Radio Waves: 11/18/16

Christmas at KOST

KOST (103.5 FM) beat even itself this year as management sought to unite opposing sides after the election: the station’s yearly sojourn into holiday music is already in full force, having made its debut November 9th.

According to a video on the KOST website (, Santa made the switch after a letter from Little Susie in Southern California explained that all the adults around her were always yelling over the election, and asked if he could do something. So he logged on to the station master control and started playing holiday music to make people feel better … even if it is before Thanksgiving. WAY before Thanksgiving. On a day that must have hit 85 degrees.

And while they were the first to make the move on the local airwaves, they were not the first overall. Sirius XM launched its first holiday music channel on November 2nd (Holly, Channel 17).

What gives? Why so early? Simple: ratings. It seems people really do like holiday music, and ratings for KOST always go through the roof for the ratings period. In years past, KOST could jump as many as five or more places in the ratings as it dominates the holiday season. SiriusXM does not release listenership estimates, but it must certainly do well in internal surveys, otherwise it wouldn’t use up to seven channels for specialized formats — traditional to country, soul to Latin and special New Years programming with staggered starts and stops from through New Years day.

No I haven’t listened yet. I am a true traditionalist who used to get on trouble for not actively promoting Christmas in  July when I worked at the old Sears Catalog Surplus Store in San Pedro. I’ll start tuning in after Thanksgiving …

Interestingly, while the move helps KOST, it has not tended to help other stations that made the move in the past. KRTH (101.1 FM) and KTWV (94.7 FM) tried it a few years ago with no bump in the ratings. It appears that people are conditioned to tune in KOST when they want the holiday sounds.

Learning from the Polls

Fred Jacobs, founder and president of Jacobs Media, wrote a post recently that tied the Presidential election to radio, especially as to how polls can be so accurate … yet so wrong.

What’s the tie-in? Ratings. How accurate are ratings when listeners can be just like voters … passionate about a station, or just “meh?”

In other words, are ratings really a reflection of listenership if some stations garner huge ratings just be being played in an office or even in the home … but as background noise … while others have listeners who actively take part in the presentation?

That’s a point I have been trying to make for years. The reason radio has seen declines in advertising revenue is because it has become a de facto background entertainment system. Muzak for the modern era.

Yet when you give people a reason to really listen, they become active listeners, hear the ads, and revenues rise. The Woody Show (Alt 98.7 FM), Kevin and Bean (KROQ, 106.7 FM), most of the hosts on KFI (640 AM), Heidi Frosty and Frank (KLOS, 95.5 FM), Cynthia Fox (The Sound, 100.3 FM) and a few others … they all give reasons to tune in. What we need is more, and while it may be wishful thinking, I think it’s coming.

We may be on the cutting edge of the revival of entertaining radio. I hope 2017 is the year of the radio.

More PPM Troubles

Ratings company Nielsen announced that eight percent of the Portable People Meters used to collect ratings data lost connectivity and thus were not working due to the move to a new audio data collection site. This may affect the “December” ratings period that is actually began the first week of November, due to each “month” being four weeks long rather than a full month.

“Holiday” is the 13th rating period of the year and covers the final four weeks of the year … in December.

All PPM ratings markets were affected from November 3rd to November 9th. Nielsen says the meters are already back on line and that ratings tallies and final calculations should not be affected much. It will be interesting to see if some stations have large jumps for the month.