I recently moved to a new city in a new state (well, a new district, if we’re being pedantic, because I moved to Washington, DC). If you’ve ever made a long-distance move, you know there are a bunch of things you have to do to establish habits in your new home. You learn which day is trash day, you find the best places to walk your dog, you locate the nearest gym (or Crossfit box because this is DC), you figure out the fastest route to the best supermarket, you find the best place for cocktails and… you find your new go-to local radio station.
But do you?
I listened almost exclusively to one Raleigh radio station for the five years I lived there. I got in my car and put on that station, and once I got to my office I opened my browser and listened to that station until the local morning news was finished.
And then I moved. And even though I’m in a different city, it’s hard to break that local Raleigh station habit. After all, it’s so easy to open that familiar webpage and hear those familiar voices.
Of course, now I have different basic needs. The weather in DC isn’t the weather in Raleigh. The traffic is very (VERY) different. There are Metro delays to think about. And then there’s the local news.
But are these service elements reason enough for me to start a new radio habit? What’s stopping me from going online to find my local information and continuing to listen to my beloved Raleigh station?
Local radio stations have a big advantage over streaming services and national networks—they’re local. If I want to fully integrate myself into my new community and learn what makes my new city tick, I have to listen to local radio.
The trouble is, it’s hard to form new habits, and technology is constantly offering ways for us to keep our old ones. Pandora and Spotify want to be in my car, which gives me a reason not to find a local station so I can have music on my morning commute. Amazon’s already in there with the Echo Auto, so now Alexa comes along for the ride and finds whatever music I ask her for. Apps are there to tell me what the temperature is like outside, and Siri famously tells us all whether it’s raining or not so we don’t even need to stick our faces out the window. I can stream almost any radio station anywhere in the world as long as I have a device and a WiFi connection.
What’s more, I don’t even know which radio station to pick! I’m not going to sit in my car and hit the seek button over and over, especially if I’m trying to pay attention to traffic. I’m in a unique position because the nature of my job means I know which stations are available here in DC, but most newcomers don’t have that knowledge. Where are all the radio ads urging me to make their stations my new daily habit?
Radio doesn’t have to get lost in all of the options. Radio should be the habit. Radio should be the first thing people think of when they get in their cars in the morning. Make local radio the destination when people want to know why Route 29 is completely backed up until 495. That’s the easy part.
The less easy part—and I say this because it’s far from impossible—is getting listeners to stick around. Make your local radio station a habit for newcomers and long-term residents alike. Bring people in with interesting content as well as their favorite music. Schedule your contests for specific days and times. Remember to promote your station as much as possible, on the air and externally.
I realize this doesn’t sound much different from the usual advice, and it’s not. But it’s important to always remember that every day, listeners have more options for their daily needs. And someone who is new to your city may not know that you’re even there, so make it your goal to introduce yourself.
Make yourself their new habit in their new home.