The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

22 July 2005

Ratings For Boston, SF, Others

It's All About Providence

Air America Chokes WHJJ, Conservatives Strong in Bay Area

Yes, it's all about Providence this morning, not the sappy NBC-TV drama, rather a disturbing radio tragedy.

In one of talk radio's biggest-ever screw-ups, a once well-performing conservative talk station has been destroyed by switching to "progressive" Air America programming.

Most astounding: it took only a year to kill Providence's WHJJ-AM.

Since it's one of the few to dump a viable conservative lineup for Franken & Co., it provides an important case study for liberal talk's failure.

We're talking about Rhode Island here, not Wyoming (although there is a town by that name in the Ocean State).

It's the land of Congressmen named Kennedy, corrupt Democrat power brokers and squishy Republicans like Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Shouldn't it be a great place for liberal talk?

Not according to Arbitron, which released spring ratings results for the city-state, late Thursday.

WHJJ-AM has seen its audience sliced in half since the change, going from a respectable 3.5 share last summer, to a miniscule 1.8. Most amazing: a distant Boston signal from WBZ-AM actually beat hometown WHJJ. That has to be a first.

While Limbaugh affiliate WPRO was also down, avoiding the liberal radio media hype has paid off handsomely for the Citadel talker: it's in seventh place with a 4.1 share, while WHJJ was tied for 16th.

Radio execs are notoriously slow to admit failure, but this one is so devastating for WHJJ, Clear Channel has no choice but to quickly pull the format's plug. My guess: they dig in their heels and attempt to rearrange the Titanic's deck chairs first.

Why isn't the Ocean State a good place for liberal talk hosts? Simple: conservatives naturally fit the role of anti-corruption, pro-taxpayer watchdogs, while leftists are stuck in the position of defending the crooked Rogue's Island political establishment.

But it's not much different elsewhere. What approach can liberal talkers use, other than boring Bush-bashing? Where's the audience demand?

Meanwhile, conservatives looked great in the Bay Area, where talker KSFO gained almost a half share to finish with a 3.5, good for 6th place overall. Right-leaning rival KNEW also showed some life, rising from a 1.1 to a 1.6.

Market powerhouse KGO fell a bit, but of course remained in first place, while Air America's KQKE rose from a 1.0 to a 1.2. That's still far below the adult standards format previously aired on that frequency.

In Boston, a real shake-up, where the Red Sox Nation propelled sports WEEI-AM into first place, while traditional market "heritage" news-talk station WBZ-AM fell to second. I'm not sure if WBZ has, in modern history, ever finished below first place.

WBZ has several issues to overcome: a rapidly-aging audience, the death of talk legend David Brudnoy and the station's backing off of talk shows in favor of additional news programming.

None of these are good for ratings and things could get worse as the baseball season continues.

Conservative WRKO was up a tad, from a 4.1 to a 4.2, for 6th place overall. Rival WTKK-FM, home to Imus, Jay Severin and Laura Ingraham, fell from a 3.8 to a 3.6, taking 8th. It peaked last year with a 4.1.

There's one heck of a large conservative talk radio audience in Boston, isn't there?

Air America's two local stations checked in with a combined 0.6, taking last place overall. This is about as good as it's going to get for the Beantown lib talk duo.

More updates coming for additional cities, a look at Sacramento as well.

Ratings data from Radio & Records. Please support our advertisers, it helps to maintain this site. Thanks!


  • Brian,

    Do you have any info as to AAR's financial situation? I can't imagine that advertisers would be flocking to that mess.

    How about the "Sugar Daddies"?

    Given that AAR is an unmitigated flop. I'm wondering if the investors have lost patience, and, or, come to their senses.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 July, 2005 08:04  

  • Re: Bay Area ratings.

    But in the neighboring San Jose market generally considered a little more conservative, both KSFO-AM and KNEW-AM were down, the latter to a dangerous 1.1.

    Air America: 0.6 in San Jose, a zillion percent increase from the 0.0 in the last ratings book.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 July, 2005 11:57  

  • RKO has also bucked the post election ratings decline for big talk stations, steadily going up and up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 23 July, 2005 00:31  

  • >but San Jose is only more conservative than >San Fran County.

    Sailor: That is what I basically meant. In the recent ratings books, KNEW and KSFO always scored higher in the South Bay. In this ratings book, the trend was reversed.

    Nothing to laugh about, just an interesting anomaly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 24 July, 2005 22:11  

  • What makes AAR's performance in NYC even more pathetic is that the two other major political talk stations, WOR and WABC both have primarily conservative hosts.

    In the afternoon, conservative listenership is divided between Rush and Hannity on WABC, and O'Reilly and Bob Grant on WOR.

    However, each host individually beats the pants off Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, and this is in New York City, which went 80% for Kerry.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 25 July, 2005 07:56  

  • AAR list Cleveland as an affiliate, yet the station (WTAM-AM 1100 AM) only carries Springer:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 25 July, 2005 09:55  

  • AAR will count you as an affiliate even if you only carry one AAR show. WJNO (West Palm Beach, FL) is listed as an affiliate b/c they carry Randi Rhodes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 25 July, 2005 10:01  

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