Who knew hometown newspapers could be so hip? The San Diego Union-Tribune’s SignOn San Diego site is set to officially launch its all-San Diego-music all-the-time streaming radio station Monday. And it’s not alone; a smattering of local media outlets are getting into their regional music scenes in the hopes of serving local communities, and yes, attracting the ever-evasive younger crowd that has shown little interest in city council meetings or the police blotter.
Amplify SD Radio started streaming tunes from San Diego bands like Twenty First Century Lepers and Get Back Loretta on April 7. SignOn San Diego’s entertainment editorial staff has already begun appearing on the station, providing music picks and spinning a block of songs from bands playing in this weekend’s Coachella Valley Music Festival in Indio, CA. The station also anticipates presenting interviews and music from bands from outside the city playing gigs in San Diego.
“What we found was that reporting and covering local music brings in a lot of eyeballs,” observed Chris Jennewein, VP Internet operations for Union-Tribune Publishing Co. “We felt the local newspaper’s Web site could do a real service and attract a significant audience by focusing on that local music.”
As for the advertisers, they’re already there. IKEA and Mission Federal Credit Union have been running display ads within the streaming audio player. Amplify SD is now appealing to nightclubs, restaurants and other local music venues to sign on, offering ad packages featuring in-stream ads and banners in SignOn San Diego’s entertainment section.
In fact, the Union-Tribune can provide production services using its recently completed audio and video studio complete with high-definition cameras and a green screen. Indeed, Union-Tribune has its sights set on producing video news and features for a video site coming in Q3. A second streaming radio station is planned for public affairs content, too.
SignOn San Diego Multimedia Editor Marc Balanky commented, “[Amplify SD] is going to give us a way to connect to our users in a way that we have never been able to connect before.”
At this point Amplify SD has over 2500 tracks in its library, and has counted about 150 streams per day as a result of word-of-mouth promotion and a link on SignOn San Diego. In true local band fashion, stickers and flyers also will help spread the word. San Diego musician John Reis, known well beyond his hometown for his guitar work in The Sultans and the now defunct Rocket from the Crypt, also has contributed by recording station IDs as the voice of Amplify SD.
The station isn’t the first local media outlet to give the online nod to the San Diego scene. XETV Fox6.com of San Diego features a video archive on its site with footage from “Fox Rox,” its local music television show. Fans of local metal band Nihlist are shown an in-stream ad for 1-800-Dentist before watching their performance of “Hessian Mercenary” during a recent show appearance. The Fox Rox site section also offers entertainment news clips, a blog, event listings, and free listings posted by users selling equipment or seeking out new band mates.
Up north in Spokane, Wash., the 106-year-old Spokesman-Review is making a concerted effort to remain relevant to a young audience through its two-year-old arts and culture site Spokane7.com. Visitors can stream 400 songs from 150 local bands, stream audio of live local shows, or catch an interview and live concert audio on its weekly ad-supported “P.A. System” podcast. The site attracts about 20,000 pageviews each day, according to Ken Sands, online publisher at the family-owned Spokesman-Review.
“If we don’t get out there and do it somebody else will,” concluded Sands, who believes the well-established company has “a head start and the ability to build an audience.” However, the Spokesman-Review carries with it the baggage of being an old-school newspaper. “The perception of us is we’re a grumpy old man .We have to overcome that kind of image.”
A banner ad for Spirit Skate Shop currently running in its music section and a Spokane7 MySpace page may signal that such a perception doesn’t necessarily apply to the site. The company also recently remodeled its newsroom, adding a video studio, and recruited 20 new employees to help with video production.
Visitors to Lawrence.com, the pioneering site affiliated with Kansas’s Lawrence Journal-World currently are greeted with the faces of local band The Volunteers. The site offers a local music streaming station, audio and video of local band performances and interviews, and allows users to create and post their own playlists.
There’s even a streaming library of local music available on Kuam.com, the online component of Guam-based NBC affiliate, Kuam TV-8.
Still, all in all, sites like these are a rare breed. “We’re just trying to figure out what the market needs,” explained Spokesman-Review’s Sands. “With a handful of exceptions this industry is far behind.”