Cumulus stations accept ads for news/talk rival WBEZ

Chicago Public Media WBEZ

While conservative blowtorch WLS 890-AM and NPR affiliate WBEZ 91.5-FM may find themselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum, they’re both battling it out for Chicago’s news/talk radio listeners.

So it’s been surprising to hear commercials for WBEZ airing on a couple of other stations owned by the parent company of WLS.

For several weeks, paid ads for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” the flagship program of Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ, have been turning up on Cumulus Media classic hits WLS 94.7-FM and alternative rock WKQX 101.1-FM.

Marv Nyren

Marv Nyren, vice president and market manager of Cumulus Chicago, said he agreed to the unusual arrangement despite that it conveys a clear message to check out the competition.

Calling it “mainly a financial decision,” Nyren said he welcomed the business as long as he could approve the wording of the spot. He declined to say how much the public broadcaster’s ad agency paid.

Research indicates that WBEZ shares only about 8 percent of its audience with WLS FM and about 3 percent with WKQX. There’s undoubtedly a greater audience crossover between WBEZ and WLS AM — although it’s hard to imagine listeners to “Morning Edition” on WBEZ and Mancow Muller’s morning show on WLS AM having much in common.

Before he joined Cumulus Media in 2017, Nyren worked for Chicago Public Media as vice president of corporate sponsorship. “You could say it made me more comfortable knowing what the product was,” he acknowledged.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WBEZ ranked ninth overall with a 3.4 percent audience share, and WLS AM ranked 23rd with a 1.7 share.