What Is A Radio Brand?

Cumulus Media confirmed that New York City’s iconic FM radio station 95.5 PLJ will sign off for the last time on Friday, May 31. Clearly, there was no longer a profitable business to be made using FM radio broadcasting technology to aggregate and monetize the PLJ audience. (It was purchased by Education Media Foundation, the owners of K-LOVE Christian radio, earlier this year.)

Radio stations change ownership all the time and, as you know, media M&A has become a blood sport in the past 24 months. Still, this particular sign-off signals something significant – the end of a brand.

Apples to Apples in the Big Apple

From sign-on to sign-off, promoting tune-in was the central focus of all of PLJ’s on-air and cross-channel advertising. Contests, requests, value-added promotions… if you can think it up, PLJ has tried it over the years. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting tune-in, but they weren’t building a brand; they were simply offering a better choice to people who were already using (or were likely to use) FM radio technology to access musical entertainment. The competition was other radio stations – not the internet, not the web, not the recorded music business – just other radio stations.

The strategy was clear: “If you’re a radio listener and you like to listen to what we play, please remember to tune in.” PLJ’s promotional efforts were laser focused on AQH (average quarter hour) ratings against its radio competitors; they completely ignored other ways that people might be accessing musical entertainment. PLJ was a radio station. Full stop.

What About PLJ, the Brand?

It’s pretty easy to argue that outside of broadcast radio, the PLJ brand has no value. Could you start a streaming service called PLJ and have anyone outside of the NY metro area even recognize it? Was there unique content or a unique delivery mechanism that set PLJ apart from every other radio station that played similar music and had similar DJs?

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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