The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 July 2005

Clearer Air America Ratings Picture Emerges

A Regional Niche Player?

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?

News-talk highlights:

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.


  • Brian,
    If your going to mention Portland, Oregon why can't you provide the frelling numbers?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 20:07  

  • Thank you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 21:06  

  • I wonder if AA portland benefited from the addition of local talker Tom Hartman from 6-9 a.m.

    FYI - Springer is not in the line-up. Ed Schultz is in the lineup and results in tape delay for Randi Rhodes, Majority Report and Mike Malloy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 21:16  

  • anon, I do think the local morning show addition did help KPOJ. It certainly helped in Denver.

    In many other cities, however, it won't matter what you do, lib talk isn't going anywhere.

    For instance: so far, lib talk is generating a 0.0 in Dallas/Fort Worth.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 July, 2005 21:20  

  • Personally I don't care if AA makes it. Though I will tune in AA America for short bursts I find it largely boring like most other talk radio. I will stick to my music and sports talk and for politics I will read a few blogs.

    I read your Blog for the media analysis and because I find Air America an interesting business case study(succeed or fail).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 21:50  

  • Why don't you come up with some way of adding the numbers accross markets. Selective city by city with no overall synthesis tells little. You might be slanting the story bad.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 22:58  

  • A regional niche? What about Miami? San Diego? Portland, ME?

    I also notice that Clear Channel is dumping Hannity for Ed Schultz in quite a few markets. They're also adding Lionel for late night.

    Here's how it will play out. Progressive radio will continue to grow, while reactionary radio has topped out and will drop a bit more. Reactionary radio has had a 20 year head start, and has saturated the market. Give progressive radio a few more years, and they'll be competitive in most markets.

    BTW, I actually agree with Brian that Tom Hartman does awesome radio. Air America should have picked him up when he covered for Randi a few times. He's clearly a talent. I also think that Lizz, Rachael, and Chuck had a better show than Springer. But listening to his callers, he's clearly attracting more blue collar types.

    I'm thinking that the switch to Springer hurt the NYC numbers, while helping NY burb numbers.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 28 July, 2005 23:07  


    If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption at Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club are true, it is absolutely disgraceful.

    As reported in the Wall Street Journal and the HBO Documentary, Left of the Dial‚ the company that the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club officials gave money to, Progress Media, has been defunct since May 2004. That company was run at the time by Evan Cohen who has not had any involvement in Air America Radio since May 2004.

    The current owners of Air America Radio have no obligation to Progress Media‚s business activities. We are very disturbed that Air America Radio's good name could be associated with a reduction in services for young people, which is why we agreed months ago to fully compensate the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club as a result of this transaction.

    We at Air America Radio strongly believe in the mission of Boys and Girls Clubs to provide a safe and nurturing place for young people to learn and grow. As a result, we recently allowed the same club, Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, to use our name in a fundraising effort for a summer camp for children in their community.

    The funding for Camp Air America was raised and collected entirely by the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, and Air America promoted the camp on air and urged support for it. A link on our web site sent those interested in contributing to the camp to the Gloria Wise web site. Regrettably, the camp did not survive the closure of the Gloria Wise organization. We have offered any individuals who contributed to the camp as a result of Air America's promotion the option of a refund paid for by Air America Radio and the Club offered the alternative option of having their donation redirected to Kip's Bay Boys and Girls Club.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 July, 2005 23:08  

  • TCO:

    You can't add the numbers across markets, it wouldn't make any sense.

    A share is a piece of the listenership pie for that city only, a percentage of those tuned to the radio.

    A market-by-market analysis is the only way to go.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 July, 2005 23:26  

  • DickTuck:

    AAR's going nowhere in San Diego, can't confirm any of the wild 'Net stuff going around about Miami and Portland ME is too tiny to be on the radarscope.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 July, 2005 23:28  

  • AAR Fan:

    thanks for the tip about the new release from the company.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 July, 2005 23:29  

  • Brian;

    I may have said this before, but if KTTH wants to survive they need to:

    #1. Get you on between 9 AM-3 PM or after 6 PM. Nobody's going to go from Carlson to you.

    #2. Stream thru the Internet, which is how I get my KVI fix.

    Otherwise, because reception is crappy and give-and-take for KTTH in Sedro-Woolley - I just stream to KVI and rock n roll.

    By Blogger Josef, at 28 July, 2005 23:50  

  • AAR's going nowhere in San Diego, can't confirm any of the wild 'Net stuff going around about Miami and Portland ME is too tiny to be on the radarscope."

    The wild Miami stuff from Raw Story was based on the actual book, not the R&R summary. I do think the article is a bit distorted, since it compares 10-3 numbers with drive time. Hell, Randi Rhodes has been cleaning Rush's clock for years in West Palm Beach's WJNO, only because she had the evening drive time.

    However, the R&R summary for Miami was released yesterday. WINZ is up .8 to 2.0, while WIOD is down 4.2 to 2.8 spring to fall. I prefer spring fall numbers, as they best represent the core audience. Winter and summer numbers are always erratic.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 28 July, 2005 23:58  

  • Duh...I know that. So you weight it. Sheesh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 July, 2005 00:03  

  • KTTH in Seattle doesn't have as strong a broadcast signal as KVI, so I too think that they need stream their broadcasts.
    It would be nice to have you back on the air in Seattle Brian.
    My radio is normally tuned to KVI, I stream Rush, listen to Tony Snow, download Laura Ingraham to listen to before listening to Carlson in the afternoon.
    If you were on in place of Hannity or even Medved I would listen between noon and 3.
    Of course KVI is unlistenable in the evening with Art Bell or George Nori.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 July, 2005 15:54  

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