The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

21 July 2005

Critical Radio Ratings Emerge

Ugly Slump Continues

Talk Radio Weak In Key Ratings Releases

(Note: many new updates below)

What's it going to take to get talk radio out of this increasingly dismal ratings slump?

The Radio Equalizer is tired of the post-election cycle excuse, since better-programmed stations are falling a bit less, while incompetently-managed outlets are getting creamed.

The emerging Spring 2005 figures paint an especially bleak picture that must serve as an urgent industry wake-up call. Spring and fall Arbitron releases are considered the most important for media buyers, a loose parallel to TV's "Sweeps" months.

Spring ratings are usually higher than winter or summer, because stations heavily pump up marketing budgets, before slashing spending once summer holidays approach. So it's likely things will get worse in upcoming releases.

We've previously discussed what's going wrong and why, but the industry is notoriously slow to wake up and smell the Starbucks (or better yet, Dunkin').

Meanwhile, I'm hearing from a number of readers asking about the latest lefty 'Net boasts regarding Air America's fantastic performance or Franken beating Rush in Outer Mongolia. Please keep the emails coming, but some of their claims are just too silly to be examined.

If it makes them feel better to think liberal talk is succeeding, I'm all for anything that improves the left's overall mental health.

Tom at BizzyBlog has done his own analysis of the ratings releases, be sure to check them out here. Bore America weighs in here with additional details.

Results for some of the largest markets:

#1 New York

Drudge posted this on his site:


HANNITY 99,100
O'REILLY 72,700
SAVAGE 61,900

This means that in any quarter hour period, this average number of New York City adults 12 and older were listening.

What it doesn't tell you is the rest of the story, even if we don't yet have all of the pieces.

WABC continues to suffer, along with most of ABC's other owned and operated (O&O in industry lingo) news-talk stations. With news reports strongly suggesting that Disney is ready to sell the radio division, the stations appear distracted and are hurting. San Francisco's talkers remain the key exceptions.

It limped across the spring finish line with a 3.2 share, down from a 4.5 fall 2004 peak, good only for 11th place. WABC has programming issues that need to be addressed, but nothing's so far been touched.

BoreAmerica points to this new press release, where Limbaugh's NYC ratings data is compared to Franken and others:

The Rush Limbaugh Show is the #1 ranked talk program in the noon - 3 p.m. ET time slot. Among Persons 12+, Mr. Limbaugh has a 4.1 share with 139,100 listeners tuning in, on average, every quarter hour. Among Adults 25-54, he has a 2.5 share with 50,600 of them tuning in, on average, every quarter hour.

Al Franken, who airs at the same time on WLIB-AM, has a share of 1.8 with 61,400 listeners Persons 12+ tuning in, on average, every quarter hour. With Adults 25-54, he has a 1.7 share with a listening audience of 34,400, on average, every quarter hour. Therefore, Mr. Limbaugh's audience is more than double that of Mr. Franken's audience.

Furthermore, among all radio programs on the AM and FM dial during the noon - 3 p.m. time slot, Mr. Limbaugh ranked #5 among Persons 12+ and #17 among Adults 25-54. Mr. Franken on the other hand ranked #23 among Persons 12+ and #20 among Adults 25-54.

Click the link for more comparisons.

Senile would-be challenger WOR takes 21st place, with a flat performance, but Michael Savage continues to pump up the station's evening ratings.

BizzyBlog also notes that Savage spent time on Wednesday's show boasting about the ratings success, saying he was beating WABC. Readers have been asking me if the claims are true, I believe they probably are.

This begs the question: without Savage in the lineup, what would WOR's ratings look like?

Air America's flagship WLIB, meanwhile, falls to a 1.0 share from a 1.2 in the winter survey. Given Drudge's Franken figure, he must account for a good percentage of the station's listenership. Can't imagine how bad the rest of the day must look.

Overall, WLIB took 24th place. Much lefty hay has been made about my now oft-repeated claim that the previous Caribbean format outperformed WLIB's lib talk. The problem: it's true. Besides, I'd rather hear soca or zouk music any day, over these guys.

#2 Los Angeles:

Even market-leader KFI couldn't escape the trend: it fell from a 4.6 to a 3.9, taking 6th place. KABC, continuing the company's pattern, fell again from a 2.3 to a 2.1, for 18th overall. It peaked at a 2.9 last year.

There was a time when KABC was a major Southland force, but KFI long ago ate its lunch. Perhaps it can again be brought back to life.

Liberal talker KTLK gained, going from a 0.3 to a 0.8. I suppose liberals have to take a "victory" where they can get it, but a station below a one share isn't taken too seriously in the radio biz.

Can it go higher? I believe so, there's a natural audience that can probably take it to a 1.0 or slightly better. But that makes it nothing but a tiny niche format, like ethnic programming.

#3 Chicago:

Baseball brought enormous gains to Tribune's WGN, rising from a 5.3 to a 6.6, with a solid lock on first place.

WLS, continuing ABC's trend, takes a huge hit, dropping to a 3.4 from 4.2. It's now in eighth place. Recent management changes may lead to programming changes in upcoming months. Summer would be the best time to do that, before the fall ratings period begins.

Robert Feder's Chicago Sun-Times radio column is now out, with detailed Windy City ratings information. According to Feder, WLS was hit hard in every daypart, including morning drive with Don Wade and Roma, but was especially clobbered in afternoons, where Roe Conn has been working solo since his co-host exited last year.

WLS has a number of very well-paid local talk hosts, with performance like this I hope they've been stuffing the piggy banks for a rainy day, because it's now pouring outside.

Air America affiliate WCPT-AM shows up for the first time with a 0.4, tied for second-to-last place.

#17 San Diego:

KOGO-AM sustains heavy damage, falling a full share, from a 5.3 to a 4.3. It's no longer in first place, either, now taking second. KOGO carries Limbaugh and Roger Hedgecock.

Rival KFMB isn't putting up much of a fight anymore, holding steady with a 3.2, after peaking last year at 4.8. It runs Savage and local talker Rick Roberts.

Air America's KLSD turned in a flat 1.7, up a tenth.

I think a huge mistake is being made in San Diego, where there are few local talk shows, despite an increasing number of hot area issues, particularly with major city scandals unfolding. Syndicated talkers simply can't address these matters.

Short-sighted cost-cutting is taking a major toll on performance. KFMB thought it was enough to have Roberts, that needs to be reconsidered. KOGO needs more of a local talk focus and to target younger listeners, KFI-style.

Note that L.A.'s KFI scores a relatively large rating in San Diego, a 2.4 in the latest survey. That's a strong indication area listeners aren't happy with local choices.

#6 Philadelphia:

Infinity's Limbaugh talker WPHT holds steady at 11th, with a flat 3.6 overall share.

Air America's WHAT-AM falls off the page, with no ratings to report.

#10 Detroit:

ABC's WJR down, but holds first place with a 5.6, down from a 6.3 in the winter book. WJR is the Limbaugh/Hannity station for the region.

Air America's WDTW-AM gets a 0.4, good for second-to-last place.

Susan Whitall's Detroit News radio column is now up. Hat tip: RadioDailyNews.

Updates Thursday for many major cities, check here after 6pm EDT. Please post your comments below, no registration required.

Ratings data comes from
Radio & Records. Please support our advertisers.

Update: Another radio blogging discovery: Ohio Media Watch. Lots about talk radio here.


  • posted WOR radio at #20 not at#21 as you wants us to belive also WOR went up from a 2.2 in the winter to a 2.3 in the spring so please get you'r fact's clear thank you.

    By Anonymous wor 710 am, at 20 July, 2005 13:52  

  • R&R has WOR ranked at #21, I just double-checked. A 2.2 to a 2.3 is fairly considered a flat performance.

    Why doesn't WOR try to become a major player by moving into the modern era? It baffles the entire industry. Savage was a good start, why not build it up from there?

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 20 July, 2005 14:44  

  • Found your site from Tom Blumer's BizzyBlog.

    I'm an old radio news hand, including a stint a dozen or so years ago with WWJ in Detroit in the pre-Westinghouse, pre-Infinity, pre-Viacom Tisch era at CBS. As I've commented elsewhere (subscription required), I still believe the decline is primarily seasonal and election-withdrawal related. The real test will be the fall book.

    Anyway, it's a great site, and I plan to visit back often.

    By Anonymous Michael Meckler, at 20 July, 2005 15:23  

  • to brian: I am a fan of Savage not of WOR I just calld myself wor710 I have nothing with the radio station.I am outraged as you are why this shmuck "BUCKLEY" keeps wor radio sounding like radio from the '50 or '60 I can't wait for the day "COX or "CITDEL" or any majur radio co.will buy wor radio. do you agree with me Brian?

    By Anonymous wor710am, at 20 July, 2005 15:36  

  • Brian! why is inside radio putting WOR no.20 and R&R at #21??? wait for answer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 July, 2005 16:08  

  • Michael:

    Thanks, glad you like the site, my point is the slump is so severe, I don't see how the post-election dip can account for all of it. Something bigger's going on.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 20 July, 2005 16:13  

  • I want to see Portland's ratings. That would be an interesting sight.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 20 July, 2005 16:39  

  • from michael savage .com

    6-9 PM!!! is it so Brian?


    By Anonymous san. karl levin, at 20 July, 2005 16:52  

  • Karl:

    There's no way to know, the general public doesn't get to see those kinds of detailed ratings. He has won his time slot among talkers in the recent past.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 20 July, 2005 18:15  

  • Karl & Brian: In a later post, Drudge added the numbers for Mark Levin who competes with Savage on WABC from 6 to 8pm. Levin's 1/4 hour audience is 74,300 compared to Savage's 61,900.

    Only if Savage is creaming the Laura Ingraham tape delay in the 8 to 9pm hour, he can claim a victory over WABC. But he is not beating "The Great One."

    BTW, yesterday Bill O'Reilly claimed his numbers were up over 40% in NYC. Despite what Savage said today, it is Bill O'Reilly who is getting the larger ratings (72,700)on WOR.



    By Anonymous ira, at 20 July, 2005 19:21  

  • You may not like the post-election excuse, but that is the bottom line.

    What kind of numbers is Tony Snow doing?

    By Blogger Brian, at 20 July, 2005 22:11  

  • how about Steve Malzberg hosting a radio show on WOR. he is no longer on WWRL. Ad Walsh from the WOR morning show realy "SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous MALZBERG FAN, at 20 July, 2005 23:15  

  • Ira: thanks for the data. I hear Savage is making the full three-hour comparison. He must be winning in hour three in order to be making a correct assertion, as you point out.

    You're correct to point out O'Reilly's contribution, just more to make one wonder why WOR just doesn't go for it, once and for all.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 21 July, 2005 02:32  

  • malzberg fan:

    I doubt he'll be out of work for long. Is it at all possible to return to WABC for an evening show? Or to WOR?

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 21 July, 2005 02:33  

  • By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 21 July, 2005 04:14  

  • Brian,

    What demographic was O'Reilly refering to when he said:
    "The New York City ratings are in for the "Radio Factor" heard on WOR (search). And we are up 44 percent in a key demographic, year-to-year, thanks to all of you who listen to us.

    And by the way, our pal Stuart Smalley on Air America tanked badly in New York City, down 42 percent in the key demo, which is a catastrophe in the nation's largest market."

    That doesn't seem to sqare with Drudge's O'Reilly/Franken comparison. Is Bill being a bit selective?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 July, 2005 10:59  

  • Dick Tuck just rendered himself irrelevant by restating a story done by a progressive news source.

    We're done here. Let's check Portland's ratings.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 21 July, 2005 14:58  

  • If I recall correctly, the last time Drudge posted similar data (which was several months ago), Franken was actually ahead of O'Reilly. Last time, Drudge just used ratings points in common time slots (2-3pm), and it said:
    LIMBAUGH 5.2
    FRANKEN 2.3
    O'REILLY 2.1

    Now O'Reilly is ahead of Franken, albeit with a different measuring system. So the data seems to fit Bill's claim.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 July, 2005 21:38  

  • "Air America's KLSD turned in a flat 1.7, up a tenth."

    flat...up a tenth....huh?

    Call me crazy but UP is not FLAT. Ah, whatever fits the political agenda, right Maloney? Even if you contradict yourself in the same SENTENCE!

    By Blogger Jake White, at 08 March, 2006 19:33  

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