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HD Radio on a Shoestring

'At This Point, Promotion of the Signal Is Really More About Educating the Listener'

Beasley Broadcast Group’s Soft Rock V103.3 WMGV(FM) and Classic Rock 106.5 WSFL(FM), both in the Greenville-New Bern- Jacksonville market, are covering eastern North Carolina with HD Radio. Both stations also are broadcasting uniquely programmed HD2 channels, Echo 103-3 on WMGV HD2 and The Trip 106.5 on WSFL HD2. They’ve been on-air since summer 2008.

“We actually put our HD2 signal on the air with no budget for programming or promotion. And that forces you to get creative,” says Colleen Jackson, program director for WMGV and Echo103-3 HD2.

“We worked with music we had in-house, in my own music library and in the other DJs’ personal CD collections. Luckily, many years in radio have resulted in all of us having expansive collections, and we were able to piece together the perfect format to compliment our AC station. Echo 103.3 is a mix of ’80s and ’90s pop rock; a lot of tunes that may be familiar, but haven’t been heard on traditional radio in many years.”

Colleen Jackson “Yep, we also did it all by ourselves,” says Cindy Miller, program director for WSFL and The Trip 106.5 HD2.

“Since we already have an alternative/new rock station in our cluster, we decided to take it to the harder side of classic rock by filling The Trip with ’80s and early ’90s-based bands like Skid Row, Trixter, Poison, Kingdom Come, the Crue, RATT and Warrant. Then we threw in metal like Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Metallica; heck, we even play Spinal Tap just for fun! That’s what The Trip is about: fun.”

Beasley is spending an equivalent amount of money to promote Echo 103.3 and The Trip 106.5; that is to say, none to speak of. So how does the company get the word out about its HD2 channels?

“We promote our HD2 signal on our traditional FM band,” says Jackson. In doing so, the company is trying to boost awareness of the medium as well as the HD2 radio channels.

“At this point, promotion of the signal is really more about educating the listener: ‘HD Radio is the wave of the future … buy HD Radios at XYZ … HD Radios are coming to a car near you,'” she said. To drive home the message, “We’ve given away HD Radios at on-street promotions and, of course, have the HD Radio link on our Web site where you can sample the format.”

Cindy Miller This “get to air no matter what” reflects Beasley’s determination to grow HD Radio in eastern North Carolina, recession notwithstanding. To date, the company has switched two FMs and one AM in the area to HD Radio and put two HD2 signals on the air.

“Unfortunately, these tough economic times are calling for budget cuts in every aspect of day- to-day radio life,” Jackson says, “so monetary resources for our HD2 signals just don’t exist. Extra hands to help with the stations are also nonexistent. Both Cindy and I program our HD2 signals and there is no ‘voice talent’ on the stations; imaging was pieced together and produced in-house. At this point, the HD2 signals are really about the music.”

To date, HD Radio’s ROI to Beasley matches the resources the company has put into it. On the positive side, “I’ve received calls from listeners telling me they really love the station because it’s stuff they don’t normally get to hear,” says Miller. “In fact, one guy offered some suggestions about bands and tunes he’d like to hear. That’s when you know the station has fans.”

On the negative side, HD Radio is “still brand new in Eastern North Carolina. The technology hasn’t really caught on at this point,” says Jackson. “We just do not know what our audience size is, but we love when someone calls with a question, or has found Echo and really likes it.”