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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Top Atlanta radio stories of 2009: Groove 105.7, Neal Boortz, Randy & Spiff, Chris Rude

CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

2009 was a disquieting year for Atlanta radio, with executives scrambling to cut costs amid lower revenues and figuring out a new ratings measurement system. Business did show signs of life toward the end of the year.

There was also a retro feel to some of the changes in 2009. 99X found a way back on the FM dial, former 99X morning host Jimmy Baron finally landed a new radio gig and a new format featuring disco tunes and old Prince nuggets grooved onto 105.7. Heck, even Randy & Spiff (left) reunited.

Here are a few of the biggest stories of the year:

– Bury that saxophone. Smooth jazz died in January. The home of Dave Koz was a victim of aging listeners and a new radio measurement system called “people meter,” which hurt this particular format. Radio One dumped Smooth Jazz 107.5 earlier this year, moving its R&B station Majic in its place, with a simulcast at 97.5. Despite the stronger signal, Majic didn’t do much better but remained a solid force, led by Steve Harvey and Michael Baisden. Gospel station Praise held its fans moving from 97.5 to 102.5.

No Morning X but plenty of Kings of Leon. In the spring, 99X returned to the FM dial after a year’s absence – but in a new location. Cumulus, which owns the station, had placed its top 40 station Q100 at 99X’s old home at 99.7 but was able to pick up a signal at 97.9. The downside: the signal is far weaker than 99.7. Still, it does offer a much bigger audience than when 99X was on the Web only. The station no longer has a morning show but it did bring alternative rock back to the FM dial. Over the summer, the station picked up decent ratings but slipped in the fall. (Atlanta now has five rock stations, arguably one too many.)

Shake your groove thang. In October, the station changed from contemporary Spanish pop Viva 105.7 to Groove 105.7, a dance-pop station, a format Atlanta has never had before. Viva’s ratings for years has lagged far behind its sister station El Patron 105.3, which plays a regional Mexican mix. Groove, with a blend of Bee Gees, Madonna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga, appears to be going most directly after the B98.5 crowd.

Good lovin’. True Oldies 106.7 showed far more ratings power under the new measurement system than expected. The result: higher ratings and enough money to hire both Randy Cook and Spiff Carner, the calling cards of the oldies format from the 1990s on the now-defunct Fox 97.1. True Oldies, programmed by veteran New York jock (and former Atlantan) Scott Shannon, also features the deepest playlist in Atlanta, playing an impressive 1,000 unique song titles a week.

Boortz honored. News/talk 750/WSB-AM saw major slippage in the ratings this year. But the station’s Atlanta-based syndicated host Neal Boortz has shown impressive staying power. As a result, the National Radio Hall of Fame last month bestowed a spot in its pantheon for the Libertarian-leaning curmudgeon for his 40 years of radio service. He’s now on more than 250 radio stations, heard by more than 4.75 million listeners weekly. According to Talkers magazine, he’s one of the top 10 most popular radio talk show hosts in the country.

Country fried radio. From Taylor Swift to the Zac Brown Band to Darius Rucker, country music had a banner year. Country radio ratings reflected this. Both Kicks and the Bull are now solid top 10 stations, with Kicks’ ratings rising about 25 percent since January and the Bull doubling its 25 to 54 year old listener base in that same period. Primary victims: top 40 radio.

Cleaning up the mess. Star 94 dumped the Morning Mess morning show earlier this year after barely a year on the air. The trio’s youthful, sometimes juvenile, humor didn’t mesh well with Star 94’s audience. The station moved its successful afternoon show Cindy & Ray into the mornings, which showed early success but has seen its numbers slip into Mess territory by November.

Baron’s back. After more than three years off the air, Jimmy Baron found his way back on Dave FM this fall, the second former 99X morning host to try his hand at this rock station (after Steve Barnes from 2004-06.). He’s teamed with another 99X alum Yvonne Monet. It’s too early to assess whether the station, which has struggled for the past two decades to find a solid morning show, has made the right move.

News matters. 90.1/WABE-FM, the news/talk/classical public radio station, blossomed in the ratings in 2009, a regular top 10 station overall and top 10 in the mornings among the advertising-friendly 25-54 year old demo. It has also managed to grow individual donations in a cash-strapped economy, hitting the $1 million mark in pledges both in the spring and the fall.

The buzz is long gone. A few years ago, satellite radio was hot. Stern had jumped aboard. AM/FM radio was a crumbling medium. iPods? No personality there! Analysts predicted 40 million users by 2010. But XM and Sirirus, saddled with massive start-up debt, had trouble generating enough income to cover high programming and procurement costs. So they’ve merged. Subscriber numbers have stalled. A subscriber recently filed an antitrust suit over higher fees. Critics believe once the Web is readily available in cars, satellite is doomed.

On the bright side, the merger has improved Sirius/XM’s balance sheet. Subscriber numbers have stabilized at about 18.5 million (down from a peak of 19 million in 2007). Stern is a bit of a wild card. His contract is up next year. But Sirius may not need him as badly as they did in 2004, when they gave him an incredibly rich contract. If you want to read more, the Wall Street Journal has a good piece here.

Rude interruptionChris Rude, morning host at 680/The Fan, will return soon from fighting a cancerous tumor behind his throat, reported first in August. He was treated with chemotherapy and radiation. He’s now recuperating. “Doctors are happy with his progress,” said his boss David Dickey. “We are looking for Chris to come back shortly, but I don’t want him back until he’s regained 100 percent of his strength.” He’s been off the air for a couple of months.

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59 comments Add your comment

manster

December 29th, 2009
8:57 am

Sad that Magic 107.5 is no longer Jazz. Atlanta radio overall is not that good. I am hoping Chris Rude returns soon, the present host are basically unlistenable.

radio boy

December 29th, 2009
9:30 am

Top story of 2010….. Regular Guys FIRED for low ratings…

Lady Strange

December 29th, 2009
9:47 am

I just got an XM radio for Christmas. Can’t wait to listen to Hair Nation!

Matt the Brave

December 29th, 2009
9:49 am

When I am up in time to listen to morning radio, it’s always between 680 and 750. It’s a little weird with no Chris Rude, but I’m hoping he makes it back fine. Any talk about Leo doing a baseball-only show when the Braves come back on?

Tony

December 29th, 2009
9:54 am

I’m with radio boy on that one. If the Regular Guys cut their schtick with some tunes, they might be listenable, but it’s too thick and tired as is. I agree that Atlanta is wanting for good, intelligent, funny morning shows, but I’ve completely dropped Rock 100.5 in the mornings. I find myself rotating through Steve Goss on WABE (GREAT hire), Randy & Spiff on True Oldies and Jimmy Baron on Dave — which is a task, because Dave isn’t even programmed in among my presets and requires clicking around to find it, but some mornings it’s worth it.

Ride it

December 29th, 2009
9:54 am

what about Porshe Fox getting fired for being a drug addict? I think thats the biggest urban news Rodney! You suck at your job

TrafficHeadache

December 29th, 2009
9:57 am

Groove: I wouldn’t listen to that stuff (especially Bee Gees, Madonna, Beyonce and Lady Gaga) if it were in the kitchen.

Fred

December 29th, 2009
9:58 am

Hey Radio Boy, I thought they were the Irregular Guys…..

Fun how a non commercial public station makes the top 10.

Rich

December 29th, 2009
9:58 am

Bring back Tom Sullivan……..he’s the best.

Talk, talk and more talk

December 29th, 2009
10:01 am

I just wish they’d play music in the mornings. I can’t stand listening to “shows” like “The Bert Show”. Enough already with the self promotion. How about some music!!!

Rodney Ho

December 29th, 2009
10:03 am

Porsche Foxx was let go in… 2008.

Rich

December 29th, 2009
10:05 am

Porsche Foxx??? Never heard of her. Sounds like a name for a Drag Queen. Is it?

boots

December 29th, 2009
10:12 am

I think the strength of 104.7 The FISH has been noteworthy. Those guys have run a good station with a good message. Sorry to hear about Rude. Hope he is better.

Get rid of Steve and Vicki

December 29th, 2009
10:16 am

I miss the old 98.5.

Please get rid of Steve and Vicki.

Bring the old crew back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jojo

December 29th, 2009
10:19 am

I want to hear more Hasselhoff. It make me feel warm.

Get rid of Steve and Vicki

December 29th, 2009
10:22 am

It’s a shame ratings determine who goes and who stays.

IMO the replacements STINK (Steve, Vicki, Steve Harvey, etc.)!!

I listen to my CDs now.

No need to hear the traffic reports — same everyday, JAMMED.

News they report — OLD. Read it on the Internet before I left the house.

So I don’t have to listen to radio crap in the mornings now.

Lay6

December 29th, 2009
10:22 am

107.5 had to change or go, how many times can you listen to Sade? It would be nice if someone brought back a smooth jazz station for more variety. I’m glad 99X is back, I hope they hang on. 90.1 is always great in the morning.

Ann

December 29th, 2009
10:24 am

90.1/WABE-FM, NPR Morning Edition is the best. I listen to it every morning on the way into work.

Kevin

December 29th, 2009
10:25 am

I am an XM subscriber for the past four years. Personally, I think Sirius/XM should jettison Martha, Oprah, MLB, NHL, and PGA. If you want Howard, pay the freight. Otherwise, dump him as well.

Rodney, how would the Web work if you are travelling in remote areas?

Thanks

Fred

December 29th, 2009
10:33 am

Kevin, the same way your XM works satellite.

patsy

December 29th, 2009
11:05 am

there hasn’t been a morning show in this city since Russ Spooner on W.S.B..

Stacy

December 29th, 2009
11:17 am

What about Casey leaving 790 The Zone because she was creeped out by Steak Shapiro’s father in law? I heard he and Steak love to hit Sammy’s down on the Gulf Coast! I don’t care for Steak Shapiro as a person or as a radio DJ.

Phil

December 29th, 2009
11:18 am

Will there be any Atlanta station that get’s an interview with Snookie from Jersey Shore?

Steaky Smalley

December 29th, 2009
11:18 am

Biggest news story of 2009. Steaky Shapiro fired half of the radio station and still looks in the mirror like Stuart Smalley and tells his no-talent self “I’m good enough, and gosh darnit people like me!”

Then he ate 3 of his fingers for a mid-afternoon snack because the snack machine was too far to walk to.

Steak Shapiro

December 29th, 2009
11:19 am

I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS! I SNIFF MATT RYAN’S JOCK FOR KICKS!

smitty

December 29th, 2009
11:20 am

BRING BACK THE KIMMER!!!!!!!!!

Larry Zybysko

December 29th, 2009
11:21 am

What about the scandal where an intoxicated Steak Shapiro left an Atlanta McDonald’s drive thru with 8 double cheeseburgers without paying.

Paul Ellering

December 29th, 2009
11:22 am

I heard a rumor that steak shapiro had a hot tub filled with prepared Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and asked an intern to join him in a cheesy affair!

Iron Mike Sharpe

December 29th, 2009
11:24 am

I am embarassed that my last name starts with the same three letters that Steak Shapiro’s does. Kind of takes the shine off of me being Canada’s greatest athlete.

JoeV

December 29th, 2009
11:25 am

Sirius will ALWAYS be better than the crap on in this city. I gladly pay my quarterly subscription to avoid the garbage they try to pass off as radio in Atlanta.

Manny Fernandez

December 29th, 2009
11:29 am

790 Listener, “Steak I don’t like you because you are a carpetbagger from the north!”
Steak Shapiro, “Why don’t you like me?”
790 Listener, “I don’t like you because you are a carpetbagger from the north!”
Steak Shapiro, “I don’t know why don’t you like me?”
790 Listener, “Because you are a carpetbagger from the north!”
Steak Shapiro, “Why wouldn’t you like me?”
790 Listener, “Because you are a carpetbagger from the north!”
Nick Cellini and Chris Dimino, “Steak I think it is clear that he does not like you because you are a carpetbagger from the north”
Steak is the worst DJ in Atlanta!

Ira Hirschbaum

December 29th, 2009
11:36 am

I think the thing to remember about Atlanta radio is that even in a very turbulent ad market, especially considering the increasing irrelevance of commercial radio as a marketing vehicle for national advertisers, keeping in mind that independant stations don’t have the scale to compete against the multi-station holders (which are finding that scope economies aren’t really returning shareholder value), and knowing that other investments into content delivery haven’t shown the ROI that talent investments have shown, is that Steak is a massive effing tool of historic proportions.

Bob

December 29th, 2009
11:37 am

Love Randy and Spiff AND “True Oldies.” Contrary to some advertisers beliefs baby boomers in our 50s and 60s have plenty of money and we are spending it on cars, furniture, floor covering, and (as you probably have stereotyped anyway) doctors.

Sloopy

December 29th, 2009
11:37 am

Forget about this local Atlanta garbage, it’s time Atlanta embraced syndication and started bringing in entertaining radio shows from around the country. The Atlanta hosts are just knock of imitators anyways, so let’s bring in the real deals.

Diego Maradonna

December 29th, 2009
11:50 am

Steak Shapiro reminds me of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. He is portly, short, and has that pie like face. Do you think when at home he lays around with his wife on a chain and has her fetch him pasta bowls and donuts?

Donna Schindler

December 29th, 2009
11:56 am

Any reason you fail to mention the BEST two stations in Atlanta, WRAS- 88.5 FM, the student voice of GA State University, and WREK- 91.1 GA Tech’s radio station?

WRAS offers A Children’s Show, Big Band Jump with Don Kennedy, The Blue Note, Cowtippers delight, The Georgia Music Show, Martinias Con Queso, Nitrate 88, The Quintessential College Show, I Don’t Care, Da Bomb, and so much more!

Toppingit all off in the ATL: WREK has Tech Talk, Ramblin’ WREK Report, the Desoto Hour with Fred Runde, Joe Bussard’s Country Music Classics, WREKage, Friday Night Fish Fry for Blues, and Stonehenge for the greatest classic rock ever created in the history of mankind, and so much more!

They both offer an eclectic variety of shows, college sports, and new music that is on the cutting edge instead of the same old tired array of hits over and over ad infinitum like all the other stations. Get a clue folks!

Rob

December 29th, 2009
11:57 am

Although Steak is full of himself, I think he’s entertaining. I also listen to 680 The Fan from time to time, but you can only listen to so much Braves talk interjected with Leo “all is rosy” opinions.

arrah

December 29th, 2009
12:03 pm

Steak is not a “dj”…dj’s play music.

Mike Moron

December 29th, 2009
12:05 pm

Sal Lapparorzini

December 29th, 2009
12:06 pm

Steak Shapiro on 790 leaves drool on my car speakers. That guy is pretty disgusting and crude.

Fred Funk

December 29th, 2009
12:07 pm

Steak Shapiro is the worst Sports DJ in the area. Don’t give him any props at all.

AC 380

December 29th, 2009
12:11 pm

Atlanta needs a Spanish channel that doesn’t play just Mexican Music. It’s like getting everyone from all over the U.S and playing just Country Music. Not gonna work……

Blues Lady

December 29th, 2009
12:21 pm

Hey Rodney – what happened to Rojene Bailey over at KISS 104.1? The Blues on Sundays is not the same without him.

marco

December 29th, 2009
12:41 pm

I think the top story was the total concession of local news/talk to WSB, dooming us to mediocrity in this niche for the foreseeable future.

ChippersLoveChild

December 29th, 2009
12:47 pm

This guy roasting Steak has me cracking up.. that is some good stuff..

My top five stations would be 104.7, 96.1, 97.9, 92.9, and 106.7. Although it would be nice if someone told Project 96 that there are other bands besides Nickelback, and judging by your most played artists, how is STP in the top 5? When was the last time they were relevant? Atlanta radio would be fine if they all got much deeper playlists. I’m tired of hearing the same ten songs.

Gary

December 29th, 2009
12:56 pm

sounds like Steak Shapiro’s biggest fan has too much time on their hands and too many anonymous screen names. Seriously dude, get a life.

Where is Calandro?

December 29th, 2009
1:16 pm

Has Calandro landed anywhere yet and lasted more than a month?

David Lee Roth

December 29th, 2009
2:37 pm

I was hanging at Tattletales one night when an intoxicated Steak Shapiro rolled in with two dudes that were dressed up like dames. Dude Chics even get me a little scared. That Steak Shapiro is one messed up dude chic hanger onner.

Steak Shapiros Gout

December 29th, 2009
2:43 pm

Hello Steak, it’s me, your gout. I promised will come back with a vengeance if you continue to shovel pasta, shrimp, corndogs, cheeseburgers, onion rings, french fries, canned cheese whiz, pizza, donuts, fritters, egg foo young, lo mein, egg rolls, biscuits, and sausages(breakfast kind, not chic dudes from tattletales) down your throat. Why don’t you ever listen to me Steak?

Sincerely,
Steak Shapiro’s Gout

PowerMan

December 29th, 2009
3:12 pm

Mike Moron?….nice one disgruntled salem employee. Just be thankful…you have one of the better GMs in the city.