Windsor’s radio station is looking for a few good men.
In fact, Townsquare Media officials are hoping to attract a host of male listeners — and advertisers — with its format change of 94.3 Max FM in a partnership with its online rock website, Loudwire.com.
The FM dial 94.3, which has been set to classic rock for the past four years or so, is moving on to “mainstream rock” — a hybrid of sorts of the old and the new. The station also will add a new non-music morning show with a group of guys in the radio version of “The Talk.”
The change will take place Monday.
The change is an iconic one of many the radio industry has faced through the years as advertisers have increasingly shifted their dollars, and more niche satellite radio offerings have pulled listeners away, hurting ratings. In today’s cash-challenged marketplace, radio networks also are increasingly being acquired by larger companies, such as Clear Channel, which means a lot of consolidation — and fewer personalities.
Two-year-old Townsquare Media, a privately owned group of radio stations and websites throughout the country and headquartered in Connecticut, is making the move in Windsor to give its advertisers more diversity while keeping the local flavor. The media group owns three other stations at its Windsor offices, including Tri 102.5, a light-rock station, K-99, a country music station, and 99.9 The Point, which hits the younger set for Top 40 hits. Its only other Colorado stations are a group of six in Grand Junction.
“We’re going for an audience that is younger and a little bit more male,” said Townsquare Market Manager, Pete Hanson, of the change. “We’ve got four stations that did fine with a male audience, but we’re very heavily female skewed. The bottom line is to offer our advertisers more reach into the male world. Country is usually 50-50, and with Tri 102 and the Point, both are pretty female-heavy. … It’s a bit like a newspaper not having a sports page. If they put in a sports page, that could probably attract more male readers and certain advertisers.”
Part of the conversion comes with a new morning show format, in which the station will contract with the syndicated show, “Free Beer & Hot Wings,” — also known as Gregg “Free Beer” Daniels and Chris “Hot Wings” Michaels — who broadcast their show out of Grand Rapids, Mich. They’ve been on the air since 1997. Hanson said the morning show will not focus on geography, as it has more listeners outside of Michigan than inside.
“It’s a bunch of guys talking about guy stuff,” Hanson said. “It’s all talk, no music, so it’s a little unique. You could be a country music fan and listen to this show. It’s not about rock music, it’s about guys. It’s really done with guys in mind.”
In this highly competitive platform, Hanson said, the good news is that there are more people listening, albeit in a variety of settings. Not only can they listen via their car radio, but through the web and their mobile devices.
“The overall challenge to all of that is to figure out and have a maniacal focus on good content because that still wins,” Hanson said. “Radio listening to traditional stations has actually grown. It comes to content, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s free.”
The evolution has morphed Townsquare’s focus, Hanson said.
“I’d say that Townsquare media with all confidence is not a radio company any more,” Hanson said. “Two-plus years ago when it started, it was, but now it is as much digital and events as it is radio. It’s the three-legged stool.”
Even publicly held Clear Channel has acknowledged the digital presence, attesting last summer to plans to grow its digital audience in the future.
Hanson promises the Max FM format change is the only one being contemplated among the four channels in Windsor, and officials are committed to making it work — with on-air personalities. The station has one DJ moving into the daytime slot, and Hanson plans on a second sometime soon, to keep the station community-oriented.
“The only way for radio to stay relevant is to have more content. If it becomes bad, they just go somewhere else,” Hanson said. “On radio, the music is important but the value to the people in a community is everything between the songs. I come for the music, but what I really bond to is all the other stuff. I’m listening to Brian and Todd (K99’s morning DJs), not because they’re going to play Tim McGraw stuff, because they can’t out-Tim McGraw my iPod.”