THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE:If there was any doubt still left when the "Power 96.9" playlist started repeating on a five-hour loop Wednesday afternoon, it was all gone as of this morning at 10, when "Power" went away and WTKK flipped to a dance-heavy top-40 mix as "Nova 96.9." It's pretty clear now that the frequency is in heavy-duty stunt mode, and if yesterday's Greater Media press release is any indication, we'll be treated to daily flips until sometime next week, when we find out what's really in store for the frequency.
*Good morning and welcome to 2013!
There's one big story we're following this morning, of course, and it was the worst-kept secret in Boston radio over the holidays: at 10 AM, Greater Media will say goodbye to the talk format at WTKK (96.9) after just over 13 years.
10 AM UPDATE:After a farewell from Jim Braude and Marjorie Eagan and a few spots that apparently had to be burned off, 96.9 relaunched as "Boston's Power 96.9," launching with Rihanna's "Diamonds" and Rick Ross' "Dead Pineapples." A sign of a more urban lean for 96.9 compared to its top-40 competitors at Clear Channel and CBS Radio?
10:45 AM UPDATE:Here's Greater Media's statement, in its entirety: "Get ready for an exciting week of music on the air at 96.9 FM in Boston. Live and local, the new 96.9 promises to bring a fun new sound to the Boston community! Beginning today, 96.9 FM returns to music with Power 96.9, Boston’s Hip Hop and R&B station with more surprises to take place during the upcoming week. Stay tuned!"
Could the very, very urban sound (much harder than WJMN's rhythmic top-40) we're now hearing on "Power" be a stunt, perhaps one of several over the next few days?
EARLIER THIS MORNING: Unlike most flips lately, WTKK's hosts have had a chance to say goodbye as they've slowly slipped away from the station over the last few weeks. Doug Meehan's now out in Phoenix, doing TV at KPNX (Channel 12), Michael Graham did his last show last week, and if you're reading this as we're posting it on Tuesday morning, you're hearing Jim Braude and Marjorie Eagan (the last survivor from WTKK's original airstaff) doing a full-fledged farewell show.
As we tried to explain in the Globe story that ran on New Year's Day, what did WTKK in was the lack of that ineffable quality called "stationality." In a marketplace where WRKO (680) had three decades of brand-building as "THE Talk Station," as well as the name recognition of Howie Carr and Rush Limbaugh, and where WBZ (1030) enjoyed an even longer heritage as first the full-service and then the all-news voice of the market (even during its evening talk hours), and where WBUR (90.9) and WGBH (89.7) pull a big chunk of potential talk listeners away to the noncommercial band...where was WTKK?
Was it the hard-edged conservative voice of Graham in the afternoon? The more moderate, full-service approach of Eagan and Braude? The lifestyle talk of the Phantom Gourmet? The all-news simulcasts of NECN that filled the first part of morning drive?
In recent years, WTKK appeared to struggle to answer that question, and without a clear answer, simply being on one of the best FM signals in town wasn't enough, especially after WRKO picked up a new burst of steam when the failure of Clear Channel's WXKS (1200) last summer sent Rush Limbaugh back to 680. ("Talk 1200," it could be argued, had plenty of "stationality," but a middling signal and relative lack of promotion wasn't enough to pull listeners away from its very direct competition at WRKO.)
Will some of WTKK's talent appear elsewhere on the Boston dial? Mornings remain a weak spot at WRKO even after the station jettisoned Tom Finneran last year, and it's easy to imagine Eagan and Braude landing there at some point. It's also not hard to imagine Graham's red-meat conservative talk showing up on 680.
Meanwhile on WRKO, we have to imagine that Howie Carr, for all his bluster in his Heraldcolumn about WTKK's failure, can't be very happy today: with WTKK now out of the talk business, whatever dreams Howie's long harbored of a move to the FM dial suddenly seem very much out of reach. Clear Channel has already tried talk with WXKS and backed away, Greater Media's WTKK flip likely means that company won't be talking in Boston again, and CBS Radio is (and should be) content with its own spoken-word behemoths, WBZ and "Sports Hub" WBZ-FM (98.5), neither of which is a logical home for Carr.
*So what happens next for 96.9? We'll be listening - and updating this piece - at 10, but logic (and Lance Venta's sniffing-out of domain registrations at RadioInsight.com) would strongly seem to point to something aimed at a much younger and more urban audience. While there's been no confirmation yet, the rumor mill is loudly putting former WJMN/Kiss 108 programmer "Cadillac Jack" McCartney at Greater Media after his late-2012 departure from Clear Channel - and that seems likely to put 96.9 in the same hunt for younger listeners as Jam'n, Kiss and CBS Radio's "Amp 103.3."