Christian Radio – Too Much Similarity?

I was listening to a Christian radio station last week when I heard the head of the station stating they had come up short on their recent pledge drive. I don’t remember which station it was, but I’ve since heard K-Love giving a similar message.

As you probably know, most Christian radio is listener-supported these days, and depends on people like you and me donating for their service as opposed to selling commercials.

Do you give to a local station?

I used to.

When I first moved to Wichita eleven years ago, there were two stations that played “contemporary christian music”: Z-91 and Light 99. Z-91 played Christian Rock like Stavesacre, Skillet, and Relient K. They even had a hard rock show called “The Edge” that played Demon Hunter, etc… Light 99 played the soft stuff like Michael W Smith, FFH, and 4Him. Both stations were locally owned and run.

During one of the pledge drives, I started giving to Z-91. I gave $15 a month for probably three years until the station sold the frequency to WAY-FM about five years ago. (I’ve also given to online station, www.christianrock.net, a few times, but it’s been a while.)

Within a year’s time, Z-91 became WAY-FM (90.7) and Light 99 became K-Love (99.1). Also Air 1 (91.5) and The House (89.7) came to town during that period.

So why did I stop giving? I no longer identified with any of the stations. Z-91 played the style of music I liked, and I really enjoyed listening to the Preacher’s Wife morning show. There were few, if any, songs that both Z-91 and Light 99 played. For me, there was not much reason to listen to Light 99. I was a loyal listener.

In contrast… today, we have four radio stations playing nearly the same music. In fact, sometimes two of them will be playing the same song. I’ve got all four programmed into my car radio, and I just flip to whichever one is playing a song I like. And I rarely listen in the morning, because I can’t stand any of the morning shows. (NPR is my best friend in the mornings…)

From a marketing perspective, where’s the differentiation? I can rarely tell which of the four stations I’m even listening to, except that The House cuts out at stop lights (Wichita is right on the edge of the broadcast area) and “Positive & Encouraging” K-Love’s jingle makes me want to stop listening to the station.

I don’t identify with any of them. In fact, I can barely tell them apart.

What to do?

If I were one of the four stations, I’d try to differentiate myself in some way. Play harder music. Play more hiphop. Play softer music. Play only modern worship. Something to set the station apart. Have a morning show that is actually useful, rather than just annoying. Local programming would be nice too, but understandably difficult since almost all stations are now a national or regional format.

I would think that four differentiated stations would pull in more pledge support than four homogenized stations do today.

I used to listen to ChristianRock.net online while I worked on homework. It’s a great station that also spun off ChristianHardRock.net, Christian-HipHop.net, and PowerPraise.net. That’s differentiation. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the need (or opportunity) to listen to streaming radio anymore.

Z-91’s stated goal and tagline was to “rock the hell out of Wichita“. Not to be “the positive alternative” or “positive and encouraging”. That’s the kind of radio station that I can get behind and support.

Any takers?

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5 Responses to Christian Radio – Too Much Similarity?

  1. Jason Burgess says:

    I don’t believe the phenomenon is limited to Christian Radio in Wichita. It seems to be a recurring theme in radio in general. It’s also most of the reason I rarely listen to the radio at all anymore.

  2. mandoron says:

    Hello little brother! Everyone say hi to Jason.

  3. Kevin says:

    You know you’re getting old when you listen to NPR (I like it too!)…

  4. Kevin says:

    Sorry, buddy. The truth hurts… After all, age is only how old you feel… right?? Actually, demographically, your either old(er) or you’re one of us nutty academic types.

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