Monday, March 28, 2011

Darik Leaves Star 94

As Darik Kristofer leaves Star 94 after 3 years on the evening show, a number of thoughts and questions come to mind.

My first personal interaction with Darik was in 2009 when he sent me a Facebook friend request.  It contained a message praising this column, and the very specific things said made me realize he was a nice and a sincere person.  Subsequently, we occasionally talked radio via email and eventually met for lunch.  I found Darik intelligent and likeable.  One might describe his personality as, well, bouncy.  He is also a real radio guy who lives and breathes the business.

Darik's sound on Star 94 came across as Hot AC.  But, as an Adult CHR, Star 94 never had the Domino type of evening personality associated with Top 40.  Star's evening jocks did features for the youngsters but always sounded adult-friendly.  Darik joined Star from a Hot AC, Denver's Alice 105.9, where Program Director Dylan Sprague recommended him to former Star 94 PD Dan Bowen.

Darik started a little shaky but got better quickly.  And he worked hard on his performance.  In fact, over the past couple of months, he sounded better than ever.  I both understand and do not understand why he was not renewed.

As the evening guy on a CHR, Darik took the requests; and had young women call in to talk about their relationships and other subjects near and dear to them.  When Star 94 moved to Hot AC, this content continued, and I wondered about its suitability.  Yet Darik's Hot AC delivery remained, and he read the station's new Hot AC liners.  Lately, he was embellishing the liners, and it did sound a little forced, like he was trying too hard.

The AJC's Rodney Ho wrote that Program Director Scott Lindy stated he felt Darik was not relating to the station's target audience, soccer moms, and Darik himself concurred.  I feel Lindy could have asked Darik to drop the CHR content, and then coached him not to sound so forced with the station liners.  After all, does Chase Daniels, also a young single man, relate to soccer moms?  (And this is not a knock at Chase; I think he's one of the best in the country.)  Of course, Chase does not do the young female stuff, and he's exceptionally natural.  I wonder if the fact that Darik's contract was up for renewal made this the simpler solution.

Darik contributed mightily to the Atlanta radio landscape over the past 3 years, and his time here was good for him and for us listeners.  He had told me that he wanted to be on the air in Los Angeles or San Francisco so maybe this is his opportunity.  But, whether it's California or somewhere else, Darik Kristofer will do well, and I wish him the best.

Knowing Darik's California dream, I felt if he ever left for the Golden State, Rachel Logan, who has filled in for him frequently, could step right in.  Rachel sounds so good.  But, Rodney Ho's column displayed a job posting for the position so we'll see.

And as much as I'll missing listening to Darik, this ironically increases my respect for Scott Lindy.  Star 94 jumped up into the elite in the February PPM's, and the station has Lindy's fingerprints all over it.  Listening makes it obvious that Lindy believes in radio as it should be, live, local and with personalities who really entertain.  Establishing an emotional connection with the audience is important to him, and that's borne out in this move.

Let's Play a Round for Boomer
Steve Boomer Sutton needs a new kidney, an extremely expensive proposition.  His first golf tournament raised needed dollars but not enough.  Let's get behind this longtime member of Atlanta's radio community.  The Steve Sutton Benefit Golf Outing will be held on Monday, April 18 at the Callahan Golf Links in Waleska, Georgia.  The price is $100 per player, which includes 18 holes of golf, riding cart, lunch and a chance to win prizes.

Among the Atlanta radio luminaries who will be there are Randy & Spiff, Tripp West, Vikki Locke, Jordan Graye, Moby, Art "Mad Man" Mehring, Captain Herb Emory, Greg Talmadge and Dan Blankowski.

Register at

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kelly Stevens Lands at Cox...Again

When You're Hot, You're Hot.  In the early 1970's, a singer named Jerry Reed had that huge country hit that crossed over to the pop charts.  It was an absolutely horrendous song.  (Well, at least I thought so.)  But, what an apropos way to describe Cox's Kelly Stevens, who has now accepted his third job at CMG/Atlanta.

So, does absence make the heart grow fonder, or is it out of sight, out of mind?  It was apparently the former for Cox when it came to Stevens, who was part of the Kelly & Alpha morning show, which was canceled in 2008 to make way for Steve & Vikki.  After being on the beach for 2 years, he was rehired at B98.5 FM last summer for weekends and fill.

But, you can never go home again.  Well, Stevens seems to have proven that wrong.  In addition to his B98.5 weekend job, he recently added afternoon drive on 97-1 The River.  And last week, he was named to join Vikki Locke on "The B98.5 Morning Show with Vikki and Kelly."

This solidifies the near-term future of the morning show; Vikki Locke is reportedly now signed through June, 2012.  It also gives the show some much-needed balance.  Locke is a talented personality and a marquee name, but the show seemed lacking with her as the solo host.

The move also raises some questions.  Like Vikki Locke, Kelly Stevens is an adroit personality.  But radio chemistry is a funny thing.  Paring two pros does not guarantee it.  Will they have it?  And if Kelly Stevens is right, why was Steve McCoy wrong?  Was it a matter of money?  Did Cox's research show Steve was not a fit?  (That's hard to imagine after he and Vikki had a great 17-year run at Star 94.)

Rumor is Cox recently did some research, and Kelly Stevens was the second most recognized name on B98.5, after Vikki.  Stevens is gifted at doing personality radio within the tight confines of the B98.5 format.  And finally, how long will Kelly Stevens remain on The River?

Unfortunately, the odd man out is producer Will Gara, who had worked there for 17 years.  Will is a good guy, and he was a loyal employee.  I know about his loyalty because whenever I wrote something that could be remotely construed as criticism of B98.5, an email from Will arrived promptly.  But, I guess the station felt the show needed a full co-host as a counterbalance.

Cagle Adds The River
Congratulations to Cagle, who adds programming duties for 97-1 The River.  He will remain PD at B98.5FM.  In fact, I think this might be a record, one name and two stations.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Monday, March 14, 2011

The River Gets Tweaked

97-1 The River has surprised me.  It's been much more of a success than I had imagined.  The station (WSRV-FM) launched on New Year's Day 2006, commercial-free and backed by a boatload of TV ads.  It predictably had a big first Arbitron book.  But in my mind, it would be downhill from there.

Z-93 (WZGC-FM) had never done much with the format, and the tight River playlist was super stale.  Moreover, Atlanta's distance from the transmitter near Chateau Elan caused some holes in the signal.  The River's ratings did settle down a little but stayed strong over the years.

The PPM's arrival slapped a lot of programmers in the face.  Programming for the diary had become a science, and now many of those techniques no longer worked.  Stations are still fine tuning the new science of programming for the PPM.  One PPM axiom--and I've heard this articulated by Arbriton's Gary Marince--is that music stations get their highest numbers when music is playing, especially during long sweeps.

The River has one of the top cumes (i.e. number of different listeners over a week) in the market.  But cume is one of two factors that go into average weekly listening; the other is time spent listening (TSL).  And The River's TSL has been woefully short.  The River's programming brain trust, VP/Market Manager Programming Tony Kidd and Program Director Jay Dixon, looked for a way to keep people already in the cume tuned in.

Their solution, unveiled a week ago, was 52 minutes of music an hour.  As a result, 97-1 The River has gone to one stopset each hour.  Another little adjustment in search of longer time spent listening was implemented last fall, enticing the audience to stay glued for "The Classic Hit Song of the Hour."

Concurrent with last week's change, The River introduced a new station voice, Scott Fisher, who has a "friendly aggressive" sound and makes the station ions better.  Its car giveaway sounds so much more exciting than the same contest last fall.  The music is coming across a tad more rockish, but Tony Kidd told me that was not an intentional change; that the playlist is always evolving.

Kaedy Kiley remains the music-intensive morning host, and Kelly Stevens has slipped into afternoon drive.  Middays, formerly occupied by Deborah Reece, are now automated, as are evenings.

The revelation that stations can be automated yet get good ratings was brought to light by the former Beat (WBTS-FM) in its infant and toddler days.  The station took seemingly forever to hire talent yet did well in the interim.  That stations can get away with a cheap product does not make me happy, but it's a fact of life.

Atlanta's Greatest Hits Responds
I received an email from one of my favorite Atlanta radio people, Randy Cook of 106.7's Randy & Spiff.  Randy wanted to set the record straight after reading my recent column about the station ("Grandma's Cooking Not for Radio").

When writing the article, I compared a few hours of Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7 to other Classic Hits stations in major markets.  My conclusions were 106.7 marched to its own drummer; it played too little 60's product, mixed too many genres and aired songs that did not measure up to the Classic Hits label.  In any case, unlike other stations that shifted from Oldies to Classic Hits, 106.7 lost most of its audience.

Some of Randy's points were, "WCBS-FM is winning in New York, and we are following that model.  We have been following the WCBS-FM list all along.  I have been over every clock on WCBS-FM, hour will have 10 70's songs, the next will have 10 60's songs, the next will have 5 80's songs...and everything in between.  It is a very unpredictable sound...and that is what we have tried to emulate.

"I think if you monitor Atlanta's Greatest Hits over a full day, you will find there are times when it sounds like Fox 97, times when it sounds like The River, and times when it strays into the territory of B98.5.  We are not trying to be all things to all people...but we are finding that the #1 station that people are coming to us from in PPM is B98.5, not The River.  If we can convince our True Oldies Channel audience that we will still provide them their 60's (Beatles to Bon Jovi), if we can find a place between The River and B98.5, I believe we can be a success."

Well said, Randy, and I truly appreciate the input.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The PPM Tilt-A-Whirl

I am privileged to attend a luncheon put on by CBS Radio/Atlanta twice a year.  The highlight is Dave-FM's Mara Davis and V-103's Wanda Smith giving away door prizes, which leaves the crowd in side-splitting laughter.  The food is good and plentiful.  And oh, by the way, there's a presentation of the latest Arbitron numbers for all stations.

The Arbitron review is presented by Charlie Sislen of Research Director, Inc.  Sislen knows Arbitron like the back of his hand and puts on an informative session.  He's excellent at explaining methodology and trends to non-research people.  And at least we're eating while he's talking.

Prior to the PPM's arrival in Atlanta, Sislen said something with which I agreed.  In the diary days, buyers routinely used a 2 or 3 "book" average to purchase radio.  The diary results were a little jumpy so combining multiple reports increased reliability.  Sislen told us with the many more hours of measurement in each month's PPM report, versus the 3-month diary, looking at multiple months would not be necessary.  Well, a peek at Atlanta's January numbers seems to blow that theory out of the water.

Lots of eyeballs have been affixed to the ratings of Star 94 (WSTR-FM).  The highly-regarded Scott Lindy has been sculpting the station into his own Statue of David.  Star sounds much improved, which would lead one to expect ratings growth.

As I thought along those lines, something occurred to me.  If Star 94 was to grow, where would it steal audience from?  B98.5 (WSB-FM) and Q100 (WWWQ-FM) were the logical choices.  As much as I admire what Lindy is doing at Star, I realized B98.5 has a loyal audience, as does Q100, led by the Bert Show.  The going would be tough for Star, I concluded.

Out march the January numbers, and Star 94 shows a nice increase.  Yet B98.5 was back to its usual non-Christmas numbers.  So the increase must have come from Q100.  But no, Q100 had its highest ratings ever.  So where did Star 94's new listeners come from?  Country?  Speaking of which, did Country listeners suddenly stop liking the music?

92-9 Dave FM jumped dramatically to its highest numbers ever.  How did that happen?  Are Dave's ratings for real?  I'm not saying they aren't, but I want to see another month before forming an opinion.  At least, the WSB combo's increase is probably a windfall from the snowstorm.  But it's another example of why looking at more than a month seems a must.

The Media Rating Council (MRC) has granted accreditation to only three PPM markets.  Accreditation is based on two factors, sample and methodology.  Methodology is the same in all markets so it's apparently passed muster.  Sample appears to be the problem.

No one outside of Arbitron seems to be privy to what really goes on with the Atlanta sample.  Theoretically people stay in the sample for 2 years.  But is living life with a Portable People Meter attached a little hard for more than a short stint?  Have people left the sample from zip codes indexing high for Country and been replaced with folks from other parts of the market?

I've seen a PPM sample mess up a station.  Case in point: KINK-FM in Portland, the legendary AAA station.  KINK was #1 or #2 in persons 25-54 for many years.  Then came the PPM, and KINK plummeted to around 15th.  The problem was sparse Meter placement in the station's high-density zip codes.

Hey, if people want to party when their station has a banner month, I'm all for it.  Why not enjoy life's little victories?  But when it comes to advertising decisions, I'm sticking with a 2 or 3-month average.  With just 1 month, you never know in what direction things will spin.

Kramer Wins Big
I've listened to a lot of CHR morning shows, and most sound pretty much alike.  About a year ago, I mentioned a show that I thought was extraordinary and could compete with The Bert Show (if Atlanta had another CHR station to accommodate it).  The show is That Guy Kramer on Panama City's Island 106 (WILN-FM).  While I love listening on my trips to the Panhandle, I'm surprised the show is still in a market that size.

In the latest Arbitron, the Fall 2010 (diary) report, That Guy Kramer annihilated just about everything in sight.  In persons 12+ in mornings, Island 106 was in hot pursuit of Country giant WPAP-FM with a 9.4% share versus WPAP's 9.9.  In 18-34, Kramer had an unfathomable 22.9% share, more than double the #2 station and unheard of in these days of fragmented listening.  In persons 25-54, the show was #1 with 10.7% of the audience.

Congratulations to Steve Kramer as well as his co-hosts, Miguel Fuller and Holly O'Connor.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: