By Haddon Libby

Which radio station is the most popular in the Coachella Valley?

Nielsen Audio is currently in the middle of its fall survey of the Palm Springs radio market. Each spring and fall, they contact about 100 people a week over twelve weeks and have those people fill in paper booklets documenting whatever they listen to on the radio for seven days. This information is then compiled to determine which radio stations have the best ratings. The radio stations and advertisers use this information to determine advertising rates.

The Coachella Valley is the 138th largest television/radio market in the United States with 362,900 people who are over 12 years of age. Approximately 192,000 or 53% are Hispanic while 8,000 or 2% are African-American. As it relates to the calculation of ratings, this means that two African Americans each week represent the listening preferences of 8,000 people. If one of those two people do not fill in their paper booklets, Nielsen simply double counts the one book that they receive – hardly accurate.


Nielsen earns over $400 million in revenues each year from this antiquated and inaccurate survey method. Needless to say, many believe that Nielsen needs to invest in better data collection methods as it is widely known that paper record keeping is unreliable. People often write down what they remember listening to or what they like rather than what they actually listened to. Additionally, the survey does not consider how many people are listening to things like CDs, satellite radio, MP3s or online content like Spotify, Pandora and podcasts. The harsh truth is that fewer and fewer people are listening to over-the-air radio.

Despite the limitations of the Nielsen survey method, would you like to know which stations were the most popular? Before I tell you this, you should know that KROCK 97.7FM, Sports Radio 1010AM, Money Radio 1200AM, KESQ 1400AM, religious stations and non-profit stations like KCRW 89.3FM and KPCC 90.3FM are excluded from the rankings because none of these stations pay for inclusion in the Nielsen survey.

Of the paying members to the Nielsen survey, La Poderosa 96.7FM is the top rated station in the Coachella Valley despite listenership declining by 25% between the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 ratings book. When looking at the ratings, it appears that these listeners did not switch to other stations – they simply disappeared – not a good sign for a survey. The Fall 2014 book will be important to this station as they try to determine whether the drop in listenership is real or an anomaly. For comparison, stations like KDES 98.5FM and EZ 103FM show multi-year listenership erosion as each is down 50% and 30%, respectively, from two years ago.

Radio Jose 94.7FM was #2 by playing Spanish-language adult hits, an 11% drop from the spring. Given that there are only three Spanish-language FM stations, each garners far greater ratings than their English-language counterparts given that Hispanics make up 53% of the population.

The top rated English language station was U 92.7FM despite a 9% drop in their ratings. The #2 English language station was BIG 106FM followed closely by Mix 100.5FM. Despite being unrated, KROCK 97.7FM is most likely at or near the top of all English language stations.

Additionally, KWXY has rejoined the FM ranks at 107 on the dial and posted 60% growth from last fall.

K-JAZZ 102.3FM was the lowest rated FM station in the market having lost nearly 60% of its audience. Only Progressive Talk 1450AM and Fox Sports 1270AM posted lower ratings (as in no listeners). In general, news and sports talk radio in the market received very low ratings yet KFI out of Los Angeles held its own against many of the local AM only stations.