In a tech-driven world jammed with listening options, an AM radio station breaking out as a ratings powerhouse runs counter to commonly held perceptions about the medium. Rather than leading the pack, AM should be buried underneath a pile of iPods, TiVo machines, computer games and instant messages.
But it is not. In fact, in Los Angeles, KFI-AM (640) did something last week no other AM station in Southern California has done in two decades: finish first in the overall ratings.
[...] “Think of the AM band as Route 1. For decades it was the most heavily trafficked main road,” said Tom Taylor, editor of trade publication Inside Radio. “Then along came I-5 and the other big roads. But lots of people still travel Route 1, often to find specialty stores. And there are certainly still very large and successful stores along the way.”
AM remains a major radio player because, after being pushed out of the music-playing business in most major national markets more than a decade ago, instead of dying it adapted. During the mid-1980s and early 1990s, AM gradually ejected the Top 40 tunes and inserted in its place a medium-saving mixture of local news, talk radio, sports or other niche programming.
So in a time when much of the media coverage about radio focuses on the battle between XM and Sirius satellite, last week’s quarterly Arbitron ratings served as a reminder of the realities back on planet Earth.