Every September the broadcast television networks begin rolling out their new shows to massive hype. Every year without fail most shows see steep drop-offs in viewership from week to week while the “successful” ones are those which see their ratings hold steady. Every now and then there is a show like Empire that somehow increases its viewership numbers from week to week during its inaugural run.
The same is true for radio stations. Yet you wouldn’t know it based on how a few launches this past week have been handled. As we live in an era that seems to think the only way to launch a new format is weeks and weeks of automated music it should not surprise to see operators not care about how they handle the possible first impressions a listener will have.
Cumulus launched two new Classic Hip-Hop stations this week utilizing their network programming distributed by Westwood One. On Monday, 98.3 KWQW in Des Moines debuted by joining said network in the middle of a song and not having the local imaging in place. Wednesday’s move of 95.5 KNEV Reno into the network brought a retriggering of the launch package followed by a few seconds of dead-air and then also joining a song in progress. The purpose of any launch is to create a good first impression for as many people as possible. As Cumulus is relying on word of mouth to build buzz for their new even having one potential listener get turned off by a bad launch is bad for business.
Sure there are less possible listeners at the moment of launch as there will be as word of mouth trickles out. None of those people are going to know or care that the first song started in the middle, that the imaging didn’t trigger for a bit, or that the station’s website still showed the former Conservative Talk lineup and promotions for a few hours. So why does it matter?
If you don’t care about having everything in place at launch why should the listener care? If you’re going to half-ass the debut of your station why should anyone expect anything different two weeks, two months, or two years later?
Then there is “Jammin 101.5” KJHM Denver. Last Friday KJHM relaunched at 5:00pm as it shifted its music from a 1970s/80s based playlist to Rhythmic Hot AC featuring the 1990’s through now. Branded as “The Next Generation of Jammin 101.5”, owner Max Media forgot to do one thing. There has been no marketing of the station. Nowhere has the station promoted the new format. Not even a post on any social media platform or the station’s website explaining what the “Next Generation” is or why listeners should care about the change that took place. All they’ve done is change the music without explaining why. If the station doesn’t think its worth promoting how is that fair to their employees and listeners? Max Media is basically saying their station is just filler until they come up with something better.
Not every format change or new show launch will be like Empire or the worst to first run of WKTU New York in 1996. But if the new format debuts half-assed, with no marketing in place, or even just without a basic website and social media campaign to give listeners information about the station all it does is cripple the chances for success.