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WCWA reportedly going all talk

WCWA-AM (1230) is expected to switch formats Friday, going from adult standards - music from the 1940s through early '60s - to talk.

The move means Toledo will have two talk-oriented radio stations, with Clear Channel owning both, and none featuring “nostalgia” music. WCWA, like sister station WSPD-AM (1370), will rely heavily on nationally syndicated talk shows.

So those tuning in Friday for songs from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Rosemary Clooney instead will hear Dr. Laura, Suze Orman, and Sean Hannity.

In addition, WCWA will feature sports talk from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. - thus competing head-to-head with WLQR-AM (1470), an all-sports station owned by Cumulus, for 12 hours a day.

While WCWA will be competing with WSPD and may even hurt WSPD's ratings, industry sources say Clear Channel is counting on two talk shows to generate more advertising revenue than the current set-up.

Andy Stuart, Clear Channel's regional manager, declined comment on WCWA's pending switch.

WCWA has ranked No. 12 overall (out of the 24 stations that can be heard in the Toledo market) in three of the past four Arbitron surveys. It has about 24,900 listeners on a weekly basis, with about 1,600 listeners at any given 15-minute interval.

According to Arbitron, 88 percent of WCWA's audience is age 55-plus, and 75 percent is age 65-plus. Generally speaking, advertisers prefer stations that appeal to those age 25 to 54.

Cumulus market manager John Potter said he has received several calls from WCWA listeners, asking Cumulus to pick up the format. WTOD-AM (1560) would be the likely candidate, because it simulcasts programming from No. 1-rated WKKO-FM (99.9), but Potter downplayed that possibility.

Cumulus operations manager Tim Roberts said: “You can never say `never.' But I would say it's unlikely at this time.”

With its current format, WCWA has local on-air personalities from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. With its new format, veteran broadcasters Bob Martz (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Dennis Williams (1 to 6 p.m.) will no longer be on the air. It is unknown what their new roles will be, assuming they stay with Clear Channel. WCWA's current morning show, hosted by Bill Clark, is expected to remain on the air.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., which is a slightly bigger radio market than Toledo, two stations have the adult standards format. WKWM-AM program director Roger Munyon said the stations fill a “viable niche.”

“Yes, advertisers want the under-50 crowd,” Munyon said. “But business [for an adult standards station] is out there. It does take some work, though.”

The Detroit market has one station with an adult standards format. CKWW-AM (580) ranked No. 20 (out of the 30 stations measured in the market) in the latest Arbitron survey.

According to veteran Toledo broadcaster Jim Brady, who started his career at WCWA and now works for Cumulus-owned WRQN-AM (93.5), WCWA has undergone at least five format changes during the past 40 years. Brady said it was a Top 40 station during the early 1960s and later featured “middle of the road” (the equivalent of today's adult contemporary), oldies, and a hybrid of pop country/oldies before settling for “nostalgia” in the 1990s.

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