I got so worked up about Harry Reid and all the people who donate money to him that I neglected my radio reviewing duties. Before I continue with the radio stuffins I’ll give you a couple little games to play. First, check out Harry Reid’s 2005-2010 top 100 donors at OpenSecrets.org. If you’re looking for an easy game, try spotting the personal injury lawyers that donate to Harry Reid. If you’re looking for a challenge, try figuring out why the list shows a $14,400 donation from “US Senate” and $13,200 from “University of Nevada”. I know that the University receives a lot of private donations, but as a state school what right do they have to being making these kinds of political donations? As for the US Senate, I’m certain that he’s not donating to himself through the senate. I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s not, right? Anyone?
But I digress. The real reason we’re here today is to catch up on what’s going on in the world of radio. Since this is the season of State of the Union and State of the State addresses we’ll call this the State of the Stations post. We have much to discuss since the last rating schedule we reviewed was for Fall of 2008. Since then the Spring 2009 and Fall 2009 numbers have been released. Arbitron still only lists four stations as talk format with only KOH and 99.1 listed as “News Talk”.
KBZZ (1270 AM) – After a dip in ratings in the fall of 2008 The Buzz made a nice little rebound. They climbed up to 2% in SP09 from 1.6% in FA08. But then they plummeted to a horrendous .4% in FA09. This ties them for last place among all stations of any format. The main personalities all seem to be in place, so I’m not sure why they’re doing so poorly. They still seem to be chasing the most uninteresting types of talk radio – maybe people have just decided to move on. Who knows? Who cares?
KJFK (1230 AM) – There is no doubt that having a huge error in their slogan has hurt KJFK. On their web page their slogan erroneously proclaims KJFK to be “AM with IQ”. Proclaiming the slogan thus when they clearly meant it to read “AM with LOW IQ” shows sloppiness, which is an unattractive attribute. Nevertheless, KJFK also showed a substantial drop in ratings. After dropping from 1.7% in FA08 to 1.6% in SP09, they dropped to a painful 1%. This drop is not nearly as substantial as what KBZZ suffered, but it’s certainly not good. Of course, Air America has been embattled for years and recently stopped broadcasting completely. KJFK primarily featured Air America programming before and I’m not sure what they’re going to do now. The Air America announcement could mean one of two different things. First, it could mean an improvement in KJFK ratings now that some of the crazies are not on their station anymore. Second, it could mean their certain demise. KKFT and KKOH offer far more interesting programming, so without a major leftie operation to provide programming I’m not sure how appealing KJFK will remain.
KKFT (99.1 FM) – After dropping from an outstanding 2.3% in FA08 to 1.4% in SP09, KKFT has slowly resumed marching upward. KKFT’s FA09 ratings are listed at 1.5%. With the exception of the bump in FA08 their ratings have been fairly steady and generally trend upwards. That said, KKFT seems to be entering adolesence. The station seems to be groping for a new identity, but it’s not clear what they are trying to achieve. The addition of Michael Savage was the first sign that things were about to get wonky. Last week the station replaced Michael Savage with Rusty Humphries – not a move that I expect will help. They also did a major scramble not long ago. Dr. Laura was bumped to the middle of the night and Tom Sullivan took her place. Dave Ramsey was moved from Saturday night to Sunday night. Tammy Bruce was eliminated entirely. There were other changes, as well, but I’ve included the changes that disappointed me the most. Tom Sullivan has actually been very enjoyable, but I miss Dr. Laura. Tammy Bruce and Dave Ramsey were great and I miss being able to listen to them. I hope KKFT finds its voice soon. Quality of programming seems to be going the wrong way.
KKOH (780AM) – KOH experienced the same bump that KKFT experienced. After rising to a phenomenol 13.6% in FA08 they sank back to 10.4% in SP09. From there they increased slightly to 10.5%. KOH continues to dominate the Reno market due to very solid programming. With Rush, Hannity and Levin the station features excellent national shows. Bill Manders offers a local program that thumps any other local programming. Part of the appeal of KOH is that I always know what I’m going to hear when I turn on the station. Changes are made rarely and are almost always for the better. Although I view KOH as a Goliath and I’m looking for a David to come along and humble them, I can certainly respect the appeal of the station.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Both KBZZ and KJFK seem to be in a tailspin and things are not looking good for either of them. Although KOH still crushes KKFT (for reasons discussed previously), KKFT continues to hold its own. Until KKFT gets settled I expect it to be a very slow ascent.
There was something else that I found interesting. KBZZ had a substantial dip in FA08. KJFK remained mostly static in FA08. Both KOH and KKFT had a nice bump in FA08 that was not seen on any of the other Reno stations. (A couple music stations had a bump, but nothing that seemed unique among their normal trends.) People obviously flocked primarily to KOH and KKFT for election news and information. I would have expected KJFK to get a similar bump. This is not good news for KJFK – they seem to be stuck with the same audience that they’ve always had. Listeners to not trust them to get information, even in an election that swung for their candidate. On the bright side, I think the bump is further evidence that KKFT is being taken seriously as a force in the Reno market for serious new and talk.