If doing well is the best revenge, radio personalities Pebbles and Melissa must be savoring their new station’s ascent in the ratings right now.
Pebbles (Susan Semedo) and Melissa Eannuzzo (she just goes by her first name) had both lost their jobs at Clear Channel’s WJMN, aka JAM’N 94.5. Fortunately for them, their job losses coincided with Greater Media’s decision to convert its talk radio station in Boston, WTKK, to a pop music station known as Hot 96.9 in January.
Greater Media quickly scooped both of them up. The Braintree company subsequently recruited Baltazar Ibanez, Pebbles’ former co-host at WJMN from 1994 until 2001, and reunited him with Pebbles to anchor 96.9’s morning show.
Greater Media pulled the plug on WTKK because it was floundering in the ratings, barely hanging in the Boston market’s top 20, went it finally went off the air at the end of December. The decision turned out to be a hugely successful one for Greater Media: 96.9 went from 1.7 percent of the audience share, among 25-54 year-olds, in December (17th place) to 4 percent of the market in May (9th place). The station, now with the call letters WBQT, fell only slightly in June, back to 10th place.
(I wrote about Greater Media’s leap in ratings for this week’s print edition of the Boston Business Journal.)
Meanwhile, rival music station WJMN has apparently been the one that has suffered from 96.9’s rise. The station was in fifth place in December, with 5.5 percent of Boston’s market share, according to Arbitron ratings. But by May, WJMN was down to 9th place, tied with its new competitor at 4 percent of the market.
WJMN ended June in 9th place again, barely ahead of WBQT. Clear Channel might have kept Greater Media at bay for one month. But it’s probably safe to say that the folks at Greater Media won’t be resting until they’re consistently ahead of WJMN in the ratings.
How much did landing three former WJMN personalities help in WBQT’s success? It’s hard to know for sure. But it’s safe to say that they played a crucial role. The rise of Hot 96.9 in the Boston market should serve as a potent reminder to these big radio station operators to not take their talent for granted — especially in a time when many have strong social media audiences. If you kick your well-known personalities out or chase them away, they might just head down the street to go behind the mike at a competitor — and take a potent fan base with them.