Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 22, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
The fall quarter ratings book, released earlier this month, demonstrates some interesting changes in our radio listening habits. The first eye-opener was the tie at the top in all-day listening between news-talk WJR-AM (760) and adult urban WMXD-FM (92.3) among listeners ages 12 and older. WMXD’s success was fueled by Steve Harvey, who scored big numbers over The Mix 92.3’s former morning man Tom Joyner, now heard on adult urban WDMK-FM (105.9). So far, it looks like listeners are pleased with the new Mix and are showing their loyalty.
The rest of the Top 5 stations overall were smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7), contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5) and the all-Christmas sounds of WNIC-FM (100.3). It was a strong book for WNIC, but not nearly as big as a year ago, when it surged to the top spot even amid direct competition from fellow soft rocker WMGC-FM (105.1). Magic 105.1, which opted for a more traditional and later approach to Christmas music this season, finished in 12th place. The ratings for both WNIC and WMGC were down from last year but up from the summer ratings period.
What’s surprising is the absence of news WWJ-AM (950) from the Top 5, since the all-newser routinely competes for the market’s top spot but fell to ninth place overall this fall. Just don’t blame WWJ’s soft ratings on its morning team — in the morning numbers, Joe Donovan, Roberta Jasina and Larry Henry placed second behind Drew & Mike on rock WRIF-FM (101.1) and ahead of ’MXD’s Harvey and Dick Purtan and Purtan’s People on oldies WOMC-FM (104.3), which tied for third place.
The Mojo in the Morning crew at WKQI also had reason to be happy with their performance. For the first time, they notched a Top 5 finish in every demographic they target, including being tops in women listeners ages 18-34 and 25-34.
Meanwhile, the sports radio battle took a twist with WXYT-AM (1270) moving well ahead of WDFN-AM (1130) for the first time that I can remember, as WXYT’s emphasis on being all local all day certainly seems to be having a positive impact. To my ears, WDFN has lost its way as a sports-focused station, with hosts talking about just about anything but sports for longer and longer periods of time — when there aren’t commercials airing for what seems like minutes on end.
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Speaking of sports, I was really annoyed with our local sports radio stations last Sunday when I tried to tune in the football playoff game between the Colts and Steelers. Neither WXYT nor WDFN had the game, but luckily, I found it on CHOK-AM (1070), which broadcasts from Sarnia, Ontario. How sad is it that I had to listen to American football on a Canadian radio station in one of the United States’ largest radio markets?!?
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Major kudos to WJR morning man Paul W. Smith for guest-hosting the Rush Limbaugh afternoon politico gabfest Wednesday and Thursday. The timing couldn’t have been better for a Detroit spotlight during auto show week and just as all the Super Bowl hoopla gets going in earnest. It’s great to hear good things about our area on national media for change.
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Still, I’m sad that the days of “radio row” during the auto show are long gone due to the space constraints at Cobo Center. One of the highlights for radio fans like me was being able to check out the freebies from nearly every radio station on the dial in one quick walk. I wish I had kept some of those classic bumper stickers from stations like the old WABX, WLLZ and CKLW... These days, if you can even find any of the few radio booths in the exhibit hall, you’re lucky to score even a key ring. I’d vote for a bigger Cobo Center just to get Radio Row back!
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For something completely different, classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) is offering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Party Packs to celebrate the composer’s 250th birthday on Friday. Available by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, the packs include info on Mozart, a quiz, recipes and more. The station also will dish up broadcasts from Salzburg, Austria, as part of the celebration Wednesday and Thursday and all day Friday. So party down with Wolfie!
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Legendary ABC TV newsman Ted Koppel will join National Public Radio in June, offering commentaries and analysis during news events. Noted Koppel, “I have been an unabashed fan of NPR for many years and have stolen untold excellent ideas from its programming. It’s time to give something back.” His deal is for one year.
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Mark your calendar and save your pennies: Dick Purtan’s annual radiothon to benefit the Salvation Army Bed and Bread Club will be Feb. 24 at Oakland Mall in Troy. The goal is to break last year’s amazing tally of more than $1.7 million.
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Set Your Dials: Chris Felcyn’s “Listening Room” brings “Winter” from Haydn’s “The Seasons,” album excerpts from Nnenna Freelon and Ann Arbor composer William Bolcom, plus the timeless comedy of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, from 10 a.m.-noon today on classical/jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9) ... hosts Tom Wilson and Heather Novak pull out the stops with dance music on a Wurlitzer organ at 6 p.m. on Christian music WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.