Monday, January 24, 2011

How Will Cox Delight Us?

Cox Radio owns the #1 cluster in Atlanta.  The company's stations lead in ratings and billings, which seems appropriate in Cox's home market.  Yet Cox has gone above and beyond that to entertain us radio junkies.

Several years ago, Cox created the liner, "B98.5 FM, voted #1 for the most music while you work."  It was not just B98.5 that was bestowed this positioning.  It was placed on Krater 96 (KRTR-FM) in Honolulu, WWRM-FM in Tampa and other Cox AC's.

I wondered what listeners thought about the liner, and I'm guessing that focus groups approved of the "most music while you work" part.  The general audience probably did not devote a lot of thought to it.  Oh, but what a gift to us.  Posters on a certain Atlanta radio board had fun with it for years.  And at least some Cox staffers found it amusing.

At a 2005 meeting with Dan Kearney, then B98.5's General Manager, and salespeople from all of the Cox/Atlanta radio stations, I mentioned Mayor Franklin was a shoe-in for re-election, but that the real contest was whether B98.5 would continue to be voted #1 for the most music while you work.  That drew laughter from the attendees and prompted Dan to add to the comedy.

We all were disappointed when the station dropped the line.  But little did we know what was coming next.  After being jockless in afternoon drive, 97-1 The River (WSRV-FM) added a talent, Kate McCarthy.  I tuned in and within seconds realized that Ms. McCarthy was actually B98.5 FM's Jordan Graye.  I was surprised, to say the least.  I have high regard for Jordan both personally and professionally, and this is not a knock at her.  But I was trying to comprehend Cox's thinking.

In Rome, northwest of Atlanta, Craig Ross, former morning co-host on AC Q102 (WQTU-FM), voicetracked evenings on sister Country station South 107 as JR Butler.  Clear Channel used one of the personalities on Country B-93.7 (WBCT-FM) in Grand Rapids to voicetrack middays on its Country outlet in nearby Muskegon, 107 MUS (WMUS-FM), using a different name.  But we're talking about drivetime on a major station in market #7.

Okay, The River is a music-intensive station whose listeners are not tuning in to hear the disc jockey for the most part.  However, consider this: According to Arbitron, approximately 42% of The River's listeners tune to B98.5 in a week; and 30% of B98.5's audience listens to The River.  Still, I guess the bottom line was that neither station's ratings were hurt by the use of Jordan on both.  Who knows whether the ploy caused listeners to question the credibility of both stations and thus hurt advertiser results or perceptions.  I highly doubt it.

All of that aside, what great fortune it was for us radio folks.  The Jordan/Kate phenomenon started a running comedy on the same Atlanta radio board.  Posters created a story about a competition between the two personalities and a bitter feud.  The poster who appeared to have the most fun was an R. Tibbs, who called the situation "the gift that keeps on giving."  On my birthday, another poster, Neil Millman, sent me a message that read, "Happy birthday.  Has Kate McCarthy sent you anything?"  And I enjoyed being Facebook friends with both Jordan and Kate.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Two weeks ago, the Kate McCarthy persona disappeared as Kelly Stevens took over afternoon drive on The River.  Of course, Jordan Graye remains on B98.5 in middays.  Jordan wrote on her Facebook page, "Jordan and Kate will never lose each other.  Kate is my BFF although she does get on my nerves a little.  I betcha Kate turns up somewhere."

So I want to take this opportunity to thank Cox for its generosity in going above and beyond to make sure we radio fans were entertained.  At this point, I think it's fair to ask, "Cox, what's next?"

Deborah Reece Leaves The River
One of my favorite personalities, Deborah Reece, has given up her midday slot at 97-1 The River but is still very much a part of the Cox Radio family.  Deborah is doing production work for the Clark Howard Show, including writing and voicing twice-hourly promo leads into traffic reports.  She also will do fill-ins on all 3 Cox/Atlanta FM music stations.  Additionally, Deborah does freelance voice work.

New Post for Dan Bowen
Dan Bowen, who guided Star 94 to ratings heights for 10 years starting in 1998, has joined AirPlay Direct as VP of Radio Strategies.  AirPlay Direct is a digital delivery system developed for artists, radio programmers and music industry professionals.  Bowen was last at the CMA, where he was VP of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

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