Twice a year in the Prince George radio world, we get told which stations are getting the most listeners in different timeslots. We just received the numbers for fall 2014 and it seems CBC Radio One is the most-listened-to station in the city and Daybreak North is the most-listened-to show on the station.
I have mixed feelings about ratings, actually. It’s certainly a measure of success, but not the only measure. At points when we’ve been number two or three the top stations have been Top 40 or classic oldies, and I certainly wouldn’t feel good about hitting number one by switching to an easy listening music format.
What we have done is focus some on making new audiences aware we exist. There are plenty of people in Prince George who aren’t aware CBC has a local office or locally-produced show. I doubt the same is true of most of the other stations. Even if you don’t listen to them, you’ll see bus ads and hockey boards with the logos of the rock, classic, hits, and country stations all over the place. Good on them, they are involved in the community, but it’s also increasing brand awareness in a way we don’t have the capacity to do in our shop. We aren’t buying billboards.
So instead we’ve been focusing on events and the web to grow our presence. Special series like the one we did on the VLA started all sorts of conversations in real life and online and when we held a community forum to go with it, the email invite was forward through all sorts of community groups that may not have normally been paying attention to our programming. Same thing goes for our mayor’s debate earlier this year. Full house, a bunch of other local media taking pictures, and there’s CBC front and center. It’s also been happening smaller-scale, just getting our radio stories online and shared out to people on Facebook and Twitter so that more people are finding out CBC exists locally and is telling stories they might be interested in.
What’s gratifying to me is that we’ve done this by focusing on things I think only we can do. A journalistic series about a specific neighbourhood in Prince George is something no other radio station would touch, because it would make no sense in their programming. A mayor’s debate is hyper-local politics. We’re not getting flashier or throwing in more contests and giveaways, we’re just making it easier for the people who would be interested in what we’re doing to find out about us.
I mean, there’s a lot of other stuff to it, as well, and quite frankly it’s a guessing game about why the ratings are what they are. But as long as we’re proud of the work we’re doing (I am) and it’s reaching an audience who appreciates it (it seems to be), I’m happy.
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