Email shows KUOW saw ‘no sound business vision’ for Jazz24

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An email obtained by Current reveals that leaders at Seattle’s KUOW were already inclined to discontinue Jazz24, the streaming music service operated by KPLU, as early as last fall.

The future of Jazz24 is in question as KPLU in Tacoma, Wash., aims to raise $7 million to buy its independence and avert a sale to KUOW. The University of Washington, KUOW’s licensee, announced in November that it intended to buy KPLU from Pacific Lutheran University. But PLU later agreed to give the station a chance to match the University of Washington’s offer.

Meanwhile, KUOW has moved ahead with developing its own jazz programming, raising questions about why it wouldn’t plan on using KPLU’s Jazz24 instead. But KUOW was considering the fate of Jazz24 even before the KPLU sale was announced.

“It’s almost assured that we won’t continue Jazz24 syndication, post-acquisition,” wrote KUOW General Manager Caryn Mathes in a Nov. 6 email to David Marriott, the station’s public relations representative.

Mathes said Jazz24 lacked a “sound business vision.” “I’m unimpressed by the money — they’re upside-down on what they spend to make the service,” she wrote. Mathes also questioned the musical selection of Jazz24: “I agree with … some listeners to Jazz24 that it’s kind of an uncompelling ‘shuffle play,” she wrote.

In an email sent the same day, Donna Gibbs, Pacific Lutheran University’s v.p. of marketing and communications, had touted Jazz24’s successes, including its monthly cume of nearly 300,000 listeners, 400,000 followers on TuneIn, and about $120,000 in annual revenue from fund drives and affiliates.

“As traditional media consumption platforms continue to go through radical change, KPLU has been working hard to build a digital strategy, and I think they’ve made some very good headway with Jazz24,” Gibbs wrote.

But Mathes appeared unconvinced, asking her staffers if they saw “anything here that would make it worth the back-breaking lift” to continue Jazz24 while also taking over KPLU.

The email was obtained through a public records request by a source who provided it to Current.

A KUOW spokesperson told Current that KUOW will continue Jazz24 for at least 90 days if the acquisition of KPLU goes through. “No decision about the future of the service beyond that has been made,” the spokesperson said.

Read the email:

Related stories from Current:


  • Matt Martinez

    I’d like to clarify a few points of misunderstanding that I don’t want people to read and take as fact.

    Jazz24 is not upside down. It’s stated that we spend $150,000 on the service. That’s not true. We spend around 100K on the service, and we make between 120 – 150K in syndication fees and fundraising. Last year we netted close to 50K. (Our fundraising dollars from J24 have been steadily increasing every year.) But that’s not the point. The point is public service — especially for communities that don’t have access to a terrestrial jazz service — not making gobs of money.

    It’s also stated in the emails that Jazz24 is engaged in “distance fundraising.” In other words, we are fundraising for Jazz24 in our syndicated markets. That is not true. We fundraise on the web stream only, affiliates are sent a clean feed.

    As for the assertion that there is no “sound business vision” for the service, we respectfully disagree.

  • Private Porkster

    None of the stated reasons for dropping a tested, syndicated brand are very convincing. It seems like they had already made up their minds and were looking for excuses after the fact.

  • Mark

    I think Matt has it right… KPLU and Jazz24 are public services that certainly should cover their costs, which its pretty clear that they do. KUOW seems to have forgotten what public service is and what not for profit means. Everything that leaks out about this sale makes me angrier and angrier. Time to give another $100 to Save KPLU!

  • Tom Losh

    Let me put it this way, as a listener and sustaining member of JAZZ24, primarily terrestrial on HD2, but also via the ‘net when traveling, who appreciates their unique mix, I find Caryn’s emails troubling.

    It is especially so now that Caryn had moved yet another of her East Coast buddies, Steven Williams,
    from New Jersey, and he has put together *his* version of a “white label fully automated jazz channel”
    based on his tastes in music (Planet Jazz), and I find it, for the most part, flopping back and forth between strident shrieking and somnambulistic shuffling (I will admit it slowly mellowed a bit since it first popped up).

    One thing that strikes me is that the “values” of big business Washington, DC radio do not translate smoothly to the “public service focus” of the Washington in the Pacific Northwest.