Columbia’s radio market has had a shakeup, both in the latest Arbitron rankings and among the management personnel at Zimmer Radio Group and Cumulus Media, the two companies that own nine of the market’s top-10 stations.
“It’s a crazy business, but it can be a lot of fun,” said Jerod Bast, who became the sales director at Cumulus about a month ago, after working as the sales manager for Next Media radio stations in Chicago.
Former Cumulus sales director Michele Cropp is now handling event marketing for the company. Scott Boltz, the manager of the Columbia and Jefferson City markets for Cumulus, left the company the first week in August, and Tony Richards recently left Zimmer, where he was the general manager for central Missouri.
Along with the personnel changes, local stations experienced shifts in their rankings by Arbitron, an international media and marketing research firm.
There were two constants in Arbitron’s spring survey of radio listeners in the demographic of most interest to advertisers, ages 25 to 54: Zimmer still has the top two stations, KCLR and KCMQ. But even these stations have seen fluctuations.
KCLR, a country station at 99.3 FM, had a 14.3 percent share in the spring, down from 17.2 percent in the fall and 14.8 percent the previous spring. KCMQ, a rock station at 96.7 FM, rose from 8 percent to 9.5 percent. It was at 11.4 percent last spring.
Jack Miller, co-owner of True Media, a national media-buying company headquartered in Columbia, said the dip at KCLR, a station that has been No. 1 in the market since spring of 2004, is insignificant. “They are still on top by a wide margin,” he said.
The most significant change in the Arbitron survey was KPLA’s steep drop.
KPLA, a Cumulus-owned adult contemporary station at 101.5 FM, fell from 11.5 percent last fall to 4.8 percent in the spring.
Miller said KPLA’s dive is puzzling.
“I don’t know what happened to KPLA,” Miller said. “It is very unusual for a station to drop 58 percent of its audience number in one book, without changing formats or programming.”
The question, Miller said, is, “Where did those share points go?”
Some apparently went to KWJK, or Jack FM, an adult hits station in Boonville owned by Big Country Broadcasting that started broadcasting last summer. The station, which replaced an oldies format with franchised programming and no disc jockeys, rose from 2.3 percent last fall to 6 percent this spring.
KTXY, a pop station owned by Zimmer, also rose a bit, from 4.6 percent to 6 percent.
KPLA’s dive will affect its advertising income, Miller said. “Advertising is paid for based upon the size of an audience. When you lose people, it will have an impact.”
But Miller predicted KPLA will regain some of its audience share in the next Arbitron survey that comes out in February.
In the top 10 overall, Zimmer’s four stations, when combined, dropped less than a point from fall 2005 to spring 2006, to 34.6 percent, and Cumulus’s five stations rose from 29.5 percent to 33.4 percent.