Power 96 makes a risky bet with Spanish-language weather reports by Telemundo's bilingual meteorologist John Morales in a bid to appeal to Hispanics. Other stations, too, are mixing languages.
Jul. 31, 2005
BY Christina Hoag
Power 96 is an English-language radio station, right?
Well, that may be a matter for debate this summer.
WPOW-FM (96.5) is delivering hurricane advisories and updates in both English and Spanish by a personality familiar to Hispanic TV viewers: John Morales, the weathercaster for WSCV-Telemundo 51 who, largely unbeknown to his Spanish-language TV audience, is as bilingual as his name suggests.
''I've been in this business here for 15 years, and I've never seen a collaboration between Spanish-language TV and English-language radio,'' said Morales, the 43-year-old son of an Irish-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. ``It was kind of unusual.''
Power 96's decision to air 30-second updates in Spanish reflects South Florida's increasingly blurred language lines and how important the expanding legions of bilingual second- and third-generation Hispanics are becoming to media and marketers.
One of the biggest radio stations in South Florida, Power 96 boasts 575,300 listeners in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, half of them Hispanic. Its pop and hip-hop format is also one of the region's most popular. The station ranked second among 18- to 34-year-olds in the spring Arbitron ratings and eighth among listeners 12 and older.
For radio stations such as Power 96, these young bilingual listeners, who switch seamlessly between English and Spanish even in midsentence, have become a market themselves outside the traditional English-language and Spanish-language parameters.
They are fertile new territory to conquer with tools such as customized bilingual formats, 30-second weather sound bites, and disc jockeys who slip Spanish words and sayings into their banter.
''There's no blueprint to this,'' said Frank Walsh, a programming consultant for Clear Channel South Florida, one of the most recent entrants in the uncharted bilingual field with its Hispanic hip-hop ''hurban'' programming on WMGE-FM, Mega 94.9.
Mega, which ranks seventh in the region with 275,200 listeners, makes no bones about its target audience. Its slogan is ``Latino and proud.''
''I think you'll see more and more English-language stations that will be doing something along these lines,'' Walsh said. 'They want to say to Hispanics, `We're here for you, too.' ''
The bilingual trend is also English on Spanish. Spanish-language deejays often insert the odd common English phrase or word into their chatter, but most have not gone to the extent of El Zol's morning disc jockeys Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero.
Both second-generation Cuban Americans, they started their show on WXDJ-FM (95.7) three years ago, speaking limited English.
But after realizing that many of their listeners are bilingual, they now sprinkle their show liberally with English, even creating characters such as ''Dave Goldstein'' and ''Al Jackson'' who speak English only. Their show, El Vacilón de la Mañana, is one of South Florida's top-rated morning programs -- in English or Spanish. Arbitron ranked the station ninth among listeners 12 and older.
Still, it's a fine line when judging how much English is too much. 'We do occasionally get people who say, `The station is in Spanish, so why are you speaking English?' '' Santos said. ``I'm very careful that we don't keep English going for a long time without going into Spanish, or translating, so people don't feel left out.''
Power 96 decided to offer hurricane advisories in both languages as a way to keep the audience from switching the dial to news stations, said John Jaras, sales manager.
The risk, of course, was that the reports would cause non-Spanish speakers to tune out, but no complaints have come in.
''There's an acceptance and familiarity among our listeners with Spanish, even those who don't speak it,'' Jaras said.
Radio industry analyst Tom Taylor said such a move is probably not that risky in a heavily Hispanic market like South Florida.
''They just have to make sure it doesn't go on too long and there's not lots of it,'' he said.
Channel 51, meanwhile, is hoping that the versatile Morales will help boost the TV station's appeal to young bilingual viewers, said Michael T. Rodríguez, vice president and general manager of WSCV.
''It's an entree into our viewership,'' he said.
Both Rodríguez and Jaras said they may explore the potential for expanding the relationship to news and other areas.
''In a market like Miami, it obviously makes sense,'' said Taylor, the publisher of Inside Radio/M Street. ``It's pretty new and interesting.''
Source: The Miami Herald