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John Lamb, Published February 02 2013

Top radio spot race tightens, ratings find

FARGO – Y-94 and 107.9 The Fox are nearly at opposite ends of the local FM radio dial, but the gap between them in the ratings is getting closer.

The fall 2012 Arbitron ratings book released last week shows the race getting tighter for the top spot among listeners 12 and older from 6 a.m. to midnight, known as 12+.

The Fox showed substantial growth for the second consecutive ratings period, pulling into a three-way tie for second place with country heavyweights Bob 95.1 and Froggy 99.9. All three earned 8.3 shares.

Y-94 remains on top with a 10.0 share, down a point from the last Arbitron book in spring 2012.

A share is the percentage of radio listeners who are tuned to a particular station.

“The Fox continued to grow without a competitor,” said Mike “Big Dog” Kapel, programming director at The Fox.

With no other classic rock station in the area, The Fox isn’t fighting for listeners the way its sister station Froggy competes with Bob for the country market. Kapel thinks The Fox could move ahead of both stations in the next book.

He said the growth of The Fox had one expected consequence – decreased listeners to Go Radio’s active rock station, Q98, which pulled in a 4.8 share, a drop for the second straight book.

“To some degree, I’d say we’re a victim of our own success,” Kapel said, adding that hard rock from the 1980s and early ’90s that Q98 used to play now fits into The Fox’s format and the latter has pulled listeners away from its sibling station.

Go Radio’s competitors aren’t feeling sorry the company. Radio Fargo Moorhead held the top spots on both FM with Y-94 and AM with KFGO, continuing its reign of all radio with a share of 15.2.

“Everything was steady, which is usually good to see because everyone has found their niche and is playing to their strengths,” said John Austin, operations manager of the music side of Radio Fargo Moorhead. “There were not a lot of changes this time as the market has calmed in terms of changing formats and things over the last couple of years.”

The last big change was last March when Radio Fargo Moorhead switched classic rock station Rock 102 to Talk FM, a conservative talk format. The station is starting to move up the ratings to a 2.2 share in the most recent book.

“I think what it shows is that it took a little bit to find where Rush (Limbaugh) was,” said Joel Heitkamp, who manages talk stations for Radio Fargo Moorhead. “We’ve got some work to do on that station. We know that. There’s no question about that. But we’ve got an ownership change here happening, so to have any bold changes will have to be made by new ownership.”

Midwest Communications has committed to buy KFGO, Y94, Bob, Popster, 101.9 Talk and AM sports talk station The Fan from Radio Fargo-Moorhead owner Jim Ingstad for $25 million.

Heitkamp said the deal is expected to go through in April.

WDAY 970 AM, a property of Forum Communications, which owns this paper, earned a 2.6 share, a drop for the third straight book.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533