When it comes to radio, what do women want?


GreenStone Media LLC believes the answer is a talk format that provides news, practical information and humor.


The new broadcaster has the support of some high-profile women such as feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. Wallis Annenberg, a trustee at USC, will serve on the board. Other Los Angeles personalities who will participate as investors include Jaime McCourt, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Marta Kauffman, a former producer of "Friends"; Hollywood make-up maven Victoria Jackson; and venture capitalist Tom Unterman of Rustic Canyon Partners.


While some of those backers are known for leaning left, Chief Executive Susan Ness, a former FCC commissioner, denies a political agenda on the air.


"There just isn't a programming format on the radio that specifically targets women. There is music, and women have been leaving music radio in significant numbers," Ness said. "They can't find the programming they want on commercial radio."


At the same time, Ness said the female audience for National Public Radio has grown 25 percent in recent years. She believes that women "like conversation in an environment that is not combative, so disproportionately they don't listen to political talk from the right or the left."


Overall, women-skewed content dominates the media landscape, particularly in magazines and TV. To repeat that success in radio, GreenStone plans to become the audio equivalent of TV staples like "Today Show," "Oprah" and "The View." The company describes its approach as "more light, less heat" than male talk. For example, the GreenStone show "Women Aloud," based on a former Comedy Central series, will emphasize humor and celebrates in weekday broadcasts originating from Studio City.


GreenStone is targeting the 25-54 demographic, the standard audience for female-oriented brands. The company's research shows that women handle 80 percent of the buying for both home and office products.


In keeping with its rollout plan, the company began streaming programs on its Web site (GreenStoneMedia.net) in July, and now has a handful of stations signed up in mid-size markets. The company's official launch party will occur Tuesday in New York. During the following months, GreenStone plans to accumulate Arbitron data while moving into the larger markets.


"At that point, we expect broadcasters who need us will see this is a viable format and will come on aboard," Ness said, who is now talking to large radio groups about affiliate deals.


One twist to the Greenstone business model is that Ness believes talk radio will migrate to the FM dial at the same time music leaves FM for iPods and satellites. Her research shows that women don't even check out AM stations. As a result, Ness wants FM affiliates even though most of the stations calling her are AM. "In 12 months, we expect to have 30 stations, but it's the quality of those stations that matters. We really want to get on FM," she said.


Finally, GreenStone will have to get past the media gatekeepers. In radio, 85 percent of station managers and 92 percent of programmers are male. Ness acknowledges the challenge in explaining to these guys what women really want.

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