(By Adam Jacobson) In March 2019, iHeartMedia engaged in an experiment designed to expand the reach of several of its spoken-word podcasts by airing them as scheduled programming on a 5,000-watt AM radio station covering the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.
Among the shows: The Daily Dive podcast from Los Angeles with Oscar Ramirez, and How to Money, and podcast stars Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick.
After several ratings periods with a 0.1 share of the audience, ranking last in a market that consumes Philadelphia radio stations and even the occasional New York City AM, iHeart has abandoned the all-podcast programming at WSAN-AM 1470 in Allentown.
At the time of its launch, “iHeartPodcast AM 1470” received local media attention, with The Morning Call daily newspaper noting the presence of “trendy shows such as ‘Stuff You Should Know,’ ‘Part Time Genius’ and ‘Broken Harts.’”
The station’s prior programming was in Spanish, as an ESPN Deportes Radio affiliate.
The individual who made the move at WSAN is iHeartMedia/Allentown SVP/Programming Craig Stevens, a 28-year radio executive in Eastern Pennsylvania who has also spent time at WRFY “Y102” in Reading, Pa.
Now, Stevens has shifted WSAN to iHeartMedia’s “Real Oldies” format, where he hosts the morning shift. It’s a “plug-and-play” offering, with midday host Christie James, afternoon host Nick Donovan, and nighttime voice Jeffrey T. Mason also heard in markets including Vero Beach and Venice, Fla.; and at WZCR-FM 93.5 in Catskill-Hudson, N.Y.
The “Real Oldies” format focuses on music from the 1960s and 1970s, and Stevens notes it brings WSAN full circle, as it is now playing “the music that originally aired on 1470 when it was new.” That’s technically untrue, as WSAN was a Full Service/MOR station until embarking on a progressive rock format in the 1970s, which lasted until WZZO-FM became an Album-Oriented Rock station in 1978. At the end of the 1970s, pop and Disco could be heard. From 1980-1982, WSAN was a Country station.
That said, “Real Oldies” fills a format void in Allentown, Easton and Bethlehem.
Jeff Hurley, who serves as EVP/Programming for iHeartMedia, commented, “The music is timeless and sounds perfect on the radio, whether it’s in your car or on a smart speaker. These songs deserve a spot on your radio and we’re happy to provide it to the listeners of the Lehigh Valley.”