Monday, September 25, 2006

KZLA's Format Change Gets Ink In D.C.

Why does every story like this, it seems, HAVE to have a cowboy boot graphic?

Color, it seems, is what drove KZLA, the country station with the nation's second-highest billings, to drop the format. Country attracts an almost all-white audience, and in some big cities, including Los Angeles and New York, whites are in the minority. Increasingly, radio companies believe they can fine-tune other music formats to create the largest possible audience of black, Latino and white listeners.

Whites are barely more than 40 percent of the population in the Los Angeles area, and country listeners are about 98 percent white, Rick Cummings, president of radio at
Emmis Communications (which owns KZLA), told the Los Angeles Times. "My job is to attract as large an audience as possible," he said. "KZLA is now playing music that appeals to Hispanic adult women, and that will hopefully attract other suburban women of different ethnicities."

WMZQ, (Washington)'s audience is about 95 percent white, (PD George) King says, just as the Washington area's top-rated stations -- which tend to be hip-hop and black hits stations -- attract overwhelmingly black audiences. But one crucial difference in listening habits might portend a difficult future for country on the radio: Blacks and Latinos tend to listen to radio for much longer each day than do whites.

-- Marc Fisher, Washington Post Staff Writer

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