Friday, December 2, 2016


Pierre Bouvar
When Pierre Bouvard talks, I listen.  Bouvard is currently Chief Insights Officer for commercial station mega-owner Cumulus Media and Westwood One, a major distributer of syndicated programming and podcasts. In the early 2000s Bouvard was in charge of Arbitron’s development and rollout of PPM technology.

Bouvard is also a blogger. His blog on Westwood One’s website [link] offers excellent information and commentary about trends in commercial radio. 

Earlier this week Bouvard posted 6 SURPRISING TRENDS ABOUT DIGITAL AUDIO FROM THE LATEST EDISON RESEARCH SHARE OF EAR STUDY [link]. Today I’d like to focus on Bouvard’s takeaways and one of my my own based on Edison’s research.

As you probably know, Share of Ear [link] is a quarterly sweep of the consumption of audio from all sources by Americans age 13 and older.  The studies are based on perceptions and behaviors of 8,000 respondents who keep a 24-hour log of their audio usage. The most recent Share of Ear report was conducted by Edison research in conjunction with Cumulus and Westwood One. You can download the report at [link].

Lets take a look at Bouvard’s 6 SURPRISING TRENDS:

1. American time spent with personally owned music is down 9%. The U.S. is transitioning from purchased entertainment (CDs and DVDs) to renting content from Spotify and Netflix. 

With music purchases down, the share of American audio time spent to owned music has dropped from 15.1% last year to 13.8%.  

2. YouTube beats Pandora and becomes the number one streaming audio service. The audience share of consumers who listen to YouTube music videos has surged 28% from a 5.9 share last year to a 7.6 share in Q3 2016.

3. Pandora audience shares are stagnant. Over the last year, Pandora’s audience share has been stuck in the mid-6’s. Their growth has stalled. Meanwhile, on-demand services such as YouTube and Spotify have soared. No wonder Pandora just announced a new on-demand service.

4. Spotify’s early 2016 red-hot growth has tempered. Spotify started 2016 with a bang, notching major audience growth. Over the most recent two quarters its audience share growth has been more measured. Among 18-24 Millennials, Spotify ties Pandora in share of time spent listening.

5. Listening to Apple Music steadily shrinks. Apple Music was announced to much fanfare, but since then audience shares have steadily eroded. The service’s tiny shares of time spent listening are half of last year’s audience share. The takeaway: Apple is not a media company and is struggling to compete in the already crowded digital audio space.

6. Despite the growth in new streaming options, AM/FM radio listening continues to dominate with a 50 percent share of audio time spent. Streaming services have grown at the expense of time spent with owned music, not AM/FM radio. In Q3 2016, AM/FM shares are 14x bigger than Spotify and 8x bigger than Pandora. 

Bouvard is a tireless cheerleader for commercial AM/FM broadcasting and his blog is often a rah-rah for Cumulus and Westwood One. However his analysis is relevant to those of us in noncom media. FACT: While digital platforms rise and fall, traditional radio keeps on trucking. In-vehicle listening continues to be broadcast radio’s sweet spot.


Often this type of research states the obvious. In Bouvard’s blog post I saw the chart on the right.  The data comes from the US Census Bureau. It shows the type of transportation people say they use going to and from work: Private Vehicle or Public Transportation.

I had no idea of the disparity between New York and other major markets. In NYC the majority of people say they use Public Transportation (such as subways) to commute. In LA it is all about your own vehicle.

Bouvard uses this factoid to support his theory that media time buyers in NYC don’t hear much radio because they aren’t in cars on the freeway. So, they assume no one else is hearing radio despite considerable evidence to the contrary. I don’t know if Bouvard’s theory is true, but it raises interesting questions about the many public media foundation folks who work and live in NYC.

(Satire not meant to be taken seriously)

Sometimes on Friday evening I get together with pals who are also fans of vinyl records.  Everyone brings something new on vinyl to share with the others.  Here are the albums I am bringing.

JOYCE (self titled)

Everyone knows Joyce.  She has worked in Accounts Payable for almost 20 years. She is meek at work but did you know she rocks out in her private life. On this LP Joyce covers the greats: Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart, Aimee Winehouse’s Rehab and several Susan Boyle tunes.


Research shows a strong correlation between Country music, heavy alcohol use and depression. John Bult’s latest album is proof the research is true. After you listen to Bult’s version of George Jones’ nugget If Drinking Don’t Kill Me, Her Memory Will, you will probably start drinking yourself.


Fargo favorites, the SUITS are even more adventurous on their new release. I know you will love their barbershop version of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side.


Yes, this is me. Sometimes I put on my leisure suit and head downtown to a special little bar to sing old favorites. But I didn’t record this album at the bar – I recorded it in the shower. The acoustics in there are perfect but sometimes the lyrics get wet. I hum then. Send me your requests and maybe I can record them for next LP.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Since I began this blog in September 2014 I have periodically published charts showing Nielsen Audio’s estimates of weekly cumulative listeners for the largest noncom stations regardless of format. I sometimes call this “the big board” because it provides a snapshot of noncom radio’s overall trends.

I created the first “big board” in late 2014. Today we are comparing data from November 2014 with the latest data from Nielsen and RRC for November 2016. We examined the number of weekly listeners for the Top 30 stations and this post is based on that analysis.

On the left is a chart with the overall trends. Here are the major takeaways:

• Eighty percent of the stations have increased their weekly cumulative listeners between 2014 and 2016. The likely means noncom radio in large markets has more weekly listeners now than two years ago. 

This is a very, very healthy sign for noncom radio and public media.

• Stations featuring NPR News and other news and information programming are leading the trend. Not only do they now have over 50% of the stations in the Top 30, almost every NPR News station increased its number of weekly listeners over the two-year period. 

• Six of the NPR News stations had increases in weekly cume greater than 20%. For instance, WAMU added 291,500 weekly listeners, KQED added 243,400, KERA added 128,400 and KUHF added 87,100.

• It was a mixed bag for the other major formats. Three of the five Classical music stations had fewer weekly listeners in 2016 than 2014. There are fewer Triple A stations on the 2016 “big board” and WFUV had the single biggest loss pf any station in the Top 30, 95,800 weekly listeners (22%) from 2014 to 2016.

The number of weekly listeners to Jazz stations were generally up. Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) broke even but now has fewer stations in the Top 30.

I broke the Top 30 into three groups to make it easier to read.  More comments follow the charts of below. Stations with a change of 20% or more are highlighted in yellow.

The increases in weekly listeners by KQED, WAMU, WBUR and KCRW are truly impressive. Is WQXR’s loss of 73,900 weekly listeners a “wobble” or a sign of larger problems?

I love what KERA is doing in Dallas. WGBH is also trending up. You can’t beat the success of Jazz station KKJZ. As a former Angelino stuck up here on the Minnesota tundra, I sometimes listen to KJZZ online just to warm up!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


One of the most interesting success stories in public radio is the rise of WRAS, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s (GPB) new flagship in Atlanta. In July 2014 GPB crafted a local management agreement with Georgia State University to air NPR and local news programming for 14 hours per day.

Georgia State students still control the programming for the remaining hours. When GPB struck the deal for airtime in 2014, there was strong objection from rock music fans.

Since then, GPB VP of Radio Tanya Ott has assembled a remarkable crew of talent.  The results are in the numbers. In the first couple of “books” WRAS had around 60,000 weekly listeners.  That quickly grew to over 100,000.  Now, in Nielsen Audio’s November PPM ratings WRAS has zoomed to over 160,000 weekly cumulative listeners.

WRAS still has fewer weekly listeners than WABE, but WRAS keeps gaining and WABE keeps declining bit by bit. Speculation is that WRAS has taken some listening from WABE but this is hard to determine with the data we have available. But talk about impact on WABE.  WRAS was a big factor in WABE’s decision to dump almost all of its Classical music programming.


One of the keys to the upward momentum is GPB’s signature news/interview/talk program On Second Thought (OST). OST [link] airs Monday through Friday for 9am to 10am on WRAS and the other GPB network stations. 

I like OST a lot. Host Celeste Headlee, with reporter Sean Powers and Reporting Fellow Trevor Johnson, cook up a daily menu of news, politics, arts and music, health care, education and eclectic stories not heard elsewhere. I admire OST’s emphasis on enterprise reporting. For instance, last week OST had a hilarious segment on White Trash Cooking. Holy potato chips and spam!

OST may be having an impact similar to Boston Public Radio at WGBH or CultureShift on WDET; locally originated magnet program the competition doesn’t have. This is a way to build a unique identity.

Here is a story tip for talk show producers who are readers of SPARK! I heard on OST: A growing national organization called Turning Point USA, which publishes listings of college professors deemed too liberal. Turning Point USA may have a branch on a campus in your town. See more about this story at [link].

Elsewhere in Atlanta, WCLK keeps spreading the Jazz love.


The schedule at KNKX (formerly KPLU) has not changed much since the station emerged with new local ownership. KNKS airs Jazz music in the mid-day and during nights plus Morning Edition and All Things Considered at the same times as KUOW. 

Both stations have aggressive local news coverage.

Give a shout of praise for Classical KING and Urban CHR/Dance KHNC for nice gains in the estimated number of weekly listeners.


The Current returned to mere mortal status in the November PPM estimates for Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Current saw an extraordinary rise in listening to its pff-air and streaming audio follow the death of Prince. 

The station sounds as good as ever.  I particularly like the new morning team Jill Riley and Brian Oake.

Nice to see Jazz KBEM have its best book in recent memory. Classical KSJN also had a good bounce up in November compared with October.


Yesterday we featured a FM translator in Fort Collins, Colorado that is for sale for $140,000. We gave several good reasons why it probably is not worth the price. Reader Aaron Reed provided another good reason to pass: the projected coverage area. Aaron sent me a link to the translator’s official coverage map. The map is on the right.

We noted that the translator is licensed to broadcast from more than 1,300’ above the City of Fort Collins. But, it doesn’t even cover the city. Plus there will be terrible terrain-shielding anywhere someone might try to listen. This is a translator that needs a translator!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Last May we reported on an FM translator for sale in Fort Collins, Colorado [link]. At the time I thought it would be snapped up pronto due to the FCC’s “Save AM By Moving It To FM” policy. Under that plan lonely AM stations were being paired with available FM translators within 250 miles of the AM station.

This past weekend I received a newsletter from a broker that said the Fort Collins translator is still available. It is K248CH FM 97.5, authorized to broadcast at 60-watts from a transmitter site 1,314’ above Fort Collins. No coverage map is available because K248CH is currently off the air. The translator may a commercial no noncommercial station. The asking price is $140,000.

So, why is this turkey still for sale?

The top reasons facilities like K248CH are put up for sale include:

• The seller needs the money.

• The seller wants to leave the market.

• There is considerable upside potential for the property.

K248CH is one of several stations on the Colorado Front Range that comprise the Grace Radio Network [link]. Programming originates from the Calvary Church in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Grace’s promo slogan is Solid Bible teaching and cutting edge worship 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The programming is old-school religion, half-hour (even 15-munite) blocks of shows, each featuring sermons and services. There are very, very few religious noncoms with this kind of programming that are sustainable.

Perhaps Grace needs to money.  It is impossible to say because, as a church, it does not make its financial condition public. Fort Collins is an important city on the Front Range, so being there seems to fit Grace’s mission.

Likely the reason K248CH hasn’t sold is that there is ZERO upside potential.  The Fort Collins radio dial is full, thank you. I can’t think of any possible use for this translator.

Consider that Fort Collins is one of the most crowded FM dials in the nation. The chart above on the right shows 17 noncommercial voices already in the market. Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is already well established in the market on K-LOVE and Air1 and others. I’ve got the brokers name and number if you want to pursue this opportunity.


According to Nielsen Audio PPM data from the November ratings period, OpenAir KVOQ and 105.5 The Colorado Sound KJAC had nice gains in estimated weekly listeners when compared to the previous month. 

Classical KVOD added over 30,000 weekly listeners (up 23%) from October.

WQXR may be experiencing another major weekly listener drop like it did at the end of 2014. Between December 2014 and January 2015 WQXR lost 122,800 weekly cume.  We reported on this situation in early 2015 [link].

 WQXR recovered from that slump in subsequent months. Meanwhile WNYC-FM was up a bit to 828,600 weekly listeners, near a record high for the station.


KPCC, KCRW and KKJZ each added estimated weekly listeners between October and November. KUSC was down slightly but it remains the top noncom station in the market.

Monday, November 28, 2016


According to estimates released by Nielsen Audio and the Radio Research Consortium, listening to KQED, San Francisco and WAMU, DC reached record high listening in the November PPM ratings. Plus, both stations top their markets in Average-Quarter-Hour (AQH) shares competing against two of the top commercial radio all-news stations.

In San Francisco, KQED surged past CBS owned and operated KCBS-AM/KFRC-FM in AQH listening. Here is the AQH trend courtesy of

KCBS-AM/KFRC-FM edged KQED in estimated weekly cumulative listeners. However, KQED’s weekly cume was 992,900, perhaps the highest number of weekly listeners ever for any noncommercial station.

The same pattern is occurring in Washington, DC. WAMU was the top station in AQH share for the second month in a row. WAMU’s 10.0% share was likely the highest AQH for any noncommercial station in a major market. Here is the AQH trend courtesy of

Commercial all-news WTOP, the top-billing station in the nation, had a larger number of weekly listeners.  WAMU’s estimated weekly listeners, 865,300, was the highest for the station in recent memory.

What this data means is that KQED and WAMU had fewer estimated weekly listeners but those people who are listening are doing so for longer periods of time. This is to be expected because many people tune to commercial news stations for quick traffic, weather and sports reports.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, there was little change in the number of weekly listeners to KDFC and KALW.

There was also little change in the number of estimated number of weekly listeners to WGTS, WETA and WAMU’s Bluegrass Country channel.


The battle for Boston continues to be tight in AQH shares for WBUR and WGBH. Here is the AQH trend courtesy of

WBUR had 19% more estimated weekly listeners in November compared with October. However, the number of WGBH’s weekly listeners also grew. Consider this: If you combine the number of weekly listeners of WBUR and WGBH (which can’t be done because an unknown number of listeners hear both stations) the total is nearly 1,000,000 weekly listeners, on par with KQED and WAMU.

Also in Boston every other noncom station that subscribes to Nielsen was up in November compared with the previous month. You gotta love the 23% increase (77,000 listeners to Classical WCRB.


Though the gains were not as large as KQED, WAMU and WBUR, WBEZ finally had a month when its estimated number of weekly listeners went up. 

On the right is a chart of weekly listeners to WBEZ month-by-month since March 2016. 

Even with the November gain, WBEZ’s estimated weekly listeners is still off around 100,000 listeners since March.

Elsewhere in Chicago spunky WDCB had a nice gain in weekly listeners.