Spotlight: OWOW Radio
Join us as we talk with John Gorman, Chief Content Officer at WOW Media, LLC, about forging a path for Internet Radio that represents the spirit of Cleveland.
What is the first memory of your company?
It was actually 24 years ago. The Internet was still in its embryonic stage. The opportunities were limitless. I felt that within a few decades, it would supplant analog for audio and video broadcasting and would evolve into an actual required pubic utility. I was in the terrestrial radio industry at the time as the Vice President of programming for OmniAmerica, which owned a growing chain of radio stations, including WMMS, WMJI and WHK in Cleveland. The radio industry was about to be deregulated, which I also felt would not be a judicious move in the long run.
How does your first memory compare to what the company has become?
Nearly everything I expected. The first decade of the Millennium, when there was no net neutrality in this country stifled the growth and development of what we call “the Internet of all things.” The consequence was that much of Europe and nearly all of Asia have superior Internet technology – including speed and access – than we do in the US.
Actually, my initial project was something called Radio Crow – an Internet portal that allowed users to access – at the time – hundreds of radio and television stations, many of them from Europe and Asia, that were broadcasting full-time on the Internet. Regrettably, I did not have partners that shared the same long-term vision, which was to create a program that could be inserted in vehicles and stand-alone devices to receive online audio and video. In the year 2000, it seemed too far-fetched for some. Today, it’s part of the technology environment. Anyone who has visited China, South Korea or much of Europe knows how far advanced the Internet has become in those markets. The US will eventually catch up, optimistically, because of demand.
What has surprised you as a business owner?
The initial responses to my proposal. I was cautioned by many friends and colleagues in the industry not to launch this venture in Cleveland, because it wasn’t a tech savvy market like Boston, Seattle or San Francisco and would take longer to gain acceptance.
But I also know, from experience, that Cleveland is and has always been musically savvy. AM and FM radio in this market, which is no longer locally programmed or operated, no longer reflects the musical tastes of this region. When the music played on a radio station is determined by how much it costs to get placement on a playlist, that station is no longer providing a musical soundtrack to the its city of license. oWOW is one hundred percent locally owned, operated and programmed with we call a “Timeless Rock” format – the sweet spot between classic rock and indie rock. We do not deal with influence peddlers nor do we practice “pay for play” schemes, which most terrestrial radio stations now engage in. Most of our staff come from a broadcasting or musical background and many were well-known and established in this market long before they joined oWOW.
Who are some of the coolest people you’ve met since opening?
Our listeners, our clients, and many of the acts that we play.
What might we be surprised to learn about your business?
We are the future and the future is now. Radio listening has been rapidly declining since the beginning of the Millennium. Radios are no longer being mass manufactured. Most retail outlets no longer stock radios. There is no demand for them. They have been replaced by Bluetooth speakers, headphones, and earbuds, and now, smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa.
No one carries an AM –FM radio around – but nearly everyone has a smartphone – and with our oWOW app – one tap gets you instant access to our station – not only in Cleveland – but nearly everywhere in the world. The trend toward connected homes provides us the opportunity to be heard throughout a home and, unlike AM and FM, there is no static, inferior sound quality, and signal limitations.
Radio ratings are archaic. Nielsen, which exists because old media still relies on their antiquated survey methods rates about 800 households in a market of 1,100,000 people. And its data is prone to abuse. On the other hand, online radio provides us a far more accurate read of our audience because every stream listened to is identified by the IP address receiving it. The only estimation that ever comes into play is how many people are listening to each stream. Is it one person listening on headphones or earbuds or is it an office, store or restaurant with a dozen or more people listening simultaneously from a Bluetooth speaker?
How do you think your company will change in the next five years?
We have the option to add more stations and formats. We also have the option to franchise WOW Media formats in other markets from to like-minded entrepreneurs who want to best serve their market with live and local programming and super-serving local businesses. We will continue to advance our services to our listeners and clients with more audio and video opportunities to optimize their experience with oWOW.
What has been your main goal at this company?
Success. We provide, free of charge, continuous entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days week to the 18th largest advertising market in the country. We program and market to the 17 county area surrounding Northeast Ohio. Compare that to the Cleveland radio market, which is limited by signal and marketing efforts to a maximum five-county region surrounding Cleveland and Cuyahoga county, which is the 33rd largest ad market in the country. Over 97 percent of our audience is based in this region.
The remaining 3 percent compromise the rest of the world – and I have to believe that most of those listening are Northeast Ohio expatriates. They live somewhere else but listen to us regularly to hear the soundtrack of Cleveland, where they grew up and spent time in. In addition, we run only 6 units of commercials an hour – all of from clients who are regionally based. Because we do not have the overhead of AM FM radio chains including debt service, the cost of maintaining transmitters, towers and the enormous electric bills to run them and leasing the land they’re on.
Ready to learn more about oWOW Radio? Click here!