Sunday, October 20, 2013

Legends Pack Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Awards

As many of  you know, I have not been writing the column for the past several months.  After more than 5 years, I simply needed a break.  At the request of John Long, President/Founder of the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, I am happy to bring back the column for this week only to cover the Seventh Annual Georgia Radio Hall of Fame Induction Awards.

I get a magical feeling every year when I enter the foyer area outside the ballroom where the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame is about to start its annual dinner and induction ceremony.  I become a kid in a candy store as I see Georgia radio greats standing around.  As a radio historian as well as junkie, I have read about and listened to many of these people.

Getting to shake hands and say hi to such folks as Kent Burkhart, Jim Wesley and Rhubarb Jones was worth the price of admission.   Some of the other legends in attendance on Saturday night included Steve Holman, Steve McCoy, Bob Todd, Neal Boortz, Herb Emory and Randy & Spiff, all of whom are already in the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.  They were accompanied by future Hall of Famers, such as Mara Davis, Jordan Graye, Mark Arum and Willard Arbour.

When I arrived at my assigned table, I was greeted by a very nice man who introduced himself as Tom and his brother as Paul.  I immediately realized I was at the table of the Tiger Twins and their families.  In fact, the aircheck of the Tiger Twins on was the first recording of Atlanta's WQXI that I had ever heard.

A brief reunion segment on WFOM was presented by Herb Emory and Greg McClure.  In the 1960s, WFOM was the little station that could, competing effectively for the Top-40 audience with a low-power signal in Cobb County. 

As always, the production values of the videos were superb, and the 2013 Legacy Inductees were each shown and their careers chronicled.  Deanna Brown Thomas, daughter of singer James Brown, introduced the representative of each inductee.

The inductees included Palmira Braswell, a teacher who became Macon's first female black disc jockey as Honeybee on WBML; George Crumbley, a much honored Emory grad who eventually became sales manager of WSB; Jimmy Dunaway, a Carrollton native who after working in several markets, realized his goal of working at WSB; Al Evans, Jr., who was born to a radio family and eventually purchased WVLD in Valdosta with his dad; and John Holliman, a Georgian and UGA graduate who excelled in radio news, and eventually became a reporter and anchorman at CNN.

The other Legacy inductees were Don Kordecki, who signed on WKRW-AM in Cartersville and was named Georgia Broadcaster Citizen of the Year in 1967; Royal Marshall, who became an Atlanta radio fixture as Neal Boortz's producer and hosted his own talk shows on WSB and WCNN; Leonard Postero, who created "Leonard's Losers," a football prognostication publication and radio show heard on a number of stations plus Armed Forces Radio; and Annie Lee Small, who started in radio at age 12 and eventually became WSB's first female announcer and later, with her husband, owned WYTH in Madison, Georgia.

Next came the 2013 Founders & Directors Honoree, who was James "Alley Pat" Patrick.  Alley Pat was an early black personality at WERD, WAOK, WYZE and WXAG/Athens.  When he was heard on a video, the GRHOF audience howled at his wit and admired his brilliance at selling his sponsors' products.  Now 94, Alley Pat walked on stage and showed his sense of humor was still intact.

The 2013 Elmo Ellis Spirit Award recipient was James W. Woodruff, Jr, an accomplished radio veteran whose last position was CEO of WRBL radio and TV in the Columbus market.

Randy & Spiff were very funny as the masters of ceremony for the 2013 Career Achievement Inductees.  They honored a parade of greats, starting with Tom & Paul Collins, the Tiger Twins, part of the fabled Quixie, WQXI.  They did an overnight show that attracted attention, and both went on to big careers in radio.

Steve Goss, the next inductee, was one of the mold breakers.  On-air talent in major markets typically stay for 5 years or less.  Goss came to WGST as an intern in 1978 and then spent 27 years as the midday host on sister station Peach 94.9.  His familiar voice still graces Atlanta radio as local host of NPR's Morning Edition on WABE-FM.

Kelly McCoy also defied the longevity odds, being on the air in Atlanta for 34 years.  After working at WQXI, McCoy handled afternoon drive on B98.5 for 27 years.  He has been one of my favorite voices in Atlanta radio and is known for being a super-nice person.

Charlie Hill was doing announcements on a Warner Robins movie theater's PA system when the owner of WRPB heard him.  That led Hill to a long career in radio that culminated with being part-owner of WVMG in Cochran.

Kaedy Kiley is one of Atlanta radio's greats.  She became a household name doing afternoons on 96 Rock and then Z93.  Kiley has interviewed some of rock's biggest stars and is known for her music expertise.  After several years off the air, she took over morning drive on 97-1 The River, where she remains today.

Nelle Reagan is part of the landscape in Rome, GA, where she has been on the air for more than 50 years.  She currently hosts "Talk of the Town," late mornings on WRGA-AM.

Bill Rice was a musician at an early age.  The radio door opened for Rice when WNEG in Taccoa needed someone to host a soul music show.  Rice not only hosted the program but used his own money to buy records for the show at Turtles and Peaches.

Mike Roberts was V-103's anchor, holding down morning drive for 13 years and doubling as program director for 3 of those years.  He now owns WQMJ-FM (Magic 100) in Macon.

Mark Summers made his mark at the storied WBBQ in Augusta, first as the voice of several characters on the Buddy Carr morning show and then as the station's morning man.  He also worked at Savannah stations Y-105 and Lite 98.

Every year so far, the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame dinner and ceremony have been near perfection.  I'm already looking forward to 2014.

I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to email me at

Monday, June 24, 2013

Changes Hit Star 94 & B98.5

It seems like just yesterday when we considered Star 94 and Q100 to be direct competitors.  B98.5 was out there somewhere doing its own thing.  Then B98.5 added current material, and things began to evolve.

These days, Arbitron's PPM shows Q100 as the youngest of the 3 stations, with its women 25-49 pretty evenly dividend between 25-34 and 35-49.  Both B98.5 and Star 94 are top heavy on the 35-49 side.

B98.5 has held the upper hand over Star 94 in the battle for women during recent months.  And it has not helped Star 94 that Power 96-1 makes a decent showing in the 25-49 demo.

To my surprise, B98.5 had planned to retain the Vikki & Kelly morning show.  The station extended Kelly Stevens another year about 4 months ago, with Vikki Locke's deal set to be renewed by July 1.  However, a few weeks ago, Vikki gave notice of her resignation and will move back to Ohio to be with her ailing dad.  Station brass decided against pairing Kelly with someone new so he will be leaving morning drive on B98.5...for the second time.

While B98.5 searches for a replacement show, I do not expect the bottom to fall out.  The Cox Media Group outlet has been playing 10 songs an hour in morning drive, and the PPM will likely continue to smile upon the station.  B98.5 has been through a slew of morning shows in my time here, but ironically, I feel the duo most effective in injecting personality while staying within format confines were Kelly (Stevens) and Alpha (Trivette).

B98.5 finally filled its 7-10PM slot with Cami LeBlanc.  I think Program Director Chris Eagan discovered Cami addressing her graduating class at a middle school.  (That was a joke.)  She had been a traffic reporter for 104.7 The Fish.

The usually steadfast Star 94 has had its share of tremors in the past 2 months.  First, evening jock Orff was mysteriously canned and replaced with Sari Rose.  Then Chase Daniels, a key piece of the station's foundation, resigned and is headed to mornings in Indianapolis, where he will reunite with his former boss at Star 94 and WAPE in Jacksonville, JR Ammons.

A major accomplishment for PD Eagan is he has smoothed out B98.5's music.  When former PD Cagle shifted to "80s, 90s and now," some of the "now" songs went too far to the rhythmic side.  B98.5's current-song playlist is similar to Star 94's, and the station augments with music test winners from the 80s, 90s and 00s.

The music adjustments combined with some formatic alterations has B98.5 sounding its best in years.  Some of the formatic elements, including the top-of-the-hour ID, the sweepers and the stop-set timing, make me wonder whether Star 94 PD Scott Lindy feels like he's programming two stations.

B98.5, Q100 and Star 94 all vie for the market's women in the money demos, with B98.5 presently winning, Q100 not far behind, and Star 94 in a little slump.  As I think about the respective playlists of the three stations, I have to conclude that Star 94's is the most conservative and borders on boring.

I like the aura of "the mom's station" that Star 94 has created.  Along with its positioning of "today's hits without the rap," however, I wonder if Star has gone too far to avoid any hint of Rhythmic.  The today portion of B98.5's playlist seems adventurous compared to Star's.

Going back a couple of years, I remember trying to figure out why Star 94 was not playing David Guetta's Without You.  Yes, it's a Rhythmic leaning song but nowhere near offensive to a mainstream female audience.  And there are other upbeat songs that I feel would be acceptable to Star's listeners, such as Don't You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia.

There is Usher--and I realize the name alone conjures up thoughts of Rhythmic and Hip-Hop.  But I see nothing in DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love that would sour Star listeners.  I remember the station, which then leaned more toward CHR, played Usher's first hit, Yeah, back in the mid-2000s.  Another boat that I think Star 94 is missing is Hall of Fame by The Script.  Okay, I know the song contains rap, which Star says it doesn't play, but it's not rap rap, if you know what I mean.  And Star already plays the Irish group's Breakeven in its recurrents.

B98.5 has a huge advantage in that it's widely perceived as the station to play in offices, stores and restaurants, producing a significant PPM windfall.  Star 94's playlist is similar to other Hot ACs, but I feel its music needs to pop a little more to compete with B98.5.  I do recognize that Star 94 Program Director Scott Lindy and Music Director Michael Chase see music research to which I am not privy.

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, June 17, 2013

It's All About The Music For Power 96-1

Power 96-1 (WWPW-FM) burst onto the scene last August with an abundance of promise.  Atlanta had been without a real CHR station since Q100 slipped into the hands of Cumulus several years ago.

Q100 was a pretender according to CHR purists; it was trying to have its cake and eat it too by leaving out Rhythmic product and adding material designed to snag people at the demo's upper end.  A huge hole seemed to be there for playing all the hits and only all the hits.

Power 96-1 seemed hamstrung from the start.  It carried the syndicated Elvis Duran morning show, which does well for Clear Channel in a lot of markets.  But Q100 has the Bert Show, one of the best in the country and one that's spent years cultivating a loyal audience.  Power also had On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, carried by many leading CHR's around the U.S.  It appeared Clear Channel thought Power would come in and roll over Q100, but the two syndicated shows back-to-back were not a good omen.

Power surged into the ratings elite really fast; CHR listeners are known for moving to the newest flavor.  In Total Persons 6+, it hit the top 10 and broke a 4 share.  Since then, the station, which has been criticized as too Rhythmic, leaving out important hits and playing its powers a gazillion times, has settled down in the 3's, out of the top 10 stations.  Meanwhile, Q100, the station it was going to bury, has its highest ratings in quite a while.

The Power 96-1 brain trust recently decided the station needed a point of difference, and that would be the music.  WWPW started repeatedly playing "another song you won't hear on regular Atlanta radio," whatever that means.  It also touted songs that Power played first, at least according to the station.

A few Saturdays ago, I punched the Power 96-1 button in my car and quickly heard an intro for a song "you won't hear on Q100."  Power quickly aired several more of these sweepers mentioning the Cumulus CHR giant.  I listened the following day and occasionally caught Q100 references, but they were few and far between.  But Power was incessantly playing the "you won't hear on regular Atlanta radio" and "heard it first" intros.

I started to think about what I was hearing.  Power 96-1 said Q100 was not playing Selena Gomez, but Q100 was playing Selena Gomez.  Same with Demi Levato.

Then I heard an even stranger claim.  It went something like, "Power 96-1 plays this new music:" Jennifer Lopez/Pittbull Live it Up hook; "and:" Ed Sheeran Lego House hook.  Interestingly, however, neither song was or had been in rotation on the station.  In fact, given Power's Rhythmic lean, I am not surprised the station stayed away from Ed Sheeran.  But why did Power claim to be playing it, especially since the song conveys a music image different from Power 96-1's?

And then, lucky me.  I was treated to an "A-Town Exclusive," except I am not sure which A-Town was being referred to.  Albany?  Augusta?  The song was Mariah Carey's #Beautiful, which was also being played on Q100 but with less spins.  On Monday of last week, the AJC's Rodney Ho tweeted, "No idea why Power 96-1 is calling Blurred Lines an ATL Exclusive because I just heard it a few minutes earlier on Q100!"

Power 96-1 does take chances on new Rhythmic-leaning music but does not play acts such as Fall Out Boy and Ariana Grande.  And it does not help Power that CHR has swung back toward straight-ahead pop material in recent months.

It's not that Q100 is the ideal CHR.  It's taken the station an eternity to add some major hits, including Don't You Worry Child, The A Team, Thrift Shop and others.  Such markets as Charlotte, Orlando, Nashville and Jacksonville have CHR's that are far superior musically to those in Atlanta.  Whether Q100's music will change with playlist decisions moving away from Jan Jeffries is hard to say.  If it did not, I would not blame Q100 one bit given its ratings.  And I am not sure song selection for the company will affect a station's music clock.

So we sit at an interesting juncture, with two CHR's having virtually identical signals from the same transmitter site.  My guess is Clear Channel expected more in the way of ratings at this point.  Its former Rhythmic CHR Wild 105.7 was getting good numbers with a poor signal and a Rhythmic orientation.  Yet Power 96-1's current music direction is not winning, especially when combined with the burden of hours of syndication.  And is making fictitious claims to set the station apart musically helping or hurting?

With Jan Jeffries, the man who takes the blame for the conservative playlists at Cumulus CHR's, out of the music selection picture, will Q100 cut off Power by moving more to the CHR center?  As always, the war for Atlanta's young women continues to be interesting.

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, June 10, 2013

Quixie & Atlanta's Rich Top-40 Legacy

I caught this radio obsession disease at a young age, while I was in junior high school.  In those days, Billboard, the famous music industry magazine, covered radio in a big way.  When I found that out, I would do almost anything to get my hands on a copy of Billboard.  I started learning about markets across the U.S. with an emphasis on my favorite format, Top 40.

One of the markets covered was of course Atlanta, and one week Billboard showed the lineup at WQXI-AM, Quixie in Dixie.  Paul Drew was listed as the evening personality.  When I saw a picture of Drew, he did not look like I would have expected; in other words, some attractive young guy with wild hair.  Drew wore a coat and tie, and also a dress hat.  I also learned about Kent Burkhart, then the General Manager, and followed his career to head of Pacific & Southern, and then to one of the most successful consultants in radio history.

I never actually heard Quixie until the Cruisin' Series was released in the 1970s.  Each Cruisin' vinyl was a recreation of a show on a major Top-40 station.  One of the Cruisin' discs featured Dr. Don Rose on WQXI.  By that time, I was well familiar with Rose because he was the morning star on WFIL in Philadelphia.

Around 1967, I remember reading in Billboard that Paul Drew was leaving Quixie to install Bill Drake's Top-40 format, which was taking the country by storm, at Detroit's CKLW.  But I was not aware at the time that Drake and Drew had become friends and fellow radio strategists when they both worked at WAKE-AM in Atlanta.

I also followed Drew's career, which soared to tremendous heights.  I recognized that he had one of radio's best programming minds.  His recent passing made me think about WQXI and the impact that it had on this market.

In recent years, I have heard numerous Quixie airchecks on  Atlanta did not have a lot of stations, but Quixie still sounded great.  And while a large number of stations would seem to have prodded each competitor to bring its A game, I suppose the low number of choices and the mass appeal of Top 40 in those days motivated WQXI to go after the market's real giant, WSB, sometimes successfully.

When I first saw WQXI's little transmitter site on Cheshire Bridge Road, a bit of cognitive dissonance set in.  Yet what was really hard to grasp was how that little signal, especially at night when it was a highly-directional 1,000 watts, was able to dominate this market's youth as it did.  I suppose it was a combination of the market being much less spread out combined with it being the era before the FCC allowed so many additional stations, resulting in interference much closer than previously.

I arrived in Atlanta in 1994, more than a decade after FM took over.  Yet Quixie's size and influence had been so great, that being in advertising and writing about radio has resulted in my crossing paths with many people who were part of that legendary station.  I have become either friends or acquaintances, or have done business with them.  And I have met others at the annual Georgia Radio Hall of Fame banquet.

Top-40 these days, also called Contemporary Hit Radio, is not the same format it was in the WQXI era.  In those years, it was mass appeal, playing the Beatles and Frank Sinatra in the same hour. Top-40 stations sometimes had 50% or more of the market's share of listening.  Top-40 still plays the hits, but the proliferation of FM music stations and fragmentation of music has forced formats to serve niches.  As a result, Top-40, which has always served the young, now skews very young and female.

In this day of the PPM, with which ratings are driven by cume, historically a strength for Top-40, the format has seen a resurgence.  The roots of today's CHR are embedded in the great AM Top-40 stations of the 60's and 70's, and Atlanta had one of the best.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Atlanta's Radio Icons - 1994 To Now - Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of our series on Atlanta's Radio Icons from 1994 until now.  In part 3, we completed naming 31 of Atlanta's best, all from the FM band.  This week, we wrap things up with our honorees from the AM side.

Scott Slade - Scott cut his radio teeth on the Top-40 format, programming and jocking at WAYS in Charlotte and WAPE in Jacksonville.  His first job at WSB was doing traffic, and for more than 20 years, he has been anchoring Atlanta's Morning News.  Over that time, Scott has developed into one of the best in the business, with a terrific voice and relaxed delivery.  He always sounds totally in command.  Of course, you could hear him just about anywhere from Channel 30 to your neighborhood Kroger store.

Neal Boortz - Recently retired after a long career in Talk radio, Neal understood what buttons to push to get emotion out of his listeners and callers.  A self-professed Libertarian, his audience was sometimes surprised by his points-of-view.  He really put himself into his show every morning and built a syndicated network.  Neal's radio career began in the 70s at the former Ring Radio.  He then moved to WGST before WSB lured him away in 1992.

Mike Kavanagh - Mike's authoritative news voice boomed out over WSB's airwaves during two stints over many years.  For a short time in the late 90s, he moved to WCNN-AM, which was then a Talk station in a Cox LMA with Dickey Broadcasting.  Mike was also a practicing financial adviser, expertise he brought to WSB on Atlanta's Morning News and a Sunday morning call-in show.  Mike passed away in 2008.

Clark Howard - Clark is not a natural radio talent, but he has excelled on the radio.  He has the trust of the public and is revered for his advice on consumer matters.  He also has authored books and owns his show, which is syndicated to markets across the U.S.  He recently added being a regular on an HLN evening show every weekday to his repertoire..

Captain Herb Emory - Captain Herb has the perfect sound to lead News/Talk WSB's traffic team.  He's authoritative and good humored, and he makes it sound so easy.  And he's been at it for a long time.  Years ago, he worked for Quixie.

Kirk Melhuish - Kirk is a vital component in News/Talk WSB.  He knows weather, and Atlanta knows he's the consummate expert.  His familiar voice is not typical of a newscaster so he complements the rest of the airstaff nicely.  Somehow, I had imagined Kirk as a very serious person without a sense of humor.  But that notion was quickly dispelled when Kirk delivered his acceptance speech at the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.

Tom Hughes - Tom is now retired but anchored Atlanta's First News in the days when WGST was giving WSB a run for the money.  He mixed his effective anchoring skills with some very creative humor.

Kim Peterson - The Kimmer was Tom Hughes' counterpart on WGST in afternoon drive.  He delivered information but also entertained.  He had his audience in stitches on many a day.

Christopher Rude - Chris is on the list of FM icons, based on his lengthy run at 96 Rock.  Of course, he now anchors mornings on 680 The Fan.

Beau Bock - Beau has long been associated with sports broadcasting in Atlanta.  Turner Broadcasting and the old Top-40 Z93 were his early stomping grounds.  At the start of 790 The Zone in 1997, Beau was the man tasked by original owner Andrew Saltzman to write the station's business plan.  And Beau anchored the morning show with Steak Shapiro for years.  After retiring, Beau returned to the Zone about a year ago to host a Sunday morning show and do commentaries as "The Dean."  He knows sports as well as anyone and is still top notch at conveying his points of view.

Steak Shapiro - Everyone has his or her own taste, and Steak's style is not my preference.  However, there is no way that I could deny Steak is an icon in this market.  He was one of the original owners, along with Andrew Saltzman, of 790 The Zone parent Big League Broadcasting.  And he has anchored mornings on the station from day one.  Now he has branched out into TV, hosting a restaurant show on CBS 46.

Dimino & Cellini - Chris Dimino & Nick Cellini now work alongside Steak Shapiro on 790 The Zone's Mayhem in the AM.  Chris and Nick have also been paired in other dayparts.  They have tremendous longevity in the market.  Chris has also worked at 680 The Fan and even done weekend shows on WSB radio.  Nick went in my mind from being Vince's brother to being one of the sharpest wits in Sports Radio.  The duo does some of the best Sports Talk in the business as well as analysis for WGCL-TV.

That ends our list of Atlanta's Radio icons from 1994 to today.

Recapping all of our honorees, they are as follows: Mara Davis, Art Mehring, Steve & Vikki, Craig Hunt, Rob Stadler, Sandy Weaver, Dale O'Brien, Kelly McCoy, Jordan Graye, Christopher Rude, Willard, Kaedy Kiely, The Regular Guys, Emperor Searcy, The Morning X, Steve Craig, Randy & Spiff, JJ Jackson, Bert Weiss, Moby, Cadillac Jack, Mike Roberts, Frank Ski, Leslie Fram, Ryan Cameron, Larry Tinsley, Kevin & Taylor, Art Terrell, Rhubarb Jones, Si-Man, Crash Clark, Scott Slade, Neal Boortz, Mike Kavanagh, Clark Howard, Captain Herb Emory, Tom Hughes, Kim Peterson, Beau Bock, Steak Shapiro, Chris Dimino and Nick Cellini.

Many of the above greats have already been inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, including Steve McCoy & Vikki Locke, JJ Jackson, Moby, Randy Cook & Spiff Carner, Scott Slade, Neal Boortz, Clark Howard, Mike Kavanagh, Kirk Melhuish, Rhubarb Jones, Captain Herb Emory and Tom Hughes.  Three others have been nominated for a Career Achievement Award at this fall's ceremony.  They are Kelly McCoy, Kaedy Kiely and Mike Roberts.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Atlanta's Radio Icons - 1994 To Now - Part 3

In the past 2 weeks, we have recognized 20 Atlanta radio greats as icons.  In part 3, we name the last 11 from the FM band:

Moby - Moby (aka James Carney) was once a top-rated morning man on Rock stations in Dallas and Houston.  He was hired in 1991 by Kicks 101.5 and changed his act to Country.  He adjusted to the format quickly and led Kicks to its highest morning ratings ever.  Ten years later when, according to rumor, Moby's down-home schtick (i.e. "Mornin, peaches") was embarrassing the GM around his neighbors, Moby's contract was not renewed.  Then after a brief stint at Classic Rock Z93, Moby made lemonade out of a lemon by creating a syndicated morning show for small markets.

Cadillac Jack - Cadillac Jack came to the market directly from Myrtle Beach in 1994.  His first handled evenings on Kicks 101.5 and then moved to afternoon drive on sister station Y106.7.  Then it was back to Kicks in afternoons and finally to mornings, which he now co-hosts with Dallas McCade.  He has a unique sound that fits Country radio to a tee, and comes across as a family man and nice person.

Mike Roberts - Mike held down mornings on V-103 for 13 years, working alongside Carol Blackmon.  He has loads of radio talent, including voice, inflection and timing.  He was widely known and respected across the community.  Mike can still be heard as the voice of Macon's Majic 100, which he owns.

Frank Ski - Frank replaced Mike Roberts in mornings on V-103 around 1998.  While he may not have the natural radio talent of Mike, he was a good fit, especially with the changing direction of Urban music.  Frank dedicated himself to the show and his audience, and became a fixture in the community.  Last fall, he made the decision to leave V-103 in the hope of getting a national platform.

Ryan Cameron - Ryan was a comedy club performer when he started on V-103 in evenings in the early 90s.  As he polished his radio act, he moved to Radio One's WKYS-FM in Washington DC, returning to Atlanta in 1996 for mornings at Hot 97-5 and then 107-9, where he remained for almost 10 years.  Then it was back to V-103 for a morning show in afternoons, so to speak, and then on to morning drive this year.  Ryan just oozes with talent, and V-103's morning show has not missed a beat.

Larry Tinsley  - Larry has owned the most important daypart for Gospel, Sunday mornings, for decades.  He has been on V-103 for about 20 years and was on the radio in Atlanta long before that.  Among persons 25-54 on Sundays from 6AM to noon, he is #1 with twice the audience of the two stations tied for #2, Kiss 104 and 104.7 The Fish.  Larry has 2 and two-thirds times the audience on Sunday mornings as Praise 102.5, the only Atlanta station with a full-time Gospel format.

Kevin & Taylor - Kevin Avery and Taylor Scott have been the only morning show that 104.7 The Fish has had in its 12-year history.  The show, while holding true to the station's Christian tenor, is of major market caliber and mass appeal, and competes with the market's leaders in ratings.

Art Terrell - Art became known to Atlanta listeners in the early days of Hot 97-5 during the mid-90s.  He has held down afternoon drive on Kiss 104 for several years, with a great voice and charismatic personality.

Rhubarb Jones - Rhubarb came from Montgomery many years ago and became Atlanta's first big Country morning star on Y106.7, where he remained until 2008.  He is well-known and respected for his radio work as well as his charitable activities.  Still a dedicated radio advocate, Rhubarb teaches communications at Kennesaw State University.

Crash Clark - Chris Crash Clark has been a mainstay of Atlanta radio for many years.  He has reported traffic on many stations and altered his delivery--and sometimes his name--on each.  But he always sounds like he doesn't take life too seriously.  Several years ago, he was a 99X employee and got into a little misadventure at a station promotion in a bar.  PD Leslie Fram was not humored and fired Crash.  After a period of exile in Boston with former 99X personality Toucher, Crash came back to Atlanta and joined CBS Radio, where he now does traffic as Crash D on V-103.

Si-Man - Silas Si-Man Alexander has been one of Atlanta radio's most resilient members.  He was in middays on V-103 in the late 90s when David Dickey, then running Kiss, brought him over for afternoon drive.  Si-Man fit in well and was sounding great when he had the opportunity to do a morning show on what was then Majic 102.5.  The lure of doing mornings attracted Si, but the station's small signal (equivalent to 6,000 watts) was not competitive with V-103 and Kiss.  When 102.5's partial transition to Talk occurred, Si shifted to evenings, and then moved over to the 107.5/97.5 signals 4 years ago.  He is still sounding terrific, and his famous "Si-Man BAby" cry remains in full effect.

That wraps up part 3 of our 4-part series.  Next week, we will reveal the last 11 Atlanta radio icons, all from the AM side.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Atlanta's Radio Icons - 1994 To Now - Part 2

Atlanta radio has had so many greats in the almost 20 years that I've lived here.  Last week's edition revealed 10 of these icons.  We now continue our list: 

Christopher Rude - Chris is a talented radio pro with a great voice and personality.  After many spectacular years in AM and then PM drive on 96 Rock, he changed formats to Sports Talk and adapted exceptionally well.  He's been anchoring mornings at 680 The Fan for 10 years.

Willard - Willard joined 96 Rock in its infancy in 1974 and did middays through 1999.  Then he was picked up by Z93, first as morning show producer and then as talent.  When Z93 ended and Dave-FM started, Willard moved seamlessly into sales.  He now lives the good life in the North Georgia mountains.

Kaedy Kiely - Kaedy was a superstar at 96 Rock in afternoons during the station's heyday.  She opted to leave for Z93 after Chris Rude and Willard were released at the end of 1998.  For the past few years, she has masterfully handled mornings at 97-1 The River and adapted beautifully to the station's limited talk time.

The Regular Guys - Larry Wachs and Eric Von Haessler, along with sidekick Southside Steve Rickman, have been in the Atlanta market since 1998.  They worked for Clear Channel twice, at 96 Rock and for a brief time at WGST.  Both tenures ended in misadventures, but Cumulus hired them when Rock 100.5 launched in 2008.  Some say the show is not as funny or edgy as it once was, but its longevity speaks for itself.

Emperor Searcy - For Dewayne Searcy, his radio career is second in importance to being a record producer.  But he has been a constant in afternoon drive on Hot 107-9 for 18 years except for a brief foray on the morning show.  He has a consistent and commanding air presence that serves him well.

The Morning X - Amazingly, the morning show that consisted of Steve Barnes, Jimmy Baron and Leslie Fram has been gone for almost 10 years.  Yet it's still remembered as the anchor of one of Alternative radio's most innovative and successful stations, 99X.  Barnes, who incidentally was the first person ever to unfriend me on Facebook, and Jimmy both later did mornings on 92-9 Dave FM, and are now pursuing other careers.  Leslie was hired by her former boss at 99X, Brian Philips, who today is President of CMT.  Leslie serves as CMT's SVP of Music Strategy.

Steve Craig - Steve was first on the air in Atlanta at the old Power 99 and then stayed when the station became 99X.  The "House of Retro Pleasure" during his midday shift became a huge fan favorite.  After a stint at New York's WRXP-FM working for Leslie Fram, Steve, who is a veritable music encyclopedia, replaced his former 99X cohort Jimmy Baron in mornings on Dave-FM.  After Dave-FM died, Steve joined 97-1 The River for weekends and fill.

Randy & Spiff - Randy Cook and Spiff Carner were a solid foundation for Oldies station Fox 97 during its years in Atlanta.  And when oldies moved, these guys moved with the format, to Kool 105.7 and then Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7.  They also did morning stints on Lite 94-9 and WGST-AM.  Randy was one of those real radio guys, and Spiff, well, was on the radio.  They had excellent chemistry and made mornings fun for a lot of years.

JJ Jackson - JJ did the afternoon drive show on Fox 97, and his love and knowledge of music were evident.  His disc jockey background goes back to the 80s on the legendary Quixie, and the great stations on which he plied his craft include CKLW-AM/Detroit, another legend.  After years in radio, JJ is enjoying a new career that incorporates his second love, cooking.

Bert Weiss - After co-hosting with legendary morning hosts Kidd Kraddick in Dallas and Jack Diamond in DC, Bert felt he was ready to play lead fiddle.  He was brought to the attention of Brian Philips, who hired Bert for mornings at Q100 when it signed on in 2001.  Bert quickly proved he was right about being ready.  His show has been a huge hit, bringing in big ratings and billings.  The Bert Show is now syndicated in several markets.

That's it for this week.  But more icons are coming in our next edition.  Stay tuned.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Atlanta's Radio Icons - 1994 To Now - Part 1

We all complain about Atlanta radio.  But since I arrived here in 1994, Atlanta radio has had some greats on the air.  Some are icons because of their talent, others because of their resiliency or longevity.

I'm taking a risk by doing this because it's all coming from my memory; I'm bound to miss someone.  Also, the personalities on the list were in their prime in 1994 or the years following.  I do not have the knowledge to salute those who were big in the 70s or 80s.

Here are my choices in no particular order except from the left to the right of the FM band and then on to AM:

Mara Davis - Mara is the personality's personality.  She is engaging, interesting and funny.  She was able to stretch WZGC's formatic limits in middays to accommodate her act, and it was a highly entertaining one.  In the era of the PPM, finding another perfect platform will be difficult.

Art Mehring - Art was not always "Mad Man."  In the late 90's, he was the morning sports reporter on Z93, and he has very successfully reinvented himself doing traffic for Clear Channel.  His radio career goes back to the 80s in Memphis.

Steve & Vikki - Steve McCoy and Vikki Locke were such a team on Star 94 for 17 years that when they were no longer on, it was hard to believe.  They were one of the most well-oiled morning shows this market ever heard, and both are true talents and professionals.

Craig Hunt -  Craig was one of the market's most talented jocks ever.  He was so smooth and handled afternoon drive on Star 94 just about flawlessly.  After a 10-year run for Craig, Star 94 made a decision to go with a 2-host show, Cindy & Ray.  But Craig was immediately hired by one of Star's sister stations in Denver, KYGO-FM.  Craig is still doing radio at Country station U.S. 103.5 in Tampa.

Rob Stadler - Rob has been News Director at 94.1 since the 94Q days and is the station's only constant from then until today.  He still sounds great delivering the news in the morning, and it's a testament to Star 94 management that they recognize his value in this day and age of running lean.

Sandy Weaver - Sandy is one of the most talented people to grace the radio.  She was amazing as the late evening personality at Washington's Q107 during the glory days.  She moved to Atlanta in 1994 after IBM relocated her husband here and has worked at Peach/Lite 94-9, Kicks 101-5, Eagle 106.7 and B98.5.  She is still on the air as Moby's co-host on his syndicated show.

Dale O'Brien - When I came to Atlanta, Dale was doing mornings on B98.5 with Trevor Johns.  Out of all the morning shows that followed him on that station, I have never heard anyone who did it as well and sounded as good as Dale.  I have listened to him on airchecks doing Top 40 at Z93, and he sounded just as terrific.

Kelly McCoy - Over the years, B98.5 has seen a lot of changes.  But no matter the turmoil elsewhere on the station, most notably in mornings, Kelly was a steady presence in afternoon drive for 27 years.  He has a great voice and fit in so well at the Cox AC.

Jordan Graye - Jordan is not the stereotypical AC jock and sounds great.  She has anchored B98.5's most-listened-to daypart since 1994 with the exception of a couple of years at the turn of the new millenium.

That's all the room we have for Part 1.  Our list of icons will continue in next week's Atlanta Airwave Action.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Power 96-1 Not Hitting On All Cylinders

I'm happy Power 96-1 came to Atlanta.  I was one of many bemoaning the absence of a true CHR in this market for a long time.  I do not, however, think it is one of the better CHR's in a major market.

Power 96-1 does have some facets I like, including the music and the imaging.  And a lot of what I do not like is being caused by limitations put on the station by owner Clear Channel.  Some smart formatic elements are incorporated into the regular music hours.

A great station starts with a local morning show, a feature that Power 96-1 sorely lacks.  And yes, Elvis Duran is successful not only in his home market of New York, where he is local, but in many of his piped-in markets.  I thought the show would find the sledding tough against Q100's Bert Show, but it's been getting by.  It's one of the factors, however, holding back Power 96-1 from greatness though not the biggest factor.

I suppose it's hard to criticize Power 96-1 for carrying On Air with Ryan Seacrest when great stations such as Z100/New York and Kiss 108/Boston air it with no damage to their ratings.  And perhaps I could more readily accept it if morning drive were local, as it is on those two stations.  Radio's primetime is weekdays from 6AM to 7PM, and Power 96-1 has non-local programming in 8 of those 13 hours.  Maybe it's just me, but the content and formatics of Seacrest seem so out of phase with the station's other music hours.

Then there's the little matter of Mami Chula.  Since her days on 95-5 The Beat, she always sounded to me like she was auditioning for the world's worst disc jockey competition.  But I understood her act given the stations she was on, first The Beat and then Wild.  She managed to attract a following, which won her the 10AM to noon slot on Power 96-1 when Wild was blown up.  I recognize that her act is what earned her the fan base so maybe she was wise not to change it.  But she sounds so unnatural and languid to me.

Sonic, who now holds down 4-8PM, is good and has broad appeal.  It would be nice if he would do just a bit more than send shout-outs and promote appearances.  Yet Power 96-1 sounds its best when he's on.

Maddox, now on 8 to midnight, has the stereotypical CHR sound that permeates a lot of Clear Channel's CHR FM's.  It's a niche sound that relates to the young end of the demo that likes today's pop music.  I much prefer a traditional night slammer, such as Z100/New York's Mo Bounce.  It's interesting that Mo Bounce sounds so good on Z100 yet just average on his voice-tracked weekend shifts on Power 96-1.

The biggest reason for Power 96-1's mediocrity is its overall slow pace, it's lack of energy.  It just does not have the forward momentum of a Z100, for example.  It misses the excitement that has always been a hallmark of CHR architecture.  While Q100 is a more adult CHR, and Star 94 is a Hot AC, both move at a rate consistent with their format.  As a CHR, Power 96-1's momentum should be even greater.

The market's hunger for a pure CHR has made Power 96-1 successful in ratings and billings during the early going.  And ending the cannibalization from Wild 105.7/96.7 was a move that could boost Power's metrics.

Maybe I'm never satisfied.  I got a CHR and now have the nerve to want greatness.  As I said, part of the problem is Clear Channel forcing Elvis Duran and Ryan Seacrest onto Atlanta listeners.  But it seems the even bigger issue of a lethargic pace could be solved by PD Rick Vaughn and the Clear Channel braintrust.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, April 29, 2013

92.9 & 106.7 Stabilizing Atlanta Radio . . . For Now

When I arrived in Atlanta in 1994, the radio market here was a unique one.  It had far fewer stations on the FM dial than virtually all other markets its size.  On AM, it had the big sound of WSB but for the most part was the king of low-fi signals.  The move-ins that were made possible by FCC rule changes in the 1980's had started.  FM's on 97.1, 104.1, 104.7 and 106.7 were now covering the market.

"Underradioed" was a word that Webster somehow missed but was frequently spoken in Atlanta radio circles.  In fact, the word became associated with Atlanta to the extent that I heard an Arbitron representative use it when speaking at an ad club luncheon just 3 years ago.

Being underradioed was not the only thing that made the market unique back then.  Dollars were pouring in to radio stations at a record clip.  According to reports, Atlanta was the country's hottest market in radio revenue growth.

The results of all this were some very happy radio execs and complacent-sounding stations.  Format changes were non-existent.  Why flip when you're rolling in cash?

When you have a party like that, everyone wants to crash it.  And they did.  In the next 10 or so years, 9 new FM's and 1 AM announced their presence on the dial.  Moreover, the record billing was not going to last forever.  And what revenue came in would be shared by many more players.

The huge increase in competition and the end of the days of easy riches changed the market's complexion.  The party crowd exceeded capacity, and someone had to be squeezed.  Someone, or a couple of someones, would not be doing well and become the subject of format change rumors.

In December 2011, I wrote that 2012 could be a watershed year for changes in Atlanta radio, and it was.  Since then, things have settled down for the most part.  The ironic thing is the only two FM's doing poorly, at least so far in their young lives, are stabilizing the market.  And both have invested so much that they have no choice but to keep going for the near term.

All News 106.7 (WYAY-FM) has been around for almost a year.  Its share among total persons 6+ was 1.6% in the latest PPM monthly.  My guess is that's pretty much where they will max out.  The station's owner, Cumulus, is well known for running things as cheaply as possible.  Yet with the exception of putting infomercials on weekend mornings, a move that resulted in the departure of original PD Marshall Adams, Cumulus continues to plow money into the product, hiring still more people.

I didn't believe what I was hearing when the all news rumor surfaced last year.  It's probably radio's most expensive format, and while Cumulus lucked out by hiring staffers displaced by the CNN Radio shutdown, the company is paying plenty to keep things running.  This puzzles me although the reputed egos of Lew and John Dickey might be outweighing their fiscal sense in this one case.  Whatever the reason, Cumulus has thrown too much money into it to turn back any time soon.

92-9 The Game is another expensive proposition.  The station is live and local at all hours.  Owner CBS Radio has launched All-Sports stations in other markets and expanded the format's share.  But after 6 months, The Game has shown no sign of burying its AM competition, much less bringing new people into the format.  CBS is dug in for the long haul, but the point at which some adjustments may be necessary is close at hand.

So for now, PD's and air talent can relax a little and enjoy the spring weather.  They won't last forever, but for now, the gifts of 92.9 and 106.7 are giving big time.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Star 94 Working On Workdays

Have you heard B98.5's sweeper saying more people are listening to B98.5 than any other Atlanta station?

That probably sounds dishonest to a lot of people who look at the Arbitron 6+ shares online.  But it's totally true.  While B98.5 is #3 in average share, the Cox AC station is #1 in cume, the number of different people who listen to the station over a week.  Most media buyers pay more attention to average quarter-hour than cume, but puffery has long been a part of advertising and promotion.

Contemporary music stations have always had large cumes and high turnover ratios, meaning the size of the cume compared to the average quarter-hour.  In the 1960's and 1970's, many markets had out-and-out wars between two Top-40 stations, and their young listeners were notorious "dial twisters."

All News is another format that has always had a high turnover ratio, and for an obvious reason.  The old WINS/New York slogan of "You give us 22 minutes, we'll give you the world" explains why.

When Arbitron launched its Portable People Meter, AC stations showed up with huge cumes.  And a big reason for that was listening in the workplace.  With the old system, people listening to a radio at work would report their station in the diary.

With the PPM, however, if someone other than the Arbitron respondent has a radio loud enough for the respondent's meter to pick up, that station will receive credit.  Moreover, if a station is played on an office-wide speaker system with enough volume, it will be recorded even if the PPM carrier does not consider himself or herself to be listening.

The at-work hours have always been important to stations for a couple of reasons.  First, radios in the office tend to stay on one station for the day, adding substantial Time Spent Listening.  Second, diary keepers in cubicles adjacent to a radio might write down the station they heard in the survey.  With the PPM's advent, however, at-work listening became an even higher-stakes game.

In the January and February PPM's averaged together, B98.5's weekly cume exceeded Star 94, #3 in cume, by 37%.  (V-103 was #2 and closer in number to Star 94 than to B98.5.)

There are some good reasons for that.  B98.5 is played in offices, restaurants and retail businesses far more than any other station.  AC is the format that does not offend anyone, as the stations like to say.

Jordan Graye has been the bedrock of middays on B98.5 for years, and her delivery seems just perfect for places of business.  Importantly, B98.5 is widely perceived as the station appropriate for employees and customers alike.  B98.5 does not even need the faux election that we all used to make fun of several years ago.

Here's something to think about, however.  Only 3 stations in the market have a cume of at least a million a week, B98.5, V-103 and Star 94.  So looking at the numbers without thinking about the reasons makes Star 94 look like it's within striking distance.

Star 94 PD Scott Lindy knows workplace listening is the big advantage that B98.5 has over his station.  While the above factors probably will keep Star 94 from ever beating B98.5 at the office, anything Star could grab would help narrow the gap in both cume and, greatly impacted by cume, average quarter-hour.

Star has long promoted workplace listening with sweepers telling employees that they are listening to "Star 94 at work."  In recent weeks, however, more aggressive attempts to increase listening on the job have hit the air.  Workday ticket giveaways have been featured, such as "Maroon 5 Monday."

The call-in times for Star 94's major promotion, a chance to win a designer purse with a prize inside, are spread out to keep people tuned in through the entire workday.  The contest strategy includes some quarter-hour maintenance, with the mystery prize in the next purse revealed 30 minutes prior to the giveaway.

Lindy has programmed Star 94 into an excellent-sounding station, in many minds at least as good as B98.5.  With the station's sound in place, aggressively going after workplace listening is a smart and logical next step.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clear Channel/Atlanta Picks The Best Alternative

It's hard to imagine that Clear Channel thought CHR/Rhythmic Wild 105.7/96.7 was going to coexist with its new CHR, Power 96-1.  Atlanta is not New York, where CC pulls off that kind of thing with Z100 and 103.5 KTU.

CHR/Rhythmic attracts a lot of Hispanic listeners, and Wild was the market's #2 station for Latinos.  Yet its Hispanic numbers were not nearly enough to propel the station's ratings, as that audience does for KTU in the heavily-Latino New York market.  And when it came to most other listeners, they were going to choose the big Power 96-1 signal over Wild's slightly more rhythmic format that was a hard pickup inside the Perimeter.

Prior to Power 96-1's launch, Clear Channel had seemed to recognize that Wild's soaring 18-34 ratings, as Wild evolved closer to the Rhythmic/Mainstream border, indicated a hunger for a full-power CHR.  Consequently, CC created a Rhythmic-leaning CHR, and Wild constantly promoted its new sibling.  Why not help Power 96-1 move into the ratings elite by eliminating Wild and attracting its former listeners?  Yet it appeared Clear Channel felt Power and Wild could both succeed.

As Wild 105.7/96.7's ratings continued to slide, it was just a matter of time before Rhythmic/CHR would be ditched in favor of something else.  That happened the week before last when Radio 105-7 was born with an Alternative format.

Format change decisions can be tough or easy.  Clear Channel took a risk when it flipped 96.1 to CHR, throwing it into a fray with powerhouses B98.5, Star 94 and Q100.  Ratings frustration, the company's success with CHR in the PPM era and Wild's growing audience were probably behind that move.  And Power 96-1 has shown some good early results.

The choice of Alternative for 105.7 was, well, easy is being kind.  No brainer is more like it.  It's analogous to Rock 100.5 adding Active Rock to its mix following the demise of Project 9-6-1.  The changes at 92-9 Dave FM and translator 99X left the FM band devoid of Alternative product.  The one market sector that 105.7's signal does forcefully penetrate is the northern environs, which has a high incidence of the Alternative demographic.

While not knowing exactly how Radio 105-7's playlist will ultimately shape up, we are guessing it will emphasize current product along with a healthy dose of gold from the 90s and 2000s.  In its initial days, the station concentrated on highly familiar gold and recurrents with a spattering of songs now charting, in order to build fast cume.

In the niche world of music radio, format labels are sometimes blurry.  Today's Alternative format consists of straight-ahead Alternative (Thirty Seconds to Mars) and Adult Album Alternative (Mumford and Sons).  A lot of AAA eventually makes its way to Hot AC and even CHR stations.  Examples are Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and My Songs Know by Fallout Boy.  I personally think of Portland, Oregon's Live 95.5 as Hot AC with a slight lean to Modern AC.

Radio 105-7's framework is adult oriented.  Atlanta is fortunate the Clear Channel station has 3 live and local jocks in this day and age.  The best news is Aly, formerly middays on Project 9-6-1, has been hired and will handle morning drive.  She's one of the market's very best personalities.

The stations that might forfeit audience to 105-7 are those that picked up former Dave FM and 99X listeners by default, 97-1 The River, and to some extent Rock 100.5 and even Star 94.

Will Radio 105-7 amass big ratings? No, but it could show up decently in 18-34 and possibly 18-49.  Moreover, the station can do very well without big ratings.  First, the signal does not have the dollar value of a full class C, such as 96.1.  So the station's somewhat smaller revenue should be proportionate to its monetary worth.  Second, Radio 105-7 has format exclusivity.

Would the station achieve better ratings if it were on the more powerful and larger-reaching 105.3?  I ask this realizing the thinking was that the Alternative audience tends to reside in the northern suburbs.  But, my answer is still yes to an extent.  Would El Patron get higher numbers if it moved from 105.3 to 105.7, which throws a strong signal into Hispanic-heavy Gwinnett?  Most definitely.

I guess now is not the time to execute two complicated and confusing moves, when Hispanic ad billings are still way down.  Despite those thoughts, the flip to Alternative was an excellent decision by Clear Channel, which has now made two major and prudent format changes in 6 months.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
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Monday, April 1, 2013

107.5 Hoping To Keep That Afternoon Majic

Majic 107-5's ratings have been a lot better than its spelling.  In the February PPM, the Urban AC ranked second in the market behind V-103 for Persons 6+.  Majic, which has been winning the 25-54 money demo over its direct competition, Cox Media Group's Kiss 104, opened up some daylight in the overall 6+ numbers.

Majic 107-5/97-5, a Radio One station, has not been controlling its own destiny as much as Kiss, however.  While both stations have syndicated morning shows, Majic with Steve Harvey and Kiss with Tom Joyner, Majic has been airing the syndicated Michael Baisden in afternoon drive while Kiss presents live local programming hosted by Art Terrell.

Said another way, 62% of Majic's prime hours (Mon-Fri, 6AM-7PM) contain syndicated product while 69% of Kiss 104's prime hours are live and local.  And frankly, Majic likes it that way.

The past year has not been without scares for Majic.  When Steve Harvey moved to Chicago and started a daytime TV show, respected blogger Kevin Ross predicted Majic's star morning host was not long for the radio world.  Harvey quelled that idea by signing a new long-term deal with Clear Channel in January.

Two weeks ago, Michael Baisden announced his show would be ending due to not reaching new contract terms with Cumulus Media Networks.  Cumulus was not happy it was Baisden and not the company who made the announcement, and reacted by locking out the host for his last 9 days.

Michael Baisden's story is one of tremendous determination.  After driving across the country selling his self-published books from the trunk of his car, he did an afternoon drive show for New York's 98.7 Kiss FM at no salary.  The station's ratings soared from #9 to #1, and Baisden was rewarded with syndication.

Syndicated radio host has been Baisden's bully pulpit for furthering African-American causes.  He campaigned for President Obama on and off the air.  His show was popular and carried on about 50 stations.

In Atlanta, Majic 107.5/97.5 routinely beat Kiss 104 in 25-54 during Baisden's shift.  However, Baisden was reputed to be difficult to deal with, clashing with Cumulus brass for years.  In recent months, stations in Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia dropped his show in favor of local talent.

Baisden's departure forced a decision on the part of Majic 107-5/97-5 regarding the future of afternoon drive.  On one hand, the station could find another syndicated show.  On the other, it could go music intensive, perhaps shifting Carol Blackmon from middays or Si-Man from evenings into the slot.  Both are Atlanta radio icons who successfully hosted drive-time shows in the past.

Majic opted to carry Skip Murphy, the new show being launched by Cumulus Media Networks and Reach Media to replace Baisden.  Murphy, who will work with co-host Jasmine Sanders, appears to have the right pedigree.  He has jocked in major markets for years and won a slew of prestigious awards.  And his resume includes a hint of the activism that made Michael Baisden a household name.

So did Radio One make the right decision?  My opinion is yes.  Either course would come with risks.  But Majic has been performing exceptionally well with a national show in afternoon drive that was more talk than music.  It's a major point of difference from Kiss, and Majic's listeners expect such a show.

While Majic's local shifts are expertly programmed, they are still the bigger unknown in afternoon drive.  Given the new host's credentials and the daypart's success, repairing what's broken rather than replacing it seems the better solution.

We will find out.  Skip Murphy's show kicks off today, April 1.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, March 25, 2013

92.9 No Walk In The (Ball) Park for CBS

Six months have passed since CBS Radio introduced its newest entry to Atlanta, 92-9 The Game (WZGC-FM).  And so far, we are seeing little sign of ratings traction.

CBS took quite a risk by installing the expensive All-Sports format in this market.  Succeeding would require that the format's audience share grow significantly.

Until 92-9 The Game's sign-on, the shares of both Sports stations together hovered around 2 to 2.5 in Persons 6+.  The Game would need to increase that share to 4 or so, and hope either 790 The Zone or 680/93.7 The Fan threw in the locker room towel.  That would give 92-9 very competitive shares in its target male demos.

CBS Radio has done just that in several markets, doing it in Pittsburgh with a product created by The Game's PD, Terry Foxx.  The two glaring exceptions are the Dallas market, where an AM station, 1310 The Ticket, dominates the CBS FM entry, 105.3 The Fan; and DC, where CBS's 106.7 The Fan (WJFK-FM) and Red Zebra's WTEM-AM slug it out for small shares.

Atlanta sometimes gets a bad rap as a sports town, and that's been hammered into the mindset of many residents.  So the idea of a successful FM Sports station here met with some skepticism.

This is not Pittsburgh, Boston or Baltimore, home of rabid fans and, not coincidentally, markets where ratings of Sports FMs have soared.  So I wondered whether 92-9 The Game could increase the format's slice of the pie.  But, I never thought the new station would have trouble jumping over The Zone and The Fan.

Six months after its launch, however, WZGC is #3 out of the 3 Sports stations, getting beaten by two AMs, one of which simulcasts with a low-power FM translator.  The other, 790 The Zone, throws an interference-free signal over a very small area at night.  Moreover, the total Persons 6+ share of the 3 Sports stations in February was 2.5, just about where it had been with 2 stations.

Several months ago, I wrote a column on 92-9 The Game's prospects.  I commented that Sports radio fans are passionate about the format, including the hosts.  For that reason, I suspected pulling The Zone's and The Fan's bases away would take more time than in the music station world, but that eventually, WZGC's powerful FM signal would win out.

Although The Game's small share was basically carved out of the other two Sports stations, I expected a little more of 92-9 by now.

While I am more of a music radio person, I've listened a lot to 92-9 The Game and think the product is good.  The format was well thought out, and the hosts are of high quality.  In the early weeks, I found the afternoon drive show hard to listen to.  The hosts seemed to be stepping on each other.  But I tuned in recently, and the problem had been eliminated; the show was much more listenable.

The complaints that I have heard from others are the hosts do not sound like they are rooting for the Atlanta teams, and too much coverage is devoted to out-of-town organizations.

That occurred to me a couple of weeks ago during late evening host Jim Murray's lengthy lament about New England's loss of receiver Wes Welker to Denver.  However, I enjoyed Murray's honesty.  Formatically, the only thing that makes me wince is the annoying sweeper that another Sports Flash is coming up in minutes.

With 92-9 The Game entering its second 6 months, I have both good and bad news for 680 The Fan and 790 The Zone.  The good news is the daylight hours are increasing, enabling them to keep their more powerful and less (and non) directional daytime signals on longer.  And the Braves season is fast approaching, providing The Fan with a shot in the arm.

The bad news is that 92-9 The Game is not going away any time soon.  CBS has invested so heavily in the station that it has no choice but to be very patient.  Its 24/7 live-and-local boasting has required paying for a personality at 4AM on Sunday morning.  I can imagine every iteration possible being tried before any thought of a format change enters anyone's mind.

With warm weather coming, The Game plans to showcase its talent with personal appearances around town.  And some tweaks are probably on the way.  The Braves and then the Falcons are about to become hot topics again.  The rest of the year will be telling for 92-9 The Game.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, March 18, 2013

94-9 The Bull, Atlanta's New Voice-Tracked Leader

You knew it would happen.  A full-power Atlanta FM station would be voice-tracked for almost its entire broadcast day.  And you guessed it would be a Clear Channel property.  Well, that day has come for "Atlanta's new country leader," 94-9 The Bull.

Lance Houston, The Bull's APD/MD and afternoon personality, departed to accept the Program Director position at Clear Channel sister WPOC-FM in Baltimore.  But, Lance is still on the air in afternoon drive here in Atlanta via the wonder of voice tracking.

The concept is not exactly new, of course.  Back in 2005, The Bull's predecessor on 94.9, Lite FM, had a live morning show with Randy & Spiff, followed by Steve Goss from 9 to noon.  Then came the voice-tracking with Heather Lorenzo (Randy West) from North Carolina and JT (Jeff Tyson) out of Birmingham.  They were followed  by the syndicated Delilah and automation overnight.

Even worse are the "Jack" stations, or whatever male name they are christened.  They run automated with a business model based on mediocre ratings coupled with low operational costs.  Who knew?  The combination of debt and technology created this.

At 94-9 The Bull, Jason Pullman and Kristen Gates start the day with Caffeinated Radio, live from the Peachtree Street studios.  At 10 o'clock, the control room lights go out, and Madison Reeves, Lance Houston and Angie Ward voice track the hours until midnight, when the syndicated "After MidNite" with Blair Garner cranks up until dawn.  Just a year ago, The Bull was live and local from 6AM until 7PM.

So will things ever get back to the way they were?  Some radio aficionados hope big debt will eventually force the main offenders, Clear Channel and Cumulus, to sell off legions of stations.  But would even that change things?

There are a number of inherent problems.  For one thing, listeners likely do not notice.  Lance Houston can still host the "Top 6 at 6."  Voice-tracked shows can still air calls from "listeners."  And voice-tracked jocks can still list their favorite Atlanta restaurants on The Bull's website.  As long as the ratings of voice-tracked stations are comparable to their live competitors, rationalizing that voice tracking is bad radio will be difficult.

Is this an opportunity for direct competitor Kicks 101-5 to steal listeners from The Bull?  Could Kicks, which itself is hamstrung by its carriage of CMT Live with Cody Alan in evenings, promote that it's live and local?  Could the station make middays with Jenn Hobby and afternoons with Mike Macho more interactive to emphasize its difference from The Bull?

What if Kicks was successful in instilling the fact it's live and local while The Bull's jocks are recorded and out-of-town?  Would listeners really care?  My guess is they would not.  And Kicks could be taking a chance of damaging its sound with too much extraneous content.

Clear Channel gobbled up lots of small and medium markets in its initial buying spree following deregulation.  Cumulus built its original business in small and medium markets.  At this point, both companies probably would be happy to dispose of many outlets outside the majors.  Would that get a lot of stations back to their community roots and live broadcasts?  Probably not.  Technology has made the allure of bigger profits too tempting.

Another manifestation of voice tracking is it's keeping talented young people away from radio.  The decline in jobs could make developing future stars difficult.

All told, the only thing that would bring live and local back to radio would be listeners tuning out en masse.  That would force radio companies to change things. But technology is powerful.  In the music-driven world of PPM, stations can sound good and get ratings without the live and local elements that made radio so magical when I was growing up.

I find this all very sad.  But it seems to be a fact of life.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Q100 Standing Its Ground

Atlanta radio reminds me of the Middle East, especially the stations targeting women or African-Americans.  The companies do not like each other, but they continue doing what they do.  And there is a fragile peace.  I understand Jimmy Carter is standing by just in case of a flare-up.  And no, I don't mean the Jimmy Carter who appears on the Kicks morning show.

When Israel carved out its land in 1948, its neighbors did not exactly shower the new country with welcoming gifts.  And when Power 96-1 staked its claim in the already hotly-contested women's space, B98.5, Q100 and Star 94 did not roll out the red carpet.

After the original Power 99 went away in 1992, Atlanta was without a straight-ahead CHR station for 9 years.  Star 94 was an Adult CHR and in the late nineties started dominating.  Then in 1999, Cox launched 95-5 The Beat as a CHR just a bit to the Rhythmic side.  In 2001, Q100 signed on from a new Atlanta signal at 100.5, finally giving the market a real CHR again.  That pushed The Beat to full-scale Rhythmic CHR.

The Beat and Q100 at 100.5 hurt Star 94 at the edges, but the station held strong in its core of women 25-49.  Cumulus' acquisition of Susquehanna in 2006 again made Atlanta a market with no mainstream CHR that played all the hits.  Under the cloud company, Q100 shifted to an Adult CHR, in some aspects bordering on Hot AC territory.  In 2008, Q100 moved to the powerful 99.7 signal.

With Q100, Star 94 and B98.5 presenting different shades of the music that young women in several demos favor, Clear Channel jumped into the fray last August with Power 96-1, Atlanta's first true CHR in 6 years.  The company had already been attacking at the younger end with success on weak-signaled Wild 105-7/96-7, and now decided to go full force.  We can also add The Fish, which has been cooking as of late, to the mix.

When Power 96-1 launched last year, I penned my thoughts.  On one hand, Atlanta had been starving for a real CHR, as evidenced by the ratings of Wild 105-7, a signal that's hardly listenable in a lot of the market.  And Power's closest competitor, Q100, was a haven for recurrents, a trait of the Hot AC format, and even occasionally threw in older product, such as Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.

Power 96-1 was competing against one of the best morning shows on radio, the Bert Show on Q100, with the syndicated Elvis Duran at least initially.  Moreover, Power was further cheapening its sound by filling middays with the syndicated On Air with Ryan Seacreast.  I wrote at the time that Q100, despite spanning the spectrum from young CHR to Hot AC, should be fine unless Power 96-1 hired a live and local morning show.

Its non-local programming in mornings and middays notwithstanding, Power came out of the box strong, even edging out Q100 and Star 94 at the end of the year.  How much of that was sampling is hard to say.  Well, Q100 still plays Viva La Vida, Hey Soul Sister and My Life Would Suck Without You.  And they play individual hit songs for months on end.  In the January PPM, however, Q100 and Star 94 both edged out Power.

Power 96-1 PD Rick Vaughn reached out to potential morning talent for their packages a few months ago.  But Elvis and his New York processing remain for now.  It's kind of like Iran.  Are they building up to a local morning show, or are they just enriching their knowledge of the kinds of shows out there?  Hiring a good local morning show would likely ignite a war for Atlanta's women.

Speaking of Power 96-1, Sonic in afternoon drive sounds decent, but he could do so much more than just send shout-outs.  In evenings, Maddox has been getting better but is not at the level of energy and command that I expect from CHR night slammers in major markets.  I like the station's imaging and rhythmic-leaning music selection.

If Power 96-1 stays as it is, the uneasy peace among the competitors will probably remain in place.  But, if Power continues to develop, including adding a local morning show, repercussions among the stations could be substantial.  (With Wild 105-7 and Power 96-1 being somewhat redundant, a format change at Wild could have the same effect.)  Jimmy Carter would be on his way.  And Hillary Clinton would probably be close behind.

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.

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fun In The Morning & Madison All Day

When I was a kid, I learned in school that James Madison was the fourth president of the United States.  So in those days, that was what the name Madison meant to me.  I have to admit I wondered how his wife Dolly had so much time to bake those treats my mom used to buy for us.

Early in my advertising career, I read about the huge ad agencies on New York's Madison Avenue and later worked there.  At the time, that's what Madison would bring to mind.  But, Madison as a first name has soared in popularity.  In fact, it was the 8th most popular female name in the country as of last May.

In the radio world, the name Madison seems to mirror the name's popularity in the real world.  Atlanta radio now has two major personalities using the Madison name.  In fact, you can listen to Madison in middays and in afternoon drive.

The newest Madison in the market is Madison James, who joined B98.5 for afternoons on February 12.  (I'm starting to think maybe I do believe in reincarnation.)  She has worked for Cox in Atlanta before, filling in at the former 95-5 The Beat.  She also did a lengthy stint in Greenville, SC and most recently handled middays at Cox's Rock 96-5 in the Richmond market.

B98.5 Program Director Chris Eagan's exuberance over landing her heightened my expectations.  During her first week, Madison sounded good but a bit self-restrained; her delivery seemed to blend with the music.  Yet I detected some potential star power in her somewhere.  I listened again last week, and she was beginning to break out and sound better.

How high is up for Madison James remains to be heard.  The other interesting aspect of this is that B98.5's mic on weekdays is, well, manned by women in all dayparts.  And yes, Mr. Kelly Stevens does co-host mornings with Vikki Locke.  In his short time in the market, Eagan has already demonstrated programming smarts and logic so I am looking at this with an open mind.

As I have expressed before, I doubt what we are hearing, as good as it is, is Eagan's final product.  I still find strange that early evenings are automated and then followed with a jock, Kara Leigh, at 10PM.

The other Madison has realized her star power and is voice-tracked in middays on 94-9 The Bull.  If NBC could do a "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" contest, Clear Channel could certainly air a "Where in the Clear Channel system is Madison Reeves?" contest.  She is one of Clear Channel's master voice-trackers and has always sounded great.

Clear Channel could run the same contest with Angie Ward, voice-tracked evenings on The Bull.  I give Clear Channel credit for disproving a basic rule of physics, that you can't be 2 places at 1 time.

During Sari Rose's lengthy stint at Kicks 101-5, first on weekends and then in middays, I thought she sounded like a small-market jock.  Most of that was a result of her seeming lack of a controlled delivery, allowing a hick, undisciplined sound to come through.  After Rose was let go in favor of Jenn Hobby, Sari was picked up by Star 94 for weekends and swing.

What a difference a station makes.  Rose recently subbed for Star middayer Heather Branch for a couple of weeks.  I thought she sounded good.  She has a pleasant voice and loads of personality, and her delivery sounded controlled; the southern accent came through, but the hickishness did not.

Congratulations to Lance Houston, APD/MD at 94-9 The Bull, for accepting the PD position at Clear Channel ratings monster WPOC-FM in my hometown of Baltimore.  According to reports, Lance will continue his afternoon shift on The Bull via voice tracking.  Lance is not a fan of my opinions yet has been exceptionally nice to me regarding those and in other communications.  I wish Lance the best.  He's about to find out how a real crab cake tastes.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Atlanta Urban Radio At Peace With Itself

Urban is the category that dominates the Atlanta radio ratings.  As the new year unfolds, I find it hard to foresee any significant changes in Urban programming and audience rankings.  In fact, all of the major players sound like a heated battle is the furthest thing from their mind.  Each station just does its usual thing and makes money.

V-103 has been at or near the top seemingly forever.  The CBS Radio-owned station has a lot going for it, starting with a huge signal from the market's best transmitter site for Urban coverage.  It also has heritage and deep roots in the community complemented by a pool of superior talent.

When morning man Frank Ski decided to leave to pursue his next dream, V-103 just slid Ryan Cameron into the slot.  The result was an instantly-established morning show with one of the format's best personalities.  Cameron's move opened up afternoon drive, and PD Reggie Rouse had the solution in his pocket, Big Tigger, who previously worked for Rouse at WPGC-FM in Washington, DC.

I have mixed feelings about Big Tigger.  At times, he gets into a CHR-like "screaming" delivery and at other times stays more grounded.  He does, however, have loads of personality and that big New-York-Yankees-of-Atlanta-radio sound associated with V-103.  I expect him to come close to the super ratings that Cameron pulled.  In 25-54, Cameron was able to open some daylight between V-103 and the #2 station.

V-103 has brought back its "Big Money Kitty" and has some billboards around town promoting Cameron, to head off any possible road bumps during his initial weeks in mornings.

The 2 Urban AC choices, Kiss 104 and Majic 107-5/97-5, both enjoy big ratings success, and neither exhibits the killer instinct of stations at war.  Cox's Kiss wins the Persons 6+ race, and Radio One's Majic edges out Kiss in 25-54.  Last year, Majic boosted its 107.5 signal by increasing both its wattage and height from its new "Gwinnett is Great" site off I-85.

Both stations kick off the day with syndicated shows, Kiss with the aging but still effective Tom Joyner and Majic with Steve Harvey.  When Harvey signed to do a daily TV show, some wondered whether he would continue with radio.  But he dispelled any doubts by signing a new contract with Clear Channel a few weeks ago.

Kiss is somewhat more in control of its destiny than Majic, having local jocks in all dayparts outside morning drive.  Majic, on the other hand, turns over afternoon drive to the syndicated Michael Baisden, who has been winning the daypart in 25-54.  I expect little in the way of change for either station this year.

A number of years ago, when former Radio One Regional VP Bruce Demps gained oversight of the Atlanta cluster, he set out on a mission to make Hip-Hop Hot 107-9 more competitive with V-103.  Well, that was never going to happen for a host of reasons.  Yet Hot 107-9 continues to fare very well, snagging around a 5% share among Persons 6+.

The station, younger in appeal than V-103, manages some pretty amazing 25-54 numbers, especially in mornings and evenings.  While upstart Urban translator Streetz 94.5, programmed by the respected Steve Hegwood, has been showing up in the PPM, its effect on Hot 107-9 has been negligible.

The one Urban station that took a little stumble last year is Praise 102.5.  When the Gospel outlet had a run in the top 5, I was surprised in light of its limited signal, equivalent to 6,000 watts at 300 feet from its tower across I-285 from Greenbriar Mall.  The signal, however, is good where the station's target audience tends to reside.

Still achieving respectable ratings, Praise's programming, guided by PD Derek Harper, is state-of-the-art, and owner Radio One is likely satisfied.

Urban Radio in Atlanta scores big ratings and revenue but does not sound like it's highly motivated to win.  Every major player does what it does and seems satisfied with its ratings and billings. I would prefer a more spirited competition, but making money softens the motivation for having fire in the belly.

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.

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cumulus/Atlanta In Perpetual Construction Zone

When the new 98.9 The Walk signed on last week, I remembered a story about legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.  Pat Kelly, one of Weaver's players, led a very religious life.  One day, Kelly said to Weaver, "Boss, you need to walk with the Lord."  Weaver replied, "I'd rather walk with the bases loaded."

98.9 The Walk is now part of the Atlanta radio landscape.  Launching the station on its 98.9 translator was one of two moves made by Cumulus/Atlanta last week.  The other was melding music of the displaced station, 98.9 The Bone, with Rock 100.5's Active playlist.

The result is a younger, harder-driving Rock 100.5, still anchored by The Regular Guys in mornings.  The iconic Axel Lowe, who hosted AM drive on The Bone, is back on Rock 100.5 doing afternoons, where he was when the latter station first launched.

The merging of the playlists was a smart move, if a smart move and a no-brainer are not an oxymoron.  Although Rock 100.5 had grown recently in its primary male demos, it recognized that disenfranchised Project 9-6-1 listeners were there for the taking.

Cox Media Group's 97-1 The River had pulled in former Dave FM listeners, who tend to be older.  By going younger, Rock 100.5 can complement, rather than half compete with, The River.  The Regular Guys are still compatible with the format.

Going back to its days housing CHR Q100, the 100.5 signal has never racked up big Persons 6+ shares.  I still believe the signal, though covering less geography than most Atlanta FMs, is big enough to get more in the way of ratings.  Except for a slight null in Gwinnett, it comes in well among almost all of the metro population.

98.9 The Walk promotes itself as "positive and uplifting radio."  It seems to be a mix of non-drinking, non-womanizing Country songs, by artists such as Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, and Christian Contemporary tunes by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Mercy Me.  The Walk, which is automated, touts its family-friendly environment.

The Cumulus strategy with The Walk seems to be to shave a little off Salem's 104.7 The Fish in order to make the full-power WFSH-FM less competitive with Q100.  Will it work?  Probably not, and The Walk could possibly steal a few listeners from Cumulus' own Kicks 101-5.  But the 98.9 signal is very limited; what is on it will make little difference in the whole scheme of things.

I would have loved for Cumulus to have put Classic Country on 98.9 and then greatly helped Kicks 101-5 by moving CMT Live with Cody Alan over to the new station.  The show would still have an affiliate in the #9 market.  But that happening was as likely as Matt Scarano talking to Rodney Ho.

Cumulus' 97.9 translator is another story.  It's virtually a class-A FM signal in strength, not powerful enough to attract a large audience but sufficient to bring in a few dollars if run inexpensively.  I doubt 97.9 will remain "The Q100 20 at 97.9" for long.  This translator could be used to for Adult Album Alternative, which could nick The River's ratings, or even for 70s and 80s Oldies (called Classic Hits in most markets but not here because of The River).

Since last year, the Cumulus/Atlanta cluster has seemed to be in constant flux, and I doubt we have seen the last of the changes.  Clear Channel has been close behind in terms of flips, and I have a feeling we will see some more action there this year.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Holiday PPM Drops Hints, Raises Questions

The annual Holiday PPM throws things a bit out of whack because of Christmas music's success.  In fact, two 4-week reports include Christmas music weeks, the December PPM and the just-released Holiday PPM.  I prefer Arbitron published just one report spanning Thanksgiving week through Christmas week, but doing that would not work with the PPM's continuous 4-week cycles.

One firm conclusion from the Holiday PPM is the Christmas strategies of both B98.5 and 104.7 The Fish worked beautifully.  B98.5 decided not to go all-Christmas but to play 4 holiday songs an hour, still positioning itself as "Atlanta's Christmas music station."

Program Director Chris Eagan apparently was concerned about ceding AC listeners to the competition and was willing to accept less than the historic Christmas ratings highs, to protect the station going into 2013.  And while the regular playlist consumed most of each hour, many people did indeed perceive B98.5 as their Christmas destination, driving the station into the #3 ranking among Persons 6+.

Salem's 104.7 The Fish had been getting a slight lift from holiday sounds in years past, but was coming nowhere near B98.5's December dominance.  That was of course due to The Fish's somewhat more serious and religious selection of Christmas tunes.  However, without a totally-Christmas B98.5, The Fish, already very competitive in non-holiday months, bolted to its highest PPM share ever.

The Christmas ratings performance of B98.5 and The Fish left the super-hot race for Atlanta's young women in some disarray.  One thing that seemed to break through, however, is that Power 96-1 is for real.  Gauging the station has been a little difficult since CHR quickly attracts a lot of trial.  The station has been in its current incarnation for almost 6 months, and its young audience was probably not attracted to Christmas music in significant numbers.

Many were surprised that Clear Channel jumped into the war already being waged among B98.5, Star 94 and Q100.  But the company does the format well, and PPM is good to CHR.  Clear Channel, long frustrated in the Atlanta market, made a decision to go for it.

Wild 105.7, CC's Rhythmic CHR, which had been crawling toward the Rhythmic/Mainstream line, was making ratings hay with young listeners, suggesting hunger for a younger CHR than Q100.  Apparently that hunger was voracious, as Power 96-1 has been working its magic despite the syndicated Elvis Duran in mornings and On-Air with Ryan Seacrest, both shows that my ears will never go near.

One question as 2013 begins is how long Clear Channel will allow Wild 105.7, which has been bleeding listeners to Power 96-1, to go on.  Why not let Power take virtually all of Wild's listeners and become a dominant station?

The Holiday PPM probably should not be of great concern to Star 94 and Q100.  The Christmas music stations likely borrowed far more of Star's and Q's listeners than Power 96-1's.  Yet, B98.5 finished the pre-holiday weeks strongly and figures to be a tougher competitor for Star and Q than in prior years.  Chris Eagan has made some positive changes and likely will make more.  At the least, we know that someone permanent will be installed in afternoon drive following the exit of short-term host Mike Shannon.

Star 94, which will move to its new Interstate North studios in the Spring, peaked earlier last year and has been on a small slide.  The station, which had struggled for a few years, was hoisted back up in 2011 by PD Scott Lindy, who has since been perfecting the formatics.

Star enjoyed some unexpected good fortune as its Big 90s Weekend in 2011 snared substantial numbers of men for the historically female station.  But the themed weekend experienced some burnout.  In an effort to keep the male numbers up while stemming the burnout, Lindy kept some 90s on weekends while emphasizing Star's regular Hot AC playlist.

When Star 94's mini-slide began last Fall, a rumor swirled that a family logging many hours of Star had left Arbitron's PPM panel.  Recently, Star's top swing person and weekend jock, Rachel Logan, left to accept middays at CBS Radio's Hot AC in Baltimore, Mix 106.5, in her home state of Maryland.

Star is an excellent-sounding station, and Scott Lindy is one of the industry's elite PD's.  Jimmy Alexander, who recently joined as morning co-host, was a terrific hire.  We'll see what else Lindy has up his sleeve to counter the growth of B98.5, which still holds the advantage of being the station perceived as right for offices and retail businesses.

Q100 has been getting away with trying to be a Mainstream CHR while playing Hot AC recurrents designed to pull audience from B98.5 and Star 94.  And that was the right strategy when the market had no young-skewing CHR.  It was also the reason that the poor-signaled Wild 105.7 was able to attract as many youthful listeners as it did.

So far, Q100, programmed by Rob Roberts, is sticking with the muddied playlist for which Cumulus SVP/Programming Jan Jeffries is so well known.  I still wonder whether Power 96-1 will force Q100 to stop swinging both ways.  Or will Jeffries bury his head in the sand?

Next issue, I will continue squinting through the haze of the Holiday PPM numbers and providing my thoughts about Atlanta radio in 2013.

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

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider: