This weekend, when Jimmy Baron celebrated his 50th birthday with family and friends, he had a couple of reasons to revel, reasons like freedom and new beginnings. Of course, that was not what he had in mind until Thursday, when Dave-FM General Manager Rick Caffey and Program Director Scott Jameson gave him their best wishes and a pink slip.
By releasing Jimmy, PD Jameson messed up Dave-FM's own plans for this past weekend. It was to be a special weekend in honor of Jimmy's 50th birthday. Instead, the station had to resort to honoring Neil Young's 66th birthday.
So with Jimmy and Yvonne out as the morning show, what's next for Dave-FM? And were Jimmy and Yvonne the main cause of Dave-FM's ratings woes? My guess is to a very limited extent. The show's ratings did lag the rest of the station. I am not privy to whether the station conducted any attitudinal research about the show. My own judgment is Dave-FM has had structural problems above and beyond mornings.
The Adult Album Alternative format attracts the most discerning music fans in commercial radio. If the music is right, they will find the station, morning show or not. Keep in mind also that while Jimmy and Yvonne did personality radio, the show was still "Music Mornings with Jimmy & Yvonne."
It's interesting that the week before last, John Riemenschneider was fired as Dave-FM's General Sales Manager. John once held that position at 99X and had moved to The Beat as Local Sales Manager after the Cumulus acquisition. I am sure selling Dave-FM to ad agencies is not the easiest thing these days, although the station's small audience has some of the best qualitative demos in the market. So Jimmy and Yvonne join Riemenschneider in being let go for situations that probably were somewhat out of their control.
In recent weeks, Dave-FM has been adding some older music and decreasing its emphasis on the 90's. Like on Kicks 101-5, I find the classic product bringing depth to the station and making it a better listen. It's ironic that KFOG in San Francisco, a legendary AAA station whose audience was in decline, is doing the exact opposite to win new listeners.
Dave-FM has added a new positioner, "Atlanta's Finest Rock." It's not exactly original, and many say a positioner is irrelevant. I tend to disagree. I believe a station needs to tell its audience what it is, and Dave-FM had not been doing that. I lived in New York when NBC's WYNY was an excellent AC station but had no overall positioner. Another station entered the format and changed its calls to WNSR, standing for New York's Soft Rock. WNSR drilled the position into the minds of listeners and despite not being as good as WYNY in my opinion, knocked the NBC station out of the format.
Steve Craig has stepped in as interim morning host in what undoubtedly will be a music-intensive show. Craig, like Jimmy Baron, is a well-liked Atlanta figure. He is remembered for his midday show on 99X in its halcyon years and most notably for the noontime House of Retro Pleasure. He brings a ton of music credibility to Dave-FM. However, Steve is not exactly loaded with broadcast talent, and his delivery is a little different.
If music-intensive mornings are the way Dave-FM wants to go--and its gotten its best ratings with that approach--Steve's interim status could turn into something more permanent. AAA listeners tend to be devoted to music, making the personality versus music-intensive question a difficult one to grapple with.
Will the next few months bring an increase in ratings to Dave-FM because of trial from the changes? That's hard to say because the station is not promoting any kind of change to current or potential listeners. And if the modifications do induce trial, will the numbers increase and then fall off a cliff as in recent history? Scott Jameson can relax and enjoy Christmas with his family knowing the jury is out. We will know more in several months.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/