by Carlo Longino

Shocker: Radio Station That Gives Listeners What They Want Grows Its Audience

from the are-you-listening dept

The WSJ has an interesting story looking at the success a Los Angeles-based public radio station, KCRW, has had by embracing the internet and new media. It reads like the antithesis of super-sized commercial radio companies who, like their record-industry cousins, have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. KCRW offers a large number of its shows as podcasts, the most popular of which attracts more than 1 million downloads per month. This has helped drive listeners to its online streams and -- would you look at that -- the number of listeners has shot up. So much, in fact, that it gets more online visitors than it does terrestrial listeners. Some are quick to say that public stations like KCRW can do things like this more easily than commercial stations, because they're under less pressure to turn a profit. "They have less to lose," as one analyst puts it, sounding a lot more like a big-radio exec, since it's really a matter of radio stations -- commercial or public -- having a lot to gain from the internet. While it's true that the likes of KCRW don't have the profitability demands of commercial stations, they still have costs to cover and a business model to support. KCRW relies on listener donations for about half its budget, and estimates that just about 6 percent of those come from online listeners. But it understands that a far better way to generate revenues from online listeners is from underwriting, or advertising, as it's called in the commercial world. And as its online audience grows not only in size, but in geographic scope, as well, it's turning its attention to securing national underwriters, rather than just local ones. The station's not resisting the internet, it's embracing it and realizing that growing its audience, even if listeners are outside its local market, is a good thing. And that seems like a lesson that could very easily translate to the realm of commercial radio.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    DittoBox, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 9:59am

    That's the "free market"

    Learn to compete or die. Don't lobby $LEGISLATURE to help you when you aren't smart enough to innovate.

    If you won't innovate, I won't use your product. Simple as that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Charlie, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 10:31am

    Better yet...

    For the best example I know of illustrating keeping people happy and embracing the new options technology presents Radio, check out www.kexp.org.

    Free podcasts, streaming archives of live shows, free music downloads daily and streaming with high quality in multiple formats. Plus the radio station is just awesome as far as content and knowledgability of its DJs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 10:36am

    Re: Better yet...

    I take it, you've never heard of KCRW before, or bothered to learn about what it has to offer...

    Living in SoCal, near SMC is such an educational experience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 10:42am

    how does a radio station track how many "listeners" it has?

    is there a way of checking the broadcast signal for how much power is consumed? or something? i want to know that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sean, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 10:51am

    Re: How Do they Track

    Radio stations track listeners much like the television stations do, like with the Neilsons (sp?). I know in my area, Arbitron is the company that tracks listenership, and the trackers wear devices that record what and when they listen. I think this is being done in Philadelphia and the Chicago area.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Jacco, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 10:58am

    Podcasts and streams

    There are some great radioshows out there, but I want to choose when to listen. The choice gives the listener control. If you don't offer this option as a broadcaster, you may see your bottom line drop.
    Plus the internet gives you access to a much wider market than your antenna's ever could. Unless you broadcast on longwave, but who cares about that anyway these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    MIXLPLIX, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 11:29am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    John In the Morning Fanboy, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 12:43pm

    Yea, KEXP rules~!

    KEXP is also a public radio station charting these unfamilliar waters.

    I completely agree with Charlie, KEXP RULES...

    Now I have to go and check out KCRW :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    The Man, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 1:13pm

    KFI AM 640 LA

    Check out www.kfi640.com. They have been streaming for years, even after the local commercial problem put a lot of other radio stations out. They just boadcast internet only commercials now during the breaks. They also have all of thier local talent radio shows available on podcast. They can not podcast the syndicated stuff like Rush, but everything they own they podcast. It has always been free for everything. They are a commercial station with a huge market and audience with a 50,000 watt signal that covers half of California. Again they have been streaming for years and podcasting for over one year. So your story does not have any ground breaking material.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mousky, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 1:39pm

    Give us what we want!

    Radio stations do not even have to embrace the internet to succeed. They could simply play music their listeners want to hear, not what some programmer in an office thinks they should hear.

    I live in Windsor, a border city in Canada. Radio stations in border cities can receive an exemption from Canadian content regulations. This exemptions allows them to play less Canadian content. This is under the belief that the Canadian radio stations could not compete with American radio stations.

    About a year or so ago, a new rock radio station appeared on the dial. The station is based in two Canadian cities. It plays a very broad range of rock music with a focus on Canadian rock music. Guess what? The number of listeners is growing. Even Americans listen to the station (it even provides traffic news for roads in Detroit and Windsor).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Sean, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 1:58pm

    I love www.woxy.com they were known as 97x WOXY if you have seen the mover "Rain Man" you may remember Bam! The future of rock and roll. They went to Internet around 2000 and sold the actual station in 2004 then became a net only station.

    They were rated as the #1 independent radio station several years by rolling stone.

    Check it out I have been listening since the day of my birth and.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Justin, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 2:03pm

    Amazing, I've been on the CRW bandwagon since 00

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    OperaFan, Oct 31st, 2006 @ 5:55pm

    Public Radio & Music Licensing

    Public radio stations in the US have different music licensing models and fees than their commercial counterparts.

    The difference in licensing models and fees makes it less complex for public radio stations to include full-length tracks in podcasts and for streaming via the Internet. NPR and PRI affiliates actually have a Internet distribution/streaming provisos that even make the BBC weep with envy.

    Again, this most applies to "popular" music stations, classical music licensing is another beast entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Lonnie, Jan 27th, 2007 @ 10:53am

    Public Radio

    hmmm....interesting. I love NPR and public radio in general. Luckily my wife told me about CavengerNews.com, a service that pulls all of those programs together in one place. Thanks honey (wink)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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