Bill Virgin's Radio Beat October 4, 2007

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat October 4, 2007

Postby radiofan » Wed Oct 03, 2007 7:13 pm

On Radio: KBKS-FM makes changes to reinvigorate its ratings

When you're competing for listeners among 18- to 34-year-olds, as KBKS-FM/106.1 does, there's always the risk of losing part of the audience to whatever is the latest bright shiny object on the dial.

Seattle radio has had a lot of new bright shiny objects recently, often backed with large advertising budgets. Those include country station KKWF-FM/100.7 (branded as "The Wolf") and rhythmic hits format KQMV-FM/92.5 (marketed as "Movin' "). While "The Wolf's" playlist may not have much in common with "Kiss'," younger listeners can be drawn off by "the excitement that comes with a format launch," says Dave McDonald, senior vice president and market manager for CBS Radio, which operates Kiss 106.1.

"Typically with your younger demos, they tend to seek out these things first," McDonald says. "We've had an awful lot of changes in this market in the last three years."

Those launches, combined with ongoing competition from KUBE-FM/93.3, perennially one of the market's top stations, has had an effect, and not a good one, on KBKS. "We haven't been happy with the ratings results for a couple of books," McDonald says. Among all listeners, KBKS tied for 19th in the spring-quarter Arbitron ratings. A year ago it was 13th.

So the station has made some changes, including the hiring of an industry veteran program director. It also has done some shuffling in its lineup of on-air hosts, and is paying closer attention to the music it plays. "We think we've made the tweaks we need to make." McDonald says. "It takes some time to see if we've made the right moves."

The new program director, who starts later this month, is Steve Rivers, who has consulted with Kiss 106.1 and has worked as an executive for several radio companies and programming stations in Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He was named program director of the decade for the 1990s by trade publication FMQB.

On its schedule, the morning team of Jackie & Bender remains at 5-10 a.m.; Nina has moved to 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in place of Kristin the Island Girl, who is out on maternity leave; Marcus D, who had been program director, returns to afternoon drive, 3-7 p.m.; and Eric Tyler, who had been paired with Nina, takes over 7 p.m.-midnight. "We've been without a full-time nights for about six months" and had done a national search before deciding to move Tyler into that role, McDonald says.

KBKS won't be changing its music formula. Mainstream top 40 contemporary hits is "a good open road for us," McDonald says, but the station "may have gotten the recipe wrong in the face of competition."

KBKS's current playlist features such artists as Fergie, Justin Timberlake, Plain White Ts, Kanye West and Rihanna. "What we needed to do was get back to the roots of the station," which McDonald describes as "the hottest music and the best of rock, rhythmic, hip-hop and pop."

In other radio notes:

A follow-up to last week's item about Janet Wilson of KIXI-AM/880 being heard on the national "Music of Your Life" service. The network's Web site, lists about 200 stations, but counts about 125 as actual affiliates; the rest are stations that play music similar to its adult-standards format.

KBCS-FM/91.3 says public affairs volunteer Yuko Kodama has begun hosting segments for the nationally syndicated Pacifica program "Free Speech Radio News," heard locally at 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Seattle School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson takes listener calls on "Weekday" at 9 a.m. Thursday on KUOW-FM/94.9.

"Audioasis" at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on KEXP-FM/90.3 features live performances at the High Dive in Fremont by Common Market and 17th Chapter.

Don Riggs' guests on "Introspect Northwest" at 6 a.m. Sunday on KMPS-FM/94.1 and 9 a.m. Sunday on KPTK-AM/1090 include environmental skeptic Bjorn Lomborg, author of "Cool It."

Jim Wilke's "Jazz Northwest" at 1 p.m. Sunday on KPLU-FM/88.5 features a recent performance by trumpeter Roy Hargrove and his quintet.

Bassist Kyle Eastwood (son of Clint) and his quartet perform live on KPLU-FM at 12:20 p.m. Tuesday.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat ... every Thursday in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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