The conversation will take place with or without you

conversation I don’t often make “reactive” posts, but I did on Friday when I posted about local radio station Big Earl 96.3 switching formats and becoming Capital FM. I had noticed a lot of incoming traffic to an old post of mine about Big Earl, and decided I’d figure out why. I learned that the radio station “flipped the switch” on the new format that afternoon, and as a result, hundreds of listeners took the web to find out what happened. I posted about it so that others would learn the answer as well.

Now both posts are getting lots of traffic, and the new one has received a bunch of comments too. There are two questions to be asked here: why are people coming to these posts, and once they arrive, why do they comment?

My old post is the #1 result for the “what happened to big earl” search query, and my new post is #2 when you search for “96.3 capital fm“. Until today, it was actually #1, ahead of the radio station’s own website. The top five search queries that people used to find the posts yesterday were “capital fm edmonton”, “96.3 capital fm”, “big earl 96.3”, “big earl fm”, and “big earl”. In the last 24 hours alone, those two posts have been viewed more than 300 times.

So the reason that my two posts are getting lots of traffic is that they are ranked very highly in Google, and the reason people are searching is that they were given no notice about the switch. I guess that’s the way the radio industry works, you can’t really prepare people for a complete 180. As a result, lots of people were curious.

Once they arrived, why did they comment? I think the answer is very simple – Newcap Broadcasting simply isn’t participating in the conversation. Some listeners are happy about the switch, and they want to let the station know. Others are very unhappy, and they too want to voice their opinions. Aside from a very cumbersome “Members Club” section of their website, Capital FM doesn’t make it easy for their listeners to communicate. I think it’s a shame, really.

Like newspapers, radio stations are on the decline. Listeners are abandoning the airwaves for the web and iPods. And companies like Newcap aren’t doing much to reverse the trend. Which would you prefer – a radio station that suddenly starts playing completely different music than what you’re used to and basically says “tough luck”, or a radio station that changes its tune and also tells you to “have your say on our Facebook page?” It’s a no-brainer (even if your opinion won’t change anything, you’ll feel better about being able to share it).

CKRA has changed formats so many times now that you’d think they’d be better at it than they are.

It’s a different world than it used to be. Fifteen years ago, if a radio station switched formats, an article in the local paper would probably be about the only coverage it would get. Today, the web makes it easy for anyone to chime in.

As the comments on my post illustrate, the conversation will happen anyway. Newcap would be wise to join in.

UPDATE (4/1/2008): They’ve created a Facebook group! You can check it out here.

3 thoughts on “The conversation will take place with or without you

  1. Great piece Mack. You are right… we should have been more proactive in letting listeners express their comments both good and bad. We were so focused on getting this new product on the air that this aspect was overlooked.
    96.3 CAPITAL-FM now has a Facebook profile and we’ve made leaving input for our team easier via our website.
    Thanks Mack. Like the station or not, you were correct in noting that our interactive presence wasn’t up to par in this case.
    Steve Jones
    VP/Programming
    Newcap Radio

  2. I remember when 96x turned to Big Earl. Basically the reason they kept it so quiet as advertisers. Very few people (even in the organization) knew it was going to happen so as not to loose advertisers until the day it happened (and they did, it droves. Friends at The Bounce reported receiving tonnes of new clients that day taking their business from 96x).

    96x had a thing with what was then The Standard nightclub (live broadcasts, etc). They didn’t even know it was happening.

    When they did the switch, the station was basically running on auto-pilot for a couple of weeks until they could get everyone up to date and on the right page.

    One thing they failed to do both times was let people know what was going on. It’d be the perfect time to maximize their web presence as so many people (as you’ve seen) immediately consulted the web for answers.

    I advise my customers against radio advertising. It’s dying, but won’t die (too many people sit in cars for a long time with nothing else to do).

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