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Music Radio is Not Dead (Part Two)

Urban
By Skip Dillard

The Urban formats reach and strength remain amazing despite the loss of some stations in our format over the past few years. PPM and the economic downturn combined to hit Urban very hard, and were still playing catchup in many instances. Digital and social networking continue to present opportunities for both ratings and revenue. Were making huge leaps, and the higher we climb, the more return were seeing on both ends. Numerous studies show African Americans adapting to this technology faster than the general market.

We are now a greater part of our listeners lifestyles away from the radio. The more inroads we make on this, the better off well be. There have been some milestones in the Urban format over the past 10 years. I think youve seen more of the elusive advertisers come to the party. In several markets over the past few years Ive heard companies like Mercedes, Apple, and Macys increasingly on the air, and that certainly makes me happy. Were still fighting for our fair share, however. Weve got so much value in the Urban format with listeners who work hard, and spend hard on whatever they want. We need more advertising categories with more Urban dollars.

We have to continue to invest in programming. Urban programming departments have been on the chopping block pretty heavily over the past few years, including both talent and support staff. All the cool digital tools in the world wont replace the content creators needed to make these innovations come alive. Salespeople come to me for ideas and added value.

Todays program director wears the sales hat a lot more, so Im working harder to understand what advertisers need and learning how to find campaigns integrating all of our programming and digital resources to bring us more or, hopefully, all of the dollars on the table. The easier my bosss job becomes, the better my life becomes!

With only a couple of major labels left and just a few strong independent labels, its a lot harder. I remember listening to a 13-year-old Trey Songz years back; he was already signed to Atlantic at that time. The label invested years building his brand until he became the hit-making, touring artist that he is today. It's the same story with Usher, Destinys Child and Beyonc, Alicia Keys, and others. I dont know if anyones willing or able to invest that kind of time and money today. Even though we have separate business models, were still joined at the hip. We have to continue finding common ground and design more artists campaigns together for both our business models to thrive.

African-American artists and air personalities continue to play a big part in American culture and lifestyles, regardless of race. African-American spending power continues to grow, along with our willingness to adapt quickly to new technology. Ninety-three percent of  our populace is reached every week by Urban radio. We continue to move products and services to our audiences, which continue to be increasingly diverse in racial makeup as well.

Skip Dillard is the operations manager at WBLS and WLIB in New York and can be reached at skipdillard@wbls.com.


Christian Contemporary
By Bob Augsburg

Im glad Radio Ink asked about format, not formats. This has been a huge development for Christian Contemporary Music over the past year. Even the charts have re-categorized the CCM format. In the past, there were many programmers that attempted to divide CCM into three or more Christian music formats for example, Light Inspirational, AC, and Christian CHR but the research keeps showing that there really is only one Christian music format.

Weve admittedly even struggled with this at WAY-FM, but have finally realized that if you follow the research and desire to grow the largest possible audience, there is one style of Christian music that is the most popular. If you choose to play music that is not testing well, or you create your own format, you are choosing to disregard what your listeners are telling you they want to hear from you. There are dozens of great CCM stations that are thriving right now that are research-driven. I believe the state of Christian music radio is strong because of this.

In some cases, I think CCM stations (especially the noncomm Christian stations) are in a better position than other radio formats right now, and a lot of it is because we built this format with listener support from the beginning. We didnt have much, so we developed a deep relationship with our audience many years ago. Our audience today is very loyal and very committed to listening to CCM radio.  We have already built important e-mail lists for communication, and I think other formats are just beginning to see the value of this type of audience relationship.

The biggest challenge for CCM radio is limited resources, especially in the area of ongoing marketing in the local marketplace. There is also greater competition for listeners within most of the top 100 markets. When I started the first WAY-FM back in 1987, there were only a handful of CCM stations in the U.S. Now most top 100 markets have several stations airing CCM music. This new dynamic forces you to be really excellent. This becomes really challenging for the standalone CCM operator in smaller to medium markets.

Our biggest strength is that we are more researched than we have ever been. Over 25 years ago, I remember when DJs picked their favorite songs and put them on the air. Today we are following research, and many stations have seen amazing audience numbers because of that. There are several markets right now where the CCM radio station is rated in the top five for the market. Here at WAY-FM, one of our strengths is also our presence in each local market. WAY-FM maintains a local staff in most of our markets so we can be more involved. Sponsoring our own concerts is also a plus for us. Recently more than 11,000 attended our Toby Mac show in Nashville.

To win in this format takes the exact same formula as it does with any other format, plus one more thing: You must understand the audience expectations for Christian radio (and it is really hard to do that if you arent a Jesus follower yourself). Looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, this is what I see happening. At WAY-FM, we believe that we are more than just a group of radio stations, and I think others in the format would agree. We are big followers of Mark Ramsey and have worked with him on a recent research project. As you know, Mark believes the radio industry must become a content-delivery industry. We have to think of ourselves as more than just radio stations. We at WAY-FM are doing that, and are working hard to increase our digital presence. We see our on-air talent as more than DJs. Our network morning show, The Wally Show, regularly creates amazing video content that is compelling, creative, and outside of the box for radio. We anticipate launching more digital media initiatives in 2013 and beyond. Our WAY Media vision is on pace to reach more than 5 million people through digital media by the year 2020.

Bob Augsburg is president of WAY Media and can be reached at bob@wayfm.com.



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