Radio stations seem almost like an anachronism in this era of smartphones and Spotify, podcasts, and free, unsolicited U2 albums just popping up in your iTunes library whether you asked for it or not. Surprisingly, perhaps, they aren’t: More than 90% of Americans still listen to the radio, according to a Nielsen report from 2012, and even the company’s most recent report from last month says that the average 18-24 year old American spends more than ten hours a week listening to the radio, more time than they spend taking in any other form of media except live TV. That number is down a bit from the AARP set, which means that the digital/streaming/timeshifted/on-demand future may be coming, but it ain’t here yet.
Still, it’s a tough market. News 92 FM was Houston’s first all-news FM station, and it was a relatively short-lived experiment: It ran from 2011 until last Wednesday at 9 a.m., when a traffic report gave way to “Flawless,” a single from Beyoncé’s self-titled ambush release. And then never stopped playing Beyoncé songs. Only Beyoncé songs.
With that switch, 47 people who worked at News 92 FM were laid off, according to Maurice Bobb of MTV.com:
The changeover from news reports, traffic updates and weather conditions to the nonstop playlist of “Drunk in Love,” “Flawless” and other chart-toppers by Houston’s favorite daughter left 47 of News92′s employees without a job.
“This difficult decision is a result of sustained poor ratings performance and significant financial losses over the past three years despite the substantial financial and human resources we invested,” said Radio One in a statement on its website.
“Unfortunately, the market hasn’t shown a sustainable appetite for news radio, but each of you motivated us daily to produce a high-quality news program,” continued the statement. “Together, we made history.”
According to reports, all of the employees that were laid off were given severance packages.
Sustaining a local, all-news radio format is a tough challenge, and devoting four years to that task is admirable—we sympathize with and send our best to the 47 employees who were laid off.
In the meantime, the silver linging is that the hole is being filled by all the Beyoncé you can handle. At 5 o’clock, the station plans to make an announcement about what the future holds. It’s unclear if they’ll follow that up with “Halo”—or, perhaps, finally branch out into some Destiny’s Child.
(AP Photo/Michel Euler)