Monday, May 21, 2012

Majic 107-5 Making Ratings Magic

Derek Harper is one of my favorite people in Atlanta radio.  He has been Program Director of Majic 107-5/97-5 and Praise 102-5 since Operations Manager Hurricane Dave Smith blew into town in 2009.  Derek joined Radio One/Atlanta back in 2005.

Derek has some personality traits that I love, especially in this day when many local PD's just routinely implement what corporate dictates.  He has passion for and takes pride in what he does.  Derek is a cordial person but is not shy about letting me know when he feels wronged.

A couple years ago, Derek felt I had ignored Praise 102-5, the small-signal Gospel station that soared to PPM heaven.  I admitted I had sinned and repented by writing a blog post about the outlet.

Early this year, I wrote about 107.5's new, more powerful signal.  In the column, I mentioned that Cox's Kiss 104 had pretty much dominated Majic in the ratings, and that I did not expect the new Majic signal to change that.  I attributed the market's preference for Kiss to the station's music-intensive format, which the PPM seems to favor.

Oops.  I received an email from Derek, reminding me that Majic 107-5/97-5 had been consistently beating Kiss in the money demo, persons 25-54.  In fact, the ratings pushed Kiss, which had shifted to "old school" when sister station 97.1 became Jamz in 2001, to resume playing current product.  Derek ended his email by saying, "Dominant stations don't change their music format."

Okay; point well taken.  But I told Derek that 25-54's importance notwithstanding, I was talking about total listeners 6+, which Kiss had been winning handily.

Majic has been creeping up in the ratings and in April, tied Kiss among total persons.  Well, Derek's email arrived.  It read, "On behalf of my staff, I'd like to thank you for the motivation.  We're determined to remove all doubt about which station is the dominant Urban AC."  Attached was a PPM overview.

Having spent my career in the ad business, I grudgingly agreed with Derek that 25-54 is the holy grail so I took a look.  Majic won the demo in April, but the race was close.  Across all dayparts from Monday-Sunday, 6AM-Midnight, Majic edged out Kiss in average audience by 4%.  In 25-54 weekly cume, however, Kiss won by 2%.

The Urban AC race is, as political pollsters like to say, within the margin of error.   And frankly, so much of Majic's fate is shaped by its syndicated drivetime shows, Steve Harvey in mornings and Michael Baisden in afternoons.  Harvey just had the #1 movie in America, and topics like the Trayvon Martin case are tailor-made for Baisden.

In recent months, pundits have wondered how long Steve Harvey will keep his radio show, given he recently signed as host of a new syndicated TV talk program.  If Harvey did give up radio, it would throw a monster wrench into Majic (and lots of other stations).

Majic 107-5/97-5's local dayparts both feature veterans and sound good, with Carol Blackmon in middays, another important PPM daypart, and SiMan in evenings.  The formatics are solid.

The new signal from (as Radio-Info poster Jabba17 calls it) the Gwinnett-is-Great site is excellent.  I have driven it through Midtown and Downtown as well as south of town, and experienced no FM multipath whatsoever, just a solid, clear signal.  And of course that reminds me of how redundant the 97.5 simulcast is, in a market where FM signals are worth so much.  But that's another subject for another time.

I do want to give Derek Harper his props.  Majic has been going nowhere but up this year.  And he's done a spectacular job with Praise 102-5.  But the Urban AC competition is just getting revved up.  Both Majic and Kiss are going at it, and with Majic's recent gains, it's a fairly even match.  Of course, we'll keep our eyes on it.

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, May 7, 2012

All News 106.7: Rating the PPM Possibilities

Atlanta's brand new All News station, 106.7 (WYAY-FM), is headed our way.  Predicting its ratings success is difficult since there is a lot that we do not yet know.  I do have some questions, however, the answers to which will help me better predict.

On the surface, Atlanta has a gaping hole for the All News format.  Yet in this age of focus groups for everything, has Cumulus actually researched the station's potential success?  I ask this for several reasons.

Local TV news in this market is basically apartment fires and shootings.  Will All News 106.7 have the staff to cover those things?  As far as national and international news, I wonder about the market's appetite for this.  Yes, WSB's political talk shows get big ratings, but is that the same thing?

News/Talk WSB has the news image in the market and has held it for more years than I care to think about.  Yes, I realize that after Atlanta's Morning News shuts down at 8:30, WSB becomes mainly a talk station.  However, news is done live and local for 24 hours.

WSB does not have the number of news people it once had, but it has enough to send reporters to local stories.  And under the Cox Media Group umbrella, the station has additional resources with WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Will 106.7 be able to overcome the WSB news mystique?

NPR station WABE-FM is not exactly a slouch when it comes to news, with which it fills the two drive times.  Although national product consumes most of the news blocks, WABE has very able local news anchors in Steve Goss for mornings and Dennis O'Hayer in afternoons.  Can 106.7 lure Atlanta's true opinion leaders away?

Successful News and News/Talk stations tend to have first-rate, well-known morning hosts, and WSB's Scott Slade is one of them.  Within a day's drive from Atlanta, Harley Drew on WGAC/Augusta and Jim Turner on WDBO/Orlando are other examples.  Of course, WSB's mornings are tremendously enhanced by folks such as Bob Coxe, Marcy Williams, Captain Herb Emory and Kirk Mellish.  Will All-News 106.7 be able to establish, or be willing to pay for, a top-notch AM drive show?

Is Cumulus putting All News on the right signal?  The 106.7 signal is much bigger than 100.5.  But 106.7 transmits from about 30 miles outside Atlanta, and a lot of that signal goes over sparsely-populated terrain.  While 106.7 can be received in cars over a much larger area, 100.5 has at least as strong a car signal in places where the All News audience tends to drive.

What about delivering listeners at work?  No, All News 106.7 will never be the station voted #1 for the most music while you work.  But All News would be a top listening choice in certain types of businesses, types that have an affinity for steel buildings.  And 100.5 gets into buildings in Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Perimeter much better than 106.7.

How successful will the sales staff be?  A funny thing takes place in radio.  Music stations with older demos have a heck of a time selling to agencies; hence we have almost every station going after 25-54.

With All-News, however, AM stations like WCBS and WINS, and WTOP-FM lead the country in billings, their mature skew notwithstanding.  That has a lot to do with the prestige of these stations among management types.  If any station in Atlanta comes close to this scenario, it's WSB.  I wonder whether 106.7's older demos will make the station a hard sell.

Cumulus has announced that entertainment will be part of the programming.  When Merlin introduced All News FM stations in New York and Chicago, the company tried to do an "All News Light" thing to attract younger people than traditionally listen to All News.

The result was a disaster, and the stations are still scrambling to create a product competitive to their All News rivals.  Of course, we know nothing about how All News 106.7 plans to integrate entertainment into the format.

Maybe all of the above is just a smokescreen for my true underlying reason for skepticism.  Cumulus owns the station, the same Cumulus that runs everything as cheaply as possible.  CHR might be an easy format to voice track; All News is not.  According to the company, the station will be live 24/7.  In this case, that should be affordable since the rumor is the same Atlanta people will anchor the news on Cumulus News/Talk properties around the country.

The successful All-News brands around the U.S. have a drive for excellence and go at it with great fervor.  And they employ a big staff to attack every story aggressively.  They pay attention to little things like which background music plays behind each type of report.  And they invested years and lots of money before the product grew to what it is today.

Is Cumulus capable of pulling this off?  I'm just askin'.

Thanks for reading.  AAA will be back in 2 weeks.  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: