You Don't Know "Jack"

On Friday afternoon, WCBS-FM in New York, home of legendary DJ Cousin Brucie, fired all of its on-air talent and dumped the "oldies" format in favor of the latest flavor in radio programming, known as "Jack" radio (I've also seen and heard it around the country called Ben radio and Dave radio--whatever radio consultant cooked up the naming idea deserves a special place in hell).

The idea is to replicate your iPod on shuffle. The station expands the playlist from about 400-500 songs to 1,200, goes from one format to having elements of about 10 formats, cuts down the chatter--the new Jack-FM has no DJs--and hopes to fend off you turning off your car radio in favor of whatever podcast you just downloaded.

It's an interesting strategy, obviously meant to compete not only with iPod but also with satellite radio.

Infinity Broadcasting, owners of WCBS-FM, has lately been very progressive (for radio) in trying to keep itself relevant, but this move appears doomed to failure already. By alienating basically 100% of the old CBS Oldies audience, the new Jack-FM is starting from a platform of zero fans. Wouldn't it have made more sense to swap in the format on a station where the fan base would stay and it could be expanded? Of course, the argument about CBS-FM and change is that the station wasn't able to woo attractive advertisers seeking the young demographic. The siren song of youth crashes yet another ship against the rocks.

I listened to Jack for a couple of hours yesterday, and it was okay, but if I was supposed to be getting the feeling of listening to someone's iPod, it was probably the iPod of a friend with incredibly obvious, middle-of-the-road taste. It did inspire an idea, though (in addition to this post).

If commercial FM radio really wants to become relevant again, maybe it needs to take a page out of its past as well as a page from what AM did 20 years ago when it faced extinction because of FM. Personality. Rush Limbaugh and all the other talkers out there revived AM radio. Finding and cultivating a new generation of personality jocks, the next Cousin Brucie (and Don Imus, Wolfman Jack, Frankie Crocker, etc), and firing the program directors with their rigid playlists and letting the DJs play what they want, when they want, may be the only way to create a market that doesn't suffer when compared to listening just to what you like or that's rigidly formatted by genre.

Not celebrity DJs like XM and Sirius are hiring, but real people who love music, have eclectic taste and have the ability to find and break new bands and songs, the way DJs used to. DJing as a hobby and as a profession is more popular than ever. You see DJs at hip restaurants and lounges, not just dance clubs and bar mitzvahs. Why aren't those people on the radio becoming big stars? Radio is an intimate medium. That person talking to you can become a friend, a part of the family. Why replace that with a borg spinning Steve Miller CDs?

Maybe it's crazy, but I've met Jack (and Ben and Dave) and he's no wolfman. Time for radio execs to hit shuffle again.

Add New Comment

75 Comments

  • andy phillips

    Well, I was upset with CBS-FM for dumping the oldies at first...then I listened to Jack...and I actually liked the music mix, and the fact that it wasnt the same 200 songs over & over...and a lot of the older stuff in that mix was also played during the station's time as Oldies 101...now I hear that the oldies are returning, and all I can say is that they'd better be able to measure up to what they were when they had all the legendary personalities back then or this won't work any better...CBS owns 102.7, the former WNEW-FM...how about putting Jack THERE instead (I mentioned that in my previous post way back when the format change happened)? That station's been swimming in quicksand ever since they lost their way a number of years ago...if they can't bring back the absolutely great rock format they once had, Jack would at least put Fresh (formerly Blink) FM out of its misery and the people who like the variety Jack's offered would still have a place to enjoy it (or there's always the option of continuing it online)...for now I guess I'll tune into 92.5 Jack FM, where they're doing just fine in Toronto! We can have both formats if the powers that be are willing to make it so...

  • tom moulton

    Its hard to imagine a day in New York without hearing I Only Have Eyes For You, Up On The Roof, On Broadway and There's A Moon Out tonight to name a few.

  • tony the doorman

    I think jack radio is bad and yes i mean bad not good. the music sucks it is not the same i want my oldies BACK like so many other people. wcbs fm was the oldies station. Nobody TOPS COUSIN BRUCIE NOW THAT WAS THE MAN. I READ THAT THE OLDIES WILL BE BACK ON CBS FM I DO HOPE SO.UNTIL THEN I'LL NEVER LISTEN TO THIS STATION. O BY THE WAY IT IS TRUE WHEN THEY SAY YOU DON'T KNOW JACK,BECAUSE JACK DON'T KNO S--T.

  • mark m

    hello everyone ; it's nice too say jack has the fact!!! i travel 2 1/2 hours to chicago ill to work . sorry to say no radio can come close too!!! 104.3 fm called jack, they seem to play tunes that i grew up with ,where all the rest still have thier head's in the sand box!! so jack in the box keep crank'ng the tune's intill the radio pop. gotta lov it

  • Jonathon Field

    This is a shame. Even at my station (KFSX FM - Fresno, CA) we know what an important example of great radio WCBS-FM is (was). I can't imagine that this is going to work for very long. People have brains, you know, and they don't like to be "jacked" around. Say a prayer for radio folks...

  • bob

    jack music sucks
    no consideration for anyone, totaly eliminating oldies was not a good Idea,if they had compromised instead of just destroying it,
    one way could be to dedicate one night and one day during the week could have been much better,
    no doubt there are many ways you can help the oldies audiance, I guess that would be asking to much from people who put the $ sign as more important.
    what goes around will come around I guess

    bob

  • Frank

    I'm not approaching my 60s, but I grew up listening to WCBS.FM 101.1. I know other people my age (30) who listened to WCBS.FM

    I loved the DJs and the music. Had it not been for the oldies format, I would have never been exposed to it, and I would have no knowledge of the artists and music that subsequent musicians grew up listenting to and in whom many found the inspiration to play music. I miss Don K. Reed's Doo Wopp Shop. Sunday nights have not been the same. I hope he considers joining satellite radio. There are people who enjoy listening to oldies stations, no matter what age group.

  • john aprea

    I TRAVEL TO NEW YORK CITY 4 TIMES A YEAR, THE FIRST THING I DID WHEN I RENT A CAR WAS TO PRESET THE RADIO TO CBS FM. ABOUT A YEAR AGO WHEN I TRAVELED TO NEW YORK, I WAS SHOCKED WHEN I CHOSE MY CHANNEL OF CHOICE, TO MY SURPRISE CBS FM WAS GONE.IT WAS A SAD DAY. JACK FM WHAT CRAP!!!. I GREW UP IN NEW YORK CITY, CBSFM, WPLJ,WNEWFM,ALL WERE THE CHANNELS WE ALL LISTEN TO .GREAT-GREAT MUSIC, GREAT OLDIES, I PURCHASED XM IN ONE CAR AND SERIUS IN MY OTHER CAR.I MISS DON K REED, HARRY HARRISON,BOB SHANEN,BUT I CAN STILL LISTEN TO COUSIN BRUCE AND SOME OTHER GREAT DJ THAT SOME OF US GREW UP WITH, BUT IT'S NOT THE SAME CORPORATE AMERICA MAY CALL IT PROGRESS I CALL IT JUNK. THE MUSIC THATS PLAYED TODAY ISN'T MUSIC IT DOESNT HAVE ANY MEANING.

  • Wayne Powers

    Well, what now!!! Where do we go to recapture
    those memories of our youth? Memories of all
    my favorite oldies,and my favorite disc-Jockeys
    are now all ruined because of "Jack" radio!!!
    The Heart Of Rock N' Roll, and his Moonlight
    Memories are something that will be etched in
    my heart and mind forever. Sunday nights i used
    to live for,just to listen to norman knight.
    Cousin Brucey,and the love hour 1/2 hr. Bill
    Brown and the "Brown Bag" . What memories!!!

  • Jon

    This diatribe is long overdue and the CBS FM Oldies Purge is ancient news, however the anger remains fresh, I Effin deplore JACK and this whole craPod format festering the airwaves, I pray every night that the enduring lousy ratings hasten the total and complete demise of JACK and all his friends in the cities around the Nation, Why Infinity Broadcasting so biased and prejudiced against the American Disc Jockey and a format that has enjoys awesome ratings from 1972 to June 3, 2005, Cousin Brucie, Harry Harrison, Don K.Reed, Norm N, Nite and all the rest are among the many that made CBS FM a pleasure to listen to, True, Times must change and all things must pass, But Damn, Did the heavies in their fancy suits at the Infinity corparate offices need to exercise such a cruel, abrupt and uncaring demeanor toward the jocks, program director and worst of all, We, the listeners of 101.1 who provided the unabashed great ratings for 33 years?? I wish you all a lot of luck, you'll need it when Infinity lands in the potty and Chapter 11 becomes the only viable option to stay in business, REMEMBER: No deed, Whether it's Good or Bad shall not go unrewarded, The hurtful Arbitron ratings being experienced on the part of 101.1 JACK FM is the Reward to Infinity. Thank you:)

  • David Pristupa

    Radio has entered a new era. Once satellite radio and stations accessible on the internet
    become more accessible on portable wireless units
    radio stations will have to reinvent them selves
    to be relevent and viable.
    The menu of programming in many major markets
    doesn't reflect the interests of the community.
    Stations will have to focus on local issues to be
    relevant. The new media offers a better selection
    of music and programming. If this sound too radical you have to remember there are a lot of people that remember listening on Crystal sets.
    The whole entertainment has had abrupt change
    and shake-up as people search for better choices
    in CyberSpace.

  • Sam

    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!
    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!
    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!
    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!
    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!
    JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!JACK SUCKS!

  • Hilary Lee Fergenson

    Attention all oldies listeners! For those of you who are as disappointed and upset as I am about the change in format to Jack F.M., have I got news for you! Stamford, Connecticut is very close to the New York area, and some of you might be as fortunate as I am to tune your radios to Stamford's oldies station, WKHL Kool 96.7 F.M. You can also learn more about this station by surfing the Internet. The reason why this golden oldies station still exists is probably because it is privately owned instead of being part of Infinity Broadcasting. Kool 96.7 still has the friendly on-air personality that we all remember hearing on 101.1 WCBS FM. Instead of badmouthing somebody like Rich who appreciates Jack FM, I strongly recommend that you all find your own pleasures by simply giving this station a try!

  • Don Jennett

    You'll all be happy to know that when WCBS-FM flipped to "Jack," it was the 9th rated station in the New York market. Well, boys and girls, the latest numbers are out, and WCBS is now #22. To put it into further perspective, it is the LOWEST-RATED FM in New York. Not as darstic, but still plummeting, is WJMK-FM in Chicago, which flipped the same week as 'CBS-FM.

    Bravo, Jack. It only took you four months.

    As David Lidsky suggested back in June, the only "Jack" in the Infinity chain doing significantly BETTER than before is KCBS-FM in Los Angeles. But pre-Jack, the station was known as "Arrow 93," a classic rock-type format. At least there was a base audience there for "Jack."

    Reference: Here are the last five books for WCBS and WJMK. The figure in the center represents audience share when both stations were Jacked:

    WCBS-FM 3.6 3.5 3.4 3.0 1.5

    WJMK-FM 3.0 2.6 2.9 2.6 2.3

  • Dr.Pooper

    These stupid csckrs NEVER learn, They say JACK FM is a "success", The sh*ttiest format around & These cesspools say it's a success, Where Bellevue????????????????, Joel Hollander's future home??????????????.

  • JACK FM is excrement

    And Chad Brown is also a socialist too, As well as his pet boytoys of JACK*** FM.

  • Truth

    JACK FM has LITERALLY made fun of famous ALS cripple Stephen Hawking, Buy saying "It's Time To Change My Batteries To JACK FM" & Made light of September 11th by calling it "Jack Attack"..............What a bunch of freaking cowards. And idiots like Rich love this sh*t station.

  • F JACK FM

    Blame that TOTAL AHOLE & putz puller for his c-to-c partners Cadillac Jackoff Garrett & Howard Cogan for this socialist swill, And JACK FM is for dope fiends, child molestors, child porn freaks, brain-dead failures, terrorist sympathizers (especially with their "Jack Attack" stunt to irreverently commemorate September 11th), godless atheists, Michael Swift-Style homosexuals (as opposed to the more mainstream voluntary type) & Other rejects to society.......