About those Amy Goodman Refrigerator Magnets
Like so much here at KBOO, it was an offer from the heart: Julie was making Amy Goodman and James Baldwin magnets at home (as gifts, not for sale) because, as she explained, “They’re my current heroes.”
I realized that this was an only-on-KBOO moment, so I went on the air, offering the magnets, “with their unique and charming homespun qualities, not unlike KBOO radio itself.” KBOO is unique, and it’s homegrown. We talk about this during membership drive, but it’s more than just a “pitch”—our station is a part of the fabric of this community.
A Small Town in North Georgia
Even so, the world is changing quickly, and here’s a story by way of example:
I was speaking with my father on the phone the other day. My dad is a seventy-year-old Sunday school teacher in small-town Georgia. He mentioned that he and my mom recently had Dish Network satellite television installed. Not only does it come with a broad array of television programming, but it also has country and bluegrass channels as well, “Your mother and I have been enjoying them.”
The future is here folks. It’s no longer just twenty-somethings with funny glasses or teenagers with time on their hands who are looking beyond traditional broadcast and print media for their information and entertainment: it’s people like my seventy-year-old dad (who grew up on a farm no less).
You may already know that our membership drive came up short for the first time in many years. The immediate impact will only be about $20,000. In the context of our $700,000 budget, we have the resources to work this out [UPDATE: We have a funder who has promised to make up the shortfall-more in my next posting].
The long-term trend however is away from FM and onto the web, digital-music players, satellite, cell phones and whatever is next. This is the same issue that broadcast television networks and newspapers are struggling with.
Addressing the Fundamentals: Scheduling
The other issue is how can KBOO change its programming and scheduling to reach more people, while staying focused on our mission? Some of our programming will always make more money than others, and that’s OK. Bluegrass and Grateful Dead may effectively be subsidizing youth radio (which has a paid adult coordinator). At the same time, our community organization must be nimble enough to experiment with new programming, to look at which programs successfully reach across audiences and to make our scheduling work for the listener.
Speaking of program scheduling, I’ll give you an example from our friends down the dial at OPB. You’ll notice that Car Talk isn’t scheduled with Science Friday even though they’re both nominally technical in nature. Instead Car Talk is scheduled in a block with A Prairie Home Companion because both shows reach the same audience.
We successfully place a number of seemingly disparate programs in the morning “radiozine.” On the other hand, we have strips and blocks where we place programs together that are nominally related but actually reach totally different audiences. It is critical that our program blocks (e.g. Sunday afternoon) and strips (e.g. weekdays seven to nine) work such that an audience can listen as long or as frequently as possible, even across genres.
We saw this work when we rearranged our Saturday programming. We used to follow country and bluegrass with avant-garde jazz, African-American culture & jazz, the Grateful Dead and the blues. After we rearranged the day to follow country and bluegrass with Grateful Dead and Blues—followed by African-American-based jazz, soul, R&B, house and hip hop—we saw improvements in listenership and membership-drive performance. In Portland, there’s a big crossover between bluegrass and The Dead that allowed us to serve audiences more effectively, and our African-American programmers created a stronger block of music and cultural programming. This was a case of airing exactly the same shows in a different order.
While we make our organization more nimble on the air and on the Web, it is critical that you support the effort. Whether you share your time or money, we are counting on you to help us reach the next step in our development. We are counting on you to make the commitment to community that will help us move forward during this time of change.