Peek behind the front runners and uncover some interesting trends in Greensboro's summer radio ratings.

Rap and country, as always, are strong. But listeners turned off classic rock and turned on local morning shows, rhythm and blues and soft rock by such artists Michael Bolton and Celine Dion.They also turned away from the Triad's new radio war driven by one of the country's hottest new radio formats. The format, modern adult contemporary, features Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan and other female artists representing pop music's new guard.

``People have more faith in personalities and formats they have come to know,' says Greg Fischer, president of Fischer Media Group, a media buyer that analyzes radio ratings. ``It's like your friendly neighbor. You rely on someone you've trusted for years.'

First up, the big picture.

Overall, among radio listeners 12 years old and older, country did well. WTQR (104.1 FM), one of the nation's highest-rated country stations, took first like they always do. Rap station WJMH (102.1 FM), known as 102 JAMZ, came in a strong second.

WJMH's local morning team of Busta Brown and Tanya James also finished strong. The duo, on air for six months, beat the syndicated competition in the 18-to-34 age group. That competition includes WKRR (92.3 FM) and its ``The John Boy & Billy Big Show,' the highest-rated syndicated morning show overall in the South.

``Anytime you can go beyond being a juke box, you're helping your radio station,' says Brian Douglas, WJMH's program director.

These rankings come from the recently released summer Arbitron results. The summer ratings gauged local listening patterns from late June to mid-September and helped local advertisers determine where to target their advertising dollars.

Advertisers usually target two groups: the 18-to 34-year-olds, the nightclubbing crowd more apt to buy the newest CD and the newest fashions; and the 25- to 54-year-olds, the group more prone to buy houses, children's clothes and fertilizer for their yards.

Advertisers don't put a lot of emphasis on the summer book because lots of regular listeners are on summer vacation, industry analysts say.

``When you play the Arbitron game, it's like playing a game of hitting dots with darts,' says Bruce Wheeler, general manager of WKRR and WKZL (107.5 FM). ``You're looking at a market of 1 million listeners that depends on results from 2,000 diaries.

``You're hoping to hit the right ones,' Wheeler says. ``More and more people are depending on multiple book averages.'

This summer, the modern adult contemporary format didn't do well. This is the same format that sparked the area's newest radio war between WKZL, better known as the Eagle, and WKSI (98.7 FM).

In March, WKSI changed its name from Kiss Kountry to The Point, trashed its country format for modern AC and chased after an audience younger than 34. The spring ratings, which ended in late June, showed The Point gained more listeners than any other local station.

By summer's end, The Point took second among younger listeners. But the station lost ground with its older listeners; its new syndicated morning show, ``Bob & Sheri,' struggled to find a local audience.

The Eagle, which dumped Celine Dion and the soft rock format in mid-July to go head-to-head with The Point, didn't fare well either. Since the switch, The Eagle has lost listeners in both age groups. So has its morning show, ``Murphy In The Morning,' a dependable ratings grabber in years past.

Despite the drop, station officials still have faith in the area's newest format.

``The music keeps on coming,' WKSI's general manager Dick Harlow says.

Rock 92, which doles out classic guitar rock from groups like Led Zeppelin, also dropped. It ranked fifth among older listeners and fourth among 18- to 34-year-olds. In the younger age group, Rock 92 lost more listeners than any other local radio station.

Two stations that fared well were WQMG (97.1 FM) and WMAG (99.5 FM).

A year ago, WQMG turned into the area's ratings magnet when the station buried its rap format and started playing such artists as Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross. The change boosted the station into first place in the two crucial age groups, but it later slipped as low as eighth among listeners 18 to 34.

During the summer, WQMG bounced back. The station dumped songs unpopular with listeners and added to its rotation contemporary gospel artists like Kirk Franklin and God's Property.

The result: sixth among 18- to 34-year-olds and second among older listeners, its core audience. WQMG gained more listeners than any other local radio station in the 25-to-54 age group.

The summer also was kind to the area's only soft-rock station, WMAG. The station attracted more older listeners - its core audience - and its longtime morning radio personality, Bill Flynn, drew a larger audience than he did last spring.

``There's been a lot of change in this market and a focus on younger (people) with music, but that's not as familiar to the 25- to 54-year-old demographic right now,' says Nick Allen, WMAG's program director.

``WMAG is the only station playing Elton John and Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton, and these are artists this demographic is familiar with,' he says. ``This is music people have been singing along with for years.'

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WHO'S LISTENING TO WHAT?

18-to-34 age group: WJMH (102.1 FM), an urban contemporary station known as 102 JAMZ, finished first. WKSI (98.7 FM), a modern adult contemporary station known as The Point, finished second. WTQR (104.1 FM), third. WKRR (92.3 FM), known as Rock 92, finished fourth. WKZL (107.5 FM), fifth.

25-to-54 age group: WTQR, one of the nation's top country stations, finished first. WQMG (97.1 FM), a station that switched to an R&B-classic soul format last year, came in second. WMAG (99.5 FM), third. WMQX (93.1 FM), fourth. WKRR, fifth.

Morning drive-time, 18-to-34 age group: WJMH, with local Dee-jays Busta Brown and Tanya James, took first. WKRR, with its ``John Boy & Billy Big Show,' came in second. WKZL and its ``Murphy in the Morning,' third. WTQR, with radio personality Paul Franklin and character Aunt Eloise, fourth. And WKSI, with ``Bob & Sheri,' fifth.

Morning drive-time, 25-to-54 age group: WTQR took first. WKRR came in second. WKZL, third. WMAG (99.5 FM), with radio personality Bill Flynn, fourth. WMQX, with longtime radio personality and well-known Top 40 jock Jack Armstrong, was fifth.

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