Radio may be a mass medium, but few stations truly appeal to the masses. It's all about targeted demographics.
More than 20 stations can be heard in Toledo, so listeners have plenty of options. To get their piece of the listenership pie, stations usually make programming decisions with a specific audience in mind.
For WXKR-FM (94.5), that would be males age 25 to 54.
Its programming strategy seems to be working. In Arbitron's spring survey, the classic rock station -- which plays music from the late 1960s to the early '90s -- had a significant ratings spike. Among males 25-54, it had its highest ratings in three years. Among listeners age 12-plus (perhaps the best way to measure mass appeal), WXKR had its highest ratings since changing to classic rock in 1998.
Among males 25-54, WXKR is No. 1 in two weekday time slots -- 3 to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight -- and No. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The competition for a rock station in this market is nerve-racking," program director Andi McKay said. At least four other Toledo stations have some type of rock format (such as alternative rock, classic rock, classic hits, and oldies).
WXKR, which is owned by Cumulus, considers Clear Channel's WIOT-FM (104.7) to be its main competitor for males age 25 to 54. WXKR maintains a live broadcast; earlier this year WIOT switched to voice-tracking (the modern-day way of saying it's taped).
Arbitron's spring survey was the first full ratings period for live vs. voice-tracking broadcasts. According to McKay, it's no coincidence that WXKR's biggest ratings jump came during 7 p.m. to midnight, which is covered by Dave Watters. Its audience share among males 25-54 grew from 10.5 to 15.2 percent, and WIOT's fell from 11.4 to 8.9 percent.
"Dave caters to listeners because he can -- he's live," McKay said. "With voice-tracking, you might as well put a CD in your car. There's no interaction with listeners."
Mike McIntyre enjoyed similar success during the afternoon drive (3 to 7 p.m.). During the past three ratings periods, McIntyre's share among males 25-54 has grown steadily -- from 6.2 percent last fall, to 9.4 during the winter survey, to 12.0 in the spring.
McKay, WXKR's program director since 1999, also covers the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. During her shift, the station's share among males 25-54 went from 7.7 to 10.9 percent. WIOT remained No. 1, but its share dropped from 13.5 to 12.0.
During the morning drive, which generates the most advertising revenue for a typical station, WXKR is only No. 4 among males 25-54. But Mark Benson and Micki Morgret have been together for only seven months. "Mark and Micki are still getting their feet wet," McKay said.