Local radio ratings race tightening

The latest Arbitron Inc. radio ratings show the central Indiana market is becoming far more competitive, with the
top stations separated only by fractions of a point.

WFMS-FM 95.5, a country-music station owned by Atlanta-based
Cumulus Media, kept the top spot during the ratings period, which ran from June 25 to Sept. 16, but saw its lead shrink from
a year ago.

WFMS scored a 7.8 rating among listeners 12-plus, meaning on average that 7.8 percent of the
central Indiana market was listening, according to New York-based Arbitron Inc., the top provider of U.S. radio ratings. WFMS
scored a 9.3 during the same period a year ago.

Urban music stations WHHH-FM 96.3 and WTLC-FM 106.7, both
owned by Maryland-based Radio One, have climbed steadily in the ratings over the last year. WHHH, an urban contemporary
hits station, was the second-rated station among listeners 12-plus at 7.6, according to Arbitron. WTLC, an urban adult contemporary
station, was No. 3 with a 7.3 rating.

“This is part of doing things right, listening to what the listeners
want and staying relevant to those listeners,” said Chuck Williams, Radio One’s local market manager.

Local Radio One stations have used listener focus groups and databases to keep their music “fresher,” Williams
said.

“Every station is specializing now, and the market has compressed,” Williams said. “Gone
are the days when stations earn a 10 rating. From here on out, I think you’ll see stations separated by tenths of a
point, not whole points. Today, more than ever, stations really have to be in tune with what their listeners
want.”

Classic rock powerhouse WFBQ-FM 94.7, owned by San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications, and
news station WIBC-FM 93.1, owned by locally based Emmis Communications Corp., saw their ratings slip
compared with the same period a year ago. WIBC finished No. 4 and WFBQ was No. 5.

While WFMS
has seen its ratings drop, Emmis-owned country station, WLHK-FM 97.1—also known as Hank—has
seen its ratings climb in the 12-plus category, from 3.5 during the summer of 2008 ratings period to
4.5 during the same period this year.

“It’s very interesting that WFMS is falling
at the same time WLHK is climbing,” said long-time local media buyer Bill Perkins. “That’s a trend
that bears watching.”

Perkins is at a loss to explain WFMS’ falling ratings, but added that Radio One
has succeeded by giving its station operators the power to make decisions locally.

“You have to stay close
to your audience,” Perkins said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Cumulus’ Indianapolis
market manager, Chris Wheat, was traveling and not available for comment.

Emmis officials, meanwhile, said they
are pleased with WLHK’s gains, while not overly concerned with WIBC’s ratings decline from
6.9 during summer 2008 to 5.8 this summer.

Bob Richards, operations manager of Emmis’
local radio stations, credits WLHK’s rating increase to “subtle changes in programming, promotion
and presentation.”

Kent Sterling, program manager for Emmis’ WIBC, said a temporary
drop in the news/talk station’s ratings was expected. In October 2007, Emmis moved WIBC from 1070
AM to 93.1 FM. More recently the station has changed morning and afternoon content to become more current
and newsy.

“We’ve really changed almost everything on the station,” Sterling said. “As
expected, we alienated some listeners, but we feel in the long run, we’ll build a new, bigger audience.”
 

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