Media Watch 

'Explorer' cuts back again, hopes to recapture market share

Absorption might be a good thing for sponges and paper towels, but it's not a choice turn of phrase in business, especially when personnel are involved. The Explorer, the weekly newspaper that focuses on issues relating to Tucson's northwest corridor, has, to paraphrase editor/publisher Dave Perry, gone the way of quicker picker upper, most notably in the sports section after releasing sports editor Craig Grau.

"We're going to try to absorb the duties as well as we can," Perry said. "Several of us, including myself, have sportswriting experience. We have someone who's working on a freelance basis."

Grau was part of a much smaller cutback than what followed the transfer of ownership last year. When Thirteenth Street Media bought the paper from longtime operators Melanie Larson and Terry Brashear, it slashed about a half dozen positions.

"We reduced the size of the newsroom at that time," Perry said of the December 2007 takeover. "We had a generalized reduction in force throughout the newspaper. We have absorbed two more positions."

Uncertain economic issues are at the heart of The Explorer's maladies.

"We are a community newspaper. Community newspapers reflect their market, like any newspaper reflects its market," Perry said. "It's what we're experiencing on a local and national level. We just haven't sold as much advertising as we need to."

The potential good news is The Explorer follows one of the newspaper models actually showing some success. While dailies struggle, many community weeklies are doing well. The Explorer's major competitors, the News Media Corporation-operated Marana Weekly News and Foothills News, appear to be on solid ground.

"They're very much a competitor, on the news and advertising front," Perry said. "We're trying to find our niche here. We're still working on it. We're still trying to figure it out."

So that's what the 'S' stands for

It may be a small step, but KNST AM 790 has picked up NFL Sunday night and Monday night games, the first time it has broadcast anything sports related in five years.

"The initials NST in KNST stand for news, sports, talk," said program director Josh Leng. "For decades, KNST was the UA sports affiliate. It isn't so much living up to the initials as it is living up to the best programming that people are interested in. On Sundays and Monday nights, it's what people in America do. They watch football."

KNST soured on sports after it lost the UA contract to KCUB 1290 AM. In truth, it wasn't much of a sports station before that, instead opting to complement the UA radio broadcasts and coaches shows with a politically driven talk lineup that featured the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. That combination continues to do well for the Clear Channel outfit. Still, in terms of sports programming, Leng appreciates the value of including an NFL deal.

"Westwood One really wanted to work with us. I had an existing contact," said Leng. "I'm familiar and experienced with the value of having the games on the air. We're carrying the Sunday night and Monday night games. We may add the Thursday night game, which starts in November. Also some playoff games and Super Bowl."

Leng would also like to pursue more local flavor as a tie-in.

"What would really be good for KNST is to have a live pregame (Sunday afternoon prior to the Sunday night broadcast) where listeners can talk about the day's events," Leng said.

Leng was also kind enough to point out a financial screw-up on my part in last week's Media Watch. I mistakenly quoted Clear Channel Outdoor in reference to tumbling media stocks. Clear Channel Communications shareholders recently received $36 per share on a private equity buyout, so there's no publicly traded stock price to report.

KIIM edges MIX in summer '08 ratings race

Country music leader KIIM 99.5 FM won its third consecutive ratings book, this time garnering a 10.2 share among listeners 12-plus, .2 better than KMXZ 94.9 FM. The Citadel-owned station dipped just .4 share in recording its second straight book with a double-digit number.

The 10 share was a big jump for KMXZ, owned by Journal. It had struggled, by MIX standards, in the last two books. Clear Channel-owned KRQQ 93.7 FM was third with a 7.7 share, down from its 8.9 the previous book.

KCMT 102.1 FM, the Lotus-owned Regional Mexican format, placed fourth with a 5.2 share, off .7 from its previous book and the fifth straight ratings slip. Clear Channel-owned rhythmic format station KOHT 98.3 FM finished with a 5.0 share, up better than a point.

Rounding out the top 10, KNST 790 AM placed sixth with a 4.7 rating, Lotus-owned classic rocker KLPX 96.1 FM was seventh with a 4.0, Citadel-owned classic hits station KHYT 107.5 FM was eighth with a 3.9, Lotus-owned alternative format KFMA 92.1 and 101.3 FM was ninth with a 3.8 and Clear Channel's AAA format KWMT 92.9 FM was 10th at 3.2.

The good books: KMXZ bumped its numbers from 8.5 to 10.0 to overtake KRQQ for second in the market. KOHT jumped 1.3 shares, from 3.7 to 5.0. KHYT gained .6 to return to 3.9 in market share, the number it enjoyed two books ago. Journal-owned FM talker KQTH 104.1 FM improved a point, up to 2.5, its best numbers by far with the FM talk format. KZLZ 105.3 FM doubled its Regional Mexican format audience from .8 to 1.6. Regional Mexican KEVT 1210 AM improved to 1.3 from .8.

The bad books: KRQ dipped from 8.9 to 7.7, its worst ratings number since last summer's 6.0. KCMT lost another .7, down to 5.2 and a dip of more than a point since last year's summer book. Slone-owned adult standards KCEE 1030 AM dipped to 1.8, down from its format peak of 2.6 in the last book. KSAZ 580 AM, which recently changed its format from adult standards to classic country, tied for the bottom spot in the market with a .5.

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