Good ol' monolith Clear Channel is reporting higher radio earnings for the first time in a couple of years, and is attributing that fact to the success of their "Less Is More" strategy - that is, their radio stations are actually playing less commercials. And, umm, that's good. That's certainly part of terrestrial radio's strategy against the onslaught of satellite, and it's a smart idea that needs to be widely imitated, SOON. For instance: the 6 to 7 am hour on Curtis and Kuby's WABC 770 show has no commercials, which frees up the hosts quite a bit, gives the discussion some momentum, and makes for a more freewheeling and entertaining hour, if you find Curtis and Kuby entertaining (which I do, to an extent). Of course, the pair are campaigning hard to pick up some of Howard's former listeners - there are C&K billboards all over town stating "No Stern? No Problem" - so the show's low commercial "load" may not be part of a larger strategy, more of a "let's get listeners now, then drag in back all the ads" kinda thing. (WABC is owned by Disney, but is getting sold to Citadel; some folks at the NY Radio Message Board are hopeful the transfer will lead to improved programming at the station, but I wouldn't get my hopes up too high.)
Clear Channel owns 6 of New York's radio stations, including some of the most successful ones (4 of the city's top 10, according to this list), but I wish they owned WCBS or WINS, two stations that play so many commercials that they're unlistenable for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I'm sure those station's managers have research that shows that their listeners only tune in for short periods, usually to catch some traffic or weather or a couple of headlines. So the station thinks they have to stuff their hours with spots. But I'd argue they'd get lengthier "listens", and more loyal and upscale listeners, if they'd cut down on the ads in a significant way, and let their anchors have a bit of breathing room. I'd certainly listen, it'd be great to be able to listen to local radio news for a decent length of time; both stations have a local, sarcastic, tabloid NYC flavor that the chilly NPR types at WNYC lack.