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KQ’s stunning ratings decline

The three-month Spring Arbitron “book” is in and it contains some stunningly bad numbers for the once-dominant rock station KQRS.
In a year, the station’s numbers have fallen 22 percent among all listeners and a whopping one-third among the ad-cove

The three-month Spring Arbitron “book” is in and it contains some stunningly bad numbers for the once-dominant rock station KQRS.

In a year, the station’s numbers have fallen 22 percent among all listeners and a whopping one-third among the ad-coveted 25-to-54-year old demographic.

Even the 6-10 a.m. block — which picks up most of the perennial ratings champ KQ Morning Show — is off 26 percent in a year, though KQ remains comfortably number one by 3 share points. (Last year they won by 8.)

Station managers will play up the quirks of Arbitron’s system, which relies on 1,300 long-term panelists who wear little gizmos that pick up a silent tone from each station. And while it’s true that the shift of a few panelists can move the numbers (especially in certain demographic groups), the KQ trend has been inexorably down.

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In June 2009, KQ racked up a 10 share among all listeners 6 or older (6+), 6 a.m. to midnight. A year later, the number was 8.2. This June: a 6.4, putting KQ fifth in the market for the first time in the 26-month portable people meter era.

KQ was third among listeners 25-54; a year ago it was number one by almost 3 share points.

The reliable summertime 6+ champ, country station K102, remains there, and has supplanted KQ as the 25-to-54 leader.

On the plus side of the ledger, the story continues to be The Current, Minnesota Public Radio’s non-classical music station. Their 6+ number is up 166 percent in a year (1.7 to 4.3).

The Current’s 25-to-54 growth is also astounding: last spring, the station was 17th; this year, it’s fifth. By comparison, somewhat-sound-alike Cities 97 is 11th. A year ago, Cities was 7th.

One of the interesting sidelights in the Current-Cities competition: The public-media gang wins thanks to guys. Among men 25-54, The Current is 5th, Cities 14th. With women, Cities is 4th, the Current 7th. 

On the talk side, KTLK is experiencing some early success with its morning pairing of 2010 GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer and former KSTP-AM host Bob Davis.

Last June, among men 25-54 listening 6-9 a.m., KTLK got a 3.6 share. This year: 6.2. In this demographic, the Emmer/Davis team bested WCCO’s Dave Lee and MPR’s Cathy Wurzer, which was not the case last year. They trail only KFAN’s “Power Trip” crew.

If you look at the full Spring book, KFAN’s 25-54 Men number is up more than a third, while sports competitor ESPN 1500 — in its second year with Twins broadcasts — is flat. (The stations are 5th and 9th, respectively.) KFAN shows won every three-hour time slot between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. — “Common Man” Dan Cole swiping back the crown from Reusse & Mackey, even though the latter show improved its ratings.

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WCCO is a very interesting story; their top-line 6+ number is up 26 percent from last spring, good for third place. But among men 25-54, Dave Lee is down more than a full share point, John Williams (9-noon) is down nearly as much. The afternoons — long a weak performer for the Good Neighbor, where neither Chad Hartman nor Michele Tafoya are in the top 4 news/talkers — are flat (Hartman) or down a few tenths (Tafoya).

To be fair to ‘CCO, the 25-54 market is not their focus; they shoot for 35-54 or even 35-64. And this is probably a good point to mention that while ratings are a proxy for revenue for many stations, even lower-rated shows can cash flow if the hosts and ads move product.