In January of this year, Kansas City Public Television launched their radio station, The Bridge, after acquiring NPR station KTBG and moving radio operations to the KCPT headquarters in Kansas City, MO. The new station generated a lot of buzz around the system, so we talked to the team behind The Bridge to bring you an inside look at how this venture came together, and their plans for future growth.
1. What’s the story behind the name of the station?
Jon Hart, the Bridge's Program Director, took a strategic approach to picking the name The Bridge. During research for his masters degree, Jon stumbled upon a study that concluded one's ability to recall a name that gave a visual image in the mind was fifteen percent higher than recalling a set of letters and numbers. In an informal survey of nouns with positive connotations, Jon found The Bridge was ranked in the top two or three choices of most everyone he asked.
2. What was your promotional strategy behind this launch and do you have any more unique promotional campaigns planned in the future?
The focal point is really about the music, and even more so, local KC music. Instead of taking out ads promoting the station coming to KC, we have ads running for our local band of the week. We recorded 13 studio sessions with local music talent and post these sessions to our website. We also run 15-30 second promotional spots on air, taking an excerpt from the band of the week's studio session and also post shorter versions on Instagram as well. From those 13 sessions we created billboards for 30 spots located around Kansas City promoting the band and local music. The Bridge logo is only displayed in the top left corner, leaving most of the billboard for the artists. We had a table at the opening MLS game for Sporting KC. We decided that in addition to having speakers playing our music, we wanted to contribute to the fan experience. We set up a miniature soccer goal game where fans get a chance to shoot a soccer ball through The Bridge badge to get Bridge specific prizes. We want to connect with the people who are fans of soccer and Sporting KC just like we are. We have future plans for a street team.
3. How is the site maintained? Do you have dedicated station staff?
We have a dedicated team of 4, with a few contract employees as sales people. Jon said, "When it comes to generating revenue, if you're not unique you're dead in the water. And if you're not imbedded into the community, you're dead in the water.” One thing remains clear in every aspect of the radio station, including sustaining The Bridge: serving the audience is the main goal.
4. What are your plans for growing your digital audience?
We're building audience via social media and email marketing—online ticket contests, playlist archives and a great mobile experience. Digital is the primary place users can see our exclusive local and national artist studio sessions, which we've been rolling out on a weekly basis. We have several features planned for the site in the coming months as well, including: a page for every artist in our playlist with current discography, bio and other media, and we plan to integrate NPR Music web content, for example.
5. How is The Bridge different from the typical public media radio station?
“Instead of individual hosts taking individual shows, we've built a format that essentially serves the audience 24/7. We run World Cafe for one hour at 7 p.m. and the rest of time we are just serving our audience through rotation of records," Jon said. KCUR in Kansas City already provided the community with the NPR news side of a public media radio station and still does, as the Bridge is solely focused on playing music.
6. In a market where listeners can curate their own station on services like Pandora, or choose the music on-demand with Spotify, how does The Bridge compete?
Sarah Bradshaw said, " Today's market is so huge and so broad, I think there is room for everyone and what we do as a radio station we do for our community." The Bridge has many loyal listeners who exclusively stream online through bridge909.org's virtual player, where every song played in the past 30 days can be accessed for free. Jon actively communicates that wherever the exploration of music occurs it is a good thing and it's important to continue that no matter what medium you choose. This allows for The Bridge to remain true to the idea of serving the audience instead of coming up with new ways to defeat the Pandora's and Spotify's on the web, or even the other radio stations in KC. It's about the audience, and that gives a certain advantage. As far as we are aware, Pandora doesn't have people in the Kansas City community talking to the artists in our community. Spotify is not out searching for bands exclusively in Kansas City, like what the staff of The Bridge are doing. Sarah continued, "Radio is not going to die, its just going to change, its just going to evolve. We all have our place, and that we all serve to do what the ultimate goal is, which is to help listeners find new music that they love. That’s the goal, right?"