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Blugold Radio: Format Changes Lead to Threefold Increase in Listeners

Generations of UW-Eau Claire students have fond memories of getting great broadcast experiences working for WUEC FM 89.7.  The current generation of students are leaving their mark on the station with a change in format designed to feature more voices from around the university and the larger community. That change, along with excellent student reporting and 378210_480757651935281_1058995277_nadvisor support, has helped triple the size of the audience tuning in on Sunday evenings from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

According to Nielsen Audio, in the spring of 2014, Blugold Radio drew 1,300 listeners in an average week. This includes an average of 500 individuals listening to the show at any one time. To give the number some perspective, the average number during the fall of 2013 was 400 listeners and 100 fewer the semester before that. Breane Lyga, a UW-Eau Claire senior and Blugold Radio’s station manager, and Dean Kallenbach, a Blugold Radio adviser and regional manager for Wisconsin Public Radio credit the increase in part to the changes in format.

The new format, known as Blugold Radio, features three newscasts and three sportscasts per hour, as well as weekly feature segments on important issues involving the campus and the local community. There are also entertainment, arts, research and history segments.

A producer during the spring semester, Lyga made the jump to station manager this fall. She reacted to the increase in listenership with excitement. Looking back to spring, she remembers key changes. “It has gone from just interviews and music to movie reviews, a history segment and even a gaming segment,” she said. “A little bit of everything for everyone.”

Lyga’s role as station manager entails a lot of administrative work. This ranges from managing a team of 52 volunteers and paid staff, acting as the liaison between the staff and Kallenbach and hiring new staff to running the weekly budget meetings and meeting with Student Senate.

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Senior journalism major Glen Olson on the air

Variety in the new format is just one of the reasons Lyga thinks there has been such an increase. The number of segments produced has more than doubled. In addition to her station management duties, Lyga finds time to produce a segment each week on research. Station staff have also added a segment that features student organizations every week. Not all contributions are coming from communication and journalism students, a trend Lyga encourages.

“We have a history major who does a history segment and a creative-writing major who does a radio drama,” said Lyga. “I think just that variety of what is possible on Blugold Radio has also helped with our listenership and increased volunteers.”

As for the pressure of expectations, she is more aware that people are actually listening and thinks it is definitely in the minds of the producers and volunteers but maintains that “the quality has been better than it’s ever been.”

Beyond those changes, Lyga recognizes Blugold Radio would not have such a significant presence if it were not for the involvement of Wisconsin Public Radio and Dean Kallenbach. “He comes here on a volunteer basis to train and work with all of the staff,” Lyga said of Kallenbach, “and having a professional come in and give us tips and pointers has really helped Blugold Radio be successful as a whole.”

Kallenbach oversees student programming on Blugold Radio alongside faculty adviser Dr. Maureen Schriner. When asked about the factors he believes contributed to the increase, he mentions a shift in focus. “The student broadcasters made a conscious effort last year”, he said, “to focus their efforts into a single three hour magazine program that is largely journalistic.” Kallenbach believes that the change in programming was followed by an increase in interest in the program.

Along with campus and community focus, Kallenbach also credited public relations efforts for the increase, mentioning, “our public relations team at Blugold Radio did a nice job spreading the word through campus events, social media, news releases, advertising trades and web activity.”

All of this increased listenership has also spurred interest in participating in the station, which Kallenbach sees as “a testament to the good work we’re doing to connect with the campus and community with our broadcasts.”

Does it change the approach to the current semester? Kallenbach thinks it reinforces the commitment students have made to focus on spoken word content. “I’m sure it will keep evolving,” he said, “ but this long-form journalistic style makes sense–it’s also very compatible for digital use.”

Remember to tune into Blugold Radio this Sunday and every Sunday during the semester from 5-8 p.m. on 89.7 WUEC-FM as well as through www.wuec.org. Archives of past shows and stories can also be heard on the WUEC website.

I would love to hear from WUEC alumni. What are your thoughts about the increase in listeners and the changes in programming? Email me at CJIntern@uwec.edu or comment below.

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