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No-cost Targeted Programming Is a Win-Win

Content available at little or no cost is a boon as radio searches for solutions to its challenges

Dan SweeneyThe author is host of “Dan Sweeney’s One-Hit Wonders.”

AM/FM, low-power and internet radio stations increasingly are turning to an abundance of very good, no-cost, targeted programming to add “personality” to their format mix — including doo-wop, oldies, classic hits, variety and specialty. Passionate radio vets, former media execs, professors and retired enthusiasts all participate in creating fresh, new content as a “labor of love.”

“Not only has it been fun to promote, it’s created new and very loyal listeners,” says Zeb Navaro, general manager of KKSM(AM) in Oceanside, Calif.

Unlike podcasts, these shows are built specifically for over-the-air and internet linear radio operations that need to allow for IDs, commercials and local news break. Most syndicators have invested in jingles, logos, websites and content. New professionally built shows are distributed weekly. [For a list of low-cost/no-cost shows, see bottom.]

For example, my show, “Dan Sweeney’s One Hit Wonders,” which recaps “one and done” music from 1955 through 2015, is distributed to about 60 stations in the United States, Canada, U.K, Germany and New Zealand. The 55-minute shows are free to air for affiliates, and I reserve two minutes for underwriting.

This niche program complements other syndicated shows and is frequently packaged into program blocks adjacent to local market content and random  music segments.

KKSM is licensed to the Palomar Community College District; it broadcasts on 1320 kHz and is located in the San Diego DMA. KKSM packages a “Super Saturday” lineup that includes my show along with “That Thing With Rich Appeal,” a classic Boss Radio format, on approximately 100 stations; Larry Kratka’s “Nothin’ But Old 45s,” telling back stories of old 45s, available on 40 stations; and Craig Orndorff’s “Seems Like Old Times,” featuring music from the 1940s through the 1960s, on almost 40 stations.

The lineup has increased stream numbers by 200% over the same period before the package was created and promoted. Navaro says, “No other station in the San Diego market is offering this programming.”

Mike Putnam, general manager of WMNB(LP) in North Adams, Mass., part of the Albany, N.Y., DMA, serves the listening area with extensive local/regional politics, talk shows and news. His variety format also includes several nationally syndicated shows that help build audiences and keeps them tuned in between the local content.

Asked why he carries the shows, Mike said, “The shows are entertaining, there is no cost to run them and I receive significant positive feedback from listeners. It’s unique programming with personality versus just music. Anyone can use Spotify for that.”

WQFB Surf 97.3 FM, an LPFM in the Daytona Beach DMA, has long embraced “no-cost” nationally syndicated programs as a way to keep expenses low and complement local programming. Vern Shank, the general manager, said most of the staff is made up of volunteers and that WQFB carries a fair amount of free syndicated programs with personality that complement its local shows.

Clear Communications WVLT(FM) Crusin’ 92.1 in Vineland, N.J., near Philadelphia added several free nationally syndicated shows as local DJs were confined at home because of COVID-19. Some may remain after the pandemic passes.

The balancing act between cost-cutting to protect an ever-shrinking financial margin and keeping listeners has intensified. Local radio content is still king. No-cost nationally syndicated programming goes a long way to reinforcing the needed personality of a station. If the syndicators can afford to produce and distribute quality content using creative monetary strategies including underwriting, merchandising and bartering, this could be a “win-win” strategy for stations and syndicators.

The author says “Dan Sweeney’s One Hit Wonders” features unique stories about some 2,300 one-hit wonders, artists and songs including “where are they now” updates. The show was chosen “Best Community Volunteer Program” by the Intercollegiate Broadcast System in March. For info email  [email protected].


Program Sampler

Here’s a selection of professionally produced syndicated shows worth considering, all at little or no cost:

Dan Sweeney’s One Hit Wonders

That Thing with Rich Appel

Nothing But Old 45s, Larry Kratka

UK USA Rock n Soul Connection

Seems Like Old Times

Ken Michaels, “Every Little Thing”

Bart Shore’s Time Warp Radio

Greatest Hits USA

Dennis Mitchell’s Breakfast With the Beatles

Rockabilly N Blues Hour with James Riley

Music Expert Retro Countdown

Ryan Doran

Al Cocchi’s Saturday Nite Fever Classic Dance Party

Pat Gwinn at the Beach