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Dave Roepke, Published August 13 2009

Top radio stations remain static as AM sees decline

The area’s radio ratings leaders are holding steady, with no changes in how the top five stations fared with all adult listeners.

Arbitron numbers that were released Wednesday, measuring listening in April, May and June, have KFGO 790 AM leading the pack for the third time in the past four surveys.

“They’re still king of the hill,” said John Austin, FM operations manager for Radio Fargo-Moorhead, the six-station group that includes KFGO and Bob 95 FM.

Perennial country powerhouse Froggy 99.9 FM is right behind KFGO again, holding the same lead in overall share it had on its main competitor, Bob 95, in the fall 2008 survey.

“I don’t think there are any big surprises,” said Michael Brooks, general manager of the cluster of five Go Radio stations that includes Froggy. “People are very familiar” with Froggy.

Austin said he’s pleased to see Bob 95 FM maintain its lead on Froggy in key demographics such as women ages 25 to 54. He said it means much more to advertisers than overall ratings.

“To us, that’s the story,” Austin said. “We couldn’t be happier.”

The dominance of the two country rivals and the arrival of Bob 95 as a top ratings draw after not even three years in the market shows how much of a pull country stations have in Fargo, said Kim Simonsen, the media director for H2M, a local advertising firm.

Ratings dips on the AM dial surprised Simonsen. With the first month of the survey period coming on the heels of spring flooding and vibrant discourse this spring about national politics, he expected news-talk stations to rate higher.

Instead, KFGO dropped by 1.5 share points, and the Scott Hennen-owned WZFG The Flag 1100 AM saw its share go from 5.5 to 4.2. WDAY 970 AM – which, like The Forum, is owned by Forum Communications – went up slightly after falling in three consecutive surveys.

“It’s a format that could be wearing a little,” Simonsen said.

Hennen said he doesn’t put too much stock in the ratings because they’re at odds with what his station is seeing with advertisers.

“Our benchmarks are many,” he said. “Arbitron is one of them.”

Hennen said The Flag’s position as the area’s conservative station should serve it well, with concerns about health care reform heating up and the anti-tax “tea parties” continuing.

“We’re the only radio station right square in the middle of it,” he said.

The two main ownership groups both have a leader in other formats. Go Radio’s Q98, 98.7 FM, is tops among all rock stations, and Y94, 93.7 FM, gives Radio Fargo-Moorhead the best-rated contemporary station.

Simonsen said Y94 skewed older than in previous surveys, perhaps due to a tower fire that lowered the signal strength for Go Radio’s KLTA 105.1 FM.

Brooks agreed and said the daytime office audience in particular is affected by signal trouble.

“That’s its bread and butter,” he said of 105.1 FM.

The 105.1 FM signal was back to full strength two weeks ago, and The Fox 107.9 FM, weakened by the same tower fire, will return to full power next week.

Radio rankings

Here are the top three stations for men, women and all adults ages 25 to 54:

Women ages 25 to 54

1. Bob 95, 16.1

2. Y94, 14.3

3. Froggy 99.9, 12.5

Men ages 25 to 54

1. KFGO, 12.8

2. Q98, 9.0

3. The Fox, 9.0

Adults ages 25 to 54

1. Bob 95, 11.2

2. KFGO, 9.7

3. Froggy 99.9, 9.0

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535