Updated 7:20pm - UTICA-ROME -- After a full weekend of saying goodbye to Kiss FM (WSKS/WSKU), the station is back to normal -- with a new morning show host -- much to the relief of loyal listeners who started calling to vent their frustrations after a fake launch of "Beautiful Music" hit the air this morning.
We didn't want to pass judgement too soon, but we had a feeling it was a stunt to begin with -- after all, why would the solo station in a popular format suddenly end? We felt a little more confident in our suspicions when new morning host Eric Thomas started calling the "beautiful music" things like "nifty music" and "Whatever FM." (Which, by the way, we did think was funny, though our original article was written in a hurry and apparently came off as a criticism. Our apologies.)
The stunting became more apparent after about an hour, when Thomas ditched beautiful music to play Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" and other classic rock selections. He eventually hinted that "we'll have something in place" by 10:00 am. In the meantime, listeners called to express their frustration with what they thought was the end of Top 40 radio in the Utica-Rome market.
Updated 7:20pm: Despite the gag's growing obviousness, the Utica Observer-Dispatch took the bait hook, line and sinker, publishing an article on its website by 8:00am, declaring Beautiful Music had taken over. The front page link to that article was since removed, but the article itself remains online as of 7:15pm. (Thanks to Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch for finding that link.)
Aside from Thomas, who will also serve as webmaster, the station announced some other changes to its lineup. Promotions director Jesse Jordan, who had been filling in on mornings since mid-March, returns to middays, remarking, "I can’t wait to sleep in again."
Program director Shaun Andrews will return to his afternoon slot -- and expressed his own relief with getting back to business as usual: "After two hours of playing Sinatra, some 'Stairway,' Gloria Estefan and The Proclaimers, I’ve come to realize it all pales in comparison to the artistic integrity of T-Pain."
And finally, a promotion for nighttime jock "Intern Dave" - the station adds promotions and production duties to his airshift. As announced previously, all other Kiss-FM air talent have retained their positions.
We don't normally get into opinions, but overall, a very clever gag, and we'll give the station credit for generating plenty of attention to welcome its new morning host. We can't recall a prank this big in the market since Bill Keeler tricked the local news media into reporting former mayor Ed Hanna had resigned in the 90s... causing the media to be extra cautious when the Hanna really did resign in 2000.
Technically "nobody" was right in predicting the "new format" since we never had this outcome in our weekend poll -- but 35% of you chose the closest answer, by guessing the core musical format wouldn't change at all. Another 5% were correct for the hour or so of Beautiful Music (a choice we threw in there as a joke, not actually expecting it to happen, even for just an hour). Here's the full breakdown of the poll results:
- WKTV: Just a publicity stunt - KISS FM remains on air despite weekend claims
- Utica O-D: Kiss FM signs off, replaced by 'Beautiful Music' (link to article since removed from OD's front page, but article still remains as of 7:15pm... and in case they remove it: screenshot)
A great stunt to welcome the new morning guy/show. Wonder if the misleading information on the news over the weekend about going off the air, etc is OK with Arbitron.
it was just a pr stunt just so the new guy can be on the air kiss fm aint goin no place only shuns show from 6am till 10 cause there a new guy in town in his place witch i dont like shaun was waybetter then this guy
I don't agree that a radio station's promotion should be at the expense of a televisions station's reputation.
WKTV aired a news story that was full of outright deception. Their job is to report the news using accurate, factual information. . To air what was said about the economy and music fees was totally misleading.. I think Roser owes an apology to both WKTV viewers and his radio audience on this poorly conceived stunt. If WKTV reported that a change is coming,, thats fine, but if you go back and review the video, you'll find more deception than Clintons's affair with Lewinski, or Pelosis' knowledge of waterboarding. How can we trust television or radio that knowlingly broadcasts this type of baloney? Roser should have known better, and WKTV should have asked more questions!
You are correct it is deception. What did you think the less than professional people at WKTV would report? Kiss ownership also owns their ad agency that provides WKTV with a lot of business. WKTV would never think of questioning anything that is asked of them by KISS ownership fearing they might lose some advertising dollars.
WKTV reported the station as "Going Off The Air" This trick has been done many times across the country, but in most cases it isn't reported as a down right lie. IF it weren't presented as misleading, none of this would have received all of the attention. It is fine to do radio stunts similar to this, but don't flat out lie just to try and grab more ratings.
@fitnesscenter - Why didn't WKTV or the O-D ask more questions earlier? Having formerly worked for TV news operations in Utica and Syracuse, I can say it wouldn't be fair to blame WKTV. Journalists can only ask so many questions before they hit a dead end. When you have "the facts" in writing on an official press release, and again on videotape from the only people qualified to speak about the topic (and this applies to any news story, not just this one), your hands are tied. You can only report on the information you're given.
Evil deception or really clever strategy? Up for interpretation. As you may have noticed, WKTV took it in stride, running a follow-up story today about the prank. But the O-D, which originally published a serious report online about the "Beautiful Music" format (thanks to Scott Fybush for catching it), later pulled that report from the web, and never replaced it with any other correction or follow-up. As the saying goes, it doesn't matter if it's good publicity or bad publicity -- it's still publicity.
If this publicity was cleverly conceived, it certainly backfired by the comments posted on WKTV's website. Most of the people sound furious about the deception. And now the newspaper looks like they were fooled into believing the story was true. How sad. The comments posted on WKTV clearly point to the fact that Kiss-FM linked the bad economy to the reason for "going off the air", or having trouble paying music fees or the other baloney that the Program Director and announcer sat there in front of the camera and said with a straight face. You can't tell me they didn't know the real story. And if the people at WKTV didn't have enough broadcast sense to smell a fish on this, I feel story for them. Publicity is one thing, but a news story is serious business. How can the public trust a news source when a couple of days later they say..oh...its just publicity. Oh sure, and next week we'll be believing that WIBX is going all "knock-knock" jokes, 24/7 !
I think you are all forgetting a very important fact. Ken Roser's daughter is the manager for WKTV. I don't believe they were lied to, I believe they were in on it. Yes I also heard tht Ken spends most of his advertising dollars on WKTV...If I were upper management of WKTV I would be upset to put the reputation of the news department on the line for a few bucks and nepotism.
I personally was not impressed with the new guy, at first I thought is was Gary Spears back on because it sounded like him.
Not that most people understand or even care, but the deception part in my mind was that KISS was trying to garner more listeners and ratings right in the the middle of the current ratings period, and progressed with that plan in a less than honest way.
The idea, the gag, the implementation in most scenarios such as this fool people and get a lot of attention, but I wonder if the Arbitron ratings company looks upon this prank as a misleading way of gaining audience in the current ratings book. You can probably bet the the other radio groups have asked Arbitron to look into this. If KISS did not mention in their press release they we going off the air, along with other statements putting fear into people so they would tune in, I would think this entire situation would have been fine. The fear and false statements made people sample their station that other wise would not have if the prank was conducted differently.
As I said before, they deserve credit for what they did in theory, just not sure about the information given to the press.
Adventure...I don't think they deserve any credit for what they did. Its been done before, and its easy to do. But they took it too far with the lies. People don't like to be lied to. The Idea of playing an April Fools Day joke in the middle of May went over like finding a hidden Easter egg on Christmas. They could have accomplished the same results without the lies. The Utica newspaper today ran a story that it was a hoax. Does anyone like the word hoax? I don't think so, it makes people feel like they weren't smart enough to figure it out. The newspaper should, in the future, throw all news releases from this radio group in the trash. This promotion could have been done effectively if they just thought about consequences that would develop from the lies. But, their lack of experience in radio, their lack of experience in predicting an outcome of their actions obviously cost them some listeners, credibility, and as you said, some Arbitron points.
Is the news in Utica so slow that a radio station format change is a TV news story? I can see it being in the paper, but not so much the TV newscast. Unless they share ownership or something.
Like I said before, it generated lots of calls to the station, proving the station has listeners who want the pop hits format the station always had, making what (if any) ratings numbers they have mean something to show to potential advertisers. And that's what it was all about.