The death of KPIG in Chico: A look at the numbers

Old KPIG Paradise logoWhile much has been made of KZAP-FM 96.7 switching formats from a simulcast of KPIG‘s Americana/folk music to talk radio, I don’t think there’s been much talk about audience numbers. Laura Urseny’s article about the change does quote market manager Vince Shadrick saying there weren’t enough listeners to support the ‘PIG. Looking at the radio ratings for Chico, it would appear that Shadrick is on to something — KZAP’s ratings last fall were about half of what they were five years ago.
According to numbers from Arbitron, Inc., KZAP in spring 2006 had 4 percent of all listeners in Chico — good enough for eighth place in the crowded market. KZAP switched formats from hiphop-oriented Club 96.7 to KPIG in summer 2007. By fall 2009, listeners had dropped to 2.1 percent and the station was in 16th place.
Interestingly, KZAP once ranked as high as second place in spring 2005 with 6.3 percent of listeners.
In Chico, Arbitron’s ratings are based on diaries that selected listeners fill out twice a year. There can be some fluctuations in the numbers — KZAP’s numbers went from 3.2 percent in spring ’09 to 2.1 in the fall.
I only have access to the broadest ratings available from Arbitron, Inc. These are total listeners older than 12 listening at some point from 6 a.m. to midnight everyday. Many radio execs will tell you that they look more closely at more detailed breakdowns based on specific time periods and listeners’ ages and buying habits.
Still, looking at the overall numbers can tell an interesting picture. Three years ago, when KZAP picked up KPIG, market manager Michael Kemph said KZAP had the weakest numbers in a station group that included KFM (KFMF-FM 93.9), The Point (KQPT-FM 107.5) and KALF-FM 95.7. That appeared to be the case last fall, when KZAP again trailed behind its sister stations in total listeners.
KZAP’s switch to “Bold Talk” and its stable of right-leaning talk shows may lead to higher numbers. The news-talk-information format appears to be doing well in Chico. KPAY-AM 1290 was first in the market in fall 2009 with 6.8 percent of listeners. Out-of-market talk stations also pulled in decent numbers. Sacramento-area stations KFBK-AM 1530 and KSTE-AM 650 both ranked higher than KZAP in the Chico market.
And although it isn’t exactly a “talk” station, Northstate Public Radio (KCHO-FM 91.7) and its mix of news magazines from National Public Radio and music programming was third with 6.4 percent. (Disclaimer: I am a volunteer disc jockey at KCHO.)
While news-talk does well, I don’t know if the Chico market _needed_ another station in the format. Also, KZAP has switched formats four times in just over 10 years (from Star to Club to KPIG to Bold Talk). Who knows if news-talk will fit the station any better than the other choices?