Thursday, March 26, 2009

No News is No News in Los Angeles

Arbitron has released its major-market radio ratings for February... and I'm once again struck at the difference between L.A. and the nation's other largest cities.

In New York, all-news 1010 WINS-AM is #3 in the market. In Chicago, all-news WBBM-AM is #1. In San Francisco, all-news KCSB-AM is #2, while public radio station KQED, which carries NPR news, is #3!

Then there's Los Angeles. All-news KNX-AM is in 13th place here, while sister KFWB is at 27th place. Why do L.A. radio listeners spend so little time listening to news/weather/sports at the stations?

This is nothing new; while talk outlets like KFI (and long ago, KABC) have been ratings powerhouses, it's been years since all-news stations like KNX have scored high on the charts. (To be fair, KNX got a big boost in February and its 13th place finish is nothing to sneeze at. I'm just making a comparison to other markets, where news stations somehow lead the charts.)

A caveat: Radio isn't sold by these total audience figures, they're sold by demos. So discussions of Arbitron's 6+ ratings must be taken with a grain of salt.

But it's still worth asking. As some commenters note below, it may be that L.A.'s percentage of Spanish-speaking radio listeners is much higher than in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. But I'm not sure that I buy that it's because radio here is more diverse; Chicago and SF pretty much have the same selection of rock, top 40, public radio, college radio, talk, news/talk, etc. outlets as we do.

I do agree with a few commenters that L.A. has one of the best (and most diverse) selection of radio stations in the country -- although that standing has taken a beating as of late. Now that Indie 103.1 and KLSX "97.1 FM Talk" have gone away, we've lost two of the unique commercial stations that made our market special. We still have more strong public radio outlets than most -- others would kill to have KKJZ Jazz, KUSC Classical, KCRW Variety and KPPC News/Talk (plus KXLU College) all in the same market -- and, of course, we have two trend-setting commercial stations in KIIS and KROQ, both of which are imitated throughout the rest of the country. I'd argue we also have some of the strongest, most creative morning radio shows in the nation.

Back to the numbers: It was another great month for KIIS-FM, which dominates at the top. CBS Radio's new 97.1 "AMP FM" is improving the signal's audience already -- and ditto Entravision's KDLD-FM, once "Indie 103.1." Since flipping to Spanish, it has also experienced a solid bump. (Not good news for people still holding out for the return of Indie or FM Talk.)

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