Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Recently we have reported on several situations where a local NPR News/Talk station is outperforming a heritage hometown commercial news/talker.  As the Nielsen Audio PPM ratings are arriving, we are taking a look this race in all of the PPM markets.

What we’ve learned so far is good, okay and ugly, depending on local circumstances.  

 A few days ago we wrote about the dominance of KQED, San Francisco, over the entire radio market. Today we have a couple more public radio news success stories. Then, we have one “okay, but” situation, and the ugliest NPR station performance in the nation.

GOOD: DENVER How the mighty have fallen

During the 1980s I lived in Colorado – two years in the Springs and two years in Fort Fun. One thing that was a constant anywhere in either of these cities was 850 KOA. It was like a "north star."

Back then KOA pulled an 8, 9, even 10 AQH shares. Then Clear Channel (now iHeart Media) bought KOA.

Over time, what made KOA essential drifted away.  At the same time Colorado Public Radio (CPR) invested in wise folks to run the news department and they got their KCFR signal problems solves.

KCFR leads KOA in weekly listeners and AQH share.

NPR News/Talk stations are holding their listener bases.   

However, almost every noncom station was down in the March 2018 PPM ratings. The numbers for KJAC The Colorado Sound and KVOQ CPR OpenAir

GOOD: BOSTON Public radio was born here

Boston has been a great radio town for many years. 

Now Boston listeners are being treated to a delicious competition between WBUR and WGBH. 

After seeing the latest Nielsen numbers, it could be that more people in the Boston area listen to public radio than WBZ.

WERS must have an excellent group of students now.   

They are certainly the best performing college station in the country.

OKAY: TWIN CIITIES Slip, Sliding Away

Disclosure: I have lived in Minneapolis since 1992. I am a KNOW P-1.

Once upon a time, WCCO-AM ruled the radio dial with 50+ AQH shares. 

Despite the ascendancy of FM, they remained a top five station well into the 1990s.

By that time corporate cost cutting began. The GM was putting his energy into a new Country FM.

WCCO was high profit station. Year after year they brought tons of money to CBS corporate.  Then, in the early 2000s, CBS corporate decided to cut expenses rather then invest inwhat was working.

During a hot summer of 2016, I wrote a post about the night WCCO just gave up [link]. Other folks might have opinions but for me WCCO broke its pledge of public safety when they cut away from breaking storm weather.

One pattern I’ve noticed is how well public radio News/Talk stations tend to do much better Conservative Talk stations with El Rushbo and Hannity.

When I see this chart I worry a bit about the sound of MPR’s News channel.   

To me, there seems to be less joy in the host’s voices.   

The pace of local programming seems to have slowed. 

There used to be local thematic “shows” like the Daily Circuit. Now it is harder to tell whats on from day to day.

MPR’s online News presence is very impressive. They have become a “news of radio record” for Minneapolis-St. Paul.

UGLY: MEMPHIS Missing a tremendous opportunity

I don’t want to seem like I am unfairly picking on anyone at WKNO, Memphis [link], but their performance in the Nielsen Audio PPM ratings is surprisingly dismal. Maybe it is because WKNO is licensed to a public TV station.  But a more apt cause is likely internal governance issue and turf protection.

The biggest factor in Memphis radio news is 600 WREC [link]. Other than weekday mornings for two hours of local news and discussion, WREC is 100% plugged into satellite feeds Beck, Rush and Sean.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  There are several options for a public service operating (PSOA) agreements with other Memphis area noncoms.

WQOX [link], the number one public radio station in Memphis is owned and operated by Shelby County School District: WQOX 88.5, The Voice of SCS. 

88.5 plays parent-approved urban contemporary music. 

The best option to increase NPR listening and visibility in Memphis is a PSOP with the Memphis Public Library. 

The Library owns WYPL FM 89.3. Coverage map on the right.

For many years WYPL [link] has served the low vision and blind communities with a popular reading service.

It is easy for a blogger like me to spend other people’s money. So, I hope someone will take this idea and run with or maybe WKNO will come to life.

1 comment:

  1. FWIW, WERS has professional hosts during drive times (or at least morning drive) last I checked. I don't live in their broadcast area anymore.

    But I highly doubt they're the #1 college radio station in the country. Just off the top of my head, both WSOU at Seton Hall and WRHU at Hofstra cover a lot more people down around NYC. And they're better formatted to take advantage of it. Hell, WRHU was the flagship station of the Islanders NHL franchise for several years. And the numbers also demonstrate that KTCU in DFW absolutely crushes WERS's numbers. Weekly cume is just shy of 400,000. (https://www.rrconline.org/PPM/downloadFile.php?ID=123) They're listed as a CCM station but I think it's all student-operated nevertheless.