Why is there Still No Progressive Radio in Portland?

How have things gone for Clear Channel in the months since they turned their back on progressive radio in Portland? Not so good, apparently…And yet, there is as much interest in progressive radio content as ever before here in Portland. So why don’t we have any progressive radio in Portland?

Well, first of all I shouldn’t say there is NO progressive radio in Portland… Carl Wolfson has a new show. You can listen live online at 7AM Monday through Friday. Or, if you’re like me and not such an early riser, 🙂 you can always stream ALL of Carl’s shows online for FREE! Free I say, Free – No podcast subscriptions or pay wall! Because the content is free (The way radio should be!) it’s important to remember to support the sponsors of Carl’s program, such as Tom Dwyer Automotive.

Speaking of Tom Dwyer Automotive… Brad Freidman of The Brad Blog (Everybody knows Brad, right?) wrote a great piece about the death of Portland’s progressive radio in which he quoted a comment from Charles Letherwood, Marketing Director for Tom Dwyer Automotive:

“Several people have mentioned boycotting the new KPOJ’s clients (Fox Sports Radio advertisers), but that’s going to be useless… they won’t care. However, there is something useful we can do instead. I work for Tom Dwyer Automotive Services, and if you listened to KPOJ you know who we are. To the local businesses that USED to advertise on KPOJ, the loss of the station means a loss in business.

If you ever considered using the services of the old advertisers, don’t wait… now is the time. And word-of-mouth is the best way to send your friends to local companies that will appreciate you. Buy an anniversary gift from Katy at Trade Roots, or get your Christmas cards printed at Morel Ink (Ahem, I think he meant ClubFlyers.com), or update your frames at Eyes on Broadway (Hmm… That’s a weird way of spelling World Eyeglasses). We’ll still be glad to get your car ready for winter, Better World Mortgage can still refi your house, and Stephen Hendricks can still handle your legal work (For personal injury legal issues. Of course, if you need help with bankruptcy legal issues Tom McAvity can solve those problems for you.). There’s so many more companies out there, but you get the idea.

It’s almost impossible to punish the big companies that don’t care what kind of content they support, but it won’t take much to matter to the companies that put their necks on the block to support rational information sources. Progressive Radio will return to Portland in some form, but we don’t have to wait… our support NOW for these companies means they’ll still be there to support Progressive Radio when it DOES come back.”

(Please forgive my shameless promotion of our clients, TCC is a marketing agency after all. 🙂 )

I couldn’t agree with Charles more. At the end of the day, whether its radio, television, print media, or any other content medium – The way these industries built their empires was through providing engaging content for free, and building an audience. Then and only then is your content worth something… To advertisers! Charles has seen the profound positive impact that Tom Dwyer’s support of progressive radio in Portland has had on the bottom line of the business. People want to buy from who they know, and every listener knows their local progressive radio advertisers.

Willamette Week has reported that since the format change from progressive talk to sports radio, the ratings for AM 620 KPOJ have continued to decline since November. In the article – Chris Sargent, the programming director at Clear Channel had this to say: “It’s way too early to gauge whether this is a good move or a bad move,” Sargent says. “You can’t say, ‘It didn’t pop in the first month.’ That’s not the way radio works.”

Really? How did Carl do in his first week as an independent progressive media voice?

“We’re really happy with the first week.  There were some start-up problems, but we handled those quickly.  The call-in response has been wonderful.  Over 7000 people were listening live, and we had over 13,000 unique visits to the website.  Many more are listening on the podcast, and that will only increase as people adjust to the new format”.

So, Carl alone, without a terrestrial broadcast station, gets 1% of the city of Portland’s population to listen everyday… In the first week! Here’s the real kicker – Because this is a website, and the internet is the medium of content distribution, analytics can track the real world engagement numbers in a way that terrestrial radio never could. In this Willamette Week article Who Killed KPOJ? by Carl Wolfson, he details the many problems with traditional media ratings reporting:

“For years, Arbitron used its “Radio Listening Diary.” The small journal was sent to randomly selected households that agreed to the week long survey. Everybody in the house over 12 years old kept track of what they listened to on radio.

Then Arbitron switched to a device it had developed called the Portable People Meter (PPM). You wear it like a pager and it picks up radio (or TV) signals … It promised more accurate data than the diaries.

Many months before PPM debuted in Portland there was apprehension as to its effects on everyone’s ratings. It was already being used in larger markets, causing significant drops among many AM sticks.”

The introduction of this device didn’t mean that listeners just quit listening to their favorite stations overnight. It meant that the user input of the listening diary was no longer being taken into account. Smart marketers know that no single data set tells the entire story of user intent. The listening diary was direct user engagement data, the PPM data lacked any user input. Both of these data sets together can help determine the reality of user intent, but “That’s not the way radio works”.

Well, there’s yer problem!

That’s why we don’t have  progressive radio in Portland anymore. Traditional medium content marketers like radio stations/networks think that this whole internet thing is the end of their business model. What they don’t realize is that the internet is just another medium to distribute the content. If you’re a smart business person, you can generate even more revenue by combining the traditional means of distribution such as broadcast radio, and the “new” medium of content distribution known as “The Internets”, to further build your audience. The combined analytics data from online streaming, and listening diaries for terrestrial radio can create a more accurate target persona for your advertisers.

If for example Carl’s audience is predominately in the 35+ demographic, and as a potential advertiser your market research states that the 35+ age group is your target market, then advertising on Carl’s show is worth more per ad unit than other (sports) show. But again, “That’s not the way radio works”. Traditional marketers love to have one and only one extremely limited data set. Because, it’s a lot easier to (mis) interpret that data, and make a sales pitch for a bulk ad buy. The logic goes like this:

* We say that 18-35 year old men listen to this type of radio programming.

* We say that 18-35 year old men buy all the everything from everybody.

* Therefore, no matter what your business is, and what your market research shows – If you make a bulk adbuy with our radio network, then you will make more money because we have more of those stations broadcasting that type of programming.

That may be the way traditional marketers think radio works, but it is certainly not the reality of the way the world works! People don’t do what you want them to, they do what they want to. After all, these are your customers, and the customer is always right! Why, in this day and age, with all the resources available would any smart marketer ever think they understand user intent – When you can actually know? Why ignore what you know – what the users were telling you through their listening diaries, because you think this new PPM device is more accurate?

If we at TCC made or digital marketing decisions based on what we think, then I know we wouldn’t be in business any longer. 🙂 What we know for sure, when it comes to a client like Tom Dwyer Automotive, is that no first awareness attribution is reported in greater volume – directly from the mouths of new customers – than advertising on progressive radio in Portland. As a smart business person, Tom Dwyer knows that speaking directly to his target market through local progressive radio, is the most effective means for a small business owner to become known to their audience. People buy from who they know! By the time a potential customer uses the internet machine to further research the brand, they are already demonstrating direct engagement with the local progressive radio advertisers. As smart marketers we know that all the steps in the multichannel conversion funnel rely on one another. No single step in the funnel, is in any way the entire story of the users intent.

On the one hand, I would love for a large media company like Clear Channel to finally “get it”, because then there may be some hope that they will see the value of the progressive radio audience throughout the country. On the other hand… I’m glad they don’t, and kind of hope they never will. In the long run, that just leaves more opportunities for smart marketers like Thomas Creek Concepts, and smart business owners like Tom Dwyer.

It’s a shame that we still don’t have broadcast progressive radio in Portland. We can always be optimistic and hope for someone to pull their head out of… um, the sand, and we can get our progressive radio back. If and or when that happens, the advertisers will be there, just as they have been with Carl – online or off. The reason is simple – The progressive audience is extremely engaged, and highly profitable! Smart business people wouldn’t sponsor the content if the content didn’t produce a profitable Return On Ad Spend.

Thanks for taking a minute to stop by and read my latest rant on the subject. 🙂 If you’re a smart business person looking for a smart marketing agency to handle your PPC advertising, please contact us, we’re always here to help. If you agree or disagree with me, please let me know in the comments section (As long as you are not a spam bot. 🙂 ) And, of course – Make sure to follow Tom Dwyer Automotive for all the latest updates on the KPOJ Debacle.

By, Tom Hale, Jr.