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KKNX web site
Eugene Radio Station Has
Avid Listeners Worldwide

 By Fred Delkin

Just imagine! The owner of a true “Mom & Pop” lil’ radio station in Eugene, Oregon takes the podium this month to tell the big boys in his profession how to reach a worldwide audience.  And do it for less than they’d spend to install a couple of new turntables. 

Yes, KKNX, whose listenership ranks a mighty eighth among Eugene stations, pulls in no less than 195,000 listeners worldwide.  That’s right, worldwide, from every continent except Antarctica.  This anomaly is based upon technology termed “internet streaming audio.”  KKNX owner John Mielke has been invited to tell the National Association of Broadcasters convention in New Orleans how his little family owned and operated AM station achieves a better signal for internet tuners than any big city FM stereo station output…and has achieved it with a minimal investment.

“Our sound is better than any coming off the air on your radio,” declares Mielke, and has the testimonials to back the claim:

 Congratulations by the quality of your music.
    --Gustavo Barizon, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 Fantastic music and sound!  I listen all the time.
    --Kim Lewis, Perth, Australia

 I think your radio station is brilliant.  Only wish we had one as good in the UK.
    --Tony Stevenson, Manchester, England

These kudos are a minute sampling of the content of the KKNX web site “Guest Book” where listeners are urged to comment.  Our brief visit to the book found entries from Austria, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Canada and all over the U.S., in addition to quotes in this article.  Tour the site and you’ll find a sterling example of how to provide a wealth of internet service with a minimum of words and links.  The site is a one stop internet source for news, sports, weather, events schedule, road conditions and shopping…with quick links to established information providers.  With an eye to the station’s listener demographic, which includes the rapdily growing 50+ age internet audience, Mielke says his web site directory service will soon include medical/health information.

Going for the Gold

Mielke bought a barely surviving KKNX in 1996 whose programming was based upon syndicated business news.  “We acquired the signal knowing exactly what we wanted to do,” Mielke says.  His purpose was the use of internet technology to reach the world with music programming termed the “Golden Oldies”…top 40 songs of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  This is ear candy for the 35-64 age group, a marketing target with maximum spendable income.  Listeners express their appreciation of the music: 

 You have no idea how much these songs mean to me.  Then again, maybe you do. That’s why you do what you do.  Keep up the good work!
    --Gary Burrer, Shelby, Ohio

 Your music brings back such good memories…many thanks!
    --Edith Downing, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

 This is the first station I logged into with my new PC and…the first song I hear is “Ferry Cross the Mersey”…the river Liverpool is built around.
    --Robby Hodson, Liverpool, England

The number one internet radio station in South America is also tops in Oregon in this category, with over 43,000 listeners statewide.  There are 35 Oregon stations now experimenting with internet technology, but Mielke says each achieve only a few hundred listeners, max.  As we speak to John, he tells us that 13,302 people around the planet are logged into KKNX at that moment.  That speaks to the quantifiable marketing potential of this medium.  “Better than any broadcast rado monitoring system, we know how many, at what time and where at any given listening moment,” Mielke avers.

Mielke is on the cutting (he says “bleeding,” referring to the constant advance of computer science) edge of internet radio.  He notes that shortwave radio, with the ability to reach around the globe, “has been around forever.”  He adds “Remember when they said FM wouldn’t work?  That’s where we are with internet broadcast now.”  He says 57% of internet users listen to radio on the net.  He notes that his station’s sound quality has gone from “terrible to terrific in a three year span.” 

BBC takes note

 Mielke relates that the prestigious British Broadcast System (BBC) did a television special two years ago on the potential of internet radio and devoted 15 minutes to KKNX…”a tremendous boost for us!” the Eugene broadcaster enthuses.  He also credits a diligent “five hours a week for months” effort in getting the KKNX web site listed on all the directories, around the world, of various search engines.

“It’s much less expensive to market an internet site than a radio station,” Mielke notes.

While KKNX advertiser The Oregon Lottery may not get too many players from Brazil, the enthusiasm of listeners wherever they are is reflected in advertiser loyalty, which, according to Mielke has an 87% retention rate.  Newspaper flyer inserts recently used by the station in Eugene and Medford announce “The best oldies station here isn’t on your radio, it’s on your internet!” 

While the eighth rated station in the nation’s 144th largest market would be no listening mecca with ordinary radio broadcasting, KKNX listener promotional contests such as the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge” (offering prizes and pseudo diplomas for correct answers) have drawn some of the strongest participation from Canada and Brazil, Mielke reports.  A KKNX web site feature is Research…”a portal where you will find the answer to any musical question.”

“When you’re having fun on the air, your listeners know it and react positively…our word-of-mouth is terrific,” Mielke says.  The on-air enthusiasm is generated by a crew of disk jockeys with years of big market experience in spinning what is now the golden oldies.  How in the world can KKNX afford a 24-hour broadcast schedule keyed by top drawer talent?  The internet enables the station to access premier ‘oldies’ broadcasts, live, at minimal expense.  A jock originating in Denver and on-air via sattelite can take listener requests on an 800 phone line designated KKNX.

KKNX on site staffing is a Mielke family affair.  John, his wife, son and daughter are the only permanent Eugene crew.  How did they wind up playing to the world from the Willamette Valley?  John became an internet radio pioneer after years of broadcast experience (both TV and radio) in various markets.  His bent for technical progress led him to be involved with the early stages of video television and he achieved success with a video directional signal in Anchorage.  This brought him to Eugene, where geographic conditions were similar, and he established both Fox 35 and UPN 25 in Duckdom before launching into cyberspace and worldwide radio.

The broadcasting industry very much wants to know how Mielke does it, and got where he is without risking millions.  On September 7 in New Orleans, NAB attendees will get some insight into how you, in Mielke’s words,  “combine the power of Radio, Television, Print and the Internet” to involve a worldwide audience.

KKNX web site 

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