Limbaugh, pals get liberally thrashed
Attention, Rush Limbaugh and everyone else who thought that liberal talk radio couldn’t work: Portland is proving otherwise. At least if you believe the folks who measure listenership.
The spring Arbitron ratings show that KPOJ (620 AM), which carries the upstart Air America Network with Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, et al., has made huge strides since its March 30 launch.
In the important 25-54 age category, KPOJ ranks third in the Portland market with a 4.9 share (which means a 4.9 percent share of the listening audience). It’s ahead of all other AM stations and finished behind top-ranked country-music KUPL (98.7 FM) and No. 2-ranked adult rock station KINK (101. 9 FM).
In a three-month period, KPOJ went from 12,000 listeners to almost 80,000 listeners per week, with little promotion or marketing. Previously KPOJ had been airing golden oldies, drawing a 1 percent share.
With numbers like that, KPOJ’s success could very well spawn other stations featuring “progressive” talk in Portland and around the country where underperforming stations may be looking for a new format.
“There are a lot of stations out there that were just kind of watching and waiting to see what happened,” said KPOJ Program Director Tony Coles. “My guess is that for Air America and for Ed Schultz, the phones will be ringing off the hooks once stations see the Portland numbers.” Schultz, whose show can be heard on KPOJ from noon to 3 p.m., is syndicated through the Jones Radio Network rather than Air America.
Of the 16 stations around the country where Air America is featured, Portland is the biggest success story, showing the most substantial growth. It also was one of only a handful of stations that carried Air America from the beginning, when financial problems almost sunk the network in its first month.
In the midday period from10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Air America’s Al Franken and Schultz rank No. 1, leaving Limbaugh, KPAM’s (860 AM) Sean Hannity and KXL’s (750 AM) Lars Larson in their wake.
However, when measured by listeners ages 12-plus throughout the day, KPOJ is in 11th place overall with a 3.7 share. KEX (1190 AM) is in sixth place with a 4.2 share, and KXL is eighth with a 4 share.
The hour-to-hour breakdowns had not been released at press time, so it’s not yet known whether Franken actually beats Limbaugh head-to-head from 9 a.m. to noon.
KPOJ is owned by Clear Channel Communications, which also owns KEX, the home of Limbaugh. In the mornings — from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. — KPOJ ended up in ninth place in the 25-54 age group, ahead of No. 11 KEX, which took a serious hit from its sister station.
As long as we’re keeping track, the 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ratings indicate that Howard Stern on KUFO (101.1 FM) is No. 1 in the mornings among listeners 25-54, with a 7.6 share. He’s followed by KGON (92.3 FM),KUPL, KKCW (103.3 FM) and KWJJ (99.5 FM).
The Arbitron ratings are based on listener weekly diaries, and theories abound about how accurate — or inaccurate — they are. Some inside the industry speculate that fans of KPOJ and what it stands for are writing down in the Arbitron diaries more hours than they really tune in for.
But Arbitron is the only radio ratings game around, and advertisers have little else to go on.
“People have created their own bumper stickers and yard signs in support of the station,” says Mary Lou Gunn, market manager of Clear Channel Radio Portland.
For Air America, it’s still early in the game. To ensure its survival, the network must pick up stations in dozens of markets and needs to grow audience in places such as New York and Los Angeles. But in Portland, it’s on a definite roll.