THE RATINGS WAR: Everyone’s in first. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

The pie is the same size. There are just more slices now, bursting our FM dial at the seams with the maximum daily dose of hot, fruity, sweet musical filling and crunchy talk topping, from more radio stations than Edmonton has ever seen, well, heard before. Mmm, pie.

That there are more stations and less audience to go around is the only sure thing we can read from the quarterly BBM (Bureau of Broadcast Measurement) summary of radio ratings that came out Thursday (March 10). It is a ridiculous, smelly clump of numbers, demographics, share ratings and other arcane values that requires a graduate degree in Radio-mathics to fully understand. It is so complicated that at least three local radio stations can claim No. 1 status. For example:

–     CISN Country 103.9 is No. 1 among females aged 25-54.

–     The Bear 100.3 is No. 1 with BOTH males and females aged 25-54.

–     Sonic 102.9 is No. 1 with the 18-34 crowd, male and female.

–     630 CHED is No. 1 with every human being in Edmonton over the age of 2.

But no one pays attention of the “2-plus” numbers because “they don’t really mean anything,” according to one station manager – though they are the only numbers available to the public (click here to feel like you’re falling behind in math class). More important are the general “12-plus” numbers, given as a percentage of total listeners over the age of 12, that GigCity has secretly obtained.

Here’s how it breaks down for the major FM players (number in brackets is from the last quarter, for comparison):

1. CISN-FM, 103.9 CISN Country – 7.8 (9.2)

2. CKNO-FM, 102.3 Now! – 7.6 (8.4)

3. CKRA-FM, 96.3 Capital FM – 7.3 (8.5)

4. CFMG FM, 104.9 VIRGIN: 7.3 (5.5)

5. CFBR FM, 100.3 the Bear – 6.6 (7.3)

6. CHDI-FM, 102.9 Sonic – 6.3 (5.9)

7. CIRK-FM, 97.3 K-97 – 6.2 (6.9)

8. CIUP-FM, 99.3 Up! – 5.5 (2.7)

9. CKNG-FM, 92.5 Joe FM – 5.5 (6.5)

10. CHBN-FM, 91.7 the Bounce – 4.5 (4.2)

11. CKEA-FM, 95.7 The Sound – 0.8 (0.7)

Sorry, the 12-plus numbers don’t mean anything either.

“You want the adults 25-54,” says Bear station manager Stewart Meyers. “They have the money. We’re thrilled. In the face of much change in the Edmonton market, the Bear remains a market leader. It’s kind of like the Three Little Pigs. The Bear’s house is made out of brick.”

Did the three little bears make pie? Never mind. Meyers also runs Virgin Radio 104.9, formerly EZ Rock, which just switched over owners, so these ratings aren’t really relevant. Still, he goes on, “February for Virgin is better than January for EZ Rock, so we’re very pleased with that. Pepper and Dylan in the morning are a big part of that.”

If 25-54-year-olds are where the money is, it goes without saying that the 25-54 FEMALE demographic is where the REAL money is – which of course is where CISN claims the top spot. Says program director and morning host Chris Scheetz, “If you want to own one demographic, that would be the one.” Sonic radio is also “thrilled” to claim the third spot with the 25-54 crowd.

Actually, none of these numbers mean anything – if you’re John Yerxa. The owner-manager of the new Hot 107 doesn’t participate in the BBM at all, partly because the electronic polling method requires respondents to wear a device on their person that looks suspiciously like a Walkman – far too retro-‘80s for the cool young crowd Hot 107 is going for. So how is Hot 107 doing in its relentless quest to get listeners to “switch” from the Bounce 91.7? Unknown! The Bounce’s 12-plus numbers are up a smidge, which means what? Who knows?!

Scheetz put it nicely, “These numbers don’t affect people’s lives – just their livelihoods.”

We need a new method. One suggestion was a smart phone app that somehow transmits user’s listening habits to a central computer. Then again, who listens to the radio on their iPhones? Maybe a chip in our heads. We’ll work on it and get back to you.

Exacerbating the confusion is the fact that most of the people who had advanced degrees in Radio-Mathics – the program directors – are in Toronto this weekend partying it up at Canadian Music Week. Lucky bastards.

I managed to reach the Sound 95.7’s music director Matt Schichter to talk about the apparent dismal result that the Sound is still the lowest-rated radio station in Edmonton (though still, one would assume, No. 4 among females aged 18-24). He had this to say about ratings:

“I didn’t even know they came out. How’d we do?”