By Jay Clemons, SI.com
I must tip my hat to the geniuses at AM 1340 sports radio in Atlanta, the new all-sports talk outfit in the South's largest market. The station's cutting-edge executives (amazingly the same ones who also operate the Über-popular 680 The Fan in Atlanta) have brilliantly devised a way to increase advertising revenues ten-fold, without paying one red cent for any extra on-campus, on-air talent or pesky behind-the-scenes staffers.
How'd they do it? Well, for starters, the station recently joined forces with Fox Sports Radio's syndicated arm of 'round-the-clock programming on weekdays -- coupled with rights to Jim Rome's highly rated program (on the Premiere Radio Network) from noon to 3 p.m. (This is a common tactic for minimalistic stations who are neither smart enough nor rich enough to enhance their brand through original local programming.)
But here's where AM 1340, aka The Fan 2, really separates itself from the pack: On weekends, the station -- presumably in a move to reap untold fortunes from clueless advertisers who naively pay invoices without incident -- has pioneered the concept of running radio spots non-stop for hours on end, without one word of actual sports discussion.
Talk about innovation!
The Longest 5,280 Yards Of My Life
On Saturday afternoon (July 5), I went for a brisk three-mile jog through Atlanta's neighborhood streets with portable radio in tow. My listening options in the sports realm were limited to 1) Bland MLB game on ESPN radio 2) An infomercial for Superclubs resorts on Sports Byline radio ... and 3) AM 1340/Fox Sports radio. Regrettably, I chose option #3.
During this 40-minute session of jogging/uphill wind sprints, from approximately 4:30 to 5:10 p.m. (EST), I was appalled to hear an endless loop of spots touting 1) AM 1340's triumphant debut in Atlanta (oh the irony!) 2) a kennel/obedience school for unruly pets 3) a PSA against drinking and driving, starring Aerosmith frontmen Steven Tyler and Joe Perry 4) a local Dodge dealership "rescuing us" from high gas prices and 5) the virtues of adopting a teen foster child (a noble cause -- even on the commercial's 1,147th airing).
The awful dance just went on and on and on and on ... 40 minutes of uninterrupted commercials -- without the hint of an apology from someone at the station. This was just the tip of the iceberg, though. As of 4:30 a.m. the next day -- 12 HOURS LATER -- the neverending loop of commercial spots was, uh ... neverending!
The Method To Their, Um, Madness
At first blush, I was steaming-mad at 1340's executives for wasting 40 minutes of my precious workout time. I mean, don't they know that most radio-toting joggers must be properly engaged (read: distracted) by a station's content to complete a run? How could they be so blind to my sensory needs during cardio time?
But then, in a moment of clarity, I began to understand 1340's true marketing wizardry: This whole ruse is, in actuality, a contest, as in "Who'll Be The First Loyal Listener to Stop Our 12-Hour Marathon of Nothing But Commercials?" (Can you believe I monitored this entire window of talk-free, commercial-heavy radio? ... LOSER!)
So, it comes down to this. The execs at 1340 should consider this blog as my official entry into the contest -- if it truly exists. But it has to, right? After all, what right-minded program director could allow a station to go berserk for 12 hours (and counting), without taking action?
I know of none -- I think.
(Disclaimer: This writer's sometimes-confounding viewpoints do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sports Illustrated, SI.com or any other Time, Inc. property. This blog is merely a personal diary of the sporting universe.)