While other newspapers are experimenting with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the Austin American-Statesman in Texas is betting on radio.
In early April, the Statesman launched its new streaming radio station, Austin360 Radio, which can be found at austin360radio.com. It’s also displayed at the top of the newspaper’s three websites: austin360.com, statesman.com and hookem.com. The station features news briefings on the hour, soul and funk music, and popular local radio host JB Hager headlines a daily show Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. In addition, Statesman reporters will come in and speak about their beats, and their podcasts will be repurposed into shorter radio bites. The station also features some sponsored content.
So, why radio?
“We talk a lot about our third revenue stream, with print and digital being first and second,” Scott Pompe, vice president of advertising, said. “I think people are starting to realize that digital alone is not getting us to the ‘promised land.’”
Pompe explained that this audio strategy idea as their third revenue stream was born from their podcasting success and parent company, GateHouse Media’s, past radio pop-up stations. The paper was purchased by GateHouse in April 2018.
This project took about three to four months, and Pompe said that Rob Connelly, director of digital audio for GateHouse Media, was instrumental in putting everything together.
“We had a little bit of the required skill set already, and then Rob got here and said, ‘Hey, let’s build out your podcast area,’” Pompe said.
Last December, Connelly and Pompe began to research where there was a gap in the market and tossed around ideas for a radio station asking, “How can we incorporate all the great content that we generate every day?” By January, plans began to form and were quickly put into motion.
In addition to Connelly’s experience, Pompe had five years of practice in radio. He also had a team made up with a handful of advertising reps that could sell broadcast and sponsored content. “We had the right tools to put it all together,” Pompe said.
When asked what is essential for others to know when creating a radio streaming service, Pompe said have at least one broadcast expert and someone that understands how to program and put the project together. Take the time to understand your market and ask, “What format is currently lacking? Could it bring in a new audience that can be monetized?” he added.
Most importantly, “We shouldn’t default to the limiting idea that ‘We’re a newspaper, so we should only have a news format,” Pompe said. “We’re rich in news, sports and entertainment content and should strategically leverage it to engage an audience.”