By Michael L. Zwerling
KSCO/KOMY, Santa Cruz
SANTA CRUZ — It was February 2009. KSCO-AM 1080, Santa Cruz-Salinas-Monterey-San Jose was being called by every radio syndicator in the country trying to bend our ear about taking their program to replace The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly who was terminating his daily syndicated radio program on Feb 27.
I had instructed our staff to inform such callers that the replacement would be live and local, which they did.
This information was met with both surprise and disbelief, because that was (and IS) certainly not the trend for local radio stations; in fact just the opposite was and is true. But at KSCO, we like to be different; and it helps to be located in a part of the world with more unusual, interesting, and FASCINATING characters per square inch than in any other part of the planet.
We still hadn’t made the decision on the live and local replacement by Thursday, February 26 and my friend Glenn Fisher, retired CEO of Fisher Entertainment, a very successful radio syndication company that had been sold back in 2001, STRONGLY urged me to replace O’Reilly with Alex Jones.
Say what? Alex Jones? That “conspiracy lunatic” Alex Jones??! Was Glenn out of his mind?
Well, in typical Glenn style, he turned up the heat on me, unleashed a steady, intense, rapid-fire stream of reasons why I should do exactly what he prescribed, and would NOT take no for an answer!
Now bear in mind, Glenn is a friend, NOT a paid consultant for KSCO; I have very high regard for his business acumen and knowledge of the radio industry, and would not hesitate one second in recommending him as a consultant for ANY radio station, performing or not.
Glenn was like a mosquito that kept buzzing “Alex Jones Alex Jones Alex Jones” around my ear — one that you could not swat, because he moved too fast.
He would not let up; he kept telling me that Alex Jones was the freshest, most exciting and most innovative program on radio in the past 20 years; that Alex plays very well to the hard right and to the hard left, and that if I had the balls to put him on KSCO our audience would SWELL dramatically. Whole new segments of the population would be attracted to KSCO like a magnet, he claimed.
He finally talked the resistant me into trying an experiment for a week or two: put Alex Jones on KSCO where O’Reilly had been, announce to the audience that we realize that this program is bold and different, even UNNERVING, but that we want your feedback about whether this should become a permanent part of our KSCO lineup.
The results were astonishing: If anything, Glenn’s predictions were understatements! Example:
Two days after starting this programming experiment, I was walking out of the KSCO building into our parking lot and a stranger approached me, asking if I was MZ (listeners know me by those initials). I replied “yes” and he reached out his hand to shake my hand. I outstretched my hand and this man put a $100 bill in my hand as he shook it.
Quite surprised, I asked, “What’s this?” and he said, “That’s for putting Alex Jones on the air.” I said, “Wait, this is only an experiment; this might not last, depending on the feedback we receive.” He said, “Never mind; that you even put him on for one hour means that you DESERVE this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I swear to my Maker that this is a true, unembellished story.
We DID receive some calls of concern from listeners and even an advertiser or two, asking, “What’s happening with KSCO??!!”
The answer was, “the most exciting growth we have had — EVER — keep listening!
The response to Alex Jones was so dramatic and impressive that I decided to run him live on my smaller station, KOMY-AM 1340, from 9:00 am to noon weekdays, opposite Rush Limbaugh on the bigger station KSCO AND re-run Alex on KSCO weekday evenings from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, leading into Coast To Coast AM live with George Noory.
With the exception of Rush, Alex Jones, and George Noory, nearly all of our prime time KSCO programming is originally-produced, live and local — which means we have a LOT of talk hosts.
When a particular host (such as Alex Jones) is frequently quoted and becomes the subject of other hosts’ programming, you KNOW that host is “moving the needle” — and is special and rare.
I DON’T understand why Alex Jones has not (yet) been recognized by the radio broadcasting industry as the clear audience magnet that he is.
Any radio station that wishes to DOMINATE its market should definitely consider invoking one of radio’s best-kept secrets: a TRUE Nuclear Option: Alex Jones.
Michael L. Zwerling is owner of KSCO NewsTalk AM 1080 and KOMY-AM 1340 in the Monterey Bay area markets of Monterey, Salinas, Santa Cruz and San Jose, California. He can be emailed at email@example.com. Meet Michael L. Zwerling at Talkers Los Angeles 2013 on Thursday October 10.