KJRB Radio launches talk format aimed at boomers

Julie Humphreys reads copy for promotional radio spots during a rehearsal session at KJRB on July 7. (photos by dan pelle)

Baby boomers are reclaiming the Spokane radio station of their youth: KJRB.

In the 1960s and 70s, KJRB was the area’s premier Top 40 station broadcasting the rock ’n’ roll soundtrack for teens and young adults. The format changed over the years, most recently playing classic country. That all changes today at 8 a.m. when Boomer Radio goes live on AM-790.

It’s Spokane’s first local talk radio station to focus on boomers – the largest generation born between 1946 and 1964 and known for their independence and free spirits. Today they are also known for their buying power, with 75 percent of the financial assets in the U.S. in the hands of people older than 50 – a marketer’s dream and one of the reasons executive producer Kent Adams, a fellow baby boomer and longtime member of the local broadcast industry, thinks the boomer format will attract a large audience and support itself with advertising dollars.

“Research tells us it’s the only station of its kind in the country,” said Adams, who also hosts the “Business Talks” show with Julie Humphreys and Tom McArthur. The program kicks off the daily four hours of talk, Monday through Saturday. The afternoon and Sunday format will remain classic country music.

There are local stations, mostly satellite audio streams, that play boomer music. Yet no station actually “talks” to this large demographic that ranges in age from 50 to 68, Adams said. Talk radio mostly focuses on politics, sports and religion. Boomer radio is all about conversations, whether it’s about local businesses and nonprofits, how to achieve better health, the latest trends in food and style, or home projects.

“I want listeners to learn,” Adams said. “We want to engage our listeners.”

Boomers are known for wanting to have a good time, so fun is a large part of the feel of boomer radio. Yet Adams said not to expect the silly nonsense of some morning radio shows.

“We want listeners to have those ‘lean-in moments,’ Adams said, describing how people have those occasional radio experiences where they actually lean in to the radio to grasp every word.

Former television news anchor and Spokane native Debra Wilde is hosting “Young at Heart,” which will air Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. She’s all about conversations and fun. She wants to tell stories about people who happen to be boomers. People like herself: a 63-year-old divorced woman with grown sons and a new granddaughter. She never understood the grandmother thing until she became one. Now she’s a bragging fanatic. She’s also looking for love. She’s game for new adventures. She’s a baby boomer living in Spokane.

“There’s just something for everyone,” she said about her show. “It’s just about life in Spokane, really, life everywhere.”

The core of the boomer radio shows aren’t new, including “Young at Heart.” Adams and Tom McArthur, who run the production company Talk Radio West, produced “Business Talks” and a handful of other programs on AM 630, a local Christian station. The audience was small. Adams dreamed – as boomers do – of doing it bigger and better. That’s why they got the idea to recapture KJRB, a station with ingrained meaning to local boomers.

“We needed a broader bugle,” he said.

KJRB, which is owned by California-based Mapleton Communications, is selling boomer radio the four-hour block of airtime, a rare arrangement. That means Talk Radio West is responsible for attracting its own advertising.

Adams isn’t worried. He said the boomer generation is a mostly untapped market because there are no stations catering to their needs. According to the Pew Foundation, listeners of news and talk radio are older than those of other formats with 55 percent of listeners older than 55. Nearly half are college graduates and more than 41 percent have a household income of $75,000 or more.

“We know there is an audience for advertisers and listeners,” Adams said, adding boomers are hungry for their own place on the dial even if it’s an “old school” concept. But there’s a “new school” twist because boomer radio will eventually stream live and have podcasts on iTunes.

He said it’s about making KJRB relevant for boomers’ current state of life, which highlights boomer radio’s motto: “Your station then, your station now.”

Listen in

Boomer U is going live. Hear Boomer U reporter Erica Curless at 9 a.m. Tuesdays on Spokane’s Only Boomer Station, KJRB 790 AM. Curless will talk about Boomer issues and stories during Debra Wilde’s “Young at Heart” show.

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