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Published: Saturday, 8/17/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Now Hear This: Area morning radio ratings show clear winners, trends

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
To give their domination context, consider that in spring, Shores and Steele had 20,000 more listeners than their second-place competition, the syndicated Bob and Tom Show on WIOT-FM 104.7, and a larger 12-plus audience than Arbitron’s bottom eight AM and FM stations combined. To give their domination context, consider that in spring, Shores and Steele had 20,000 more listeners than their second-place competition, the syndicated Bob and Tom Show on WIOT-FM 104.7, and a larger 12-plus audience than Arbitron’s bottom eight AM and FM stations combined.
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The Arbitron ratings for Toledo radio are resoundingly clear: listeners prefer Shores and Steele in the morning, local morning chatter to syndicated talk, and ESPN radio’s sportscasts to CBS Sports Radio.

Those are just a few of the trends from the spring Arbitron that covered late March through late June and which provides seasonal ratings to radio markets nationwide.

Arbitron’s Toledo radio market is the combined populations of Lucas, Wood, and Fulton counties — 514,900 people — and while the service provides average ratings by age and gender, we’re focused on the 12-and-older demographic. For example, a radio station with a 1.8 overall rating means that on average 1.8 percent of the total Lucas, Wood, and Fulton county population 12 and older listened to that station weekly during the spring ratings period. Another important ratings figure is the “average cume persons,” which is the number of different listeners during a specific time and date period such as morning drive from 6-10 a.m., or Monday-Friday).

Here’s a rundown of the ratings and what they tell us, starting with morning drive time.

Track record of success

As with every radio market, a.m. show hosts come and go. Some of the personnel changes in the last few years include the departure of the locally produced Andrew Z in the Morning and The Tim and Jeff Show, along with the syndicated The Free Beer & Hot Wings Show.

Through the myriad shock jock shuffles across the morning radio dial, the single constant is the longtime duo of Gary Shores and Harvey Steele. With their 20th anniversary next August, WKKO-FM 99.9’s 5-to-10 a.m. tandem remains No. 1. in Arbitron’s spring ratings. And as always, it’s not even close.

Shores and Steele averaged a 12-and-older audience of 1.8 percent weekly, with a cumulative Monday-Friday average of 62,300 different listeners tuning in to their morning show. To give their domination context, consider that in spring, Shores and Steele had 20,000 more listeners than their second-place competition, the syndicated Bob and Tom Show on WIOT-FM 104.7, and a larger 12-plus audience than Arbitron’s bottom eight AM and FM stations combined.

“I just think they keep getting stronger,” said John Gallagher, vice president market manager for Cumulus Media, which owns WKKO. “The existing audience stays with them and they’re finding a new audience; our 18-to-34 listenership nearly doubled in the last book.”

Shores and Steele are key to WKKO’s overall placement as the No. 1 station in the market, along with its country format. But the show’s success also points to the popularity of live and local in morning radio, with seven of the top 10 morning programs originating in the Toledo area: WRVF-FM 101.5’s Mary Beth and Rick and WVKS-FM 92.5’s The Morning Rush tied at No. 3, WRQN-FM 93.5’s Ron and Lyn in the Mornings tied at No. 5 (along with WIMX-FM 95.7’s The Tom Joyner Morning Show), WSPD-AM 1370’s Fred LeFebvre at No. 7, WXKR-FM 94.5’s Mark Benson at No. 8, and WPFX-FM 107.7’s Craig Snyder at No. 9.

As for Zepeda’s replacement on WWWM-FM 105.5 Star 105, former Atlanta morning-show host Mike Shannon’s 12-plus numbers are down in comparison. Mornings with Mike Shannon averaged a 0.5 in spring and Andrew Z in the Morning averaged 0.6 in in the same ratings period in 2012. But Shannon’s average cumulative audience increased over Zepeda’s by nearly 4,000, from 19,800 to 23,700. Overall in the a.m. drive time, Mornings with Mike Shannon finished tied for tenth place in the market with WJZE-FM 97.3’s syndicated The Rickey Smiley Show.

CBS fumbles

While WKKO represents continued good news and stability for Cumulus Media, its nationwide move to CBS Sports in January hasn’t proven to be so popular with area listeners.

WLQR-FM 106.5 The Ticket’s overall audience dropped from 0.2 to 0.1 from spring, 2012, its lowest ratings in at least a year, with the loss of nearly half of its cumulative audience throughout the day, 16,000 compared to 29,100.

The numbers were especially grim for 106.5 in the morning drive time, with CBS’ TBD in the AM (the trio of Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, and Dana Jacobson) experiencing a mass exodus of listeners who tuned in from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays to ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. TBD’s average audience 12 and older was 0.1 — down 0.3 from spring, 2012, with Mike and Mike (Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic), with a weekly cumulative audience of 7,500 compared to 16,300.

The Ticket’s local sports talk lineup of Norm Wamer (3 to 5 p.m.) and Drive Time with Mike Miller (5 to 6 p.m.) did not slip as much in comparison — down to 0.2 from 0.3 in the 12-plus demographic and 3,100 from 13,300 in cumulative audience from spring of last year — which helped cushion the blow somewhat of the station’s substantial loss of a morning audience.

Overall, in the station’s Sunday-Saturday performance among the 18 area radio stations Arbitron rated in the market, 106.5 finished in a six-way tie for 13th (and last) place with its sister AM station, WLQR 1470, WCKY-FM 103.7, WCWA-AM 1230, WMIM-FM 98.3, and WXKR.

Despite the drop in numbers, Gallagher remains bullish on the new WLQR programming, including the struggling TBD in the AM.

“I expect [TBD] to do better,” he said. “What we’re finding with the show [is] in the eight months that they’ve been at it, they’re getting better and growing more comfortable with each other, and integrating more of the audience with the show. It’s the same way some of the other sports products develop — it’s coming along.”

Talkers

For Clear Channel, the biggest ratings challenge comes via a programming change as well: afternoons on WSPD and its move from outspoken talk-show host Brian Wilson to former Toledo morning shock jock Johny D.

In spring, 2012, Wilson delivered a 12-and older audience of 0.6 for his politically driven afternoon show. Wilson was fired from the station in November and by February Johny D. had taken over as the full-time replacement, with a program less about politics and more about general issues and lifestyle topics. In spring Johny D. drew an average weekly audience of 0.4 in the 12-and-older demographic, a decline of 0.2.

His cumulative weekly audience, however, remained mostly stable; 20,200 tuning in from 3 to 7 p.m. compared to 21,500 for Wilson.

Nathan Reed, Clear Channel operations manager, which owns WSPD, said there’s “a natural ebb and flow” to radio ratings, and that the drop in numbers do not reflect “a dramatic trend or anything like that.

“People are going to react” to the switch, he said. “You do anticipate when you make a change like that you will shed your [existing] audience while building a new audience. And it’s also a decidedly different approach in the afternoons for WSPD.”

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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