North East RadioWatch: November 6, 2000

WILD's New Owner, And Some Changes at NERW

by Scott Fybush

And now, the moment I've been waiting for has arrived.

To steal from Larry Lujack's classic format-change moment on Chicago's WCFL a quarter-century or so ago -- "Mr. Fybush's Address to the American People":

First, a bit of history. This column began somewhere around 1994 (the earliest versions are lost, alas) as "New England Radio Watch," an occasional contribution to the late Bill Pfeiffer's Airwaves/ newsgroup. By 1996, it was appearing more or less every week. In 1997, NERW Central relocated to Rochester, the acronym changed to "NorthEast Radio Watch," and the column began appearing on a regular schedule.

One thing never changed, though: NERW was a sideline, indirectly subsidized by my full-time work as a news writer at WBZ radio, then later as a reporter at R News here in Rochester.

But what started as a committment of just an hour or two a week has ballooned. Keeping up with the FCC, the CRTC, several hundred e-mails a week, innumerable message boards, and a big heaping pile of trade magazines and club bulletins now keeps me occupied for 15-20 hours each week, and that's not counting the time spent on the road chasing down new IDs and format changes.

Meanwhile, the daily grind of broadcast journalism, so much fun at first, was looking less appealing by the hour. There's an entire column or three to be written about the state of the radio and television news business in America's medium markets today, and some week soon I'll write those columns.

In the meantime, suffice it to say I've been looking for new professional challenges for the past year or so. Those of you who read Radio World know that I've been a regular contributor to that publication and its siblings since last fall. Writing about the broadcast business, engineering, programming, and history has been delightful, and I've been looking for a way to do more. The final pieces fell into place over the summer with some changes in Mrs. NERW's professional life that made it possible for me to try something I've been wanting to do for a while.

So, here's the announcement: As of the end of business this Thursday (Nov. 9), I'll be my own employer, pursuing a new life as a freelance writer.

I'll now pause for questions:

"What does this mean for NERW?" Thanks for asking. Here's how I see things developing:

On the one hand, I'll now have more time to devote to NERW each week. That means more content, more original stories, and a more strict adherence to the publication schedule (thrown out of whack this week by the incredible amount of my time being absorbed by covering the last gasps of the New York Senate race -- not that I'm complaining!)

On the other hand, I'll no longer have the financial stability that came from years of indirect subsidies to this column from Westinghouse (later CBS) and Time Warner (soon to be AOL, I suppose). That means that I'm forced to do something I've never wanted to contemplate: trying to find a way to make some money off this column, at least enough to cover my costs in producing it each week.

In so doing, I'm guided by some examples of what not to do. Without naming names (or URLs), we've seen the station-history Web sites that seemed to be more interested in selling CDs than anything else, and the industry news sites that have tried, and failed, to support themselves through ad revenue and/or subscriptions.

I don't want NERW to turn into a weekly plea for cash. I don't want to deal with collecting tiny weekly fees, administering passwords, and all the other hassles that would go with converting NERW to a subscription-based system -- and in any case, I want NERW to continue to be available to everyone who wants to read it. It's thanks to all of you out there who send me newspaper articles, Web links, insider gossip, and questions that NERW has become as comprehensive as it is today.

Instead, I'm trying two things:

First, I'm building a new Web site. Some of you may have already seen the prototypes. If you haven't, come visit later this week when it's more polished and ready for prime time. In addition to serving as a billboard for my new freelance business, will become the new home for immediate access to NERW upon publication. If you now read NERW via the mailing list, you'll continue to receive NERW headlines each week, with a pointer to the new Web site, which will now include photos, graphics, and perhaps some audio as well. By putting NERW on a commercial Web site, I'm hoping to be able to offer banner ad opportunities. No "punch the monkey and win," mind you...but job openings, stations for sale, and equipment vendors interested in reaching the thousands of you in the Northeast radio community who depend on the information this column brings you each week. Interested in a charter spot on the page? E-mail me...

[The NERW archives, as well as station histories, dial pages, tower photos, historical articles, and much more, will continue to be found at the Boston/Upstate New York Radio Archives. This column would not exist in its present form without all the help provided by Archives creator Garrett Wollman, and I'm hoping to be able to provide much more new material for the Archives in the months to come. Were the Archives not hosted at a non-commercial site, these new weekly NERW Web postings would be there as well. But I digress...]

Second, I'm making an appeal to you, my readers. If you've found NERW to be of value to you over the past six years, and if you're financially able to do so, I hope you'll consider making a donation to help ensure my ability to continue generating this column each week. Because this mailing list is hosted at a non-commercial site, I'll leave it at that -- albeit with a strong suggestion to visit later this week or next to learn more about how you can help make sure NERW is around for a long time to come. (That applies double to anyone who might have freelance work for yr. humble editor...)

If I leave you with just one thought about what happens next, let it be this: I'm excited about my future, personally and professionally. How many people, after all, can say they're truly doing what they love? I've been fortunate to get to know so many of you, from Timmins to Stamford and from Bar Harbor to Dunkirk (to Honolulu!), and to share in the enthusiasm and passion so many still share for this wonderful medium of broadcasting. I'm hoping this next move in my life means I can keep sharing NERW with all of you for many years to come. Wish me luck, won't you?

And with that, the words I know some of you were afraid might not be here this time:

See you next week -- here and on!

As of market close, November 3, 2000
NERW's Northeast Television Index 94.23

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