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Changes on the dial: Locally-based radio tuning in to the digital age
Radio has altered dramatically in the 12 years since Sandy Springs resident Reed Haggard co-founded the pioneering liberal talk network Air America.
The thing that threw everything up [in the air] was this, Haggard said in a recent interview, holding up a cellphone. Individuals have many options now.
Now Haggard and his old Air America partner Jon Sinton are trying to turn the digital tide to their advantage with a liberal talk app called Progressive Voices. He’s simply one of many in the local radio company which frequently runs in under-the-radar offices who are dealing with exactly what radio means in the new multimedia landscape.
Some are big companies like Cumulus Media, which runs several stations like Rock 100.5 and OG 97.9 within offices near the I-285/ Ga. 400 interchange. Some are regional small businesses, like America’s Web Radio, an online conservative talk and academic station based in a Sandy Springs office park.
Knox, the one-named DJ and promos manager at Buckhead-based alternative rock station Radio 105.7, says the radio world now works on the paper plate theory people take in [content] really quickly and toss it away.
Social media is now a big part of the job, Knox stated as he sat at his desk clicking a new post to the stations Facebook page. You can discover music pretty quickly anywhere these days, he said, so radio’s task is to tie it into a way of life feel via social networks and DJ personalities.
Haggard has actually been in radio for over 35 years on the sales and fundraising side of business, at both commercial stations he began at Atlanta s old 94Q rock station and such public broadcasting outlets as WABE. Even 10 years into the web era, Haggard stated, it was a company that printed money with big earnings margins.
When I left [alternative rock station] 99X in 2003, we billed $23 million [to advertisers] Half of that was earnings, he said. And we weren’t the top biller in the marketplace.
In the wake of satellite radio, the iPod, online music services like Pandora and phone radio apps, the pie is chopped method thinner, Haggard stated. And while business like Cumulus and iHeartMedia have constructed big multi-station empires, he said, they also developed financial obligation.
Radio 105.7 is owned by iHeart, which runs 5 other stations together with it in the exact same structure at 1819 Peachtree Road. Stations as diverse as 94.9 The Bull, El Patron 105.3 and 640 WGST AM share studios next to each other, like apartment building next-door neighbors.
Knox got his start in radio at 99X the very same year Haggard left the station and remembers the long-gone days when stations had 20 to 30 staffers.
Radio 105.7 is basically run by two individuals at this point, Knox said. Everyone uses 9 hats.
That’s still enough to pack a punch, he said, noting the station sponsored a concert by the band Weezer the previous night that drew 18,000 fans. And the digital transformation has many upsides, he stated, including iHeart’s online radio platform that aggregates its stations for about 60 million registered users. If you’re a fan of Knox’s show, you can capture him anywhere in the nation online.
Haggard is likewise trying use the double-edged sword of multimedia to cut his way. Air America had a famously meteoric life as a liberal counterpoint to conservative talk radio, introducing the career of MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow and enhancing comic Al Franken to a U.S. Senate seat. It rapidly collapsed financially. Haggard stated the cost of paying talk talent is one reason that.
Progressive Voices, founded in 2010, uses a lower-cost design of producing a virtual syndicated talk network. Liberal talkers around the country record displays in their houses or regional radio stations. The San Francisco-created app integrates those programs through the Westwood One network in Denver with specialty content on servers in Connecticut. For the user, it’s an easy slate of shows they can listen to on a phone or computer. The company likewise has a nonprofit arm that establishes regional talent to include the mix, such as Mike Malloy, the previous WSB Radio personality.
We triangulate all that things making everything work, Haggard said. This innovation simply blows me away, that it’s just so innovative.
He said company is good, with 600,000 listeners, which he expects to strike 1 million by the presidential election.
Whatever form it takes, radio still has some magic for its personality-driven specialists. That’s not saying a lot. You make your money and your name by being rather severe, Haggard said.
At Radio 105.7, a visitor may go into a silvery, light-studded lobby, walk down a heart-red hallway of concert pictures and, if they’re lucky, see a gig in a custom-made performance space. From an office with a mini Captain America shield stuck in the wall, Knox plots such stunts as getting the band Tool to sign a kitchen area sink for a fortunate fan.
I got into this business to wear Chucks and T-shirts to work, said Knox, who undoubtedly was sporting the black tennis shoes and a Beatles t-shirt. And amid all the modifications, he still runs one of rock radio’s most basic services: a local-music program.
It’s not a ratings motorist, but it links us to a regional audience, he stated. I root".