There is a lot that intrigues among the data in “Keeping Track Of Jack, Bob, and Friends,” the joint Arbitron/Edison Media Research follow-up to last year’s “Adult Hits” study. By now, Adult Hits has pretty clearly lost the omnipotence that some bestowed upon it at the outset. In fall ’05, the format was less potent against AC’s Christmas juggernaut than the year before, and not every Adult Hits station recovered in the winter. Yet, by tracking multiple books, you realize that most Bob- and Jack-FMs are indeed better off than where they started. And that at least half the stations in the format have rebounded, at least once, from an off book: good news for a format that some expected to peak, and then dwindle down to nothing.
…by tracking multiple books, you realize that most Bob- and Jack-FMs are indeed better off than where they started.
Among the most curious findings was that only three stations were No. 1 AQH 25-54 during the winter book: Bonneville’s KPKX (the Peak) Phoenix and WARH (the Arch) St. Louis, and Citadel’s KBBD (Bob-FM) Spokane, Wash. The Phoenix numbers were particularly encouraging because, as VP/PD Joel Grey notes, the station has now been in the format for two years now — long enough for its success to no longer be dismissed as initial curiosity.
As had already become apparent last fall when Ross On Radio last looked at the progress of Bob- and Jack-FMs, there’s no guaranteed formula for success with a Hot AC/Classic Hits hybrid. Anybody who has done the format successfully also has a non-starter or two to their name. Any rule about where the format should work has at least one exception. And even the jockless KBBD is very different from the full-staffed KPKX and WARH. But their winter book success does prompt the question: why these three stations?
Here’s Grey’s take: “The key for us, we are a Phoenix radio station. I named it the Peak, so it sounded like a Phoenix radio station. I have had live and local Phoenix air personalities since the day we turned the Peak on. The jock line-up is the same today as it was the day we turned it on with the exception of middays. I have stationality with John O’Hurley, who is [positioned on the station as] “Mr. Peakerman” and has also been with me since sign on. We do a lot of tactical and strategic promotions that are ‘out there’ and get people to talk. We surprise and we entertain every day. We research and we market the brand.”
In St. Louis, a market observer had similar observations, noting that the Arch has been on TV “non-stop since last fall,” including the “American Idol” finals, and has also been on billboards and telemarketed itself aggressively. In addition, “They don’t play songs that were not hits for St. Louis” and the station’s air talent has history in the market.
And one particularly interesting pattern emerges from the data. As you might expect, WARH is No. 1 in 25-54 adult cume, while KPKX and KBBD are No. 2. But while no Adult Hits station is top five in TSL, WARH and KBBD are both No. 7, while KPKX is No. 8. That combination of leading cume and respectable TSL doesn’t characterize many stations in the format these days. Even KCBS, No. 2 in cume, is No. 32 in TSL in demo.
And some other observations, after having gone back to Arch, Peak, and Bob/Spokane for another listen or two earlier this month:
Musically, St. Louis and Phoenix are different radio stations from many of their first-named brethren. At the outset, there were some format observers who wanted to not count Phoenix in the Adult Hits camp, regarding it as more of a mainstream AC. Two years later, there’s even more resemblance to poppier Classic Hits outlets like WOLL West Palm Beach, Fla., or WNTR (the Track) Indianapolis, or to Rock ACs such as WRVE Albany, N.Y. Like the original Bob-FM, CFWM Winnipeg, the era balance seems older — not as tilted toward the ’80s and ’90s as some of what came later. And the late ’80s hair band era-often an Adult Hits calling card, but one that often polarizes by age-feels less present.
St. Louis and Phoenix also have the advantage of a certain amount of Rock Hits DNA in their market. WARH is on the frequency of late ’70s/early ’80s pop/rock hybrid KWK. Phoenix has a similar history to draw on with late ’70s KUPD. (Again, there are exceptions. If market history were all that mattered, the format would have launched huge in Chicago and not in Los Angeles, instead of the inverse.)
Beyond that, I heard a lot of nice little touches on both St. Louis and Phoenix — the sort of housekeeping one usually finds at successful stations: both tell you more about how to use the radio station than their counterparts, without resorting to liner-speak; the Arch backsells every song; both stations do live spots (or live sounding testimonials). There were also some Triple-A-style flourishes on the Peak. On the day after Billy Preston’s death, he had been designated “Today’s Peak Legend.” The station also does a Sunday morning “Acoustic Storm” of the sort that you’d expect on a Triple-A; (New York’s Jack FM, WCBS-FM, just added a similar show on June 11).
WARH (106.5 the Arch) St. Louis, June 7, 2006, 9:50-10:45 a.m.
Rick James, “Super Freak”
Matchbox Twenty, “Push”
Bryan Adams, “This Time”
Player, “Baby Come Back”
Staind, “It’s Been Awhile”
Scandal, “Goodbye To You”
A-Ha, “Take On Me”
Faces/Rod Stewart, “Stay With Me”
KPKX (98.7 the Peak) Phoenix, June 7, 2006, 8:55-9:45 a.m.
DNA f/Suzanne Vega, “Tom’s Diner”
Boz Scaggs, “Lowdown”
Def Leppard, “Love Bites”
Pablo Cruise, “Love Will Find A Way”
Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
Fleetwood Mac, “You Make Loving’ Fun”
Bob Seger, “Shakedown”
Orleans, “Dance With Me”
Deep Blue Something, “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”
Elton John, “Philadelphia Freedom”
Phil Collins, “Sussudio”
KBBD (103.9 Bob FM) Spokane, Wash., June 8, 2006, 10:45-11:30 a.m.
Donna Summer, “Bad Girls”
Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know (Acoustic)”
Billy Idol, “Rebel Yell”
Lee Michaels, “Do You Know What I Mean”
Golden Earring, “Twilight Zone”
Berlin, “No More Words”
Billy Joel, “The Longest Time”
Survivor, “High On You”
Macy Gray, “I Try”
Elton John, “Candle In The Wind