Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WTJU and the World Wide Web

For me, one of the takeaways from the recent Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference was the increasing importance of the online audience. Granted, we're still at the "analog dollars/digital pennies" stage, but as the Jacobs Media Study shows, online audiences are growing.

And that's great news for WTJU, the station I volunteer for. Charlottesville, Virginia's blessed with a disproportional number of non-commercial radio stations. There's the powerhouse, WVTF (based in Roanoke) with the traditional NPR news/classical music mix. To a lesser extent, there's also WMRA (from Harrisonburg), with syndicated NPR news/talk. WNRN provides alternative rock, and other musical genres that appeal to the student population and the AAA public radio listener.

WTJU delivers a unique blend of several different formats. Although some of our programming is similar to that offered by the other stations, in my opinion WTJU provides richer, deeper content. Serious listeners can appreciate the difference -- and that's why I'm excited about growing our online audience.

WNRN maintains a tightly controlled playlist that leans toward the more popular and accessible artists of the genres they play. It's a successful strategy -- they've built a large audience over the years. But what about the artists that have something to say but aren't so mainstream? WTJU.

WVTF and WMRA air classical music, but it's designed for easy listening. Soothing melodies, excerpted movements, mainly classical and romantic composers (ca. 1730-1890), etc. It's not uncommon programming for public radio stations, and again, it works. Both stations have an audience. But what if you want to hear music of the renaissance, or something by a living composer, or a Maria Callas aria? WTJU.

And the same's true for jazz, and folk, and even world music.

Are there enough listeners within the WTJU coverage area to support this kind of in-depth eclectic programming? I think so, but it's a finite number. There's only so many people that can live within our listening area, and it's not likely the FCC will let us expand our signal.

But that's not true online. Through the Internet we could potentially reach every single person in the world who's passionate about Milt Jackson, or the Dixie Beeliners, or Steve Reich. And the early signs show we're making a start.

When I'm on the air, I send out updates about my program, always using as the URL for the audio stream. is a service that allows the creation of short, trackable redirects, so I'm able to see who's clicking on the link and from where.

The past two shows have brought in about 100 online listeners (we can currently accommodate 60 at a time). Most are from the U.S., but I've also had online listeners from Canada, France, Belgium, Sweden, Slovinia, and -- just this week -- Japan.

Online is where listeners (even local ones) are moving to, and it's where we have the best chance to grow. Because 200 stations streaming "Morning Edition" sort of cancel each other out (especially when the listener can access it directly from NPR). But a station streaming programming heard no where else? That's really where it's at.

Can't wait to see next week's stats!

- Ralph

Day 98 of the WJMA Podwatch.


  1. Thanks for the tip on I'll use that for my own audio stream.

  2. They were hacked recently, and that screwed up a lot of the data collected before that time, but they're back with much more robust security in place, so I'm sticking with them.