Media Watch

Beat33 A Local Internet Radio Success

The "world" part of the World Wide Web has created something of a misguided temptation. The thought is that because of Internet technology, people anywhere can access anything at any time.

Carlos Zeta tried that with his first Internet radio venture. And while hit counts rose, the effort eventually failed because he spent too much time building globally, and it cost him locally.

"We couldn't generate advertisers," said Zeta, who has no such issues with his second Internet radio venture, "We're always promoting events in Tucson. There are some people who listen outside (of town), but we're reaching around 4,000 to 5,000 people in Tucson a week."

And advertisers have taken notice. The Latin pop/top-40 format has generated a client list any station would envy since Zeta launched the project in September 2011.

"Beat33 is working so well with advertisers because it's local," Zeta said. "We want to be sure the investment they put into us they get in return. They're happy with us, and it's been able to create some actual income for us."

It took a good 18 months for Zeta and his crew to map out a business model. He boosted the radio station through his DJ company, ImpulzeMode, and utilized his background in terrestrial radio and the issues he experienced in his first Internet go-round to create the template for beat33.

Among the approaches: offers live morning-drive and afternoon-drive shows on weekdays, and specialty programming that includes broadcasts from nightclubs throughout town. Everything is geared with community at the heart of the model.

"The people here are able to develop a personality, to actually be on the air talking to people, giving information. We're having a lot of fun," Zeta said. "We also broadcast live at the clubs where we spin. We connect it to the turntables, and everything that comes out of the turntables and microphones goes live, and people are enjoying that. People who don't go out, say on a Friday, they listen to us and get the vibe of what's going on at the club. We're excited that the product is growing.

"We also invite a lot of people from the community, like Border Action Network and other nonprofit agencies, to come on the air and talk to us. They appreciate that. Corporate stations don't give the attention to nonprofits or people raising money for a good cause."

Zeta argues that the corporate radio model no longer lends itself to cultivating broadcast personalities within the area the station is supposed to serve.

"Terrestrial radio is failing because it went after Pandora and people who have iPods," Zeta said. "By putting on a bunch of music and not having a real talent who can develop in the community, they think that's going to make them competitive with Pandora and people listening on their iPods. It's the wrong idea. People still want to listen to music, and not repeat the music every hour or so. (They want) a wider selection of artists, where you can get some entertainment from a personality who can tell you that this weekend is 2nd Saturdays Downtown, or tonight we'll be live at El Charro or Zen Rock. It's been working great."

Others think so as well, including Ray Flores, president of El Charro Café (beat33's studio sponsor), who has backed the project by handling one of radio's big expenses: music licensing fees.

"I went to Ray because he's always been all for local," Zeta said. "He backed me up. He's the main sponsor, and he helps us out with licensing, but we wanted to be sure he knew we need to sell (advertising) to other people. He said that's fine. I believe in your project, and I'm going to back you up."

The terrestrial radio industry is fully aware that more listeners are accessing stations via smartphone apps such as iheartradio and enjoying the more stable sound quality provided through Internet streaming. Zeta believes his local focus will continue to pay dividends for his company, his listeners and advertisers.

"We've been able to be more competitive, since nowadays people listen on their cellphones, on their laptops, at work, at home, wherever they go," Zeta said. "We've been able to compete with iheartradio and Pandora. But the difference is, you listen to us and you get information about what's happening in Tucson."

Cumulus, KVOA in News Sharing Deal

KVOA Channel 4 is now providing news breaks for Cumulus radio stations KIIM 99.5 FM and KHYT 107.5 FM. KVOA morning news anchors John Overall and Danielle Lerner handle the duties. Overall's updates air at the top and bottom of the hour in morning drive on KIIM and Lerner delivers news at the top of the hour from 5 to 8 a.m. on KHYT.

The move is not unlike the way Journal Broadcast Group utilizes its television news assets for radio outlets, except Journal has the advantage of owning both television and radio stations in the market.

Meanwhile, the deal brought an end to Mike Rapp's employment within the Cumulus cluster. Rapp was the news voice within the building and also recorded public affairs programming. KHYT morning host Tim Tyler will handle the cluster's public affairs requirements moving forward.

Rapp is another example of a well-respected radio talent—he and Tyler co-helmed one of Tucson's most popular morning shows at classic rocker KLPX 96.1 FM in the '90s—adversely affected by changes in the modern radio model.