More on Radio Maps

Our recent map on Red Sox and Yankees radio broadcast areas has raised a number of interesting questions. Chief among these revolves around a concern we had from the get-go: radio waves are not fixed. They vary wildly based on antenna direction and height, weather, ionospheric conditions, proximity to water, amount of groundwater, interference, &c. The Radio Rivalry map uses broadcast areas provided by the FCC. So, while they cannot ever be 100% accurate due to the aforementioned reasons, they do represent a nice, conservative and authoritative estimate based on parameters provided by each radio station and The M3 Conductivity Map.

Here is the AM/FM breakdown by team. Two things strike me about the distribution: 1. For whatever reason, the Red Sox have far more FM stations. So, there are a number of towns in Northern New England that all have great radio reception for the game (while Boston is still relying on AM for both English and Spanish broadcasts). 2. The Yankees Radio Network appears to be more efficient with fewer overlapping broadcast areas. In these cases, one must wonder if the overlapping stations in the Red Sox network are catering to different demographics. Perhaps, perhaps not.

The relevance of this map has also been brought into question. Does this map have any meaning in a society that relies so heavily on mobile technology, satellite radio and cable television? Ironically, this is the same era that has redefined what many consider “free” through the implementation of smart advertising (e.g. Google & Facebook). So, who is paying to broadcast the Red Sox and Yankees? Advertisers, right? If the advertisers do not make money, they will cease buying slots during the games, and the games will no longer be carried. So, yes, I think that this map is relevant. At the very least, it shows where advertisers are willing to pay for slots during Red Sox and Yankees games. And if they are willing to pay for the slots, there must be people who are listening to the games and buying their product (you know the jingle).

So, why make this map? I’ve wanted to make a map like this for years. I grew up listening to the Red Sox on the radio and still do today. I like watching games on television as well, but I don’t have the same attachment to the experience. There is something about radio that gives you the impression that you are connected from afar. The way the reception cuts in and out and the way you angle the antenna. It’s a ritual and an experience completely unlike catching a game on your DVR so that you can fast-forward through commercials. I have vivid memories of baseball games being delivered through the medium of radio. I listened to the Red Sox win the World Series on American Forces Radio in The Netherlands. I’ve also listened to a Red Sox game while on a camping trip in Northern Nova Scotia (though to be honest, the reception wasn’t great).

On another level–and this must be typical of any road-tripping Red Sox fan–I have often wanted a map like this for reference. It seems like every time I am driving through Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont in the summer, a game is on and I know there must be a station nearby but I simply cannot find it. Well, now I certainly know (for this season, anyway). Here is a quick and dirty reference Google reference map.

The rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees is often touted as the fiercest in sports. It is an obsession—some might say a lifestyle—in Boston and New York. Tee shirts are made, bets are placed and emotions run high. Even the athletes treat these games with greater importance than other match-ups. The meaning imbued in seemingly inconsequential mid-season games can be epic. In 2006, Red Sox and the Yankees met for a double header that resulted in both regular season 9-inning game length records. One game took 4 hours and 45 minutes; together they lasted 8 hours and 40 minutes (an average game will last just under three hours). This rivalry is nothing new either; it has been going on for decades. All the while, sports writers throughout the country have hashed, rehashed, dissected, bisected, analyzed, debated and mapped it. This is our contribution; this is our map.

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15 Responses to More on Radio Maps

  1. Pingback: With CBS radio deal up, broadcast changes loom | River Avenue Blues

  2. Joe says:

    I live in southern NC and I still get the Yankees. You can get WCBS even farther south than that.

  3. Tim Wallace says:

    Hi Joe, I believe it. As I mentioned in the post, there are obviously some issues with showing radio broadcast areas on a map, since they vary based on so many different parameters. For example, I would have guessed you would have better luck picking up WMFD in NC than WCBS in NY. But there must be something unique about your geographical situation that makes it this way, something that hasn’t been considered in the calculation of these areas. Thankfully, what we have here is data directly from the FCC. So, as far as authority goes, we couldn’t ask for a better agency to draw up approximate areas. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if we could get every fan who listens to these teams on the radio to submit where they live, what station they listen to & how well it comes in? That would surely result in a much more accurate (and less conservative) map. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Ethan Andrews says:

    I live in the Northern Chicago suburbs, just west of Lake Michigan. If it’s a super clear night, I can pickup WCBS 880 from NY. I lived in Toledo, OH for a short time, and WFAN 660 AM from NY comes in super clear on nearly every night.

    IMHO, If the Yankees go the FM route for a richer sound, it’s great for those living within about 40 miles of Midtown Manhattan, but probably would stink for everyone else.

    Great job on the maps.

    • Tim Wallace says:

      Wow. Northern Chicago suburbs? That is amazing. I spend most of the year in Madison, WI. I should see if I can pick up WCBS on those nights with perfect conditions for radio.

      I totally agree with you about the potential switch to FM. Ideally, there would be an FM station for locals and a high-power AM station to reach the far-flung fans (such as those in Chicago!).

  5. Stephen says:

    This post is definitely still relevant in the mobile tech age especially for those of us that travel through the region by car. 3G coverage is still spotty and unreliable in many areas outside of both metropolitan areas so I’d rather count on old skool AM/FM to catch the games than a mobile transmission.

    What I love is how the transmissions extend far out into eastern waterways. Maybe unintentional because as you mentioned, there’s little control over the direction. But I can just imagine all those fishing vessels out there in the summer evenings tuned into the games.

    Great post!

  6. Ben says:

    I’ve wanted for years to make a radio territory map like this, but with one (significant) addition: making it a 3D map by adding a height dimension and mapping the frequency of each radio station as the height of its area marker. That way, you could fly around this map — which would look kind of like a bunch of pancakes floating at different heights — to see where different stations overlap and where frequencies are going unused. Any thoughts on this idea?

  7. Chris C says:

    Radio stations in Albany and Hudson, New York have announced that they’ll be carrying the Red Sox in 2012. Many of us on the New York side of the border, where there are tons and tons of Red Sox fans, are thrilled.

  8. Pingback: Density | Bostonography

  9. Bob Nelson says:

    Add 93.7 (antenna in Peabody MA), WEEI-FM which was added last Sept.
    And add 1280 (and 105.3) to Fitchburg to Yankees and subtract from Red Sox
    (Entercom would not give WPKZ a contract extension. They will carry Yankees
    instead.)…And also just north of Hartford there is the new WUCS 97.9 which will
    carry Yankees. Not sure if sister station WPOP 1410 is still carrying Yankees
    (maybe not). Thanks for the map.

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  12. Jim Linnane says:

    I was born and grew up in MA but have lived in NJ, NY, CT, RI and ME. The radio maps reflect the line between Red Sox nation and Yankeedom in western CT. One wonders which came first, the radio stations or the fans. it is pretty easy to pick up NYC AM stations in western CT but practically impossible to pick up Boston stations. I know. I’ve tried.

    Providence is interesting. There are LOTS of Yankee fans in RI. Why? I have two theories. One is historical in that MA was the Puritan homeland and CT was an offshoot. CT’s motto, translated, refers to the fact that it was mostly settled by Puritans from MA who might have considered that MA was weakening in its zeal. RI on the other hand was settled by what you might call anti-Puritans. The other theory relates to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. RI has and had a large Italian-American population. They were big fans of Joe DiMaggio. Sure brother Dominic of the Red Sox was a pretty good player, but his career pales next to that of the Yankee Clipper.

    I live in Maine now. Proportionately, I believe that ME has way more Red Sox fans than MA, and they are more intense. That is probably related to population diversity.

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