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That said, The Bone is not exactly a carbon copy of Dallas rock radio of decades past, nor is it strictly a classic-rock station. Mixed in with the Jimi Hendrix and Journey are select cuts by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden and U2. (Giving The Bone a chance to play Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Boston's "More Than a Feeling" back to back and prove they're essentially the same song.) Then again, it all depends on what your definition of "classic" is: "You can't argue that a Nirvana song or a U2 song, even an early Pearl Jam song, isn't a classic," Jeff K says.
"If you're 25 years old, you have grown up with not only the Led Zeppelins and Van Halens and the AC/DCs, the ZZ Tops," Strong says. "If you're 25--and not just 25; I'm just picking an age--you've grown up, most of your life, with Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam and Nirvana...If you're 25, that is as much a part of your history as the other bands. So we see that as fitting, and I know there are some classic-rock stations that say, 'Oh, there's no way that we can play that.' But, again, from the research, people love 'em both. It's easy for people to love Stone Temple Pilots and Zeppelin at the same time."
And they do. The Bone's victory lap continued, somewhat, in the latest Arbitron book, released July 25: The station slipped to No. 13 overall, but for the most part, it maintained its market share (2.8 vs. April's 3.1). It ranks No. 2 in men 25 to 54 (just behind the surging Hispanic station KLNO-FM 94.1) and first in that demographic on weekends. KZPS, rated No. 6 overall in 12-plus a year ago, is still struggling, again tied for No. 16 as even more of its share in the market erodes.
"They did an incredible job finding out what was needed, and they filled the hole by going after that," says Adam Jacobson, radio editor for Radio & Records. "They're a little bit louder, more edgy than KZPS. And the advantage over The Eagle is that, you know, they may share a lot of music, but The Eagle is going to be playing Disturbed or Korn or P.O.D., and that's going to piss off the older people. This was a very unique-to-Dallas situation, where they saw an opportunity and they went after it. It is in no way a cookie-cutter format. This is a very, very well-programmed, well-researched animal that we're dealing with in the Dallas area...You have a lot of market-specific situations here, which kind of gave Clear Channel what they really deserved, as far as the rock market in Dallas is concerned."
"I was just appalled that KZPS could walk around with a 3.5 share and do shit for it," says John Rody, former host of The Zoo's morning-drive show who now runs a Web site, www.itsthezoo.com, that's an online answer to his old station. "KZPS has been effective in developing a lot of negative charisma. It's sort of like getting laid in a women's prison with a handful of pardons. Given the climate of that particular rock, other than The Eagle, classic-rock listeners had really been neglected."
For example: Last summer, KZPS fired Roberts and White, even though their morning show was performing well in the ratings, in favor of bringing in the syndicated The Bob & Tom Show. Not only has The Bob & Tom Show yet to match Roberts and White's numbers, the decision to let the duo go angered many of the station's listeners. Roberts (whose show beat Bob & Tom 3 to 1.8 in the recent Arbitron survey) is a Dallas radio institution, a Corsicana boy who's been in the market off and on since 1982. Allowing Roberts to join the staff at The Bone gave KZPS' rivals a solid foothold.
At The Eagle, Clear Channel's more-for-less strategy backfired as well. Until the station hired Max Dugan to take over programming duties a few weeks ago--a sign, perhaps, that they are taking The Bone's challenge more seriously--Duane Doherty was the program director for both The Eagle and The Edge. It worked fine when Clear Channel was alone in the market (both stations were in the top 10 a year ago), not as well with a hungry competitor around.
"I think they underestimated The Bone," Strong says. "They had been around for so long without competition that I really believe they forgot what competition was like. Maybe they had gotten a little lazy. It's like an athlete: If you don't have a lot of competition, sometimes maybe you'll take off working out on Thursday. And then you'll take off Wednesday and Thursday. Then you take off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I think competition really helps, because it really keeps you focused."