Robert Dove is a rare animal in Portland media: a local who’s a high-ranking executive in the broadcast-media business. He grew up listening to Top-40 62 KGW and in 1986 went to work selling ads for Z100-FM 100.3.
He’s been market manager at Clear Channel’s Portland office for six years, and firing Wolfson has brought him more heat than any move he’s made in his career. “I even had to deal with my mom and dad,” Dove says. “My parents are big KPOJ fans.”
Dove, 51, is the one who sent Sargent to give Wolfson the bad news. He says he would have kept the progressive-talk format—except that not enough people, even in liberal Portland, were listening.
“At the end of the day, the station just wasn’t performing,” Dove says. “It had a loyal, small-core following that just wasn’t enough.”
Ratings produced by Arbitron show that in October, KPOJ was the 22nd-ranked radio station in the 48-station Portland market. Over the past 14 months, the station averaged a 0.8 share of the Portland radio market.
That means of every 100 people over 6 years old listening to the radio, fewer than one was tuned to KPOJ.
Wolfson’s show performed slightly better than KPOJ’s syndicated programs: His show averaged a 1.1 share over the past 14 months and had done better recently, perhaps because of the interest in the 2012 elections.
Wolfson says his show turned a profit for Clear Channel. But Dove says the station as a whole was losing money.
Radio revenue reports tracked by Miller Kaplan Arase show KPOJ’s 2012 local advertising revenue through October was $467,000—while the No. 1 station in the market, the soft-rock station KKCW-FM 103.3, raked in more than $5 million.
Local radio advertising representatives say KPOJ’s 60-second spots were selling at bargain-basement prices: less than $50 apiece—about a quarter of the cost for ads bought on competitor KXL-FM 101.1.
And the audience was like Dove’s parents: too old for the target demographics advertisers often seek.
Arbitron ratings show 76 percent of the station’s audience in the past 14 months was age 45 and older—and more than half were outside the 25-to-54 age range that advertisers covet.
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Carl Wolfson had his own synopses of how things unfolded
FM music stations can flourish without the extras. It’s much harder to nourish and cultivate a niche market like KPOJ’s without those precious promotional dollars.
WW’s infographic lists KPOJ as #22 overall and #21 among the 25-to-54 demo. These are Arbitron rankings. And, by the way, KPOJ’s weekly cume for October was 75,200 persons.
WW did not include figures (not measured by Arbitron) for streaming or “unique visitors” to our KPOJ web site. KPOJ was consistently #1 in unique visitors among the seven-station Portland cluster. We ranked anywhere from #70 to #115 among all 850 Clear Channel stations.
Further, in-depth reporting of Arbitron’s radio rating methodology rarely makes an appearance outside of the trades.
For years, Arbitron used its “Radio Listening Diary.” The small journal was sent to randomly selected households that agreed to the weeklong survey. Everybody in the house over 12 years old kept track of what they listened to on radio.
It was easy, dependable and even bilingual – just fill it out and mail it back.
With the diaries, there was a new group of participants every week (it began on Thursday and ended on Wednesday).
Our original program director, Mike Dirkx, my mentor and friend, went over the results with us every week. KPOJ was sometimes up, sometimes down, but, as I recall, usually somewhere between #7 and #15 in the market of nearly 50 stations. At the end of 2008, we were #4. We had a good stretch of consistent top-10 rankings, which garnered us national ad buys (It is common for agencies to say, “Put me on the top 10 in…” whatever city.).
Then Arbitron switched to a device it had developed called the Portable People Meter (PPM). You wear it like a pager and it picks up radio (or TV) signals; it has a charger and a base station which transmits data back to Arbitron. It promised more accurate data than the diaries.
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