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VALLEY BUSINESS | ON THE AIR: VYING FOR LISTENERS

KBIG Tunes In to Likes, Needs, Habits of Women

Demographics: Special events, giveaways, advertising and music targeted to its niche audience has paid off with a 5.2 ratings share in the 18-34 age bracket.

May 30, 2000|CHRISTOPHER WOODARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

GLENDALE — When disc jockey Leigh Ann Adam gave birth to her son, Caden Chase, live during KBIG-FM (104)'s morning show in April, Ed Krampf, the person, was deeply touched.

"I got to tell you, I cried as it was happening," he said.

But Ed Krampf, the station manager and businessman, had a more calculated view. He knew that the delivery--broadcast live from the hospital and photographed for posting on the station's Web site--would grab the station's core audience: Women.

"You can't believe the response we had. We received 6.4 million hits on our Web site the day of the delivery," he said. "I had one woman call to say she had to pull her car off the road, so she could wipe away the tears. We just overwhelmed them with emotion."

With more than 80 stations competing for an estimated $700 million in annual advertising revenue, Los Angeles has one of the most intensely competitive radio markets in the country. To survive, a station has to find a lucrative niche, and in the case of Glendale-based KBIG, that niche is 30-something women.

"Let's face it, women make all the purchasing decisions, even if they aren't the end buyer," Krampf said. "Women decide what beer to buy, what clothes to buy. And in her child-bearing years, when she becomes more family- and nesting-oriented, a woman decides what furniture to buy and how to fix up the house. It's a very, very lucrative time for advertisers."

For years, KBIG existed in the shadow of KOST-FM (103.5), one of the city's top stations and a trendsetter in what's known in the industry as adult contemporary programming.

"For years, KOST and KBIG battled each other. This was one of the great adult contemporary wars in the U.S.," said Mike Kinosian, adult contemporary editor for Radio & Records, an industry trade publication.

But all that changed in 1999, when KBIG's parent corporation, AM/FM Inc., agreed to acquire KOST. The deal has not yet closed, but already AM/FM has taken over management of the station.

AM/FM also owns KYSR-FM (98.7), a Burbank station that appeals to younger adult females. With the acquisition of KOST, publicly traded AM/FM gained greater control of the lucrative female audience.

"Now that KOST, KBIG and KYSR are owned by the same company, the object of the game is not to step on [one another's] toes," Kinosian said.

The dynamic is about to change again. AM/FM is being acquired by Texas-based Clear Channel Communications, which owns another adult contemporary powerhouse, KIIS-FM (102.7).

During the most recent survey by Arbitron, KBIG had a 2.6% share of the 1.7 million Los Angeles listeners ages 12 and older, placing it 11th overall, along with KYSR and another station. KOST came in third, behind Spanish-language adult contemporary stations No. 1-rated KLVE-FM (107.5) and No. 2-rated KSCA-FM (101.9).

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But in the important female 18 to 34 market, KBIG enjoyed a 5.2 share, compared with KOST's 5.0 and the 5.6 posted by KYSR.

Los Angeles radio observers say the three stations have their own niches, with KYSR geared more to women in their late 20s, KBIG to women in their mid-30s and KOST to women in their late 30s and 40s.

In his mind's eye, Krampf can picture the typical KBIG listener:

She's 32 to 34, married and has 1.5 kids. She works, so she has to balance her home and professional lives. She drives a minivan or a Ford Taurus or Volvo station wagon to shuttle her kids to school and soccer. She listens to the radio at work.

As would be expected, the station's advertisers reflect that demographic: clothing retailers, such as Old Navy and Macy's, grocery stores such as Ralphs, and home improvement centers such as Home Depot.

"It's a real sexy demographic that all the advertisers want to hit," Kinosian said.

To keep track of its audience's tastes, program director Jhani Kaye conducts an extensive phone survey each week.

"It tells us if our listeners are getting tired of a certain song or artist," he said.

What the listeners appear to want is upbeat, peppy music that makes them feel good, said Kaye, a veteran of Los Angeles radio who serves also as a programming consultant for KOST.

Regulars on the station's play list include such artists as Faith Hill, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Santana, Backstreet Boys and N Sync.

To attract and retain listeners, the station also offers prizes, such as a Caribbean cruise.

KBIG is careful to keep its content family-oriented, and the disc jockeys often chat about the travails of raising kids and working or, in Adam's case, what it's like giving birth.

"At first, some people thought I was insane, but once they tuned in, I think they changed their minds," said Adam of allowing her April 10 Caesarean-section delivery to be broadcast live over the air and Internet. "We made sure it was very tastefully done, and it turned out to be an incredible experience."

It's too early to tell what that particular event will do for ratings, but the station's formula has allowed KBIG to boost its audience and revenue.

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