By: Sean Ross
If you take a look through the market-leading stations for Nielsen’s diary markets in April, you’ll likely recognize many of them: WIVK Knoxville; KSSK-FM Honolulu; WBEE Rochester, N.Y.; WJMZ (107.3 Jamz) Greenville, S.C., WXBQ Bristol, Tenn., KKOB Albuquerque; KIIM Tuscon; WBHK (98.7 Kiss FM) Birmingham; KUZZ Bakersfield, Calif., WYRK Buffalo.
A lot of these stations have stayed great through the years. But that’s not all that’s happening here.
Edison’s Larry Rosin and I have been very cognizant in recent years on how much harder it has become for a new station to get noticed. The phenomenal new “worst-to-first” station is more infrequent now. Seeing April 2014 ratings that could have been from April 2004 in many cases just confirms it.
The tricks that used to propel a station to the top quickly have lost some of their currency. Playing 10,000 songs in a row is now seemingly an automatic cost of entry and doesn’t last anyway. There aren’t a lot of oldies that people haven’t heard in a while to create excitement with; (those stations actually willing to play soft AC from Christopher Cross and Air Supply have been the exceptions). Even if you have something new and special, your ability to market it is probably diminished anyway.
But it’s also harder to get a market’s attention when there’s less available attention for radio.
Edison’s work with radio stations in the past has shown that heritage morning shows are often known for their longest-running features. That doesn’t necessarily mean everything’s fine and the audience is satisfied. We wouldn’t be on the job if everything were fine. What it means is that the new things aren’t necessarily being noticed.
So it seems like a trick bag. Radio is displaying the sort of stasis where the difficulty in making a mark discourages new attempts, and a lack of new excitement makes radio in general feel like the same old thing. A heritage station’s 11-share becomes an 11-share of the listening that’s left.
And yet, revitalization is possible. The success of Jimmy Fallon as host of “The Tonight Show” has pretty well ended the speculation that a new generation of TV viewers would never again gather for a shared-experience in late nights. Radio is, in general, lacking that “new TV season” energy. And new stations don’t just create excitement about the medium. They raise listening levels, preferably by finding those listeners not currently satisfied by radio. And even the second CHR or second Country station, done correctly, creates more listening at a time when more listening is needed.
We’re not casting aspersions on any of the individual stations, or wishing ill on our friends at heritage outlets. We hope you have an 11-share forever. But your markets need somebody new with a 10.9 share to keep things interesting.