‘The Ride' roars in radio ratings

Charlotte's oddball radio station, called “The Ride,” drove straight to success in the spring ratings released this week.

WXRC FM is an independent station in a sea of corporate-owned stations, one with a distinct progressive-rock personality reminiscent of FM radio in the 1970s and few commercial breaks.

In the latest Arbitron rankings, it shot to No. 12 from No. 16 last spring.

“I haven't done anything different” station owner Dave Lingafelt said Thursday. “I just keep programming the station for the listeners.”

Lingafelt said his rise in the ratings – he was No. 2 behind WRFX FM among men age 25 to 54 and tied for No. 1 with WBT AM and WBAV FM among men age 35 to 64 – could just be a statistical quirk in the Arbitron rankings. Or it could reflect what he has thought all along: More people listen to “The Ride” than Arbitron's diary method may indicate.

Or, he said, maybe there's just an upswing in the deep-cuts appeal of his music. “It may be getting cooler and we just cooler with it.”

Lingafelt has gotten rich offers over the years to sell his station, but he turns them all down. He loves doing radio and he says he loves not having the pressure of a corporate parent telling him how to program his station. “There's no way we could do it this way if we were in a corporate cluster,” he said.

With his station already paid for, Lingafelt also is positioned to better resist the downturn in advertising squeezing the radio industry and other media. National advertising buys in radio are down an estimated 12 percent in Charlotte, the 25th largest broadcasting market in the nation.

This week, CBS Radio, which owns six stations in its Charlotte cluster, said it intended to sell off 50 of its stations nationwide, probably in mid-sized markets. It did not identify the stations it intends to put on the market. Because of a strong local economy and growth, its Charlotte stations have generally outperformed others of their size in other regions.

In other news from the latest Arbitron rankings:

Top morning-drive shows, in order, are Steve Harvey on WBAV, Ace & T.J. on WNKS, Rob Tanner on WSOC, John Boy & Billy on WRFX and Paul Schadt on WKKT.

Top stations in the advertiser-friendly demographic of listeners 25 to 54, in order, are WBAV, WRFX, WKKT, WSOC and WXRC.

Top morning shows in the 25-54 demographic, in order, are Steve Harvey on WBAV, John Boy & Billy on WRFX, Ace & T.J. on WNKS, Paul Schadt on WKKT and Bob & Sheri on WLNK.

Top afternoon drive shows in the 25-54 demographic, in order, are Michael Baisden on WBAV, Mr. Bill on WRFX, music on WXRC ties for No. 3 with Matt & Ramona on WLNK, and T. Edward Bensen on WKQC.