The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

18 August 2008

San Francisco's KGO Takes Huge Tumble With New Ratings System


New, More Accurate Ratings Damage Longtime SF Leader

Perhaps they should
have spent more money on promotion and less on fancy parties at the Four Seasons Hotel.

As if they needed another headache, beleaguered news-talk radio operator Citadel Communications (NYSE:CDL) has seen ratings tumble at one of its largest stations, all because of new technology that tracks figures electronically.

Designed to eliminate inaccuracies in data collection under the old diary system, Arbitron's Portable People Meter records listening precisely.

Already, self-appointed civil rights activists in New York City are crying foul about PPM use in the Big Apple, since preliminary data there has badly hurt hip-hop stations, to the benefit of talk radio and other music formats.

But in the San Francisco Bay Area, the opposite has occurred: longtime news-talk leader KGO has seen its legendary ratings dominance crushed into tiny bits.

Late last week, the first PPM report representing July 2008 was released to clients and obtained by your Radio Equalizer.

Featuring a mix of milquetoast and fiery liberal talk shows, plus traditional newswheel programming in morning and afternoon drive, KGO has long been considered the Bay Area's top radio station.

While the station did retain its number one position in the overall 12 and older demographic, it was killed in the all-important Adults 25-54 segment. Because advertising rates are set based on a station's performance in that category, strong ratings there are a must.

But KGO's new figures show it ranks just eighteenth overall, with a particularly disappointing eighteenth showing during the crucial morning drive period, followed by seventeenth from 10am to 3pm, an abysmal twenty-third in afternoon drive and twentieth between 7pm and midnight.

By contrast, all-news competitor KCBS was number one in morning drive.

Rock-bottom numbers like that should have advertisers thinking twice about paying a premium to advertise on KGO.

Also badly neglected under Citadel's overtly leftist executive management, sister conservative talker KSFO fared poorly, with a thirty-first ranking overall in the 25-54 demo.

After firing talker Melanie Morgan in what was claimed to be a cost-cutting move, KSFO's morning show generated a mere twenty-second showing.

In addition, conservative competitor KNEW had a thirty-fourth ranking, while Air America's KKGN came in thirty-seventh.

Though all of the Bay Area's news talk stations were hit hard by the PPM system, KGO has more at stake. Between a large newsroom, highly paid local hosts and a long legacy of being number one, these results have got to hurt.

Ultimately, the buck stops with Citadel's senior management, who seem absolutely unsure what to do with the mega-ABC stations they've recently acquired from Disney. Recently, they've seemed more concerned with utilizing solar power to run the station's generators than with marketing, promotion and programming.

How many more hits can this company take before the house of cards finally collapses?

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  • Brian: So who was No. 1?

    By Anonymous ttc, at 18 August, 2008 12:23  

  • snore...

    Oh, wait - damn good question, TTC. Brian obviously deliberately left that little nugget out of his "report"...

    By Anonymous TJ, at 19 August, 2008 16:45  

  • i was checking CITADEL stock & got the link to this site. i'm glad there is a new ratings system. i do listen to KGO, KNBR (sports station) & KCBS at work. i wouldn't really call KGO a leftist station. this report seems a little biased. then i looked at the FOX resume. which station was number 1? do you also have a breakdown of the FM stations? or know where i can get that info? thx.

    By Anonymous nutella, at 19 August, 2008 20:25  

  • KOIT, the light rock station was #1. The new ratings system also includes non-commercial stations, and it appears that the Bay Area wants more in-depth news and talk. Our NPR station, KQED rated significantly higher than all of the other talkers.

    By Blogger Dave B., at 25 August, 2008 09:02  

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