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Portland's Media Cyclone -- Revisited

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Disclosure: Blazers Edge Head Honcho Dave is a regular contributor to 95.5FM The Game's afternoon programming.  I did not consult with him or discuss this column with him prior to writing it.  This is particularly impressive because I consult with him on a near daily basis (well past the point of annoyance) about many topics, including, of late, my dwindling sanity.

It has been nearly 2 months since my last major post on the Portland Sports media scene, "Portland's Media Cyclone."   If you missed it (or are new around these parts), here's a quick synopsis of the post's main points:

1. 95.5 The Game has launched, offering a competitor to 1080 The Fan.
2. 1080 needs to attack its new competitor while it has the chance, making clear its competitive advantages to its listeners or risk losing them.
3. The Portland Tribune has cut down to a single print issue a week and is moving its content online.
4. The Tribune needs a new website design.

Well, It's been two months and things are moving quickly.  Very quickly. 

Radio

Check out this insightful article from Mr. Eggers discussing the emerging battle between The Fan and The Game.  While both sides start off playing nice, The Game's program director James Derby, finally, casts some stones at his competition.

"I think the city can support two" sports talk stations, he says. "That being said, we want to be the one. If the other station goes out of business, they go out of business.  "We want to be the destination for the sports listener. We’re putting out a better product than The Fan, and listeners are finding that out."

Halfway through that quote I started picturing a youtube video with a skateboarder (like this one).  There goes The Fan, slowing meandering down the road and then, when you reach the part where Derby goes "If the other station goes out of business," it loses its balance, starts wobbling and then, in unviewable horror,  genatilia is being sacrificed to the concrete. 

What a bloodbath.  I applaud and admire Mr. Derby's confident (cocky?) stance. Reminds me a little bit of... Jerryd Bayless.  But that's one of the perks when you are the better-funded, better-connected (Blazers, Ducks, etc.) station with a better signal and, it would appear, a better finger on the pulse of the market (ie. no Mariners).  You get to pop off quotes about your competitor going out of business and sound reasonable doing so.

As for The Fan, it remains unclear exactly what their gameplan is. On the airwaves their new tagline (I'm paraphrasing) "Independent Sports Radio... with ESPN" is so contradictory that it's not worth analyzing.  In the article, Erin Hubert, Entercom Radio's Portland VP, leads with the (legit) record ratings drawn by Isaac and Big Suke.  Suke himself states,

"Our (Arbitron) numbers are better than anybody who’s ever been at this station," Scukanec says. "It’s not even close. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve done. We’ve all built this thing. It’s not just me and Isaac. Over the last five years, I feel like all of us have built it from a little engine that could to the No. 2 station for men, period, in Portland (behind KGON). We beat everyone in our demographics. We work hard and do a good show."

And that may be true.  But 3 hours of drive time radio doesn't make a radio station, at least not when you are competing heads up in a relatively small market against an opponent like 95.5.  Unless the game plan is to attach radio transponders to Isaac and Big Suke and turn the station into an all-day Truman Show style marathon (note: please do not do this).  Again, The Fan seems devoid of strategic solutions and, worse, comes across like it has lost the urge to put up a fight.

Worse yet, while the Arbitron numbers are not yet in, a rough estimate of the two stations' website traffic already shows The Game is pulling equal numbers to The Fan, in its first month of existence no less. (If anyone has more exact numbers, please pass them along.)  Word of mouth, and common sense, would indicate that the forthcoming arbitron numbers should show similar results. 

What does that mean?  Without a big lead in the afternoon subsidizing its Arbitron ratings (a paltry 1.7 overall in Winter 2008, according to arbitron.com), The Fan is going to be seriously hurting once the fall and winter sports seasons come along and listerners flock to The Game for the Blazers/Ducks/etc.. 

To make a long story short: there might not be too many more of these updates to pass along in the future.

Postscript: Ironically, the downfall of The Fan might not actually have much to do with The Game at all.  Don't believe me? Check out the last few years of Entercom's stock price; you could (quite easily) skateboard down it.  Trading at roughly 30 as recently as Q1 2007, it now hovers like a dead butterfly at less than 7.  Say goodnight.

Internet

Quick quiz: from where did I pull the article discussed above?  That's right, Portland Tribune dot com.  Although my last post on sports media urged (demanded?) the Tribune to overhaul their website, I am now ready to backtrack from that slighly. 

Why, you ask? Because of the abundance of new content they are hoisting up every day.  When announcing that it was dropping to 1 print issue a week, the Tribune promised to step its web content game up, and it has in a big time way.  And they've got a steep traffic bump to show for it!  Congratulations to the Trib are in order.

One last note... I hinted in my previous post that the Portland Mercury would be breaking out a new website design.  They just did this week.  I like it. Go take a look. And while we are on the topic of the Mercury, Ezra Caraeff dug up the audio of a Damon Stoudamire/Bonzi Wellls rap called Can I Get A Headband

That song alone is enough to put a radio station out of business.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)