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Rewriting Radio’s Playbook – Digital Gabe
Digital Gabe
Cutting Edge Commentary On All Things Media

Rewriting Radio’s Playbook

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There’s an unusual thing happening at the very bottom of Chicago’s FM dial.  An obscure station called MeTV-FM (on the 87.7 frequency) has risen to become a Top 10 ratings performer in the Chicago Metro.  The TV reference in the station’s moniker and the unusually low dial position are there because it’s not a true FM station.  Instead it’s a low-powered TV signal, which can be picked up by most radio receivers.  Despite this obscure pedigree MeTV-FM is winning listeners by doing the exact opposite of what every other FM station does.

For starters MeTV-FM has no DJs.  Let’s face it, most music listeners would rather hear songs than DJ blabber.  So removing the DJs makes time for more music.  Speaking of music MeTV-FM boasts a music library that’s several times larger than a typical FM station.  Most FMs play 300-500 songs in some sort of PD-designed rotation, but these guys play about 3,500 songs in more of a shuffle format.  And finally, they don’t interrupt the music very often.  Twice an hour MeTV-FM breaks for commercials and a quick headline update, and then gets right back to their mountain of songs.  This formula seems to be working as MeTV-FM now ranks #8 amongst Chicago stations, beating out dozens of other stations with significantly higher operating budgets and much better dial positions.

Am I the only one who sees the similarity in MeTV-FM’s programming strategy to streaming?  No DJs, endless music variety, and limited breaks feels like a page right out of Pandora’s (and every other streamers’) playbook.  So maybe the best strategy for FM stations moving forward is to act more like a streamer?!?


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