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BECA 305 Spring 2000

Market Analysis Paper

Matthias Fuchs

 

 

  1. Station description

The Station’s name is KWWW, and it is a telling one. The idea behind it is “to take the internet to the airwaves” as its slogan says. Web radio has already existed for some time but nobody has really attempted to create a radio station that people can listen to on a conventional radio while surfing the net or working using the net. You cannot watch TV when you are using the computer, but you can listen to the radio (but KWWW will also be available via the web). The basic idea is that the station should be tailored to the needs of generation@, a demographics to be talked about later. The program will not be filled with dry technology or stock market news, but mostly with music and features on the latest web-topics, with a “fun” approach. The listener will also be offered different ways to interactively influence the program.  

The format of the station will largely be Contemporary Hit Radio, or Top 40, the reasons for that being explained later. However, to enlarge the desired demographic the music selection will also consist of alternative rock/modern hits (CHURBAN). It will be an FM station, like most CHR stations (better sound quality).

 

  1. History of the Format

Top 40, as the name suggests, focuses on playing music that is high up in the charts, with less regard to a consistent sound than A/C, for example. The target audience consists of teens and young adults. The format was already around in the 1950s. It has undergone some changes, most notably concerning DJ presence, which was sharply reduced in the 1960s to “streamline” the stations. Having regained some ground in the ‘70s, DJ presence was cut again in the ‘80s. That was also the time when the format was most successful, with many Top 40 or Hot Hit stations at the top of the ratings in their markets.

One of the fundamental flaws of the format is the fact that the diverse music styles that can be found at the top of the charts are hard to incorporate into one program. Rappers might not appeal to people who would listen to other “hot” music, for example. To counter the fact that CHR is becoming less popular (it was called the statistical loser of the 1990s), the format is moving more towards the “street sound”, incorporating dance-rap and as CHURBAN alternative/modern rock.

 

  1. The Target Audience

The “classical” CHR format addresses mostly listeners from age 12 to 18. To increase the target audience, the format of KWWW will also incorporate different, more “adult” music styles, most notably alternative rock to draw audiences from college stations. KWWW’s primary target audience ranges from ages 12 to 29. This includes teens and young adults who use their computers and the net mainly “for fun” (surfing, playing games), but also in the segment above 20 many internet-savvy college students and young people who might be working for internet companies already. This vaguely defined group is called generation@ by some market researchers and this term will be used for convenience. Men will still be in the majority among the listeners, reflecting the general demographic makeup of internet- and computer users. For this reason, the sound will rather focus on harder rock music than soft hits. The ethnicity of the target audience will be very diverse, representing the Bay Area’s ethnic makeup. Education levels in the audience will be above average, reflecting a general feature of internet users as well as the fact that many college students or graduates will be among the listeners. Last, but never least the target audience is economically very attractive: The school kids have their pocket money to spend, the internet professionals their often exorbitantly high salaries. Moreover the target audience is willing to spend that money, is willing to consume. They are less reluctant to spend money than their parents and have grown up in an age of economic prosperity. They often have certain hobbies on which they spend money, for example computer hardware and software. Their interest is easy to capture, but they also lose interest fast and are quick to switch to a different station. A varied music selection and strong listener-station ties are therefore essential.

As for advertisers, the target audience that has been outlined is the most desirable. They will buy everything that is advertised as being “cool”, from movies to online-shopping to vacations to high-tech toys. Advertisers might include (but are not limited to) electronics manufacturers, film companies, leisure/travel companies and predominantly dot.coms, but also major brands, from Pepsi to Ford. Mostly advertisers will try to make their commercials attractive to men, as they will probably be a majority among the listeners (but with more and more women using the net, this will probably change in the future). Another benefit for advertisers is that the teens who listen to the program today might be the executives of internet companies tomorrow, with much more money to spend.

Although CHR has lost audience to formats like Urban Contemporary, a revamped CHR as described above as well as the right mix of topics to attract the internet crowd should prove sufficient to capture large parts of the 12-29 audience.

 

  1. The sound

Top 40 or CHR, plays a diverse mix of top hits. As mentioned before, KWWW will move that format slightly towards alternative rock to attract more listeners. To appeal to young listeners, who don’t like talk/news, 90% of airtime will be music. Talk elements will include dynamic promos with lots of sound effects to appeal to young listeners. One could think of a station ID using a melodic rendition of the modem sound. There will also be news about “hot stuff” for the computer and new web pages. There might also be an hourly feature about some topic that is of interest to the audience (game reviews, movie/sci-fi/fantasy topics, music news, computer-related health problems, etc.). Keeping with the format, DJ presence will be cut to a minimum, one or two real air-personalities would be enough.

In the mornings, the sound will be more dynamic than later in the day, to get listeners a good start into the day and to keep them going when they listen to the radio while working. Short weather and news updates will also be broadcast at that time of day (but only then), for people commuting to work. Unlike other stations, the prime time for KWWW is the night, from 6 pm to 3 am. Many young people surf the net at that time, even late at night. This is where the focus of attention of the Program Director should be.

The central feature of KWWW should be the possibility for surfers visiting their website to determine the next title to be played. As soon as a song has started playing, polling for the next title would begin and end exactly at the end of the last song. After the station jingle, the computer would automatically play the song that got the most votes. There are some requirements for this idea to work, of course. The station must have an expensive, fully automatic broadcast system. The range of titles listeners can choose from should also be adapted to fit the format. There should also be the rule that a particular song cannot be played more than once in an hour.

 

  1. Audience connection

Generally, CHR stations use many ways to connect with the listeners. They let listeners talk on the air (e.g. when they just won something), they often offer prizes and sponsor large events like concerts (and are present there) and they operate a website to get listener feedback. KWWW will use some of these elements, e.g. offering games to win prizes/website. The station will also try to advertise its name, mostly using banner ads on other web pages (“turn your radio on…”, or a link to their web-radio). Frequent live-chats with the producers and DJs of the station will also play an important role to let the listeners interact. The feature of polling to determine the songs played on the air is the cornerstone of audience connection: if listeners get the feeling that they can directly influence the character of their favorite station, they will develop a strong tie to that station.

A good idea might also be a 20-second description of “the website of the hour” at the full hour. With hundreds of pages worldwide going online for the first time every hour, preparing this feature shouldn’t be a problem when a staff member uses a search engine. It will keep listeners waiting for the next “site of the hour” that they can surf to directly. They can also experience this “history in the making” feeling.

It might appear difficult to create strong audience connection to the station without much DJ presence, but the format has proved successful and the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides.

 

  1. SF stations that play the format

The CHR format seems highly successful in the Bay Area market, with 3 CHR stations among the top 11 stations in the Arbitron ratings for summer ’99. Z 95.7 is definitely a typical CHR station, with KMEL and Wild 94.9 rather leaning towards Rap/Dance music.

But the fact that three stations are successful with the same format also means that the format is highly competitive and that the market might already be saturated. Furthermore, analysts say that the Bay Area has the highest concentration of media in the U.S. But this makes the innovative approach of KWWW even more powerful: not another one of the usual Top 40 stations, but one with a slightly different sound, its program suiting the new demographics of the internet-generation and with a number of strong ways to connect to its audience. People with a special connection to the web are numerous in the Bay Area, the cradle of the digital revolution, so this is the best place to launch a station like KWWW.

CNET radio has some similarities to KWWW (orientation towards internet-users), but KWWW would be rather focusing on younger audiences (less talk/news, other topics) and more music.