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-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.

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.

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.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Patrick Steele on 07/14/2011 - 01:02 pm.

    “KQ” used to be a regular on my small rotation of stations, but it gets so repetitive. A lot of young people have no tolerance for commercial breaks when listening to music, as well.

  2. Submitted by Fred Beukema on 07/14/2011 - 03:59 pm.

    Maybe the moving goalpost of the station’s format has something to do with it. I heard some mid-90s Collective Soul on there the other day, and I can’t imagine the upper-end of the 25-54 range, who may be looking for some Santana, Fleetwood Mac, or Zeppelin, being too excited about 15-year-old alternapop. And for the younger end, who also might go to KQ looking for Classic Rock from the 60s and 70s, music from after their birth might be a bit disorienting. I know it was for me.

  3. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/14/2011 - 08:44 pm.

    Too many are dying off….

  4. Submitted by Eric Larsson on 07/14/2011 - 09:28 pm.

    It’s a reflection of the avalanche of great new alternative music. For years when the suits were in charge of the music business, they stifled great new music. So we all kept listening to really old music. Now the suits hate the burgeoning direct access to new music because it’s ruining them. But what it really is doing is rebirthing vibrant creativity. Going online and going to live dates feels like the spirit of the 60’s again (not the music, but the spirit). And the current is smart enough to follow that lead.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 07/15/2011 - 12:38 am.

    KQ’s playlist and their whole morning show sounds really tired and dated now. I love classic rock but there’s a lot more out there than just playing Hotel California and Free Bird 10 times a day. They could easily re-brand as an “oldies” station and not change a thing.

  6. Submitted by frank watson on 07/15/2011 - 11:58 am.

    Tommy B has said anything new in over 20 years. Choose the latest ethnic group that’s come to America and trash them. Wow, getting really old and tiresome, Tommy. Tommy is a regular reader of Minnpost as well

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/15/2011 - 12:00 pm.

    I’ve haven’t understood why people listened to KQ since 1983. Beyond stale. The more the Current sounds like satellite’s Alt Nation the more listeners it will acquire. I still can’t leave the house without my satellite radio however, even for a ten minutes. I couldn’t believe the crap they were playing on the current yesterday morning, but they are getting better.

  8. Submitted by Tim Brausen on 07/15/2011 - 12:28 pm.

    The Current is much more eclectic than Cities 97, and has more of a poppier edge to its music (Cities is soft, hence the appeal to women.) Congratulations to them on their increasing success. No commercials and better mix, seems like an easy choice.

    KQ is really tired. I remember its hey day in the 70s when they would broadcast a live Elvis Costello show from the Longhorn Saloon. Nowdways they are corporate oldies. Yuck.

  9. Submitted by Hal Davis on 07/15/2011 - 12:32 pm.

    ==there’s a lot more out there than just playing Hotel California and Free Bird 10 times a day. They could easily re-brand as an “oldies” station and not change a thing.==

    “Classic rock” isn’t an “oldies” station? I guess it’s all in the perspective. AM740 is a bit more formulaic, the reproduced sound of transistor radios on the beach in the early 60s. Of coursem, KSJN has the real oldies.

    Our neighborhood pizza joint pipes in Sirius satellite radio. They slice and dice music formats 12 ways from Sunday. I thought I heard the announcer say it was the “plastic soul” station. You know: KC and the Sunshine Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Bar-Kays. Turns out he said “classic soul.”

  10. Submitted by Lynnea Forness on 07/18/2011 - 03:04 pm.

    As a woman I much prefer The Current to Cities 97. What prevents me from listening to MPR is that their hosts use so many fillers (ums, ers, ahs) that I can’t stand to listen to them. They should have better training. I listen to KFAN instead.

  11. Submitted by Hal Davis on 07/18/2011 - 04:18 pm.

    No ums, ers, ahs on KFAN?

    I guess they have more yos and yows.

  12. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/21/2011 - 12:35 pm.

    1. Gotta agree with Eric. Love to see the current proving there are more than 2 types of music that can be commercially successful.

    2. My only surprise is that KQ didn’t drop off the radar years ago. Listening to the morning show crab and complain is like sitting around the parlor in the nursing home.

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