Monday, October 27, 2008

WTJU and the Shocking Surprise

I won't keep you in suspense. The shocking surprise is that radio has a certain role in people's lives -- regardless of format. And people are creatures of habit.

Think about your own radio listening habits (for those readers who still use the radio, that is). Chances are, you most often listen to the radio in the car. And most often while traveling to and from work. You probably have a few choice stations preset on the dial, and you flip back and forth depending on what's on.

On the weekend, there's probably certain times you like to have the radio on. I like turn it on when I'm in my garage workshop on Saturdays, for example. And I often use it while I'm working in the attic or other home maintenance-type projects where wearing an iPod would either get in the way or be dangerous.

However you use the radio, it's most likely part of a routine. Complicated schedules don't enter into the mix. Either what you want is on, or it isn't. And if it isn't, then you move on to another station where it is.

So when WTJU blew out its regular programming for five days of classical music and five days of jazz, they messed with people's routines. And what do you do if the station you have on isn't playing what you like? Right. Either turn it off, or turn to another station.

My Saturday evening fund-raising program on WTJU did what I thought it would -- very little. Do I fault those that listened and didn't call in? Not really. Because I don't think that many were listening, anyway. I replaced the Saturday program that had it's own [non-classical] following, so I'm sure many people just tuned out.

I've had many discussions with my fellow volunteers about fund-raising at the station. They continually cite anecdotal evidences proving that listeners love our marathon fund-raisers and wouldn't have it any other way. Well, perhaps, but each drive there's a few less of those long-time listeners who contribute. New listeners (especially those who are used to how public radio works in other parts of the country before moving here) don't know about the marathon tradition at WTJU.

All they know is that they turned on the radio one day, and something different was being broadcast on WTJU. And so they went somewhere else.

I understand how people use the radio. And anyone who uses the radio, if they paused to think about it, understands it to. But to many of my colleagues at WTJU? It continues to be a shocking surprise.

- Ralph

Day 132 of the WJMA Web Watch.


  1. I've never become a regular listener to WTJU because of the eclectic format. In theory, I love it, but in practice, I gravitate to consistent programming timetables.

    I do enjoy the rock marathons, though, because it's time when I guarantee music that I enjoy will be on the radio.

  2. Sean:

    And that's my point. I think an eclectic format can work if it's consistent, because that way you know that the music you enjoy will be on (at least during those same hours). We do classical 6-9 Monday through Friday, for example, and I know quite a few listeners who listen to us during that time, and then switch over to WVTF to continue listening to classical (that's when we go to jazz). It's consistent, and people can establish a listening routine.

    Of course, we're not consistent throughout the weekday, which leads to the perception that we're all over the map. Weeknights, for example, it's classical 5-7; except when it's folk music. 2-4 weekdays we program rock, except Fridays when we do world music.

    It's asking too much of the listener to keep it all straight (heck, I had to refer to a schedule just to make sure I had my citations right). And so many, like you, simply don't.

  3. I think the blogs are helping. I keep reading the playlists, and think, gosh, I should listen. But I don't. At least seeing and then scanning a blog post is one more chance for WTJU to makes its presence known.

    However, I'm not an ideal listener anyway, given that I generally prefer talk programming. I'm going to try to remember 2-4, though.

  4. Good point about the blogs (still in their infancy). If we do more forward promotion through them, it may help steer people to shows they're interested in. Which reminds me. I'm supposed to set up one for the classical department...

  5. I have a question about forward mentions, actually. Are you limited in what you say by any of the various copyright restrictions?

    In general, I still think blogging is a great way to get messages out there, and I don't think public media is doing yet what it will be doing in the future. NPR is taking tremendous leads, but I still see much potential in public media to create and grow niche audiences. We're doing this at Charlottesville Tomorrow with our emphasis on infrastructure issues. You're doing that with your record label, though not necessarily in a strictly non-commercial way.

    I'd like to do more of that through using the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

    But, I think for WTJU, I would love to hear what a particular show is going to be airing. I'd like to find ways to create on-air events.

    Does WTJU do any live events any more? I know shows used to emanate from the Prism, but that's over.

  6. As far as I know, there aren't any restrictions. But it doesn't have to be that detailed. A post that mentions an upcoming Jello Biafra program and cites some of the tracks that will be aired should be enough for promotional purposes. I don't think its necessary to give a complete playlist.

    As far as live events go, there's no regular program, but live shows happen all the time. There will be four jazz groups playing live in the studio for the marathon. The live sets air Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights 7-9 PM. Now that's easy to remember!