Say you are from a large metropolitan area, and you come into contact with a person from that same area in the presence of people from other metro areas (either because you are in a different area or these people are visiting or new to your area). There might be no more exclusive conversation you can have than one about radio stations in your respective area. Now, you may have conversations about different types of radio, based on your shared or conflicting interests with the Hometowner You’re Talking To, but I don’t think there’s any conversation this Outtatowner With You would be less involved in.
But say you were all sports fans- generally said OWY would have some knowledge base regarding this sports team, either because his Area’s Sports Team might have played them a few times, or because sports is just an interest of his. Probably same goes for a band from your area, because oftentimes these bands get big, or there’s going to be a similar band from his area that you and the HYTT might have heard of. Even if you guys get talking about the weather or politics, that’s something the OWY could have some opinion or insight on about simply because he’s a semi-informed person. But if you talk about a radio station, there’s nothing he could offer an opinion on, because said local station would never need to make itself known outside of the metro area it calls home. In this era of instant interaction with different people in far-flung areas, it might be one of the last bastions of regionalism. Anyway, it’s probably best to change the subject quickly, unless you want that dude to just leave.
So being a representation of the local area is probably the best thing radio has going for it. And one of the best ways to do this is by obtaining rights to a local sports team. My favorite station right now is JACK fm, which seems to be most highly competing with the upstart K-Twin (also on a pre-set in my car- since, I’m guessing, the station was called B96). I say that, since they’ve been advertising a lot using ‘Twin Cities’, which seems to be in answer to K-Twin’s “Everything for the Twin Cities” campaign. K-Twin might actually start winning the race for title of the Twin Cities Station, as they are going to have the Twins broadcast rights starting next year. This is bad news for JACK. FM tends to have such a small broadcast range, so very few fm stations are allowed to carry sports of any kind. WCCO let the Twins go a while back, though they really don’t have to worry about losing any kind of regional foothold, as they also have a TV affiliate people know and love. And there’s probably a reason that stations like Cities97, which have a local nickname for our area in their name, have been so successful (despite, quite honestly, really sucking). One of the last advantages radio has is its ability to make people feel connected to those they live near.
And another way they do this is to run a lot of commercials for local enterprises. But even the most diehard tuners-in, tend to want to tune those out. The best policy I’ve learned is that you have to have other pre-sets at the ready in case it does go to commercials. They follow one of two strategies- either it’s a commercial you’ve seen on tv without the picture, or a very annoying dialogue that could never happen in everyday life, between two people you’d never want to meet. They also usually last for about 10-15 minutes, so too much time to try to justify waiting them out if you actually want to be entertained. I do believe JACK fm has a semi-smart strategy, which is to rip on the fact that they have commercials, saying things like “Wow, you made it through all of those? Here- have a cookie!”
One of the ways radio can stay part of the fabric of a city so much more easily than other mediums, I’m starting to realize, is because of what you can do while listening to it- driving around, biking around, playing video games, yard games- whatever! And I can honestly say that I’ve done all of those things recently listening to radio. (My roomies are quickly finding that I cannot, however, do any of those things while watching tv.) Growing up, one of my most regular summer activities was listening to the Twins while I shot hoops in the driveway. It helped me not stress out so much. And I’ve often felt like sports radio, no matter how annoying, can make it seem like you’re listening to the heartbeat of a city. There’s still a huge (though friendly) rivalry in the Cities between those who listen to KFAN and 1500 for their sports talk. It’s not just sports talk. I’ve noticed a lot of dudes with a 93X pre-set in their car which actually never seems to be touched in the course of a short trip. I have 93X as a preset in the car that I haven’t changed the presets on since I bought, and I understand that it had previously been owned by a middle-aged woman. Because what’s better than blasting rock-and-roll while you’re cruising down 35W? While tv keeps us connected to people throughout the country or the world, radio is the means by which we stay connected to where and when we are.