Thursday, July 28, 2011

PPMs Shake-up Jacksonville Country Radio

Arbitron Inc.'s new method for rating radio stations has produced some interesting results since the system was implemented last fall for the Jacksonville market.

According to a story by Mark Basch at, the most recent monthly data shows that urban adult contemporary music station 101.5 FM WSOL (also known as V101.5 FM) jumped to the top of the charts in June with a 9 percent average-quarter-hour share of all listeners age 6 and older, up from a 7.8 percent share in May.

But what really has the radio industry buzzing is an upheaval in country music ratings. For the past two months, WGNE (99.9 FM) has edged out WQIK (99.1 FM) as the top-rated Jacksonville country station.

WSOL's jump to the top in June is not a big surprise; music stations that appeal to younger listeners tend to get a bump when kids get out of school . But WGNE's move ahead of WQIK is unusual. According to Chris Huff, a Dallas radio ratings historian, that's the first time since 1979 that WQIK has been out of the top spot in local country music.

"The PPM is now giving credit where credit is due," said Bill Reese, general manger of Renda Broadcasting's four radio stations in the Jacksonville market, including WGNE.

Under the old ratings system, Arbitron compiled data quarterly from diaries submitted by area listeners . Since that system relied on recall and because WGNE and WQIK are so close on the dial, one of WGNE's theories is that listeners may have written down WQIK out of old habit. "Gator Country 99.9" is a relatively new station in the market, as Renda moved it from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville in 2005.

Aaron Wilborn, market manager for Clear Channel Radio's six Jacksonville stations, including WQIK, did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

Renda has become a big player in the Jacksonville country music market. In addition to WGNE, which plays mainstream country music, it converted WMUV (100.7 FM) to classic country in 2009. WMUV was 11th overall in the June ratings with a 4.2 percent share, while WGNE finished seventh among all Jacksonville radio stations with a 7.2 percent share.

"It does give you a one-two punch," said Reese.

Reese said Renda has been aggressive at promoting country music with a free concert series at The Jacksonville Landing, putting on a total of 44 concerts since WGNE moved to the market. And Reese said the concert series is getting bigger, moving to Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena for an Oct. 1 show. The stations will be announcing details of that concert soon, he said.

WQIK was not far behind WGNE in June, finishing eighth overall with a 6.8 percent share. Stark expects the race between the two stations to remain tight from month to month.  See Jacksonville market snapshot by clicking here.

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