Leaders at KMJ (AM 580) say they aren't worried about the first numbers from Arbitron, a leading monitor of radio-listening trends, that showed a drop in the average share of listeners for the station following the loss of nationally syndicated talk shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others at the end of December.
Patty Hixson, general manager and senior vice president for KMJ, and station program director Skip Essick said Thursday they look at more than the numbers for a single month.
The Arbitron numbers for January show KMJ went from being ranked second in the Fresno market's December trends to seventh place in January with a 5.0 rating.
"These numbers are a one-month extrapolation and not a trend. An extrapolation is a one-month snapshot," Hixson said.
January was the first month since Premiere Radio Networks, owners of Clear Channel Radio, took the nationally syndicated shows from KMJ and put them on KALZ (FM 96.7) to create a new local talk radio lineup on one of its own stations in this market.
Hixson and Essick stressed that the one-month numbers can be incorrect and a more proper measurement of KMJ and other local radio stations will come when the full ratings period of Jan. 3 through March 27 is released in May.
Essick describes the one-month numbers as "raw data" that can change dramatically once they have been given the "Arbitron magic at the end" for the three-month report.
Arbitron bases its listening reports on diaries filled out by a small percentage of the market population. Arbitron says that sampling should accurately reflect the makeup of a market but can be adjusted if the reports seem to be skewed.
Neither Hixson nor Essick denied the shift of the nationally syndicated programs to a local competitor was a big loss. KALZ is benefiting from the following Limbaugh built while on KMJ as the report shows KALZ's January number, a 6.2 share, is its highest for at least the last six months.
KMJ's focus now is growing a younger listening audience -- ages 35-54 -- for the talk station. Essick said the majority of Limbaugh's listeners are 55 and older.
That plan seems to be working as the total number of KMJ listeners -- according to the January report -- has grown to 94,000, up from 80,400 in December. One reason for the drop in the share number is that the total time those listeners are staying with the station has dropped slightly.
Hixson said everyone at her station is confident about its direction. The Winter Arbitron ratings book will be the first indication of how the plan's working. But, Hixson said, it'll take more than one ratings book to truly reflect what the changes have meant to KMJ.
Among the local shows on KMJ is the one hosted by Bakersfield-based Inga Barks, who's been off the air after she was arrested last week. Hixson said that Barks will be back on the air at 6 p.m. Monday and will talk about the incident.
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