Author Notes: I wrote this as an announcement when taking over this radio station in Chester Virginia last April. Our (the Program Director and I) assignment was to bring the station back to profitability and we did by the end of the year. I moved on to start an internet based radio and the Program Director became General Manager and a great friend. Some of the goals listed in the document no longer apply but the story stays the same.
The Story of AM Radio
Since we control the horizontal and vertical on your set - remember the opening to Outer Limits? I am commandeering today's show to play our hand. Over the last month we have taken Venture Wednesday to spell out our new business model, now is the time to finish that dialog with our new themes.
If you have been tuned to 820AM/92.7FM over the last 2 months you have heard about our enhancement and upgrade from some local and syndicated thought leaders. Most of it has been political, some business and life, and the basis for the upgrade.
The History of AM Radio
Given the technology from the middle of the last century, the AM (amplitude modulation) signal was the only choice. With the advent of FM (frequency modulation) and a higher quality signal that allowed for stereo, FM claimed the majority of music broadcasting and by the end of the 1980's AM radio existed without a purpose.
That all changed with Rush Limbaugh and the advent of political speech. Given the monopoly of political ideology from left of center, there existed a large population that was under served. Enter Limbaugh and the rest is history. The business model for AM radio became syndicate and automate with the impact on station operations the reduction of costs through labor and a failure to upgrade the equipment. Every AM station in the United States prospered under this new business model until it didn't. The success of this model, as it always happens with business models, had the seeds of failure embedded in its success. Today the air waves are filled or crowded with political speech from just one view point. The reason that left of center political speech has been unsuccessful on radio is the customer's of this viewpoint are not active radio listeners to with the exception of NPR, and that success is due to being a not for profit operation. It is publicly funded.
Now before I move on don't misinterpret my story to this point, this is not about WNTW becoming less political. Although we are a "conservative" station, this less about politics and more about a core set of beliefs that will not change.
Since we have been on the air with a new business model for 2 months, I hesitate to call it new. Rather it is the realization that the success of AM radio since the early 1990's is no longer sufficient and a new business model is required.
The business model we are testing is simple, find a path to return to profitability by employing some simple business lessons:
Demand Based Production means you build nothing until somebody buys it. Starting with my experience implementing lean manufacturing principles in the automotive industry in the 1990's It demands efficient operations that ensures all internal activities add value to the customer. We are applying that to radio with a focus on building programming beyond politics to include business and Life. I will leave these two for later in the conversation. In order to involve you the listener, our customers in the design of programming, we have created a network of local partners who has a mission of swerving their customers. WNTW has partnered with local organizations like Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Authorities, Local newspapers, and Patriot Organizations to build on their relationships to capture the pulse of the Greater Richmond - Petersburg and surrounding counties.
Expand Local Programming means we are designing shows you want to hear covering issues important to you. We have only scratched the surface on this approach and listener participation We adding this week a new page to our website where you can provide us feedback on our shows and input on what you want to hear. We are also collecting this information through our partners and that programming is what are you have been experiencing.
Revisit the Past means we are going back to the beginning when AM radio owned the airwaves and produced an incredible listening experience. For example remember War of the Worlds - Orson Wells reading the HG Wells classic? Or live reporting from the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst New Jersey? Or the great shows like The Black Cat? We are not going to rebroadcast those old shows rather create programming with all of the drama and quality of those old shows with topics that matter to you. This 'retro' approach will apply to all of our local broadcasting.
Strengthen the Weakest Link. If you are a business owner don't take this the wrong way. Technology has revolutionized how businesses can and must touch customers. No business owner today needs to be convinced they need a total approach to reaching prospective and existing customers that includes social media. The challenge is finding the time, finding the expertise, and accessing professional equipment necessary to create quality messaging. That is where WNTW comes in. We are going way beyond just offering you the opportunity broadcast on our station, we are providing the expertise and access required to have an integrated approach to marketing. At 10k daytime watts with coverage from Richmond to North Carolina and Blackstone to Tidewater, we have the reach to talk to your customers. The difference between our approach and anybody else is not just selling you a spot, you can select which part of our Political, Business, and Life Programming the best fits your business and your customers. Our staff will build messaging that makes you known with prospective customers, if you are not part of their buying decisions there will be no sales.