AM 620 KPOJ Format Change

On Friday November 9, 2012 AM 620 KPOJ announced, or rather – Carl Wolfson announced that he had been terminated, and that KPOJ was switching to a sports talk format as of the following Monday. (Click here for links to show hosts, new stations, and news)

I do not want to involve my personal politics in the company blog, but I had been a fan of KPOJ since it came on the air in 2004. There was (and now is), nothing like it in Portland. Up to that point, I had no idea there even was such a thing as progressive talk radio. Regardless of your politics or mine, surely we can all agree: That there are times when you take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in this world. I and many others found a community of like minded people – Not just in regards to politics, but perhaps more importantly, the way we chose to conduct ourselves in matters of business.

Over the years, there was no greater sponsor of KPOJ that Tom Dwyer, owner and operator of  Tom Dwyer Automotive Services. For years Tom chose to “put his money where his mouth is”, quite literally. Instead of just using his ad buy and air time to promote his business, he used the opportunity to reach out to the community, and let us all know that regardless of whatever was happening in the world, we were not alone.

He told us that in fact there was a better way of doing business, that trust, honest, and integrity were in fact crucial to running an effective business. Especially in an industry where integrity is hard to come by (believe me, I know). During my ten years in the automotive industry, I saw things that still enrage me to this day. “If we don’t sell the customer something that they don’t want or need, someone else will.” “If a customer says I think a need a battery, then you sell them a battery – Then you find out whether or not that was the problem.” I was told that’s how you run a business, and because I had too much integrity to lie to customers, I was told – I didn’t know how to do my job… Is that what you want out of your mechanic, someone who lies to you to sell you something? No, I didn’t think so.

It was on one of these really bad days, when I wished I could just quit and still pay the rent, that I got a message from dad. Tom Dwyer had contacted my father, and wanted us to create, and continue to manage his AdWords account. It was a moment I will never forget. I had always wanted, hoped,  and in fact, dreamed of someday being involved with TDA somehow.  Not only is Tom the BEST in the auto repair business here in Portland, but he’s someone who found a way to be honest with his customers, have integrity, and speak to the issues he and his audience care about – All while running a successful business. Something that I was told be my previous employer, was no way to run a business. Of course, that person has never worked for any other company in his life, much less built his own business from scratch. 🙂

Over the course of years managing TDA’s online advertising, the top new client referral source was always good old fashioned word of mouth recommendations from current clients. However, KPOJ advertising was always a close second. As much as I could hope, and as hard as I have tried, AdWords advertising just didn’t compare. It was always Tom’s ability to speak directly to his target market, in such personal terms that built the trust with his audience –  Before any potential client ever did a Google search, clicked on an ad, called on the phone, or walked into the shop – That led to KPOJ being the one advertising channel that stood out most in the clients mind when they were asked “how did you hear about us?”.

That’s why when Carl announced the format change, Tom’s phones started ringing off the hook. Not to mention the massive spike in website traffic. No single event in the last three plus years of AdWords advertising has ever produced as much interest and engagement in TDA through AdWords as this event has over the last several days. When loyal listeners found out about the format change, it’s not the radio station that they reached out to (After all Clear Channel had already made up it’s mind), it was the largest, longest tenured KPOJ advertiser.  Tom Dwyer. Someone who was always so personal with, and involved in the issues or causes that resonated most with his audience… Us. In times of trouble, we knew who we could trust. We knew who wouldn’t lie to us, or try to “spin” reality.

Personal feelings aside, what does all this have to do with AdWords? Well, several things:

1. With the huge spike in interest and need for information about the KPOJ format change, we were able to immediately re-focus the AdWords advertising, write new, highly relevant ads, and land those ads on the page which provided the information the audience was looking for. Within minutes, we could adapt to the situation. After years of experience, we knew how to get the ads approved, which keywords in the ad copy might result in approval delays, and which KPOJ related keyword terms already generated some interest in Tom’s KPOJ section of his site.

2. Without exception, the most difficult aspect of online advertising for local service based business is proving the effectiveness of PPC advertising. When the measure of the advertising effectiveness is asking customers “how did you hear about us?” no customer ever says “I clicked on your AdWords ad”. The best response you can hope for is “I found you on, or read your reviews on Google”, but which Google source the customer is referring to is a mystery. Organic or paid listings? Now that the ads are landing on specific pages directly relating to this particular event, which got little to no traffic previously, and have very little organic traffic, we can finally prove the effectiveness of AdWords advertising. I wish it were under better circumstances, but the numbers don’t lie. When we can come up with a specific strategy, and track the results, we can respond immediately to the latest interests, and generate a high level of engagement with the site/business. You can accomplish in a matter of minutes with AdWords what may take days, weeks, months, or even years to accomplish through SEO.

3. What is the former KPOJ audience going to do now? Where are we going to go when we feel like we’re all alone in this world? I can’t help but feel like this is an opportunity for Tom to continue to reach out to that audience, and continue to generate engagement in his business. Even for those former listeners who don’t drive a car. Remember, nothing beats good old fashioned word of mouth referrals. With no more Carl Wolfson in the mornings, there is no longer a gathering place for the progressive audience in Portland. Because Tom puts in so much effort to speak to, and stay involved in the topics and issues which this audience cares so deeply about, and is so interested and engaged in – Continuing to build the website content, and growing that audience will inevitably result in more people being aware of the business, and possibly generate more word of mouth referrals.

The bottom line is that this sucks for the progressive talk audience in Portland. However, in the long run this could be a very good thing for our former KPOJ advertising clients. This could be an opportunity for Tom Dwyer Automotive, and The Floor Store to reach out to their target market, and become a resource for that audience. If you can build trust with your potential customer base before they ever need your services, then you are one giant step closer to earning their business for a lifetime.

Through the ups and downs of life, and business cycles AdWords can adapt to meet your needs quickly and effectively. As long as Thomas Creek Concepts is on the job. 🙂

By, Tom Hale Jr.


On the Randi Rhodes show today 12/7/12, Randi told a caller from Portland that her bosses at clear channel were in fact paying attention to the petition to return progressive radio to Portland. Randi is not the sort of person to lie to her audience, perhaps it was just lip service from clear channel, but perhaps not. If you haven’t signed Kari Chisholm’s petition to Clear Channel yet, sign it now!


  1. I have empathy for the poor and elderly who cannot afford and/or cannot fathom streaming radio.

  2. Except for some low power stations that can reach few people, Oregonians are now blacked-out for Progressive Talk radio. Bottom line: If folks can’t hear them on their AM car, portable or home radios, then all the other means of hearing Progressive shows just won’t have much real political influence.

  3. It is difficult to imagine, that in one of the most progressive cities in the country, that there is no longer progressive talk radio, while there are 3 conservative talk radio stations.

  4. I simply cannot believe that we needed yet another sports radio channel, Fox Sports no less, more than we needed to keep the one and only progressive talk radio in Portland. This stinks!!

  5. A 1.0 share in a market the size of Portland isn’t necessarily the issue – I would guess the issue is lack of growth. Selling progressive radio is tough for one reason or another it just doesn’t sell. On the other hand, sports radio is HOT right now and doesn’t have a political bias so it almost sells itself. To top it off, Clear Channel already had the rights to Beavers sports and Trailblazer broadcasts for the market so taking those off of Talk and making a legit sports station makes fiscal sense as much as I hate to admit it. Radio is a business.

  6. Unfortunately, the same thing is happening in Seattle.
    Sam Seder was talking about this on his (excellent) podcast yesterday, the Majority Report. He mentioned that a lot of advertisers have recently been scared off of talk radio because of Rush Limbaugh, and that this effect spilled over into the realm of progressive talk. This development unfortunately makes political talk radio once again exclusively right-wing, a situation which (imho) contributed mightily to George W Bush’s rise to power.

  7. Tom, I didn’t comment to debate you, simply to try and shed some radio insider light on the subject. I am the operations manager for the only progressive radio station left in Oregon, I also run a conservative talk station AND a sports station. I also produce/co-host a local progressive show so I’m not exactly into “right wing talking points”.

    In radio, you live and die by your ratings. If you continue to hover around a 1 share in a market the size of Portland, something is not working. I would be the first to point out that it usually is an issue with your staff – a sales staff that doesn’t know what they’re selling, a sales manager that isn’t putting the pressure on, a program director that doesn’t have your imaging and promotion on the right page, a general manager/ops manager that doesn’t spend money correctly etc.

    One way or another, conservative talk pretty much sells itself and progressive talk IS harder to sell. Why else would conservative talk stations not only vastly outnumber progressive talk stations in a country that voted democratic, but always end up with much larger ratings?

    If KPOJ was making great money with progressive talk, it wouldn’t matter if Donald Trump and Mitt Romney owned the company they would not have flipped. The only thing they like more than being “right”, is making money.

    I am far from biased on this subject having a horse from each race in the running, not to mention I can’t STAND to listen to conservative radio – I wake up with Stephanie Miller every morning.

    As for 1190 (KEX) carrying the Blazers, you’re right and I didn’t explain myself clearly. KEX is owned by Clear Channel and they will have first rights to re-sign or even move the Blazers’ games over to KPOJ and I’m sure they are already in negotiations.

    Carbonite is not on Randi or on Rush anymore, but there are many other national sponsors that Premiere sells to both shows.

  8. I usually listen to satellite radio, so I didn’t notice until I drove the kids car last night that KPOJ had changed for the worse.

    Curious as to the reason I googled KPOJ and linked to this article through your ad-word listing.

    That’s when serendipity clicked in, so to speak. As a web designer for a local business, I rely on SEO rather than SEM. The workload involved in successful optimization doesn’t allow me the required time to effectively manage ppc accounts. We did outsource ppc to another company but the required time to make them effective was just as demanding as doing it myself.

    What’s my point? You have proven yourself effective. Well done.

    Now to the situation with KPOJ. The internet and Satellite Radio are a poor substitute for the broadcast voice that Portland has lost. Now only people with access to pay per listen technology can keep abreast of progressive issues.

    It would be less of a tragedy if conservative radio had a reputation for honesty and integrity, unfortunately that isn’t the case. We are all diminished when our neighbors substitute right-wing propaganda for reality.

  9. KPOJ was making a good profit with the old format – they hope to make a better profit now. Still, there clearly is a commercial base supporting the old programming. So the obvious thing is to try to take over an pre-existing station and convert the programming or start a new one. Those are the alternatives. Or one could just go online. Having another station takes some capital, but perhaps not all that much – maybe 300 or $400,000, so getting together a group of investors might not be impossible, but we would need someone to lead the effort. Would Carl Wolfson or Thom Hartmann be interested? Someone else? I’d be willing to invest if it looked like a likely go.

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