With over 40 years of broadcasting experience, Alan Mason has been on-air, a major-market program director, a group program director, a VP/GM, a consultant and is now the Chief Operating Officer of EMF Broadcasting, owners of the vast K-LOVE and Air1 networks. He's a major player with Christian Music Broadcasters, and has earned a strong reputation as a go-to guy in the format. It wasn't always that way.
Alan and I go back a long way, to the days where he held several programming and management positions for the legendary King Broadcasting. We worked together when he programmed KYA in San Francisco. I worked for Frank Magid during those days, and Alan was one of my clients.
I took note when Alan moved into the Christian radio sector and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Then we started doing our Techsurveys across all formats, and we began to see the power of the Christian radio, especially the loyal nature of the audience.
Case in point: Net Promoter is a measure of the power of a brand to drive audience recommendations. It's a very big deal, and we've included it in every one of our nationwide surveys.
Below is the all-format Net Promoter slide. And that huge gold bar you see on the far left is Christian music radio, miles ahead of every other format.
Eventually, we created a version of Techsurvey just for Christian music stations because in many ways, they are quite a bit different from the other formats you see listed above. Many veteran broadcasters don't know much about Christian radio, and that's why we asked Alan to submit a “Guest List” feature, which we think you'll find illuminating. – Fred
Years ago my friend and King Broadcasting alum Bob Anthony told me he was going to quit his job at KFRC and start a Christian radio station in the Bay Area. The words came out of my mouth before I could stop them, “Why do you want to get out of radio?”
There was a time where that was the sentiment about Christian radio. But the one station Bob started with eventually became the K-LOVE and Air1 radio network, with over 800 signals across the country. Along with Salem's “Fish” stations, KSBJ, KCMS, KTIS and others, the format has become a “force” in many markets.
Still, we tend to fly under the radar and aren't on radio people's minds. But there are some surprises about the modern-day Christian station that a lot of secular broadcasters might be surprised about.
1. Passion + Community = Financial Involvement
We have donors who have been a part of the station for more than 20 years. When you have a large enough donor base, those $40 a month efforts “outbill” many commercial stations.
2. Nielsen is interesting, but not a primary driver.
Non-Commercial Christian stations like K-LOVE look at Nielsen to see what's going on, but it's not a driver. We have other, more important measuring points, so our stations don't have to be “optimized for PPM.”
3. We struggle with many of the same things commercial stations do.
Finding talent is difficult. Listenership can be erratic. Leadership has challenges. People will be people no matter where they are or what they’re doing.
4. We're not stealing commercial radio's listeners.
Nielsen and our own research show a very high proportion of our listeners are exclusive to the format. Those random listeners who aren't exclusive are more apt to be Country listeners. However, a successful Christian station has 60-80% of its AQH come from P1's.
5. When commercial revenue goes down, ours can go up.
Non-Commercial Christian stations have a history of improved support when financial times are turbulent. During the 2008 struggles, our income actually improved, while many radio stations had a difficult time making goals from “spot sales.”
Thanks to Alan and Seth Resler for putting this week's “Guest List” together. There's still time for Christian music radio stations to sign up for CMB3, our third annual Techsurvey. Info and registration info available here.
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