Thursday, March 5, 2009

Radio's top personalities shine beyond ratings book

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Saturday, July 5, 2008
Author: RICHARD KELLEHER , The Republic

The Arbitrons, the spring 2008 radio ratings, have arrived.

Arbitron measures the number of listeners each radio station in a specific market, like Phoenix, has.

It showed a "revised" winter listing where Beth and Bill, originally No. 1, slipped to No. 2, behind Spanish-language KHOT-FM (simulcast at 105.3 and 105.9).

In the spring book, Beth McDonald and Bill Austin, KESZ-FM (99.9), are again kings. No. 2, as expected, and with a very close share, was KFYI (550), home to Russ Limbaugh in Phoenix.

Again, placing third in the "non-revised" spring book is KHOT.

Interesting is that KTAR, originally a news station once owned by The Arizona Republic, continues its slide I predicted in a column last year. It fell from No. 10 to No. 12. For decades, this station was No. 1 in the market, but changing to a talk station format over news, it has slipped continually since trying to compete with KFYI. Yet management and owners fail to see why it is falling and take steps to fix it. It's like the old TV ad, "I've fallen and can't get up."

Writing occasionally for The Republic has its perks. After the story on the winter Arbitrons was published, I received a terrific e-mail from Dave Pratt. Pratt has been on the air in Phoenix almost longer than anyone (he's been on Phoenix radio since 1981). I even have a hat he wore as a member of the Sex Machine Band at his 18th anniversary celebration on KUPD. His e-mail arrived a day after Beth and Bill celebrated their 18th year together on Phoenix radio. They are closing in on Pratt's 20-year record at one radio station in Phoenix.

Since Pratt has been plugging his soon-to-be published book on his station of more than five years, KMLE-FM (107.9), Dave Pratt, Behind The Mic, 30 Years in Radio, I may as well help him since sale proceeds go to charity. Check it at

Pratt is a legend in community leadership. He established the Pratt Dental Clinic to help impoverished children get dental care. He's a business partner with Alice Cooper and concert promoter Danny Zelisko. I can't image where Phoenix would be without Pratt.

Same with Beth and Bill. I've pointed out in the past their station is geared toward Baby Boomers, but there's an adage, "Know thy market." Boomers may be the largest audience in Arizona. Beth and Bill serve their market excellently. In a field strewn with me-too stunts, like bogus phone calls, no other station has copied their original Mamma Jo on Mondays, Friends' Day Wednesday or other bits.

Beth is probably the pioneer in delivering celebrity gossip in Phoenix -- having done it for what seems forever at 6:20 each morning. It is a tradition to see what celebrity shares yours, or a friend's, birthday.

In 1986, Denver and Phoenix would flip-flop for the 20th-largest radio market in the nation. According to the spring Arbitron, there is in excess of 3 million radio listeners, placing Phoenix 15th (only five places ahead in a quarter of a century?), behind the island of Puerto Rico but in front of San Diego!

At 15 million listeners, New York City is the No. 1 radio market followed by Los Angeles, with 10 million listeners. Albuquerque is No. 69, for those who wanted to know -- just over a half-million listeners, same as in 1970. Tucson is No. 61 with 800,000 listeners -- a far cry from the fewer than 200,000 in 1970.