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Thread: State radio newsnets in trouble? Nebraska News Network closing

  1. #1

    State radio newsnets in trouble? Nebraska News Network closing

    Is the business model for statewide radio news networks in trouble?

    It isn't a total surprise that after the announcement of the Pennsylvania state radio network closing (and subsequent takeover by new ownership) that we'd hear about another example.

    But I didn't expect it to come from close to home. One of my cohorts from my days in Learfield's old Des Moines traffic operation at RadioIowa posted on his Facebook page yesterday that he voiced his last newscast for Learfield's Nebraska News Network. RadioIowa was the incubator for NNN some fifteen years ago and it eventually morphed into its own entity, although its morning newscasts were still produced from the mother-ship at RadioIowa.

    Supposedly, Learfield was still turning a profit with NNN but the trend-line was down, so they pulled the plug.

    Learfield over the years has changed its focus over the years from statewide news and farm networks to the much more lucrative sports broadcasting and marketing business. Clyde Lear, I think, would have kept NNN going in the old days if it were possible. But he sold his empire to his lieutenants some years ago and Learfield is a much larger entity today.

    Learfield execs probably decided NNN wasn't worth the time and trouble to shop it to a buyer, although one surfaced for the Pennsylvania newsnet.

    Is this endemic of a larger trend where journalism has become harder to monetize, or is this more of a case where the corporate owner has changed focus away from its news product?
    Last edited by joebtsflk1; 02-09-2019 at 03:08 PM.

  2. #2
    The PA service was run out of non-commercial station WITF in Harrisburg. Nebraska was a commercial operation. The clients for both of these are mostly small AM stations, and we all know the audience for them is getting smaller, so it's harder to make money. I agree that its endemic of journalism, but also endemic of small AM stations. It's obviously time for states to reassess how these things will be paid for. It might be a better fit for public broadcasters, who have FM outlets and can raise money from various foundations.

  3. #3
    Learfield also closed the South Carolina Radio Network the same time it closed the Nebraska network -- at the end of January. It happens those closures were quickly undertaken after Learfield's merger with IMG College became final. I can't help but think these events are all related.

    I do think the business model of these state news networks is shaky. There aren't that many companies who operate dozens of locations across a state in the first place. Even if they do, they probably aren't super enthusiastic about reaching listeners in Cozad, Nebraska on KAMI-AM/K224FL. So maybe it's more effective for them to advertise just on the stations in markets they really want than to buy a network with a bunch of "waste".

    To some extent, that has always been true. But the contraction of these smaller towns, combed with consolidation among retailers, has made advertising less important. Cozad, NE is smaller now than it was in 1970. It appears to have a Dollar General, a Tractor Supply Co., an independent pharmacy, and an independent grocery. Add in supporting businesses for the ag industry, a few cafes and a few hotels, and that's about it for local commerce.
    "Its music what makes a radio station, and at Live FM, we play the last music around."
    After receiving that copy, I quit the VO industry.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by PTBoardOp94 View Post
    Learfield also closed the South Carolina Radio Network the same time it closed the Nebraska network -- at the end of January. It happens those closures were quickly undertaken after Learfield's merger with IMG College became final. I can't help but think these events are all related.
    Dallas based Learfield is a much different company today than 15 years ago when it was still in Jefferson City. I knew collegiate sports broadcasting and marketing was its primary focus today, but didn't realize until visiting their website today how big it's become. "News/Ag" seems almost an afterthought on the Learfield home page, a far cry from its beginnings. Sports is clearly where they make their money and see their mission.

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by joebtsflk1 View Post
    Nebraska Network take two:
    That's interesting. Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes.

    I was amazed when I saw this guy running an LPTV station in Michigan was looking to start a national news network. He just launched it a few weeks ago. He started it with a GoFundMe page.

  7. #7
    Started researching the ownership of a few of the statewide radio networks in the midwest. Interesting tidbit: Saga sold their networks in Minnesota and Michigan to Learfield in 2014. Two years later, Learfield shut down the Michigan network.

    To be fair, both state nets came with a lot of university sports distribution, which is really the business Learfield is about today.

    I'd think Michigan would have been a safer bet to have continued with a news network than Nebraska, though.

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