Knapp seems a nice enough guy and appears to put in a workmanlike effort. Where he pulls up short arguably, is he doesn’t seem to have a jugular instinct or keen sense of the local market. The show sounds formulaic which hardly makes for compelling radio.
The rest of KCMO’s lineup reads like a been there, done that bunch of blast-from-the-past conservatives and loony toon has beens.
Financial advisor Dave Ramsey: “Oh, that’s kind of worn out,” Wilson says. “He’s done the same thing for years.”
Funny guy turned right winger Dennis Miller: “I just think his market is so narrow,” Wilson says. “Because you have to be an ultra intellectual to keep up with most of his one liners.”
Over-the-top, conspiracy whacko Michael Savage: “Boy, that guy,” Wilson begins. “I used to listen to him some, but he’s just frightening anymore.”
Conservative lawyer / “constitutional scholar” Mark Levin: “He’s just kind of a screaming, yelling, off-the-wall conservative guy,” Wilson says, “that’s not even really listenable.”
Nighttime host John Batchelor: “He’s a former WABC brainiac,” Wilson says. “He’s an oddball. Everything’s about deep, deep history and military stuff with topics you’d never think of. He’s kind of a yawn.”
Missing in action on Talk Radio KCMO’s lineup?
“Probably a listenable product,” Wilson says. “And local hosts. Sign me up, I’ll do it.”
And while it may be totally boring to some to recite KCMO’s All Star lineup of past hosts, it ranged from Mike Murphy, Dave Dawson and sex therapist Janell Carroll to Rick Roberts, Conrad Dobler, Chris Baker, John Boss and Russ Johnson.
All of whom achieved far more success locally than anyone currently in Kansas City’s current roster of talk personalities, regardless of station affiliation.
All of that said, things are unlikely to get better at KCMO any time soon, if ever, radio sources say.
“The thing at KCMO now is not to spend a lot of money and sell all of the programs on the weekend,” says the former KCMO exec. “It’s probably all brokered programming, but they’re not doing that for listeners, they’re doing it for the money.
“The bottom line is they’re just not going to invest any money in that radio station because there is no return on investment. Trust me, nobody around the country is trying to build up a local talk station unless they’re already on top. If you’re No. 2 in that format, you probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of growing it.”
Well, it’s pretty hard to grow something without planting a few seeds.
And given the frighteningly diminishing listenership, at what point do you make even a token effort to sustain or become an even halfway listenable, viable radio station.
Otherwise, why not just stick a fork in it?