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Staying on top in radio

CKNW 980 captures top market share in Vancouver—again! Radio audience statistics released in early March show that 14 percent of…

By Rod MacNeill , in Talk Radio , on March 23, 2010 Tags: , , ,

CKNW 980 captures top market share in Vancouver—again!

Radio audience statistics released in early March show that 14 percent of Vancouver listeners tune-in to news/talk radio . Soft-rock station , its closest competitor, came in at 9.7 percent. Data is gathered by the (BBM), an industry owned organization that collects data on audience listening habits.

First broadcasting in , CKNW has become an institution in Vancouver. I recently spoke with Ian Koenigsfest, News Director at CKNW, and asked him what it takes to stay on top.

Koenigsfest differentiates CKNW, a private station, from public radio. The main difference, he believes, is that public radio has a mandate to tell people what to think about, while CKNW mirrors back to the community what listeners believe is important. “It’s a classic electronic town hall meeting. There’s an issue and you can call up, or you can email, or you can blog, or you can tweet, and you can be interactive with an issue that has a direct impact.”

He says CKNW focuses on what’s happening at the moment, trying to be up-to-the-minute with breaking news. Preparing today for what radio hosts will discuss tomorrow puts listeners 12 hours behind what’s happening now


When asked if building on an aging of males, aged 25 to 54, ensures success in the future, Koenigsfest said the age of the cohort is static. As listeners enter that age group, they migrate to what CKNW has to offer. What’s more, CKNW is beginning to show up as number one for a younger cohort of 18 to 34 year old males, which is unusual for talk radio.

CKNW’s sustained popularity may be because of unique programming, such as Sports Talk with . The program airs in the 9 p.m. to midnight slot and draws large listener numbers, typically seen only for music stations. With 25 years of history, Sports Talk is itself a Vancouver institution.

Challenges for private radio include staying profitable in tough economic times and enduring regulatory restrictions. Each broadcaster is restricted by the CRTC () to two AM and two FM stations in a single market which, in my opinion, curbs innovative new programming. Technical difficulties inherent in AM broadcasting, such as signal interference from tall buildings and trolley wires, could be cured by allowing AM stations to move to FM.

Regardless of how technology evolves for radio, according to Koenigsfest,  the bottom line is providing a clear broadcast that can be received in your car or home with existing receivers.