Monday, May 24, 2010

The Bull Fights; Has Star 94 Learned From Experience?

In our last column, I mentioned that Kicks 101-5 had won the Country war, and 94-9 The Bull had hit a wall.  I added The Bull needs to figure a way to get to the next level.  It looked like Kicks had milked The Bull to where she was sluggish and ready to be killed.  Then came the April PPM numbers, and while The Bull is feasting on hay and grass, I'm eating crow.

The Bull showed a nice increase, from a 3.0% to 3.4% share in persons 6 and older.  That put the station back where it was 6 months ago following a steady series of decreases since then.  What's going on here?  This all seems to be a function of an unstable 18-34 cell.  In December, The Bull inexplicably lost about half its 18-34 year olds.  In April, the same thing happened to Kicks, as the station plummeted from #8 to #14 in the demo while The Bull gained.

This of course raises questions regarding the reliability of Arbitron's 18-34 sample; the cell has always been problematic with audience measurement.  I'm not privy to the sample's turnover or meter carry rate, but I have to wonder.  The 18-34 demo has become increasingly important to the Country format, given the likes of Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean and others.

Star 94 ran its Everyday Payday contest this spring, and it sounded larger than life.  Of course, reinforcing the thinking that nothing in radio is original, Kiss 104.1 (WALR-FM) had the same contest at the same time, albeit with a slightly different name, the Workday Payday.  The Star 94 version was so well done that it made the station sound like it had momentum.  So did it work?

Star saw its cume swell by approximately 100,000 people in March.  Unfortunately, Everyday Payday did nothing for time spent listening, the second half of the average quarter-hour equation.  That's not at all surprising when you think about it.  Star 94 announced a contestant's name at the top of every hour and promoted that fact.  That made it too easy for people to listen for a short span of time and then tune away if the name was not theirs.

Now, the Everyday Payday's successor contest has hit the Star 94 airwaves and likewise sounds phenomenal.  The correct caller picks up an iPad and gets to take a crack at $5,000 by trying to identify the songs in a montage.  This time, however, Star takes calls just 4 times a day, at 7:07AM, 11:07AM, 4:07PM and 6:07PM.  The lesser call times might be based on the higher value of the prizes, but will they do anything to increase time spent listening?  They possibly could keep listeners tuned in longer than a name an hour did.  But, I wonder why Star is not staggering the times, announcing them daily to keep people listening; or even going further by revealing just the hour.  Of course, having to listen to decipher the montage should extend TSL.

Okay, what am I missing?  The Bull plays "Lyrics & Loot" at the same times every day, as does B98.5 with the "Big Money Buzzer."

That someone in the Star 94 programming brain trust, consisting of PD JR Ammons and APD Michael Chase, has been studying the Portable People Meter has been evident, based on the formatics.  I wondered about one element, a sweeper going into a stop set announcing that more music was next.  The sweeper of course was intended to keep people tuned in during the stop set or to get them to return quickly.  Nevertheless, the sweeper in effect also announced that a stop set was imminent, an Arbitron PPM no-no.  Recently, the sweeper was replaced by a simple recorded "Star 94," which, despite the decrease in creativity, was probably a wise decision.

As has been discussed frequently here, Star 94 moved toward Hot AC late last year but could not quite cut the umbilical cord with CHR.  It's time to call a spade a spade; it has not worked.  In the April ratings, Star ranked #14 in women 25-54, a key demographic for the station.  Direct competitor Q100's music has improved, and Q probably has snagged the bulk of the CHR devotees.  Star has run away from any remotely-urban material yet kept the CHR pacing and hit music positioning.

My feeling is that Star 94 needs to choose a direction, and either way the music needs work.  If the station wants to be Hot AC, it should add some cool songs from the 80's and 90's to give it some character.  WPLJ-FM in New York is a Hot AC that gets away with hit music positioning, but Star should probably drop it to eliminate confusion.  If Star wants to return to Adult CHR, it needs to add songs by Jason Derulo, Jay Sean, Iyaz and others.  We have noted that Star plays rhythmic product by Justin Bieber and Kesha, but stays away from the more urban rhythmic flavor.  And yes, Derulo, Sean and Iyaz have a different sound than Justin Bieber and Kesha, one that is somewhat urbanish.  But their sound is a long way from hip-hop.  It's 2010, and these artists are mainstream.  When The Beat, whose target audience is suburban white kids, unabashedly adopted hip-hop positioning in 2005, it was obvious the definition of mainstream had changed.  Plus you have to love guys who sing their names at the start of their songs.

We do not mean to suggest that music is Star 94's biggest problem.  That's mornings and the fact that the station is hamstrung in the daypart.  JR has a tough roe to hoe, and I don't envy him.

Kudos to Accountemps
Creative folks at advertising agencies have always told me that good radio commercials are difficult to do.  One company that has been able to make great use of radio is Accountemps, a temporary staffing agency.  After all this time, I still smile when I hear their spots.

Fybush Atlanta Tour Rolls On
This week, Scott Fybush's Tower Site of the Week features WAGA-TV (FOX 5) and the transmitter site of WDWD-AM (Radio Disney/590).  In addition to the usual terrific writing and photography, Scott explains why the WAGA building looks like a southern antebellum mansion.  And the station's guts are revealed, thanks to a guided tour by engineer Jim Atkinson.  Radio Disney Chief Engineer Russell Smith met us at the Powder Springs facility just as the station was about to ramp up its new 12,000-watt daytime signal.  The link is http://fybush.com/featuredsite.html.

It's a Mile High for Steve McCoy
I still have a hard time believing that Steve McCoy is not on Atlanta radio.  He was a big part of the Atlanta radio landscape for 29 years.  He has accepted the morning slot at Kool 105 (KXKL-FM) in Denver.  Steve is a consummate radio professional and truly genuine person.  We wish him nothing but the best.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at roddyfreeman@bellsouth.net.  Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/atlantaairwaves, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/

4 comments:

  1. about star 94. they play Kris Allen's version of Heartless and they never played Kanye West's original version of the song, Justin Bieber's Baby without the Ludacris part of the song.

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