Emmis' local radio stations get big lift from new ratings system

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Portable People Meter era has been good to Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp.'s local radio stations.

Since New York-based Arbitron Inc. scrapped its pen-and-diary ratings method last fall in favor of the PPMs, Emmis’ four local stations have seen ratings go up and revenue increase.

For its most recent quarter, ended May 31, Emmis reported that its radio revenue increased 20 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago. During the same period, all radio stations in the market combined saw advertising dollars increase only about 2 percent, according to Miller Kaplan Arase & Co., a Los Angeles-based accounting firm that does radio market analysis.

The PPM is a pager-sized device that is worn by a sampling of people in the market and acts as a third ear, picking up in real time which stations a person is listening to. Each radio station puts out a special signal undetectable to the human ear that the PPM picks up and records.

The PPM is thought to be more accurate than the old diary system and has led to some ratings shakeups in markets nationwide since its rollout in 2007. Arbitron began using PPM in the Indianapolis market last summer and began basing its ratings on the data in the fall.

“Since PPM came to this market, no cluster is doing better than Emmis,” said Scott Uecker, communications instructor at the University of Indianapolis. “They’re using a purposeful strategy to bring more audience to the table, and that in turn is giving Emmis’ sales staff a good product to take out and sell.”

Since PPM took hold here in October, Emmis has had three stations rate consistently in the top 10 across all demographic sets, according to Arbitron data. In the most recent data—for June—Emmis’ adult contemporary station, WYXB-FM 105.7, ranked No. 1 with listeners ages 6 and older. Its news-talk station, WIBC-FM 93.1, was No. 3 and its country station, WLHK-FM 97.1, was No. 8.

Meanwhile, Uecker said, Emmis’ sports talk station, WFNI-AM 1070, is grabbing ratings not seen in a very long time—if ever—for a sports/talk station in this market.

“In June, [WFNI] pulled down a 2.8, and in March it earned a 3.3 rating,” said Uecker, who is general manager of U of I's WICR-FM 88.7. “I don’t ever recall a sports-talk station in this market earning a 3 rating. Not even close. And they’re doing it consistently over at least the last four months.”

No Emmis station has benefitted more from the switch to PPM than WYXB, which vaulted from a station that usually ranked from No. 6 to No. 10 to a solid No. 1 contender.

“I think a lot of people in radio knew WYXB was underrated in the old diary system,” Uecker said. “It’s a station that is programmed to appeal to a broad audience, and it’s the kind of station a lot of people listen to all day at work, and that’s shown up with PPM.”

Emmis local market manager Charlie Morgan said WYXB has seen a double-digit percentage revenue increase in the last 12 months.

“All four of our stations are up more than 10 percent in the last 12 months,” Morgan added. “WIBC is still the biggest revenue generator.”

In 2009, BIA Financial Network Inc., a Virginia-based research firm., pegged WIBC’s annual revenue at about $7.5 million. That amount has likely fallen over the last three years due to the economy and struggles in the radio industry.

Morgan credits Emmis recent revenue increase to several strategic changes, including emphasizing local traffic, weather and news on WIBC and local content and personalities on WFNI, also known as the Fan.

Uecker said some of the improvement is simply due to better programming, but  Emmis also has taken advantage of the change to PPM.

“We did a pretty good job of studying PPM in the six months leading in,” Morgan said. “We took a close look at what was working and what wasn’t under the PPM rating system.”

Morgan also credits his program managers, directors and on-air talent for the gains.

Uecker agreed.

“Just look at WLHK,” Uecker said. “The reason that has made such gains is because you have the brain trust that built WFMS now residing at [Emmis’ headquarters on] Monument Circle, in Charlie Morgan and Bob Richards.”

Country station WFMS-FM 95.5 has been a market leader in ratings and revenue for a number of years. It still has a solid lead in the country sector, but WLHK has closed the gap.



  • very true
    You are so correct. Since they canned Dave I have greatly limited my listening to WIBC. In the car I listen to a book on tape and at home I switched stations. I only wish that they would totally get rid of that annoying Terry Stacy. At least now she only does traffic reports, so that cuts her air time down significantly. Bring back the King!
  • Dave
    Just imagine how high your ratings would be if Dave Wilson was still part of the lineup.
    • ratings
      People listening to passive, background formats are less likely to remember they were listening. 105.7 was given a huge boost by the new rating technology, which gives a more accurate readout of actual listening than the old system did. They also received a boost when the only other AC station in town went away, and the only pop oldies station in town went to a religious format. That allows 105.7 to be the defacto oldies station as well as the only adult contemporary station.

      WIBC continues to be the best radio news operation in the state. They do benefit though from the fact that the only other news station in town, WXNT, doesn't really even have a news staff.
    • Congrats EMMIS!
      Congrats Charlie. Pulling most of the old crew together to bring Emmis into the top pillars of Indianapolis radio has been your goal and it looks like it is paying off. I'm so very proud of all of you from my seat outside of broadcasting that I enjoyed for over 30 years here in Indy.

      Go for the top!

    • Funny
      So does this mean that under the old system, people forgot they were listening to Emmis and weren't really paying attention? That sounds like something their advertisers would want to know.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

    2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

    3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

    4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

    5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?