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"It's a format in trouble," said one former 91X employee about the alternative format used by 91X and 94/9. "Six years ago there were 125 modern rock stations in the country. Now there are 70."

Last month the alternative stations in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. dropped their format. Rolling Stone recently ran an article entitled "Rock Radio No Longer Rolling: Stations Dump Rock Format As Audience Declines." On Monday, Howard Stern's New York flagship station WXRK dropped alternative for a harder-rock mix (Zeppelin, AC/DC).

Three years ago 91X billed $12 million in annual ad revenue. Last year 91X took in half that amount. This year the two alternative stations are estimated to take in $13 million combined. That is about what Star 100.7 or KYXY will each take in separately. The figures are according to Miller-Kaplan, a radio industry guide that lists station revenue.

91X and FM-94/9 are 17th and 21st, respectively, according to Arbitron. So how can San Diego support two alternative stations that each have a staff of full-time DJs?

"There is enough audience and revenue to support two stations in San Diego," said Darrel Goodin, general manager of 94/9. "So much of the music over the years originated in this city. West Coast cities like San Diego, L.A., Seattle are the heartland of alternative. It's kind of like doing country in Nashville."

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