Seattle Media Spotlight: KISW-FM

On-fire guitar playing













Hard-working, Blue-Collar KISW-FM Rocks Steady

As I was watching Rock of Ages at the movie theater, it brought to mind Seattle’s annual summer duel between radio’s Active Rock and Soft Adult Contemporary formats. The Spring Arbitron PPM ratings once again have KISW-FM and KRWM-FM duking it out for top spot for Average Quarter Hour ratings (AQH, ages 6 and older). The two stations couldn’t be more dissimilar and their audiences rarely cross over, so it’s really not a competition. More like a equipollent matchup between the King and Queen of Seattle radio.

After a strong summer as top dog, Active Rock format KISW-FM slipped from the #1 spot in late fall 2011, cascading to 5th in January. In April it reclaimed the crown from perennial top station, KRWM-FM, only to trade places in May. With summer around the corner, it seems well positioned to retain its seasonal laurels. Bottom line, when school is out, construction projects are in full swing and the troops are in town, KISW-FM offers one of the most rock-solid audiences in the Seattle market.

Very Little Audience Churn

Unlike KRWM-FM, which not only has a strong AQH audience but also accumulates the largest audience over the course of a week, Active Rock format KISW-FM has a loyal audience that doesn’t turn over all that often; listeners don’t see the need to check out other stations with any amount of frequency. If they stray anywhere, KISW’s young adult listeners (primarily ages 21 – 44; average age 36) show an affinity for the South Sound’s Active Rock station 104.9 KKBW-FM (The Brew), Bellingham’s Classic Rocker 92.9 KISM-FM, Alt Rock 107.7 KNDD-FM (a sister station), Classic Rock KZOK-FM and Jack FM’s 96.5 KJAQ-FM, and the Sports Talk Radio simulcast station 102.9 KJR.

That’s not so good news for Entercom, which has its own Classic Rock and Country formats in its stable of stations. But it’s very good news for advertisers and media buyers seeking KISW’s predominantly blue-collar male (77%) audience, as it takes fewer spots to reach and build frequency against them. In fact, with a sustaining schedule of about 18 spots per week and 74 over the course of a month, an advertiser would build up some solid frequency against the adult portion of this listening audience.

KISW-FM 99.9 Active Rock formatAs part of the Seattle Entercom radio group, along with 107.7 KKWF-FM (Country), 103.7 KMTT-FM (Adult Alternative/Classic Rock) and 107.7 KNDD-FM (Alternative Rock), 99.9 KISW-FM is by far the hardest rocker. Although making up only 5% of its audience, it counts as some of fans military members from both the Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Naval Station Everett (5% of its listeners have traveled to the Middle East in the past three years; 3% still are active military). A recent listen produced a testosterone-drenched playlist that included artists such as

  • Soundgarden
  • Mudvayne
  • Seether
  • Volbeat
  • Guns N Roses
  • The Offspring
  • Staind
  • Avenged Sevenfold
  • Shinedown
  • Adelitas Way
  • Foo Fighters

and, in a nod to the military audience, an entire set of the Top-10 from Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.

Advertisers and Audience Make For Strange Bedfellows

So it might or might not surprise you (it did me) that Shane Co Jewelers currently is the top advertiser on the station, averaging more than 200 spots per month, I expect much to the chagrin of loyal listeners. Rounding out the Top-10 advertisers are military-focused USAA Insurance and USAA Bank, Sleep Country USA, Events and Adventures (singles social club), Bradley Johnson Attorneys, Sleep Train Mattress Discounters, Car Toys, CenturyLink Bundle and American Family Insurance.

KISW no doubt benefits from Entercom’s ability to broker across both its 100+ national network as well as the Entercom-Seattle four-station family, and it counts on that to help fill its airtime breaks. Out of KISW-FM’s nearly 400 advertisers since the first of the year, less than 15% are local companies. KISW’s Top-10 local advertisers include:

  1. Bradley Johnson Attorneys (Personal Injury/Criminal Defense/DUIs)
  2. Snoqualmie Tobacco Co & Liquor
  3. Law Offices of Heidi L. Hunt (Traffic Tickets/DUIs)
  4. Jet Chevrolet
  5. EZ Wheel
  6. Clem’s Enumclaw Powersports
  7. Palace Law Offices (Personal Injury/Worker’s Comp)
  8. Harris Ford Lincoln
  9. Quil Ceda Creek Nighclub & Casino
  10. Kuni Westside Infiniti

Remarkably, ShaneCo seems to be in the right spot; KISW listeners are 40% more likely than the average market adult to spend $500 or more on fine jewelry each year – possibly to make amends for the need to hire the attorneys jockeying for their business or, more optimistically, because more than a third of this young audience is single/never married and possibly moving into their commitment years (57% are married). So it also goes for the mattress advertisers – these listeners are 40% more likely to have purchased a new mattress in the past year. Car Toys also is talking to the right target: KISW listeners are 236% — yes, you read that correctly — more likely to spend $3,000 or more on stereo equipment/home and auto music systems. In addition to jewelry and stereo systems, you’ll find they also invest a lot more than most adults on athletic shoes and men’s clothing, children’s clothing and expensive ($1,000+) cameras and supplies.

Family First

Man with baby in armsFor all the raunchiness, “babe” talk and irresponsible partying portrayed and promoted on the station, it appears to be just talk; KISW’s Millennial and Gen-X listeners fall firmly into four PRIZM lifestage groups: Mainstream Families, Midlife Success, Striving Singles and Young Achievers. They are 50% more likely to have children of all ages at home (60% do) and are more than twice as likely to have baby food on their shopping list. Nearly 30% have children under the age of 6 in their home.

Work Hard. Play Harder

If you want to know what pushes their buttons, talk AMA Pro Racing (motorcycle/ATV), NHL and Minor League hockey (especially the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds), Supercross/Motocross, Extreme Action Sports, Mixed Martial Arts or Ultimate Fighting, Pro wrestling (WWE), NHRA Drag Racing, Monster trucks, Pro Boxing and soccer (both local and international). Down the list but still way above most market adults’ interests are NFL and college football, the NBA and college basketball, and NASCAR races. They are willing to pay top dollar for single tickets to see their favorite teams or sporting event. They are Do-It-Yourselfers at home and with their automobiles.

KISW-FM's afternoon drive-time program, The Men's Room

With a drinking team (featuring Men’s Room Elysian Red Brew) and Rock Girls aplenty, the station and accompanying website is all guy. The afternoon drive-time segment is aptly named The Men’s Room and is just what you would expect. Their fast-food tastes follow a similar stereotype: they favor chicken and pizza, though they mostly find themselves at McDonald’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Subway and Taco Bell, followed by Starbucks (though given a choice, they would opt for Tully’s). When they dine at a full-service restaurant, which isn’t often, they typically go for pizza, Mexican and Chinese food establishments. They are, however, 40% more likely to visit steakhouses than is true of the general market.

Shopping is not in their Wheelhouse

They will stop at a convenience store before venturing into a grocery store. If Target, Wal-Mart or the local sporting goods store doesn’t have what they need, they go without. When they go out, they tend to favor a nightclub or bar, or a rock concert. Casinos are a particular draw, where they enjoy playing table games. They mostly drive used vehicles, with just over 50% owning SUVs. On their wish list for new purchases are full-size autos and luxury brands, but this family-oriented audience also has a realistic eye toward a future purchase of used vans or mini-vans. VW rates top on their list for favored auto brands, followed by Chevrolet, Jeep, GMC, Saturn and Honda. Global warming will freeze over before you find them driving a hybrid vehicle. They spend a lot of time behind the wheel and put a lot of miles on their vehicles.

Working for the Weekend

Their recreational pursuits favor basketball, followed by softball/baseball, football team play, hiking/backpacking, bowling, jogging/running, camping, soccer, tennis and hunting. They will splurge to see a movie on opening weekend, and in fact are quite big fans of movies and videos, which they also watch at home and on their smartphones. Their favorite travel destinations are Hawaii and the Washington coast. Seven in 10 KISW-FM households own a pet, leaning heavily to dogs.

Making Ends Meet

Be it due to age, circumstance or choice, less than 20% have graduated from college, opting rather for vocational pursuits (43%); more than half have a high-school degree or less. They are twice as likely as most adults to have plans to return to school in the coming year and one in five participates in adult continuing education pursuits. While 60% are employed full-time, being in the trades in this economy means they have more than their share of the temporarily laid-off. With median household incomes of $61,800, they tend to be single-income renters living in multiple-adult/extended-family households and show a propensity to live in Snohomish County, where Boeing and the Navy have a significant presence. They struggle with personal and auto loans and frequent cash-advance and title-loan shops. They are 35% more likely to have used a bankruptcy attorney than is true for the total market. They or their family members also are 62% more likely to have been treated for substance abuse, smoking or nutrition issues and nearly half have been or taken family members to an emergency room in the past year.

Politics Not As Usual

Nationally, Active Rock listeners’ blood runs red, white and true blue and tends to attract more Republicans than Democrats. It makes sense that in this blue state that KISW listeners don’t quite fit that mold. While they display average representation among Republicans and are considerably less likely to be Democrats than is true of the general market, Seattle’s active-rock listeners are more likely to consider themselves politically Independent.

They shy away from commercial banking institutions, opting for smaller banks and credit unions. BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union) handles the largest share of credit union business at 28%; more than half of whom make it their primary bank. While BECU is open to anyone these days, this is a good indicator that the Boeing plant’s production crews and machinists contribute to KISW’s rock-steady audience. They are not great shoppers for the most part, with the exception of sporting goods stores and toy stores. Tops on their list for planned household purchases are pool/hot tub or spa, HDTV, Blu-ray disc player, MP3 player, furniture, pest control services, a home office, a new mattress, an ATV, other DVD player, an iPad, and energy-saving or major appliances.

Media Preferences

While radio dominates their media choices, when they watch TV, it is either sports- or family-oriented, followed by science-fiction shows, comedies and reality/adventure shows. They are average Internet users and access it primarily for auto information, sports scores and updates, listening to music or streaming radio, playing casino-type games, watching movies or TV shows, or to participate in fantasy sports.

Not Their Cup of Tea

In building a profile, it is as interesting to see what they won’t get involved with as with what revs their engine. KISW listeners are averse to snowsports, not in a position to own investments, do not spend much on costume jewelry, don’t attend live theater/symphony/opera or art museums, dislike daytime talk shows and soap operas, don’t use coupon deals (Groupon, Living Social, etc), avoid upscale, seafood, Italian or Thai restaurants. They also don’t care for minor league baseball, B&Bs, gymnastics or eco-friendly activities (with the exception of purchasing organic food), foreign travel for pleasure, or cruises for any reason. While they consume more than their share of beer and hard liquor, wine does not make their list.

What about the Women?

Rocker girl

Out of curiosity mostly, I wanted to check out the women who count themselves as KISW listeners. After all, most of the chatter on the station is around objectifying women and either demeaning or coveting the ones who reject the station’s primarily male listeners. For the most part, the adult women who make up about 20% of KISW’s listeners reflect their male counterparts’ consumer behavior. Given the young families, they are more than twice as likely as market adults to be full-time homemakers. Those who work outside the home are more likely to be employed part-time in service, sales and office positions. Still, close to 40% are employed full-time. Fully one third are single, so their KISW listening habit isn’t totally ambient. In fact, KISW is only one of many stations they listen to, so the female portion of this audience experiences an extremely high churn rate.

Like their male complement, they are more than twice as likely to frequent bar/nightclubs for entertainment, including those at casinos. Also like the male listener, these women do not travel much domestically, other than to Hawaii, but are far more likely to travel to Mexico, Central and South America than the men. This may be explained partially by the fact that while the male listeners show a slight propensity to be of Hispanic origin, the female listeners are 62% more likely to be Hispanic and nearly three times more likely to be of mixed race than is true of the total market.

Working somewhat against the stereotype, in their spare time KISW-FM female listeners tend to favor sewing/crafts activities, yoga/pilates classes, bowling, swimming and jogging/running. Unlike their male equivalents, they do consume light beer, white-goods liquors, wine and wine coolers. Much of that consumption takes place in stadiums and arenas when they are watching their favorite teams. They are more likely than KISW’s male listeners to have an account at a commercial bank and they also are far more eco-friendly than the men. They are conscientious shoppers and show a strong use of coupons. As such, they show no brand or store loyalties, opting to shop wherever the bargains exist. They are keyed into their communities, primarily through their children, and read their local paper.

So there you have it: If you want to reach production, construction and transportation workers, as well as active soldiers and young veterans and the women who love them, KISW-FM is your Rock of Gibraltar.

BJ Shea Morning Experience

 Data source: 2012 Scarborough Report, Release 2

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