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10 Eye-Catching Small-Market Websites

Low budgets and a snazzy online presence are not necessarily mutually exclusive

Small-market radio stations may not have the big bucks to spend on Web designers and special features. However, when it comes to attractive, effective Web design, there are plenty of creative ways to compete with the majors.

Here are 10 examples of small-market sites (owned by companies large and small) that are doing such a nice job they couldn’t help but catch Radio World’s eye.

WAXS(FM), “Groovy 94.1”
Owner: Plateau Broadcasting
Hometown: Oak Hill, W.Va.
Why we like it: With its 1960s-feeling bubble font station logo, an ode to its “groovy” name and a rapid flood of news stories, photos, box ads — plus the famous faces banner up top, with Diana Ross and Elton John — all fit in with their retro theme. But the large “listen live” box with mock equalizer and links to previously played songs (which are available for purchase with a click-through) keep it feeling very much up to date. Here’s a station that knows its niche and still provides a whole bunch of content. Who would have thought that 1960s style and 21st century tech would make such a happy couple?

KIXY(FM), “KIXY 94.7”
Owner: Foster Communications
Hometown: San Angelo, Texas
Why we like it: KIXY’s website manages to bridge the gap between rock ’n’ roll frenzy and good taste, by confining its content to a vertical box that sits in the center of the page, atop a background of small KIXY 94.7 logos. The heart of the page is a mix of station promos (including a “now streaming live” link) and paid advertising. On the left side there’s a small tab of links to staff bios, programming, contests and other features. Collectively, this is a site that communicates high energy without clutter.

WHBL(AM), “WHBL News Radio 1130”
Owner: Midwest Communications
Hometown: Sheboygan, Mich.
Why we like it: Sheboygan may rank as Arbitron market No. 265, but WHBL’s cleanly designed news website is anything but small-town. You’ve got current news stories — from local to global — and accompanying photojournalism. The Weather page offers forecasts and an interactive radar/satellite map that can layer on natural disasters and alerts. Add blogs on local topics, station bios, text subscriptions for breaking news, WHBL podcasts of on-air content, a Listen Live link, community events calendar and even movie listings and obituaries, and WHBL’s website has the area covered. It’s a real information draw for residents as well as outside listeners.

KLAZ(FM), “KLAZ 105.5 Hit Music”
Owner: Noalmark Broadcasting Corp.
Hometown: Hot Springs, Ariz.
Why we like it: The Hot Springs home page is stylish and sleek, with big photos, a prominent “Listen Live” equalizer link, photos, news stories and a wealth of other features. Worth noting: See the big, bold buttons for KLAZ’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Request links. This is how you get your listeners to notice such links, and to use them.

KTWO(AM), “K2 Radio”
Owner: Townsquare Media
Hometown: Casper, Wyo.
Why we like it: This is Arbitron market No. 277 — out of a total 277 markets. But, like many of the examples cited here, we see a website that goes beyond its humble roots into something bigger.The website for K2 Radio, a Townsquare Media station, features bold news stories with lots of photos; then lots more photos for staff bios, Facebook links, contests, prizes and advertising. Photos are one of the best ways to get people interested in your site, and KTWO mines this idea.To save money, Digital Managing Editor Tom McCarthy says, “Our sites are built on a common platform along with the rest of the Townsquare Media sites around the country.”

WBDX(FM), “J103”
Owner: Partners for Christian Media
Hometown: Trenton, Ga.
Why we like it: J103’s Christian-themed website is colorful, eye-catching and packed full of useful features. The front page is dominated by a large window that promotes local Christian events and station Web features. There are also windows and links to a live on-air feed, weather, traffic cameras, a daily Bible verse, J103 listener polls, staff blog entries and advertising windows. The integration of spiritual and secular is low-key and harmonious, while the site itself has lots of features, yet feels uncluttered. The site was created on a “very affordable” budget by local company Level 2 Design, says J103 Production Director Brett Ritchey. It is maintained by Level 2 Design and two J103 staffers on a part-time basis.

WDZQ(FM), “95Q”
Owner: Neuhoff Family Ltd. Partnership
Hometown: Decatur, Ill.
Why we like it: 95Q’s site combines strong, clear design with an excellent range of country-themed features. A quick inspection of the home page reveals all kinds of links tied to programming, concerts, weather, advertising and streaming — plus tabs to on-air staff, photos, contests, and the “Qmunity” — yet despite the chaos, the 95Q page seems unified and balanced. We think the unity comes from the big 95Q banner at the top, with its rotating background of top country stars. Classy yet feature-packed.

WMSR(AM/FM), “Thunder Radio”
Owner: Coffee County Broadcasting
Hometown: Manchester, Tenn.
Why we like it: This website, which gets 175,000 page views a month in a town of a 10,000-population town, is eye-catching and feature packed. The front page alone features local breaking news stories with photos, a prominently placed link to the station’s AM/FM simulcast, staff bios and a local community calendar. Ads are large enough to be seen easily, but not so much that they overpower the content. To keep costs down, designer Brian Marcom used WordPress. “It’s a total team effort and really the key to our success,” says WMSR owner/GM Rob Clutter.

Owner: Cox Radio
Hometown: Milford, Conn.
Why we like it: It is impossible not to like a radio website that boldly displays a red stiletto shoe with the title “Daddy Drag Race” beside it. (Apparently WPLR’s Chaz & AJ were convincing dads to dress up in drag and run to win One Direction tickets for their daughters.) On a larger scale, WPLR’s male-skewed content is honestly male-skewed; unlike so many mock-male sites on the Web. And really, who, male or female, isn’t going to be at least intrigued by a video link showing how to open a can of beer with a chainsaw? Add various quirky features, ads and tabs to “Stuff You Should Know,” and the PLR FM site is fun, fun, fun.

WSLU(FM), “North Country Public Radio”
Owner: St. Lawrence University
Hometown: Canton, N.Y.
Why we like it: North Country Public Radio — NCPR — covers parts of New York, Vermont and Ontario, Canada. Despite its small-market roots, NCPR’s website offers regional news, blogs, weather, photos, events listings, program info and Twitter feeds. And despite the fact that has NPR’s resources to draw on, this site is clearly about the “North Country” first and foremost. In 2001, NCPR received a $300,000 to fund site development and three years salary for two staff. Since 2004, the station has carried the staff cost. “We put a lot of work into finding smart, inexpensive ways to get things done, which often means building it ourselves,” says NCPR New Media Developer Bill Haenel.