December 14, 2012

Local and Loving It
By Ruth Presslaff

Ruth Presslaff

What do you do when Spotify, Pandora and the like can give your listeners the music they want, exactly when they want it, essentially commercial free? After sobering up and drying your eyes, you can take a good look at what makes your station unique from the web services that are stealing the spotlight.  We did just that — sober and dry eyed — at this year’s FMQB Triple A Conference in a session called More Than an Algorithm; Local Radio & Loving It. It started as an opportunity to dig into the differences between a Pandora or Spotify (their differences to each other notwithstanding) and broadcast radio. It turned into a celebration of living, working and serving a local community.
          I had the privilege of moderating the panel of radio and record experts, including Chris Mays, PD of KINK/Portland, Brad Holtz, PD of WTTS/Indianapolis, Mark Abuzzahab, PD of non-comm KXT/Austin, Mark Keefe, PD of non-comm WYMS/Milwaukee and Ayappa Biddanda, Sr. Director, National Promotion at Vanguard Records. We reviewed the important points of differentiation between Pandora/Spotify-type services and broadcast radio and how they’ve been successfully weaved into programming, and yes, sales. So read on, steal some successful ideas and revel in your unique ability to be live and local.

Local Music Love
First stop on the ‘local’ is local music, like KINK’s Homegrown Music Spotlight. As Chris Mays explains, “Each weeknight at 8:30, KINK features a song and brief interview from a local Portland artist. We collect their music all year long and compile the best of it into a CD, released in the summer. We hand the CDs out at station events and work with a local retailer to sell them at the checkout counters for $3.00. Funds raised go to the Oregon Food Bank.”
          That one on-air feature spawned a sales promotion, supports a local charity and supports multiple local artists. It garners sponsorship from a local client and creates relationships with local bands, and by extension, the bands’ fans. As Chris says, “It’s strong imaging with the local music community and exposure for KINK and the artists at events and client locations.”
          WTTS takes the local music discovery concept and curates and distributes music through their recently launched Free Download Of The Week. PD Brad Holtz explains, It’s a free song download each week from a local, independent or emerging artist. Or even a well-known heritage act. Offering these consistent free downloads further cements our bond with listeners as the local station that provides musical discovery.”
          The Free Download is promoted on-air and in email newsletters, while providing distinct online content, a tangible benefit to web visitors and a boost to the station’s own reputation as music leaders.
Spending time with listeners is something radio does exceedingly well and the web services can’t touch. KXT’s Mark Abuzzahab took ‘local’ on the road, and expanded the sensory offerings from music to food to film. As Mark explained, “For our first festival, we wanted something that reflected the station, and for us that meant local.   It was important to go beyond having local acts on the bill.  To make the show more of an experience, we added food trucks and a vendor village, giving local artists a chance to display their talents and sell their arts & crafts.”The station encompassed local music, local food and the local arts community, and capped it with a video as recorded by their sister TV station.  All these touch points are critical to the Dallas community KXT serves, and nearly impossible to replicate by the plethora of cloud based services.

Local Personality
Looking for more local flavor? Explore your market’s own weirdness. A quality not lacking – and well highlighted — by KINK/Portland.  Chris shared some of KINK’s uniqueness by its fortunate setting in a famously weird city. “Our imaging is largely based on Portland-centric events and news stories,” said Mays. “One promo says ‘the only city where a Prius gets rear-ended by a bicycle’ which is based on a news story; the Mayor of Portland was driving the Prius. Another is ‘conveniently located between two active volcanoes.’ That would be Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. We incorporate listeners telling us what they love about Portland and KINK in our liners as well.”
          Mark Keefe and Radio Milwaukee took local to the point of it being their actual format; literally the idea of a city as a radio format, complete with song-length vignettes focusing on one of eight community topics.  Listeners are literally a part of the station, and the station is completely and uniquely Milwaukee.
          Where does all this localness get you?  On the express lane to relevancy, loyalty and lasting relationships with the local listeners who carry meters, fill out diaries and spend their loot at local retailers. Building on this community by directing these listeners to register in your database gives you the platform to promote each of these ideas, from distributing downloads to sending invitations for the local festivals and engaging listeners to share in the local bragging rights your market alone owns.
Ayappa summed it up well, “Whichever idea you sink your teeth into, build an economic model that dovetails with that; show your local businesses your level of local engagement, monetize worldwide streaming spots, showcase the deep involvement your listeners have with your station. It’s a fascinating time right now that forces all of us to do more than just business as usual. The good news is the options exist to do precisely that.”
          The better news is that thanks to the Triple A Conference and the participation of Chris, Brad, Mark, Mark and Ayappa, those options are outlined and ready to roll for your market.

Ruth Presslaff is Founder and President of Presslaff Interactive Revenue a company dedicated to the technology and marketing practices that grow engaged and lucrative audience databases. PIR’s Dat-e-BaseSMplatform is used by close to 1000 local media properties in the US and Canada to collect information, send deeply targeted opted-in emails, conduct contests and surveys.  PIR is passionate about the value of listener relationships…not to mention the annual Triple A Conference in Boulder, CO.


Nicki Farag,
SVP of Promotion,
Def Jam Recordings

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