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PORTLAND, Oregon — Is significant talk outside the morning show on a music station a recipe for ratings ruin? The PPM results from several major Canadian markets indicate more talk on a music station is a winning strategy.
Since its inception in 2010, 102.3 Now! Radio in Edmonton has been the top radio station in the market for nearly every ratings period, and its extraordinary audience figures have made Now! Radio Edmonton’s highest billing station.
“Join the conversation”
The Now! Radio format doesn’t fit into an existing format box. So, what is it? Musically, it’s kind of hot AC, but plays a lot of 80s and 90s gold and then occasionally throws in something completely unexpected. On a recent listen, I heard Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and even Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Strangely, it all works.
Now! Radio’s unique music strategy is only a portion of its winning formula. Now! Radio’s commitment to its audience is unmatched. It began by promising to answer every text, which was no easy task with over a million texts received in its first 18 months. Today, “Now! Radio promises to give you as much music and conversation as we can.” In fact, the station has never had a music positioner, and it continues to drive home its “Join the conversation” slogan.
Hosts, not DJs, lead Now! Radio’s conversations. The hosts are real, honest and without hype.
Hosts, not DJs, lead Now! Radio’s conversations. The hosts are real, honest and without hype. You won’t hear them read liner cards or endlessly plug value-added promotions, nor will you hear them say the station name. The station voice handles station IDs. Now! has set the stage for its hosts to deliver content in every break and daypart. When listening to Now!, it feels like the hosts can say whatever they want, whenever they want and talk as much as they want.
The personality quotient
Pattison Media, Now! Radio’s owner, introduced a similar format at 101.5 Today Radio in Calgary three years ago. Like Now! Radio, Today Radio is consistently the market’s ratings leader. The group has incorporated many of Now! Radio’s winning ways into its music stations throughout the nation.
Other broadcasters have taken notice of Pattison’s success, and an increasing number of Canadian music stations are quickly adding more multi-person shows and increasing the personality quotient. For instance, CFOX in Vancouver added a two-person afternoon show to complement its top-rated morning show last summer.
In the United States, 2021 saw CHR Q99.7 in Atlanta expand its content commitment by adding the two-person Jade and Moe drive show, and Z100 New York followed the trend by adding Maxwell and Crystal to afternoons. Rocker KISW in Seattle has been a market leader for years with its talk-intensive BJ and Migs morning show and its four-person afternoon show, The Men’s Room.
Great radio stations have always resulted from what happens between the records, and based on the Canadian PPM ratings, re-emphasizing the personality on music radio is a winning strategy.
The author is a multi-award-winning contemporary radio and music television programmer. He is also cofounder and partner of P1 Media Group.