Tuesday, January 29, 2008

College Radio Challenges in 2008

College radio today definitely faces a number of challenges, as discussed in a Jan. 9, 2008 piece "Local college radio stations fight to be heard in a homogenized age" in the Toledo City Paper. Decreasing listenership, declining funding from colleges, and audiences who may be turned off by non-standard radio are factors in this. The article quotes the Program Director of WBGU-FM (another station where I was a volunteer) in Bowling Green, Ohio, who also happens to be a grad student working on a thesis related to "college radio's relevance in a digital era." Intriguing!

Yet, I was a bit disturbed that one of his conclusions is that "The programming on college stations online needs to be tailored to the known audience." While I do think it's important to be aware of one's audience, "tailoring" to an audience starts to sound more to me like what commercial radio stations do and what college stations try to avoid. It's a fine line, because college radio does wants listeners, but typically doesn't want to pander to its listeners. So, how can a college station remain experimental and independent, yet at the same time not alienate potential listeners who may not be as open-minded as the DJs and station staff? I'm sure this is a debate that rages at many stations today.

1 comment:

Radio Steve said...

When I stated the known audience I meant a couple of things by it, mainly understand who you are broadcasting to. Sure you have a niche audience of indie hipsters/scenesters and an eclectic mix of radio enthusiasts with Jazz, Talk and World music etc. But when I mean know your audience I mean promote and cultivate that audience.

for example the article states:

... divides the online college station’s audience into three categories: students, community members within a 15-20 mile radius and alumni.
The programming on college stations online needs to be tailored to the known audience. Simply put, this means including the surrounding community into the shows. “Radio really needs to tap into the local culture that it serves,”....

“They need to keep in mind the audience that can’t reach the channel clearly because of interference from other channels.” Independent radio fans feel the same way. “It’s a shame when stations lose that local community flavor,” Faust said. “It just becomes cookie cutter, homogenized radio.”

I am stressing to be local and program to the local scenesters, relate to them, be relevant to the alumni that grew up with the station and are nostalgic for the flavor they knew when they were in school (you can't please everyone, but loyalty counts for something!). Program for those that are local and appreciate college radio, not for a world wide audience that probably isn't there realistically, you may think you're hitting thousands of listeners in Cyberspace (potential is there) but honestly you probably have 1-4 listeners online and they very well might be University people or community members that are listening in the office as they work, etc.

... anyways, excellent blog, I'm sure we'll talk again.

adding to your alum lists (add if you wish)

Somehow there are a lot of sports figures:

Jay Crawford (ESPN)
Jason Jackson (Miami Heat)
steve mears (NY Islanders)

Bands with connections and past shows

Aloha (polyvinyl)