The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 3, 2013

Startup Internet radio station launched in Tulsa

By Kirby Lee Davis
The Journal Record

TULSA — A startup Internet radio station hopes to bring the world to Tulsa’s central core.

That’s one of the unique elements of Radio IDL, the Web-based blues broadcaster launched last month by Tulsa-based Media Encounters LLC. Managing Partner Harry Willis said the focus of his station will be different.

“I know of no other radio station that says all we’re interested in is just this area,” said Willis, who also owns Tulsa-based Orca Media and Eos Safe Driver. “We’re interested in just the 40,000 to 50,000 people who work or live in downtown Tulsa. In many ways we’re like a small-town radio station.”

Radio IDL also promises something advertisers rarely get — a third-party accounting of listeners’ locations, not just who they are and when they tune in.

“We’re the only media I know of that can guarantee you exposure,” Willis said.

By using systems assembled by associate partner and station General Manager Shannon Moudy, Willis said Radio IDL made its debut Sept. 14 with an initial investment of $15,000. He said that could grow to $30,000 or more before Media Encounters reaches positive cash flow.

“If we didn’t do it in-house with my technology, right now we’d be at $12,000 a year just to broadcast,” said Moudy, who operated Tulsa’s America Unleashed Internet station from 2004 to 2006. “If we get to the numbers we want to get to, it would have cost us $62,000 a year just to have a third party encode our signal.”

Willis targets $100,000 in first-year revenue, although he said Media Encounters is not yet on track to reach that. But he’s happy with the early returns.

“We’ve gone from 22 listeners to over 3,000 in five weeks,” he said. “How many little businesses in this town wouldn’t want that same growth? And we can show them how.”

With contracts in negotiation, Willis said he expects Radio IDL’s portfolio to reach five steady advertising clients within a week. That’s halfway to Media Encounters’ break-even point.

“To have enough cash flow to pay the bills and reinvest in marketing, we need about 20,” he said.

The 24-hour broadcaster uses its three partners — Willis, Moudy and Hale Insurance owner Jeremiah Hale — as hosts for three shows daily. Programmable robots guide the rest of the airtime.

“We’re trying to teach it to hand out business cards,” Moudy told The Journal Record.

While Radio IDL counts some 10,000 blues tracks in its ASCAP- and BMI-licensed inventory, Moudy said the disc jockeys keep playlists at about 400 tunes, including local and national talent. The blues foundation allows a playlist from Etta James to the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles to Eric Clapton, Duke Ellington to B.B. King, Ethel Waters to Jonny Lang.

“What we’re finding in our research is that people are really starting to understand that they can have a live Internet jukebox, like with Pandora (Internet Radio), but they miss the old terrestrial interaction with a DJ and commercials and knowing what’s going on with the local news,” said Moudy, who also owns and operates Infinite Technologies Solutions of Oklahoma. “We’re doing a hybrid of that.”

The station also provides up-to-date information on what’s going on downtown, targeting people who live there or Owasso or Bixby, as well as those in other parts of the nation who may be coming to Tulsa in the near future.

“Our listenership is literally the world,” Moudy said. “And if we can get the world to come to downtown Tulsa, we’re doing well.”

Willis told of Tulsa transplants in Switzerland and Paraguay who have followed the station, using it to keep on top of Tulsa news. But he said about 90 percent of the audience comes from the Tulsa area.

“The vast majority of them are Tulsans that are listening downtown or are listening in homes in midtown,” he said.

With surveys indicating the central core has more than 250 retailers as potential advertisers, plus a growing number of hotels, apartments and other operators, Willis said Radio IDL’s revenue potential is strong. But Media Encounters also anticipates making money through social media, technology and business consulting to local musicians, clubs and other related firms.

Radio IDL has still more changes in store. Even as they finish advertising rate cards, Willis and Moudy are working to set up a street-level broadcast booth in the Reunion Center, 9 E. Fourth St., with windows facing Fourth and Main in downtown Tulsa. They expect to debut that in time for Mayfest, along with a video feed. That will open the door to Web video broadcasting alongside the audio.

“The whole experience is indicative of how times are changing,” said Willis, 63. “Things are going so rapidly, and you have to be nimble. You have to use the tools that are available, and those tools are going to be changing. There are so many companies that are stuck in the way they did business five years ago. You’d better not be. You’d better be changing.”