IdahoRadioNews: Mix & Wild make changes after ratings fall

It’s often said in the radio world that for a station to succeed it has to excel at the three Ms: mornings, music and marketing.

Two Boise stations that had lower-than-hoped numbers in the spring ratings book (free registration required) are working to make big changes in a couple of those areas to try and get the ratings mojo back.

The first is KCIX/Mix 106. The hot adult contemporary stalwart has seen some rough patches in its core demo and amongst total listeners of late. In the latter category, the station came in 11th – which puts it last amongst the FM stations in its cluster (behind KAWO, KSAS and KXLT, all of which also primarily target female listeners).  While the demo picture is somewhat better, Mix has seen better days. One bright spot for the station tends to be mornings, helmed by Mike Kasper and Kate McGwire.  The station recently dropped afternoon talent Matt Steele and filled his afternoon shift with a DJ who records his segments from a sister station in Fresno, CA.

But Mix made another major change to its programming: it has added segments from Mike & Kate across the broadcast day.  Now, in addition to the traditional 5:30-10am morning timeslot, the pair are heard during middays. They announce contests, pitch to songs and more. The segments are original but likely on tape.  In the evening and across the weekend listeners are treated to extended “best of” bits featuring Kasper & McGwire. The drops are usually several minutes long and include material from the weekday live version of the show.

The effect is a bit confusing at fist. The first few times you hear the segments you wonder if it is a mistake, but clearly it is not.   The thought behind this might be “let’s take what is working and get the most bang for our buck.”  It’s possible this will work, but is it a substitute for live, original programming? Time will tell.

The other station making big changes is KWYD/Wild 101.  The Impact Radio-owned urban contemporary station picked up a new program director earlier this year and has gone about changing just about everything.

The station also had a difficult book, losing steam in both the demo and amongst total listeners. Wild burst onto the scene several years ago notching big ratings and lots of buzz in the demo. Under the direction of operations manager Mikey Fuentes, Wild saw big ratings and outstripped rival KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM and eventually helped hasten the demise of KZMG/93.1 Hit Music Now (which is now running a sports format as KTIK/93.1 The Ticket. A history of pop music stations in Boise live here).

Of late, KSAS has seen its ratings rise to the top of the heap while Wild has slumped. Part of this might be a side effect of KZMG’s transition to sports last year, as those listeners who frequented the pop hits on 93.1 may have been more inclined to gravitate toward the somewhat poppier mix on KSAS than the more urban-oriented music on KWYD.

Wild seems confident in morning man Rick Moorten.  But it has gone about changing nearly everything else.  The music mix has been tweaked significantly.  While the station is certainly still urban-oriented, it has softened its music mix.  Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock you’ve heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” – dubbed by many as the song of the summer.  But what might surprise you to hear is how many times the song has appeared on Wild 101: 470 times this year according to monitoring by Mediabase. It peaked in July when it ran on the station roughly every four hours.  That pales in comparison to Kiss FM which played it almost every 90 minutes in July, but still significant for a song that has a very pop sound.

Wild also added a number of features to the format. It now starts each hour with a pair of songs it calls “old skool,” generally R&B or hip hop hits from the early 90s through mid-2000s.  Songs like Baby Got Back from Sir Mixalot, Ride Wit Me by Nelly and Brass Monkey by the Beastie Boys now get dusted off and queued up at the top of every hour.  It even added a program that consists of what it calls “baby making music” each Sunday night – primarily slower R&B hits of years past from artists like Keith Sweat.

Wild also revamped its imaging (the pre-recorded stuff you hear between songs featuring the station voice) to be more pointed in some instances. It will often play a quick sample of a song that may or may not be playing on KSAS while noting you don’t have to “sit through” that song to “get to” the next song on Wild’s playlist. Wild is also assailing its competition for “speeding up songs” and playing too many commercials.  To that end, KWYD is playing “101 minute non-stop” music blocks throughout the day (not all the time mind you, advertisers are still getting plenty of commercial time).  Without doing an in-depth analysis, this appears to be what’s known as playing with the clock. Essentially the station goes a long stretch without commercials, plays several minutes of spots, plays a few songs then another several minutes of commercials to make up for the “missed” commercial pod or pods in the 101 minute music block.

The bottom line for both Mix and Wild is simple: if the ratings go up, these were the right moves. If they go down or remain unchanged, they weren’t.  WIth the fall ratings book under way, we’ll known soon enough.

Standard disclosure: Don Day wrote the blog for more than six years and currently manages digital sales & products for KTVB.