1. Tell us about
your market and how it is unique?
Indianapolis has been
dominated by two stations for the past 15 years,
Classic Rock, WFBQ and our Country station WFMS.
Between those two stations, they are taking well over
20 shares of 25-54. This is the home market of Bob and
Tom. They have been number one for years and have
nearly a 20 share of adults in the morning. WFMS also
has a huge morning show. Those two donít leave much
for anyone else, so it creates a challenge.
Indianapolis has a lot of AC stations. There are four
stations doing some variation of the format.
2. How did
Susquehanna decide on airing the Contemporary
Christian format in Indianapolis?
It was a very long
process. This is pretty different for a mainstream
company. The thought certainly crossed my mind when
Disney bought the existing CCM station, WXIR in the
summer of 2003. However, we had signal issues. We were
a rim shot, class A in a northern suburb. The timing
was not right for a change. We found out around the
first of the year that we would be able to move our
tower into Indianapolis and be on the air in the
spring. I hired John Parikhalís Joint Communications
to do a format search. I did not tell them what I
hoped to find, but I made sure Contemporary Christian
was one of the options. The results came back with two
strong options. One of them was CCM. However, they
recommended the other. But, I was convinced CCM was
the way to go. I made my case and convinced my Market
Manager. We took it to corporate and they could not
have been more supportive. We brought John Parikhal
back in to do a more focused study on the potential
audience in this market and the results were even
bigger than we thought. The decision was now in stone.
We hired John Frost (who is phenomenal!) as our
consultant and started putting the station together.
3. What are your
ratings expectations of "93.9 The Song"?
I donít want to
predict a share today, but letís say that we have very
high expectations. I believe we will be a major player
in adults. There is a hunger for this format and for
the first time it is on a signal that covers the
4. What is the
criteria that determines if a song receives airplay on
for the listenersí time with so many things, not just
other radio stations. For them to invest their limited
time with us, we have to provide something that is
meaningful, compelling, relevant and pleasing to the
ear. The music we play is the anchor of all of it. We
need to play great songs that have strong lyrics and
musicianship. The music in the format can be so unique
because it can be strong musically and deliver the
message of salvation and Godís love. How cool is that?
No other format can do that.
5. What kind of
promotions work best for your station?
Weíve only been on the
air for two months, so I canít be sure. But people in
general respond well to things that touch them
emotionally. We started out with a ď40 Days / 40
NightsĒ promotion. We registered folks on our website.
At the end of 40 days we drew 10 names and donated
$1,000 in each of their names to their church or
chosen charity. We had almost 8,000 different people
register. It was beautiful, because they were
registering for something they were giving away!
6. Do you have
any suggestions on how record labels can serve your
station or Christian radio in general?
In general we have the
same goal in mind, spreading the gospel through music.
We just have different delivery methods and different
business models that allow us to do this. The record
labels need to sell their product. Radio needs the
largest possible audience to allow us to sell
advertising. Record labels need radio to expose their
product so people will buy. Radio needs the labels to
provide music that is accessible and will touch
people. It is very symbiotic relationship. Sometimes
songs that are popular and test well donít drive
people to buy a CD. By the same token, there are
terrific songs with great lyrics or are amazing
artistry that just donít translate well on the radio.
I believe that we (radio and the labels) need to
recognize that we need both and work side by side to
bring together familiarity and songs that will drive
7. In your
opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing
Christian radio today?
The lack of
familiarity that I mentioned is a big issue. Because
we donít get a lot of cross over and little other
media exposure for our artists, it is tough for a lot
of the audience to distinguish them. Most formats
perform best when they have active superstars. I
believe Country is having a resurgence because of the
growing superstar status of Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and
Kenny Chesney. The decade before it was Alan Jackson,
Clint Black and Garth Brooks. We need to cultivate
superstars like that beyond Michael and Steven. I
think a lot of that responsibility falls to radio. I
think K-Love does a terrific job with this with their
ďbehind the musicĒ features.
8. What do you
believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air
It really depends on
the focus and mission of your station. I truly believe
there is more than one right approach. In our case, we
are still very much ďin developmentĒ. Our goal is
connect with the listener by being informative, real
and entertaining. We did extensive research on the
audience and we saw that Contemporary Christian music
fans want basically the same things from personalities
as fans of other formats. It should come as no
surprise, because people are people. Granted, there
are certainly expectations on things they donít want
and it is important for them to be able to listen with
their kids. There are certainly some folks who want
the radio to sound like ďSunday morningĒ, but in this
audience they are more likely to relate to personality
that sounds like someone they would enjoy having at a
cookout or as a neighbor.
9. What (if any)
other Christian radio stations do you consider as
Innovator is an
interesting word. It means different things to
different people. Some may disagree, but I think Chuck
Finney, John Frost, Dan Vallie and others are
innovators because they brought a different
perspective and an additional degree of sophistication
in approaching the format. The WAY-FM network is doing
some cool things. Everyone says that, but obviously
there is a reason! I think WPOZ in Orlando is a
terrific station. That station just oozes personality
and not just in morning drive
10. Where do you
see Christian radio in 5 years?
I believe it will
still be growing, but I think there will be
challenges. We will face the same issues as other
formats. Iím not nearly as worried about satellite
radio as I am wireless mobile technology. How about an
ipod in your car or a slot where you just slide your
ipod into the dashboard? How about satellite TV for
the car? If the kids are watching Cartoon Network when
it is time to go? No problem, watch the rest of the
show in the car. Now I also think we have huge
advantages over other formats. We have the opportunity
for deep emotional connections with the audience that
the rest canít begin to fathom, let alone replicate.
Many kids have no interest in radio. However, the kids
of our audience are singing along with their parents
to our stations everyday. But for all of this to play
to our advantage five years from now, we have to be
vigilant in our commitment to quality and relevancy