Feder on Yuletunes on WLIT

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Posted by YULETUNES on January 27, 2011 at 12:45:17:

Listeners get lost: Why radio’s ‘Holiday Lite’ has little afterglow

January 27th, 2011 @ 12:00 am

Ordinarily, if a radio station lost half its audience — nearly two million listeners — virtually overnight, that would be cause for alarm.

So what’s all the celebrating about at Clear Channel Radio?

Wednesday’s news reports and blog posts on the just-released Arbitron survey covering the four weeks from Dec. 9 to Jan. 5 touted the sensational performance of the “Holiday Lite” Christmas music format on adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9). “Chicagoans really loved holiday music format,” read one headline. “That Holiday Punch Is Pretty Powerful,” read another.

True enough, Lite FM nearly quadrupled its overall audience share in just two months — skyrocketing from 10th place with a 3.6 percent share in November to first place with a 12.1 in the so-called holiday book. Credited with “the steepest trajectory of any big-market Christmas station, percentage-wise,” Chicago’s Clear Channel outlet exceeded its own performance last year when it jumped from a 3.2 to a 10.2.

But look a little closer at the numbers and you’ll find the harsh reality: The moment Lite FM turns off the “Holiday Lite” and resumes its regular adult-contemporary format, those Christmas visitors vanish. In the final week of the Portable People Meter survey, the station dropped a full 10 share points — plummeting from a 14.7 to a 4.7. In terms of cumulative weekly audience, that represented a net loss of 1,992,400 listeners.

As crazy as people may be to hear “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” over and over and over in November and December, they’re gone as soon as “Viva La Vida” and “Just the Way You Are” return to the regular rotation.

“It’s like one of those spectacular Winter Olympics ski jump events that quickly leads to a landing way down in the valley — and roughly back where Lite had started,” Radio-Info.com executive news editor Tom Taylor observed after last year’s fall back to earth. “The halo sometimes doesn’t last very long at all.”

So if advertisers and media buyers realize that the “Holiday Lite” is just a stunt to hype the ratings, how does it help the station’s bottom line the other 10 months of the year? To Clear Channel bosses, it’s all a matter of degree.

“We naturally expect to see some erosion post-holiday,” said Tony Coles, program director of Lite FM and vice president of programming and operations at Clear Channel Chicago. “However, the station remains Top 3 with both women 25-54 and adults 25-54.” Even with the steep drop-off, he noted, Lite FM’s performance in the fourth week of the holiday book was 18 percent higher than the same week in 2008 — and 24 percent higher than this time last year.

“This is the best post-Christmas performance we have seen in PPM,” Coles added.

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