People are spending fewer hours with AM/FM radio, more with their iPod or sites such as Pandora Radio.
But the format is far from dead. Its appeal remains the same: it’s free and offers personality. After business bottomed out in 2009, Atlanta radio saw signs of a recovery this past year, with revenue growth in the 5 to 6 percent range.
Here are this year’s most notable stories, with links to the original stories:
- With ratings falling, news/talk 750/WSB-AM in August added an FM signal at 95.5, replacing hip-hop station The Beat. So far, so good as the station regained listeners it had lost since early 2009.
- With the Beat gone, Groove 105.7 became Wild in November, with a hip-hop music mix that sounds much like the old Beat.
- V-103 remained top dog in the ratings despite some changes. In January, the R&B/hip-hop station dumped its long-time night-time host Joyce Littel, who has yet to be replaced. In late spring, up-and-comer Elle Duncan was moved from mid-days to mornings, replacing Miss Sophia. The mid-day slot remains open. Then things got strange in November: Duncan got into a verbal argument with afternoon producer Nina Brown. Brown aired some of Duncan’s profanity-laced tirade for the world to hear. Brown is no longer at V-103.
- The Bert Show on top 40 station Q100, a dominant morning show force in Atlanta, has entered the potentially lucrative syndication world, adding a Nashville station in June. (Remember the drama earlier in the year over Jeff Dauler almost leaving for Star 94? We’ll see what happens with newly betrothed Jenn Hobby and Melissa Carter, whose contracts are reportedly up next year. Bert Weiss is good through early 2012. )
- By early 2009, 94.9/The Bull had made little traction against veteran country station Kicks 101.5. Enter Scott Lindy, a program director who streamlined the sound, teaming Dunwoody High School grad Jason Pullman with Kicks refugee Kristen Gates for mornings. By late summer of this year, the station was beating Kicks in key demographics. Lindy mysteriously lost his job at the Bull in August, but quickly found a new one helming struggling pop station Star 94.
- Steve McCoy, after nearly three decades in Atlanta (most notably at Star 94), lost his job at B98.5 in February. He is now on a classic hits station in Denver. His former on-air partner Vikki Locke remains as a solo morning host at the soft rock station.
- News/talk station 640/WGST abandoned local weekday programming in 2009 but is trying again with Rob Johnson from Modesto, Calif. in mornings and conservative host Rusty Humphries in afternoons, replacing Dave Ramsey January 3, 2011.
- As 680/The Fan dominated the sports talk arena, rival 790/The Zone’s owners Andrew Saltzman and Steak Shapiro (who took a bath running stations in St. Louis) sold out to its leasor, Lincoln Financial. But for listeners, there are no obvious changes – yet. The Fan, in the meantime, added an FM signal at 93.7.
- Sirius/XM satellite radio reached 20 million subscribers and kept Howard Stern on board for another five years.
- Pandora, fueled heavily by smartphone app usage, now has 65 million-plus registered users in the United States, about two million of them in metro Atlanta.