DFW radio stations dial up new format

Talk radio is changing, and not only stations.

The recent upheaval over Rush Limbaugh, 61, came just as the industry is changing both tone and target to go after younger audiences and more women of any age.

Locally, Dallas' toughest immigration-hawk "Tea Party radio" station, KLIF/570 AM, has switched to morning and afternoon news, ending 30 years of drive-time talk.

Nationally, Limbaugh gets a rival Monday with the premiere of the midday Mike Huckabee Show.

But the sharpest jolt came Thursday with the news that WBAP/820 AM host Mark Davis is off the air in what he called a contract dispute.

Note what his boss told Radio Ink this week:

"I think people are fatigued" with talk radio, said John Dickey, co-chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Cumulus Media.

"It's no different than music-based stations. If you burn out a record, you are going to lose TSL [time spent listening]. If you burn out a subject and a perspective, you are going to lose TSL."

Dickey told the magazine that somebody like Huckabee won't "intimidate and shout at people" and will draw younger, female and minority listeners.

Former KRLD/1080 AM talk host Scott Braddock, a nonshouter but nonetheless looking for work, said radio is changing because listeners now can shout. "For a long time, radio was one of few places for instant reaction," he said by phone from Houston.

"Now there's Facebook and Twitter. Look what happened to Limbaugh. He said something and they went to war with him. People are saying they're tired of the meanness."

Democratic candidate and former radio host Rich Hancock was often Davis' debate foil before Hancock quit to run for a Richardson Texas House seat.

"When you see somebody with Mark Davis' talent fighting for his relevance, talk radio is in trouble," Hancock said. "But the pressure is what caused talk radio to double down with more inflammatory talk. Radio got away from being entertaining. Sure, [ The Daily Show host] Jon Stewart is political, but he's a success because he's funny. Somebody like Glenn Beck only thinks he's funny."

It's a change of tune.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @budkennedy

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