Tuesday, October 28, 2008

WTJU and the Shifting Gear (sans clutch)

Today I hosted a lunchtime fund-raising program at WTJU. There's been a good conversation going on in the comments field of my last post about the station and the way it raises money.

So how did I do today? Better than Saturday, that's for sure! But was as much as I potentially could have raised?

A number of factors were at work that determined my success (or lack thereof). On the minus side, folks who normally listened to "Walk Right In," the folk program normally heard at this time probably weren't in the mood for Chopin, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schumann piano music. In fact, if they made WTJU part of their lunch-time routine, they probably tuned out Monday and haven't returned. So the strong following our noonday programming has was gone.

On the plus side, our fund-raising marathon had been running since Friday, so some people understood that classical programming is what they could expect to hear. That audience, was, of course, the same group that regularly listens to classical throughout the year.

So there were some more pledges today than Saturday, but still from the same subset of WTJU's total audience.

And now that folks are getting used to the classical programming, we'll switch gears tonight and hit them with five days of jazz.

Now don't get me wrong: there are a lot of really great jazz shows scheduled, and a whole series of live, in studio performances with some phenomenal regional jazz artists. As far as content goes, it will be wonderful.

But the classical listeners who tune in tomorrow expecting more of the same will be disappointed. As will any folk or rock programming listeners who tune in hoping the madness is over and they can get back to their routine.

And the jazz listeners? Well, some will understand that we've made the switch, but it will take many a few days to get up to speed. At which point the marathon will be over.

I've got a jazz fund-raising program tomorrow morning 6-9AM. It's my usual time slot, but my usual audience expects classical, not jazz. I don't anticipate getting a lot of pledges (not that I won't try my best). Immediately following my show, however, is the regular 9-12 jazz host with a jazz program. I expect it to do very well, as he talks to the audience that he's developed over the years.

To the volunteers at the station, changing formats for the marathon may seem like just shifting gears. But to the listeners it's like grinding the gearbox. Without some kind of clutch to ease the transition, it can be a jarring experience -- one that most radio listeners prefer to avoid.

- Ralph

Day 133 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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