T Dog’s Think Tank: Clueless Cumulus


(Editor’s Note: Strong language in this piece. Reader discretion is advised. – T.H.)

As you know by now, Cumulus Media made a major executive shakeup this week by tossing longtime CEOs John and Lew Dickey out the door, and replacing them with former Reader Digest exec Mary Berner. The exits took place before the start of the National Association of Broadcasters’ radio show in Atlanta, Cumulus’ hometown.

Investors were fed up with the years and years of mismanagement by the duo, with a stagnant stock price and declining revenues. Hell, even a bag of Starburst is worth more than Cumulus stock these days, trading at 69 cents a share.

And you see the Cumulus disorganization right here in Chicago. Stories are well-known about WLS-FM’s shortcomings, with their outdated “less talk, more music” mantra from the 1980’s, refusing to let their personalities shine. WLUP held a bogus morning show contest and did it “The Chicago Way” so Mancow Mueller can “win”, while playing Def Leppard and Pink Floyd ten to fifteen times a day. And WLS-AM thinks its keys to success is hiring has-beens like Steve Dahl and Jonathan Brandmeier and pandering to an aging fanbase who refuse to move on. Jan Jeffries, who is on the same level of stupid as Jeff Zucker and Randy Michaels, ran WLS-FM into the ground under his watch, and is now ruining another station in Washington, D.C.

Outside of Chicago, there’s the legendary Scott Shannon, who jumped from Cumulus’ WPLJ-FM to rival WCBS-FM in New York as morning personality. And then there’s Cumulus severing relationships with Premiere Radio Networks and ABC News.

And to top it off, you have NASH-FM, an attempt to consolidate its country music stations under one brand name, whose results have been mixed, at best.

Not bad for a company who was formed just 17 years ago, and went right into debt from acquiring 460 radio stations.

But wait a minute, you ask. Isn’t radio – even those stations run by Cumulus – a success due to its record reach? Yes junior, radio remains one of the most reliable mediums to reach an audience, and does boast record listenership, a point pounded down over and over again by the radio trade groups. But that doesn’t mean all is well behind the scenes. It’s like the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Knicks losing a lot of games (forever it seems), but hordes of fans still show up. In other words, listeners still tune in despite horrors such as voice-tracking and 45 minutes of commercials an hour.

So what happens to Cumulus now? While Berner doesn’t have any radio experience, she can’t be any worse than the Dickhead brothers, who proved even with experience, you can still fuck up a good operation. As far as Chicago is concerned, changes are likely at both WLS-AM and WLS-FM. The former is bringing on Bulls and White Sox games next year as it transitions to a more mass appeal format. The latter could be flipping formats for the 182nd time, for all we know.

As for the two stations it operates under a local marketing agreement, WKQX continues to be successful with a format the 101.1 frequency never should have abandoned in the first place. Meanwhile, WLUP continues to suffer from Manshit’s presence. If WLUP disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, no one would give a shit. If Berner wants to start cleaning house, start with the fucking brain-dead idiots who run “The Loop”.

Given all that has transpired, one could wonder if John and Lew Dickey got what was coming to them for helping ruin a once-proud medium.

Revenge is a bitch.