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Despite tumult, WYPR ratings up

The Baltimore Sun

Months of tumult at public radio station WYPR, beginning with the Feb. 1 firing of veteran talk-show host Marc Steiner, have not led to a decline in its audience. In fact, the number of people listening to the station in the first three months of year has increased over the same period last year, from 153,600 to 166,800, ratings from Columbia-based Arbitron Inc. show.

But they also show the station has lost a significant portion of its younger listeners.

In the noon-2 p.m. time slot, where Sun columnist Dan Rodricks took over for Steiner beginning Feb. 25, the weekly average of listeners ages 25 to 54 declined 44 percent, from 25,300 to 14,100. But among people 55 and older, the time slot's audience grew considerably. The weekly average of those listeners increased 67 percent, from 16,100 to 26,900, almost making up for the loss in the 25-54 age group.

WYPR President and General Manager Anthony Brandon said it was too early to read anything into the ratings. Rodricks, he said, had been on the air just over a month when the numbers were compiled.

"Our success will not be built on short-term ratings," Brandon said. "As far as I'm concerned, Dan is a success. He's doing just what we wanted him to do."

Rodricks said he didn't want to overanalyze the numbers, noting that the ratings covered three distinct periods at WYPR. For the first month, Steiner's show aired from noon-2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. After Steiner was fired, the station aired national NPR programs for three weeks, until Rodricks went on the air with Midday.

"I'd be reluctant to speculate on what it all means," Rodricks said. "It looks like WYPR basically survived this change."

For his part, Steiner said his old station and his old time slot "are so far removed from what I'm thinking about," especially now that he's preparing to take his interview skills to another of Baltimore's public radio stations, WEAA-FM (88.9).

Among Baltimore radio stations for the first quarter of 2008, WYPR ranked 10th, with a 2.9 share. Share measures the percentage of the radio audience tuned to a specific station during an average quarter-hour.

Urban contemporary station WERQ-FM (92.3) remained firmly atop Baltimore's radio ratings for the first three months of 2008, with a 9.4 share, followed by country music station WPOC-FM (93.1), at 8.1; urban adult contemporary station WWIN-FM (95.9), at 7.1; adult contemporary station WLIF-FM (101.9), at 6.0; and news talk station WBAL-AM (1090), at 4.3.

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