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.