Monday, August 22, 2011

Spared By The PPM

The availability of massive amounts of data from Arbitron had already made radio programming a science.  But the Portable People Meter's introduction increased the analytic possibilities several fold.

The PPM technology itself has made radio easier on the ears.  While it's still necessary to instill the moniker or call letters to build the brand, repeating them ad nauseam in order to prod diary mentions is no longer required.  But when I think of the PPM's effects on Atlanta radio, I am most thankful for its impact on Kiss 104 (WALR-FM).

In 2001, Kiss moved from 104.7 to 104.1, and Kiss's former frequency became the home of 104.7 The Fish.  Shortly after the switch, I was having lunch with a friend, Tim Rohrer, then General Manager of 680 The Fan, owned by Dickey Broadcasting.  Dickey was the company that sold Kiss to Cox, which in turn traded the 104.7 frequency to Salem.  Tim remarked, "Cox didn't do a good job promoting the change to 104.1.  I bet a lot of Kiss listeners will write 104.7 in an Arbitron diary."

Tim appeared to have hit the nail on the head.  The ratings showed a significant decline for Kiss.  They also indicated 104.7 The Fish's audience was around 25% African-American.  The Kiss sales force asserted the ratings falloff was caused by confusion.  And the station must have believed that because it took action to recapture the diary mentions that it had earned.

Coming out of every song, and every other place where Kiss was mentioned on air, an additional "104.1" was added before the word "Kiss;" in other words, "104.1, Kiss 104.1."  This went on for years.  It drove me nuts, but eventually Kiss's ratings came back.  Nevertheless, 104.7 The Fish's African-American listeners have settled in at about 20% of its total audience.

Thank heavens for the PPM.  Not only is the maddening extra 104.1 no longer iterated, but the moniker has been abridged to just Kiss 104.

Speaking of Kiss 104, I am happy the station has reverted back to two stopsets per hour, no longer playing 10 commercials in a row.  And 97-1 The River has also returned to the two-stopset clock.  Just like that, the stations are a better place for the folks who pay the bills, the advertisers.

Over the past several weeks, Kiss 104 has been breaking in a new station voice, Jay Delay.  To my ears, Jay sounds similar to the departed Derrick Jonsun, who imaged Kiss for years.  Jay comes across kind of like Derrick but with a touch more aggressive delivery consistent with the more recent music that the station now plays.  I thought Derrick did a tremendous job for the station.

A Question for Arbitron
When I wrote the recent column on La Raza (WLKQ-FM) in Gwinnett, I obtained PPM ratings for that county only.   I requested numbers for Hispanics 18-34 and 18-49.  In a county that's approximately 30% Hispanic, the report came back with all zeros.  That's despite the fact that 26 Latino people in Gwinnett carry meters (according to Arbitron), and Arbitron obviously knew that.

I then had the ratings run again on persons 18-34 and 18-49, leaving out the Hispanic qualifier.  Many stations had big numbers, including two Spanish outlets, El Patron and La Raza.  Was I to assume these 2 stations' listeners were Anglo?  Of course not.

So let me get this straight.  Arbitron knows 26 Hispanic people carry meters in Gwinnett County, and that their meters picked up listening to El Patron and La Raza among the 18-34 and 18-49 demos.  So how could those stations have lots of 18-34 and 18-49 listeners but none of them Hispanic?  If someone could explain this, I would be most appreciative.

Congratulations to Leslie
Leslie Fram, a key player in Atlanta radio for years, is moving to CMT in Nashville as SVP of Music Strategy.  Leslie is known for having a great ear for music, and I expect her contributions to be big.  At CMT, she will be reunited with Brian Philips, Operations Manager for Atlanta's 99X in its heyday.  Philips is now the cable network's President.

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