Where will all the KPTK-AM Listeners Go?

Progressive Talk station KPTK 1090 AM SeattleThe Fan KFNQ-AMAfter days of panicked speculation and a call-letter change to KFNQ in November, CBS Radio officially announced the switch of KPTK-AM from a Progressive Talk format to a CBS Sports station (branding it “The Fan”), effective January 1, 2013. This follows the same format switch (but to FOX Sports) that took place in Portland, OR with KPOJ-AM in October.

The format change will put KFNQ-AM in direct competition with Clear Channel stations KJR-AM/KNBQ-FM and Bonneville’s 710 ESPN KIRO-AM.

Some of those in the Progressive radio world have conjured up a conspiracy theory about the Portland switch, surmising that the switch is a Romney payback since Bain Capital, where Romney once worked, purchased and took Clear Channel private in 2008. Those on the conservative side suggest that since liberals no longer can blame Bush for the past four years, there is nothing left to talk about.

Liberals All Talk and No Buy

While KPTK-AM is part of the CBS Radio stable that includes KJAQ-FM, KMPS-FM and KZOK-FM and benefits from cross-station sales, it is easy to see why the format change was warranted; four of the Top 10 local “advertisers” in 2012 were public-service announcement organizations which either run for free or at a highly reduced rate. What remains are fewer than 100 local advertisers over the course of the year, including an abundance of legal services, a healthy dose of home-improvement advertisers and a smattering of auto-supply small businesses. Lake Forest Park’s “aesthetic and lifestyle dental spa” of Dr. Nina Svino, was the #1 local advertiser, spending just under $20,000 for the year.

Total 2012 revenues are estimated by Media Monitors to be well south of $2 million – 96% of which averaged less than $1,000/month – hardly enough to keep a station, even one as highly syndicated as KPTK, afloat. With fewer than 2,500 AQH listeners, the station also suffered from a significant amount of listener churn, which would make it difficult for an advertiser to build any kind of frequency without a bulky campaign; something the small-business advertisers it attracted would find financially unfeasible and the core listeners unbearable.

Top 20 KPTK-AM Local Advertisers 2012

Demos Not an Advertiser Draw

While much of the main-stream media would have you believe the progressive listener is the dawning of the Millennial generation and the outlet for the intellectually elite, they were neither when it came to KPTK. Attracting mostly mid- lower-income older women – nearly half of whom are unemployed (including homemakers, students, retired and unemployed/looking or no longer looking for work) – KPTK’s audience falls far from the desirable target for anything other than home repair and maintenance advertisers.

Demographic profile of KPTK-AM listeners

Other Media Outlets for Progressive Radio Listeners

For media buyers looking for a replacement station, the bulk of KPTK’s progressive listeners are found on KOMO-AM, KPLU-FM, KJR-FM, KIRO-FM and KRWM-FM. Notably, KPTK-AM listeners show a particularly high propensity to also listen to the top-two conservative stations, KVI-AM and KTTH-AM. So were KPTK’s listeners really the far-left “progressives” the most vocal among them claim to be, or conservative folks checking in on the latest blather?

Political Affiliations of Seattle's KPTK-AM Progressive Radio Listeners
According to Scarborough Research, only four in 10 KPTK listeners claim to be solidly Democrat. Another 17% consider themselves Independents but lean Democrat. More than 20% fall into the Republican/Republican-leaning camp. Seven percent consider themselves true Independents and 14% fall into “Other” category, which would include Socialists, Communists, Greens, etc. or no affiliation at all.

For media buyers sweet on the KPTK-AM audience, there is speculation that Talk & Sports 1180 KLAY Lakewood/Tacoma will pick up the syndicated Ed Schulz and Stephanie Miller shows following the KFNQ’s January switch to sports. For those who want to keep the focus on the Seattle area, consider these Top-15 media draws for KPTK listeners:

Progressive Radio KPTK-AM Alternative Media Outlets










Interesting Times Ahead

The coming year promises to be an interesting one for Seattle radio. We’re currently seeing significant creep of Classic and Oldies programming onto one end of the Adult Contemporary format and Top 40 on the other, all but wiping out any distinction between the three formats. When high-profile DJs like Marty Reimer (KMTT-FM) hang up their mics because they no longer can fathom the homogenous programming, you know something is up. The melding of formats likely will increase churn, making radio buys even more challenging in this highly fragmented market. Happy New Year!

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