Is a format change in the air at WTPI-FM (107.9)? Scott Sands, operations manager for the lite-rock station and its two Entercom-owned sister stations, says management hasn't been happy with TPI's ratings over the past few months, "and we're looking at every possible format option. But that includes staying in the adult-contemporary music format, too." WTPI's ratings have declined steadily over the last year, from a 4.1 percent share of the audience in the summer of 2004 to 3.9 percent in the fall to 3.5 percent in the winter to 2.7 percent this spring.
One possible format could be oldies, which Susquehanna-owned WGLD-FM (104.5) abandoned earlier this year when it flipped to the eclectic mix known as "Jack" and became WJJK. WGLD was the No. 5 station in Indianapolis when it switched formats, but it also attracted an older audience that advertisers typically disdain.
Sands says oldies is an option they've considered for WTPI.
"There is definitely a considerable audience in this market available immediately to an oldies station," Sands says. "However, we're not sure the demographic it attracts can generate enough advertising revenue in the long run. Susquehanna is a smart broadcasting company, so I'm sure they had research to justify dropping the format on WGLD."
Whatever happens, WTPI did make one change this week: It brought in veteran Indianapolis DJ Julie Patterson for the 2-6 p.m. shift. Patterson says the move is temporary - she's a fill-in for three weeks - but it could become permanent.
"If this works out, I'll give it a shot," she says. "In a way, I feel like the prodigal daughter returning."
Patterson worked in the same building for about a dozen years, at sister station WZPL-FM (99.5). Then Emmis-owned WENS-FM (97.1) lured her and co-host Steve King to host their morning show. But the move backfired - Patterson and King never got the ratings. They were let go two years ago. WENS never recovered, either. It changed morning shows twice, then abandoned its pop-hits format in favor of country music. (The station is now "Hank," WLHK.)
But Patterson left ZPL on good terms, which certainly made it easier to bring her back.
"We're thrilled to have Julie back with our stations, even if it is for a short period," Sands says. "But we're hoping this is just the start to another long run on the air for her. She's very talented and a lot of fun on the air, and we think WTPI's adult female audience will absolutely love her in the afternoon."
In the meantime, no matter what happens in the long run at WTPI, Patterson says she'll continue reporting traffic on the WISH (Channel 8) Daybreak morning news show and doing an arts-related feature called The Hot Spot for Channel 8's Friday 5:30 p.m. newscast.
"I love the cast and crew on Daybreak," she says. "It's a real professional, classy organization. I'm thrilled to be a part of it."