FARGO - Fargo-Moorhead radio listeners are tuning into more rock than talk, according to the most recent ratings released earlier this month.
After years of challenging KFGO 790 AM for the top spot, classic rock station The FOX 107.9 FM bested the news and information station this spring, according to Nielsen, becoming the most listened to frequency on local radio dials.
The FOX's 9.7 share, up from 7.1 at the same point in 2017, was the biggest move in the newest ratings period. The jump bumped KFGO from the top spot for the first time in more than a decade. The news and information station scored an 8.9 share, good for the second spot and still up from the 8.4 it earned a year ago.
A share is the percentage of listeners 12 and older tuned to a station from 6 a.m. to midnight. Nielsen posts topline numbers available to the public, but doesn't make public demographic breakdowns and forbids sharing those numbers.
Not all stations buy into the Nielsen evaluation, and those stations are omitted from the company's topline ratings, including WDAY AM, owned by Forum Communications Co., which also owns The Forum.
"The Fox is a great radio station. Those guys work very hard and it's a great product. There's a reason it's been on the air as long as it has," says John Austin, operations manager at Radio FM Media, which owns and operates The FOX. "It's nice to see that name at the top of the scoreboard."
Dan Cash, market manager for KFGO's owner Midwest Radio, says he looks more at demographics than topline numbers, and he says he liked what he saw in the newest figures.
"Everywhere it counted, which is where we start to break it down by demographics, KFGO improved dramatically," he says.
"I was a little surprised talk radio was down, given the political climate in this country now and how as divided as we are people just want to give their opinion, but maybe people are just tiring of it. Maybe that's step one of a decline we see," Austin says about the local shift. "We've seen talk radio coming down in this market and other markets overall for the last two years, but I'm a little surprised at that."
"Absolutely not," counters Cash, dismissing Austin's comments. "Our time spent listening is up nicely and that's one of the things we look at most, making sure we have people there listening for a good amount of time."
Austin isn't ready to say area listeners want to rock more than talk.
"Well, I think people are getting sick of what's being talked about," he says. "Music radio gives you an escape from that."
Pop music station Y-94 came in third with a 6.9 share, followed by contemporary country stations Bob 95 FM (6.5) and Froggy 99.9 FM (6.1).
The numbers below show the Fargo-Moorhead market share (percentage of listeners) of those 12 and older tuned to a particular station that subscribes to Nielsen from 6 a.m. to midnight.