It’s Not Odd, It’s Inevititable!

New York Daily News –
It’s a WINS-WINS format
Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Rose Premier Los Angeles 1979

The subway bombings in London were obviously a story that grabbed everyone’s attention, said Mark Mason, program director of WINS (1010 AM), and since WINS is an all-news station, it relayed information as it came out.
But at the same time, said Mason, the bombing story was not WINS’ only obligation that day.

“Much as our listeners cared about the bombing,” he explains, “they also wanted to know about traffic on the LIE. They depend on us for both those pieces of information.”

Delivering both is a big reason WINS is marking its 40th all-news anniversary, which isn’t bad for a format almost no one thought would last six months.

The private anniversary celebration was held yesterday at Gotham Hall. The big public event was a listener poll earlier this year on the top-40 New York newsmakers of the past 40 years, with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani voted the winner.

Like all polls, it had some odd results – Bette Midler made the top 10 and David Dinkins didn’t make the list at all – but WINS published it and moved on.

WINS, as listeners know, rarely breaks its rhythm.

“With this station,” said general manager Greg Janoff, “people turn it on and within 30 seconds, they know if something is wrong. WINS has such a familiar sound that even a small deviation tips you off.”

In some ways, WINS’ sound hasn’t changed much in 40 years. The ticker. Traffic, weather, sports. Crisp delivery of the headlines. The three-times-an-hour news cycle.

“Give us 22 minutes and we’ll give you the world” is one of the city’s best-known slogans, though Janoff notes it does hide a small mystery: “No one knows for sure who at the ad agency first thought it up.”

Whatever that answer, Mason said the “22 minutes” mantra may also camouflage the fact that WINS newscasts are much different today than in 1965.

“The approach has turned almost 180 degrees,” he said. “In the beginning, the station concentrated heavily on traditional news like politics. But we found that what’s often more important to people is what affects them at that moment. When the Republican convention was here, we covered the political event less than the disruption.”

So in an age when many news/talk outlets channel everything toward the “big story” of the moment, WINS is more cautious. It takes a 9/11 or a Staten Island ferry crash for WINS to rearrange its news “clock.”

“We never break format lightly,” said Mason. “If we miss a traffic report, it’s a big deal. If we’re 40 seconds late for a traffic report, it’s a big deal.”

Whatever the WINS philosophy, it works.

In an average week, 2-1/2 million people at some point turn to WINS. If there’s a snowstorm, make it 3 million. In the weeks after 9/11, the total approached 4 million, an unheard-of number in today’s fragmented radio world.

“We’re as close to a mass-appeal radio station as you’ll find any more,” said Mason. “Because of what we do, our audience mirrors the city.

“We’re a utility. We’re like the light switch when you walk into the room. If you can rely on it to do the same thing every time you flick it on, it’s doing its job.”

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