Clearer Air America Ratings Picture Emerges
Air America's Real Fate, Plus Seattle, Portland, Denver
We're continuing to press the matter of Air America's $480,000 in (possibly unreturned) taxpayer funds obtained in a highly questionable manner. Meanwhile, more ratings releases today shed a great deal of light on the network's future.
Unlike its conservative counterpart, liberal talk is destined to be simply a regional, niche format that works in a few cities and fails elsewhere. That's become clear.
While right-leaning talk also appeals to a segment of the population, it's big (even with recent ratings troubles) and successful nationwide, almost without geographic exception.
Ratings released today for Seattle, Portland and Denver put the finishing touches on this thesis. As you already know, we've recently been reporting in detail Air America's performance.
Air America's relentless boosters have a dilemma: in order to trumpet ratings "success", they're forced to overplay the few cities where that's the real case. Some of them resort to making things up, which we've also tackled here.
It's great that AAR's programming is successful in Portland, Oregon. We've been hearing about it for a year. And new figures released today show KPOJ-AM way up.
Is Portland like the rest of the country, however? No.
Its success wasn't repeated in Seattle, where KPTK-AM turned in a flat-to-slightly lower performance today.
In Denver, there was an increase for Boulder's KKZN, which I also noted last month. It's likely due to the addition of Jay Marvin's local morning show. KKZN grew from a 1.6 to a 2.0.
Marvin still has a Denver-area following from previous on-air work there. He's a pro in an industry that often fails to appreciate the value of broadcast experience.
Radio's biggest mistake was converting dozens of stations to liberal talk on the strength of KPOJ alone. Portland just isn't like other metropolitan areas, with radical leftist politics dominating every square inch of town.
Even then, there are a number of conservative talkers doing extremely well in the area.
Why were so many radio operators fooled into thinking KPOJ's success could be repeated elsewhere? That I can't answer.
The biggest question: is it worth this huge investment in liberal syndicated programming, if only a few cities can make it succeed?
In Seattle, news-talk KIRO-AM continued its dramatic drop, WMAL-style.
It fell from a 5.0 last fall, to a 4.2 in the winter, now to a fresh all-time-low of 3.4 for the spring ratings book.
Before KIRO lost Seattle Mariners rights to KOMO-AM, it sometimes posted ratings above a ten share. It was always in first place, now it's tied for seventh. And that's not counting 25-54 ratings, crucial for advertising, which are likely far lower.
The big drop also coincides with an aggressive push toward hard-left programming, where the previous lineup had been more mixed. KIRO's audience clearly rejected the radical changes and moved the dial elsewhere.
Recently, a major-market program director mentioned KIRO in a conversation, pointing out how hard it is to bring a station back from a drop this steep. The station's next management team with have the challenge of a lifetime.
Conservative sister station KTTH, despite having Rush, also saw another big drop. It went from 3.0 to a 2.6 share. Right-leaning listeners are tuning in for Rush, then switching back to rival KVI.
KTTH has been badly neglected, as mentioned here and elsewhere. With just one local show (not terribly successful), the station has long needed serious retooling.
KVI, with its hugely successful recent political effort fighting statewide gas-tax increases, saw an increase from a 2.9 to a 3.1. It's handily beating KTTH, without Rush.
Air America's KPTK-AM fell to a 1.4 share from a 1.5 in the winter book.
Denver's powerhouse KOA turned in a 5.5 for third place, off last year's highs, but in line with recent performance. Rockies baseball provides a boost during the season.
Sister station KHOW rose slightly from a 2.5 to a 2.6, while liberal KKZN, as mentioned above, went from 1.6 to 2.0.
It continues to be a lively, thriving city for talk radio.
In Portland, news-talk KEX continued to dominate, with a 5.0, down from a 5.4 previously for Clear Channel's conservative outlet.
As mentioned before, liberal KPOJ surged, from a 3.3 to a 4.5, good for fifth place. Paul Allen's conservative KXL-AM was up slightly, from a 3.9 to a 4.0.
KPAM-AM, with a mix including some conservative programming, fell from a 2.3 to a 1.8. That's still a lot better than what it used to produce.
Portland may have more news-talk stations than any other market, it dominates Rose City radio listening overall.
Ratings data comes from Radio & Records. Fair disclosures: I formerly worked for both KIRO-AM and KVI-AM in Seattle. A top-level KOA-KHOW-KKZN/Denver manager is my former boss. Talk radio is a small, small business.