Tag Archives: Christian radio

WPLJ Changed Format

WPLJOK, that’s not exactly new news. The latest New York City PPM Ratings show that WPLJ, now airing EMF’s Christian Contemporary K-Love format, went from a 3.1 (6+ Mon-Sun, 6a-12mid) before the format change to a 1.5 rating.

WPLJ Didn’t Die, It Changed — Again

On May 31st, the last day that WPLJ aired a Hot AC format before switching to a Contemporary Christian format, you would have thought the station had turned in their FCC license from all the hand wringing going on in the commercial radio community.

WPLJ, who’s call letters stood for White Port and Lemon Juice, began its life as WJZ-FM in the 1940s, later switching to WABC-FM WPLJ-FM's_95.5_Original_Logo_From_1971in the 1950s and simulcast 770AM-WABC. In the late 1960s it became one of the early album-oriented rock radio stations in America. On February 14, 1971 it was renamed WPLJ to clearly separate it, and its programming, from its Top 40 sister, Music Radio 77 – WABC, at that point in time the most listened to radio station in the world.

In June 1983, WPLJ changed from its album-oriented rock format to a hits format. (It was May 10, 1982 that 77-WABC changed its format from Music Radio to Talk Radio.)Power 95

On Thursday, December 17, 1987, WPLJ changed its call letters to WWPR to better promote its marketing slogan “Power 95” and its new Top 40/CHR format.

A year later, the call letters were switched back to WPLJ. mojoradio

In 1991 when Scott Shannon was hired, the branding was changed to MOJO Radio and by 1992 the station had transitioned to programming a Hot AC format calling itself “95-5 PLJ.”

Things Change

wklv-weremovingThe only constant in life is change.

The history of New York’s 95.5 FM signal has been one of both call letter and programming change since it was birthed in the 1940s. EMF changing the format to its popular and successful K-Love format does not spell the end of anything. It’s a new beginning.

Audience Surge

Those final days of the Hot AC version of WPLJ saw its raw Nielsen numbers take the station’s listenership rank from 13th to 3rd in the Big Apple.

It had nothing to do with the music played, or any of the other programming elements the station used, but it had much to do with the personalities that returned to WPLJ. The people behind the microphone caused a surge in people tuning in 95.5 FM. WPLJ listeners wanted to hear their favorite radio personalities one more time.

Radio’s Secret Weapon

To me it was living proof that radio’s secret weapon for attracting listeners is its air personalities.

Similar audience increases were witnessed in Washington, DC on WRQX and in Atlanta on WYAY, as each of those radio stations’ air personalities, past and present, said goodbye before turning over the keys to EMF and their national religious format.

EMF

The Educational Media Foundation (EMF) has grown into a Christian radio behemoth. It’s a nonprofit 503(C) 3 corporation that is supported by the listeners to its radio stations that become donors. Much like Public Radio, EMF radio stations conduct twice annual fundraisers and all listener contributions are fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. EMF’s broadcast network is the largest Christian media radio network in the United States, now reaching over 47 states.

EMF states their primary purpose is “to create compelling media that inspires and encourages our listeners to have a meaningful relationship with Christ.” “The programming is designed to provide encouragement, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of the Christian heritage.”

It must be fulfilling its mission, as its listeners have continued to fund EMF’s growth year-after-year, and there’s no reason it will stop anytime soon.

Funded by Listener Support

Could your radio station fund itself by listener support? Have you invested in your programming and air personalities to create something so special that listeners want to support you for fear of losing the service you provide?

It certainly makes you stop and think about your value to the market you serve.

The WPLJ signal is one of the best FM signals in New York City and I’m sure that in its evolution to Contemporary Christian programming will allow it to enjoy a radio life for many years to come.

You might say, WPLJ has been born again

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Radio Stations Aren’t Performing Like it’s 1999

Calendar 1999Remember when spot loads were small, rates were high, profit margins were 30% to 50%+ and revenue growth was double digit. I do.

What Happened?

Change happened.

FM radio replaced AM radio.

And AM radio stations are adding FM translators in an attempt to stay relevant.

An Abundance of Listening Options

Today there are too many radio stations playing the same program features, repeating the same positioning liners and doing the same things that we used to do 30 to 35 years ago.

Pureplay streamers are relentlessly competing for our listeners’ ears.

Listening options are infinite.

The Internet Tore Down the Gate

Traditional media was born when the “gates” to being a media property were very high. For newspapers those high gates consisted of having to buy large printing presses, paper, ink, etc. For radio & TV those high gates were things like having a broadcast license, a transmitter, studios, etc.

Traditional media enjoyed being gatekeepers for news, information and entertainment because there was no place else to go.

Legacy media enjoyed attracting huge audiences, huge margins and lots of cash flow.

The Gatekeepers of the 21st Century

The new gatekeepers are called listeners, readers and viewers of media.

The new gatekeepers are accessing their media via their smartphones, tablets, computers, smartTVs and now voice activated devices such as Alexa, Google, Apple and Cortana.

Bottom Line

Long stop sets no longer need to be tolerated by listeners or advertisers. Every element that goes out over-the-air needs to be thoroughly vetted from the listener’s perspective.

And your streaming product cannot be an afterthought. It’s your future and if you expect it to grow into your new revenue source, you need to give it your full attention.

Listener Supported

Have you noticed the growth of Christian formatted radio stations? Have you noticed the growth of NPR and public radio?

These radio stations depend on listener support as well as business underwriting.

If your station stopped selling commercials and asked its listeners to donate money to support it, would they?

Our Challenge

The challenge for broadcasters is to build audio brands that our audience doesn’t just casually listen to but feels they can’t live without. To do that, your media property needs to know your listener so well, that you are creating a product that they find engaging in every way.

It’s time to play to win again versus a decade of trying not to lose.

Consumers Have a Choice

Here’s the reality of today. Consumers of media have lots of choices for how they want to spend their time. They don’t need us. It’s up to us to create a reason for them to want us, to need us.

NAB Radio Show 2009

Now here’s the ear-opening part of this article.

Most of these points were made during an NAB Radio Show presentation I attended almost a decade ago.

It’s 2018, how many of these issues are the same today?

Why is that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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The End of Mass Media

84Jack Nicholson famously said in the movie A Few Good Men “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

I think he was right.

We can’t.

We say we can. We want to believe we can. But the reality is the truth is scary.

The Future of Mass Media

The reality is the future of our business – mass media – is that it won’t be all that “mass” anymore.

The future will be a media that is built around relevance and quality of message, not volume.

And that’s scary.

Not to just us broadcasters but to the ratings service known as Nielsen. We aren’t going to need to know the volume (aka cume) or AQH (average quarter hour) numbers in the future. The real value that we will deliver will be based on how relevant we are to our listeners and what value we deliver.

The King is Dead

Remember when the catch phrase of the day was “Content is King”?  Bill Gates famously said that.

There were others that felt that distribution was king.

Turns out the “king” is dead for both of these theories and the new king is relationships. And relationships are based on mutual interests and relevancy.

Facebook

What’s the power of Facebook?  Relationships.

Oh sure it uses complex algorithms to manage our relationships, but we are not smitten with algorithms we are drawn to relationships and we friend or unfriend based on the relevance of those relationships too.

Google gets it too.

Each of us is an individual and these social media companies go to great lengths to treat us in just that way.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Commercial radio broadcasting still strives to deliver the “one size fits all” solution. Those days are over.

Radio needs to build, as Seth Godin might say, tribes. People who believe what we believe.

Simon Sinek says that people aren’t attracted to what you do but why you do it.

What’s your WHY?

If there are enough people in your coverage area that will make you a meaningful size tribe of listeners, then do it. If not, find something else that is meaningful.

But trying to be all things to all people – the concept of “mass media” – those days are over.

Advertising

The 800 pound elephant in the room is how to pay for it. Ad supported media is being challenged by the internet in ways that Netflix, Amazon, Google and others that grew up on a different metric are not.

Today supply far outweighs demand in the advertising world.

Even those special live television events that were growing in audience every year are now seeing they’ve peaked. Nothing goes up forever.

The future is creating something relevant to the people you develop a relationship with. The value will be in how strong those relationships are not necessarily how big, in terms of numbers of people, they are.

The future for all media I suspect will start to look more like that of public radio or Christian radio. Each of these mediums has established strong relationships with their listener. They also don’t abuse those relationships with underwriting announcements that either doesn’t fit their audience or by unbalancing the content to underwriting ratio.

Commercial broadcasters seem to take the view that adding one more spot to the hour; the cluster etc won’t affect their audience. They would be wrong. It does.

Keeping things in balance and running seamlessly will be critical to broadcasters whether they’re being consumed over-the-air on AM or FM, or over the internet.

Sales people in this new world will be business evangelists that seek out business owners with innovative ideas and solutions to their problems. Businesses owners who benefit from these relationships with media sales folks will in turn reward the media enterprise with their support.

What’s your WHY?

But it all starts by first defining, as Simon Sinek says, your WHY.

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

Answer that question, and you will have taken the first step.

 

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