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Fall 2012 radio ratings: What’s going on with talk?

I alluded to this in yesterday’s 1500 ESPN analysis, but the fall radio ratings indicate all six talk stations in the Top 20 — WCCO, MPR News, KFAN, NewsTalk, MyTalk107 and 1500 — are down a little or a lot from a year ago.

Arbitron publishes monthly ratings for the “6+” audience, meaning everybody. It’s not the way programmers make money — they target niches like men 25-54, or hire particularly effective salespeople-hosts — but it gives us a sense of how the market moves. I also received some men 25-54 numbers for the talk stations, and will get to those in a minute.

Regular readers know I publish the numbers regularly, but I’ve reformatted the analysis, adding a three-month rolling average to even out one-month flukes. I’ve also come to believe Arbitron’s panels — who now use wearable meters that detect tones embedded in each station’s signal — are too small, and thus too influenced by a few intense listeners. But since panelists now stay longer than in the diary era (up to 18 months), it’s hard to construct a table that corrects for that. Consider it a caveat.

Overall, here are the topline headlines (November-to-November numbers at right; blue is talk, green is public and the asterisk includes streaming):

  • KDWB moved into #1 this summer and has remained there through November.
  • The new Buz’n country station continues to ding former ratings champ K102 but isn’t growing itself since its December 2011 debut.
  • KOOL108 (refreshed oldies format) and LOVE105 (formerly oldies, now adult/contemporary) are climbing nicely.
  • Christian station KTIS continues to gain.
  • WCCO and KQRS are coming back to earth after nice 2012 runs.

Let’s reformat the numbers (below) and talk growth — in this case, Sept.-Nov. 2011 vs. 2012.

Last fall, Buz’n was WLTE, KOOL was older oldies, LOVE105 was also oldies and KTWN was still thrashing around with its KHTC “urban rhythmic” format.

At least for the top lines, the chart below shows every music reformatting increased audience, except KTWN, which is in “Waiting for Gardy-ot” mode; Minnesota Twins radiocasts move there next spring.

Meanwhile, you’ll see every blue station — commercial talk — is off, as is MPR News. In the case of conservative AM station NewsTalk (formerly K-Talk FM), the decline is less than a tenth of a point, but for Hubbard-owned women talker MyTalk and 1500, it’s double digits.

Could it be music programmers rebalanced for audience desires in a way news programmers won’t or can’t? It’s possible the election was a giant audience turnoff; on the sports side, teams were generally lousy both years.

But again, the 6+ numbers just show us mass audience, and radio is a niche medium. Fortunately, I got a look at the men 25-54 numbers, the sweet spot for talk. (Caveats: WCCO aims older and MPR News isn’t as targeted). The data covers Sept.-Nov. 2012.

Here, KQ remains a very solid #1 between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., with roughly 25% more listeners than #2 KFAN and #3 93X, who are neck-and-neck. Despite all the Katy Perry, KS95 is fourth, tied with JACK-FM, closely followed by KDWB and K102.

The highest-rated news talk station is, well, NewsTalk, in 8th place, a hair ahead of MPR News. At least in the male “prime demo,” conservative talk listeners and public-radio listeners basically balance out.

Earlier this year, in a profile of former KQ Morning Crew member Mike Gelfand, I alluded to that show getting beat in the M25-54 demo. That didn’t endear me to Tom Barnard, who called me a “hate-filled progressive” on Twitter. (As Common Man would say, “I always love that one.”)

But to be fair to Tommy B, KQ was only beat in a single month — June 2012, by 93X. My source was astounded — it likely broke a two-decade-plus string — but order has been quickly restored. Looking at September through November, KQ won the 6a-10a time period by a good 30 percent over 93X. Third place KFAN, which laid off Mike Morris after this period, was about three-quarters of a share point behind 93X, with Dave Lee and Dave Ryan rounding out the Top 5.

The Top 3 middays (10a-3p) looks pretty much the same, but WCCO falls to 14th. KFAN’s Paul Allen and Dan Cole more than double 1500’s Judd Zulgad, Pat Reusse and Phil Mackey.

Dan Barreiro’s clout is evident in the 3-6 p.m. block, where KFAN finishes number one, beating KQ and 93X by roughly 2 share points. 1500’s Soucheray is 9th — a long way from his glory days atop this list, but better than any other 1500 time period. Can Reusse and Mackey improve that standing? We’ll see.

On the public radio side, KNOW is 7th in mornings among prime-demo guys. The station slumps to 13th in middays, when Kerri Miller, NPR and the BBC take over, then rebounds to 5th in the evenings. Over at The Current, the rhythm is 13th, 12th, 16th.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Arnie Hillmann on 12/19/2012 - 12:10 pm.

    Talk Radio Ratings

    WCCO will continue to fall. It starts the day great with Dave Lee followed by always interesting John Hines, BUT followed by WHINING CHAD HARTMAN. Regardless of how that may be followed by John Williams even he does not have the strength to pull back the people who tuned out or switched stations when HARTMAN came on! CCO is burying their head in the sand on this issue.

    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 12/19/2012 - 10:14 pm.

      I can’t disagree more.

      I switch the station whenever John Hines is on. He is a TERRIBLE interviewer and there is never any substance to any ‘conversation’ he has. Chad Hartman and John Williams are the saving grace of the workday line-up. Chad can have an intelligent conversation with a guest on seemingly any topic. John Williams’ sense of humor and grace is a wonderful change from the very strident Michele Tafoya that we had to put up with for too long.

  2. Submitted by Lynnea Forness on 12/19/2012 - 01:20 pm.

    MyTalk targets women. I find the personalities insipid and insulting. Don’t they think women want any form of intelligent conversation? Didn’t they let Kevin Berger go because she was too substantive?

    I like all the MPR stations but have a hard time listening because their personalities (except for Mary Lucia) can’t seem to complete a sentence without saying “um” or “ah”. Like nails on a chalkboard. Actually that’s happening in every media outlet. I’m listening to Pandora instead.

  3. Submitted by Tom Gitaa on 12/19/2012 - 04:13 pm.

    About Daily Circuit

    David, you should revisit MPR’s changeover to the Daily Circuit format and see whats up. I find it easier to now wander off after Cathy Wurzer signs off depending on what they have on. Previously regardless of guest before the current format I would have MPR on at the office but ever since Daily Circuit debuted I don’t feel I am missing anything. But I could be outside the demo they were after with the change. If I know in advance who is at the Westminster Town Hall forum I will make an effort to tune in for the live broadcast if I can’t make it there in person as I am not too far from it.The BBC thing at 2pm I would really like to hear how it is being received by listeners.

    I have HD radio so I get the BBC on 91.1-3 for free that MPR broadcasts if I want to listen to them but I am aware not everyone has that.

  4. Submitted by jody rooney on 12/19/2012 - 11:50 pm.

    I am so glad I live east of the metro and get WPR

    MPR in my opinion has gone in the direction of more world news (BBC) and less local content. MPR is much less about knowledge and ideas than about opinion and politics.

    Who in their right mind would replace Science Friday with BBC world? My first reaction was that they were financially in trouble and trying to cut costs.

    MPR has also developed a “drama queen” streak that is really tacky. Stopping regular programing to ruminate about all the rumors and speculation about the Newtown shootings was just a little too tacky. News is news -not your next hour or two of programing if there is nothing really “new” you would think they were FOX.

  5. Submitted by Martin Owings on 12/20/2012 - 03:11 pm.

    Relevance of Talk Radio

    David, great analysis and even greater question? What’s going on with talk radio is multi-facetted in my opinion.

    1. It’s all about the personalities and changing tastes.
    2. People can get good content anytime from multiple platforms.
    3. Some of the radio in the Twin Towns isn’t that great.
    4. The elections just ended and I think people were burnt out.

    At the risk of sounding unkind, I tend to avoid some of the programming even though the content might be good because the delivery is flat, un-inspiring or just plain silly.

    I tuned into KQ for a few days this month as I make it a point to sample the morning and drive time options every so often. Sadly, listening to Tommy B and crew was a bit like a hot tub time machine trip back to 1986. I guess the theory there is, “why change the formula when it has worked so well in the past”…distant past. In defense of the show, Bernard gets some very good guests and Terri Traen is still hillarious.

    Already established that my favorite drive time program is Bumper to Bumper with Dan Barreiro on 100.3 KFAN. Dan B. and Justin Gaard work well together and the show can transition from sprots frivolity to poignant story at the drop of a dime.

    MPR is great with Cathy Wurzer and Kerri Miller in the mornings. Both are enjoyable to listen to and insightful with their questions and topics. Miller does her homework and it comes through.

    Mischke is in a class by himself and the only reason I really tune into KSTP anymore. Sooch often veers too far from simple, entertaining garage logic and lands squarely into political talk radio land, which is tough to navigate in any climate. I think Dan Seeman is trying his best, but the line up needs help.

    For hyper local news I still love KFAI and people should give Morning Blend a try, which features former MPR morning guy Dale Connelly, it’s quite good and Dale is a genius.

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