As in Washington DC, a long-time commercial classical station flipped formats, and KUSC picked up some of their audience. But according to the LA Times article, that doesn't fully account for KUSC's new-found success. In commercial radio, the trend is to fire talent and increase automation because it's cheaper. And they wonder why listenership continues to decrease.
At KUSC, they traded generic syndication for local announcers with real personality (like Rich Capparela -- I've known him for almost 15 years now, and he's an interesting, articulate witty person both on and off the mic). It's live and it's local, and listeners are responding -- which is only news to the bean counters.
But there's another part of the story that's worthy of attention -- and I hope our friends at WJMA (whose site is still under construction as of this posting) are paying attention.
Internet streaming of classical radio has made access to the genre more widely available than ever, offering anyone with a computer the chance to tune in WGBH in Boston, WQXR in New York or, for that matter, purely online services like Classical Music America or SKY.fm.KUSC gets it. In order to stand out online (the future of radio), you have to be unique. And being local is the best (and most authentic) way to do that.
"We want to stand out on the Web by offering something unique," [KUSC General Manager] DeWeese says, "by promoting Southern California's fine arts scene -- the Phil and the opera. Outside of London and New York, you don't see that."
"As local as we can make it," [KUSC President] Barnes says.
Program locally, broadcast internationally. It even works for classical music.
Day 2 of the WJMA Web Watch.