Who Killed WOXY?

Written Sep. 12, 2006 by in Blogging + Internet Radio + Marketing with 5 Comments

In just 3 days, Internet-only alternative station WOXY is going dark. I can absolutely feel their pain, having been a partner in another Internet radio play back in 2001 that also ran into the crippling paradox of 'Net radio--the more listeners you have, the faster you go out of business. As it was with Puremix, so it is with WOXY--while Internet radio usage is significantly more widespread than Satellite radio or even the iPod, making money from a pure Internet radio play is still a tough nut to crack.

WOXY had a significant presence in the Alternative community, and its site was the home of one of the most active message boards in all of radio. My wife's graduate students all listened to WOXY nonstop in lab, and I also listened to it a fair amount. So who killed it? The short answer is--I did. So did my wife's graduate students. And, statistically speaking, pretty much anyone else reading this who ever listened to WOXY. Because chances are, you didn't pay to subscribe, and neither did we.

America has seen a lot of alternative rock stations go by the wayside over the past 18 months, and prevailing wisdom has it that the 18-34 year old male has pretty much checked out of the system--ditching land lines, not filling in diaries, etc.--making them essentially invisible as far as ratings (and, thus, advertisers) are concerned. Perhaps passive measurement will bring with it a resurgence in formats that cater to this demographic. We see this when we conduct surveys in markets with underperforming alternative rockers--we know more people are listening to them than the diaries show, but if they don't play the game, they don't count.

So I am sure that there are lots of voices out there who are quick to excoriate Arbitron for their apparent failure to accurately measure the 18-34 year old male. What WOXY teaches me, however, is that the 18-34 year old male has to take some responsibility for this, as well. After all, WOXY has one of the most active user communities of any station on the web--just troll through their message boards and see--and yet hardly any of them ponied up a few bucks a month to subscribe. So for those of us who left WOXY on all day while we worked (and in the case of my wife's graduate students, even left it on overnight after they had gone home for the day) without paying for it, all we did was kill it quicker.

So we can hope that the coming dawn of passive measurement restores some balance to the force. But the "free lunch" mentality of the Internet means that even passive measurement of Internet radio doesn't mean that Internet radio has sussed out a revenue model yet. WOXY had a tremendous, loyal and passionate community--but despite all that love on their message boards, WOXY couldn't convert love into gold.

So, how do you create, sustain and monetize a rabid community of fans on the web? I hope you'll join me at the NAB Radio Show next week, when one of my panelists will be WOXY's GM, Bryan Jay Miller. Ask the man himself--and learn from his valuable perspective.

Reader Comments

Your 2¢, in chronological order — add your comment below.
1  soundinsight on September 12, 2006 4:33 PM

Tom,
As necessary as the arrival of passive audience measurement is in securing advertising dollars for Net radio, another strong stream of revenue could be gleamed from Public and Community broadcasters, who have long relied on the support of not only underwriters, but also in turning listeners into contributing members as well. Perhaps the 'fundraising' models used by succesful and progressive Pubcasters could be adapted for use by streaming media outlets, even to the point of considering holding 'pledge drives', and 'membership drives' to supplement advertising income.

2  Jeff (a.k.a. buzzstein) on September 12, 2006 6:08 PM

I'm an active WOXY boarder and I paid for the subscription every month.

3  DogStarMan on September 13, 2006 8:09 AM

My favorite radio station went off the air 2 years ago. Then it was resurrected in an Internet-only format. Unfortunately, I had no way to listen to it without being tied to my home PC. And I have zero time for that, so I made my peace with it. It was just comforting to know that, somewhere out there, people were still being lovingly served good music by a caring staff. I think that the limitations I experienced were their downfall. Wireless technology has not advanced enough for them to be able to reach the audience they richly deserved. The sad thing is, in a couple of years, the technology to listen to Internet radio stations in your car, I-Pod-like device, whatever, will probably be there, but, sadly, WOXY will be long gone.

I'm sad to hear the news and I wish the staff all the best. They taught me what music is all about. It's a lesson I will remember for the rest of my life

4  Jmach1P on September 13, 2006 9:25 PM

One Type of person who killed WOXY
is the same type that killed the Original Napster.

People who want it for free and don't get
the concept of supporting Independent music.

My dumb buddy was proud that he downloaded
copyrighted music from napster.
His contempt for musicians was misplaced.

The musicians/artists don't set the price
of CD's, its the Record Co.'s or Chain Stores that do.

Napster was invented so that independent artists
could share their music with their fans.

Napster was invented to share music that was not
available in stores. Live bootleg recordings ect.

I did the right thing in Supporting WOXY with
a monthly $10, even though I only have a dialup.

Its not right that 11,000 + Disks of the best unheard music will no longer be shared via WOXY, because people streamed without paying for it.

5  Tom on September 14, 2006 1:30 AM

I will miss WOXY big time.

I think they should have shut all you free loaders off about two months ago, and posted a letter explaining exactly what you said in your post. That way all of the people that truly love that radio station would quit sucking the blood out of it, and start contributing in a way that actually matters. Message board post frequency aside, WOXY needed its listeners to prove they wanted the station to survive by contributing cold hard cash. I think they should have approached it like a co-op from at least as far back as Jan 1, and forced people to buy-in. Heck, if you really wanted something for nothing there was a smart way to approach it all along... that wouldn't result in the station going bankrupt. Just rip off the artists like you're used to and not the station. Here is how:

1. Buy subscription to Woxy.com, 9 dollars.
2. Download streamripper32, a plug-in for winamp, 0 dollars
3. Rip the stream from WOXY and end up with Gigs of essentially free music all nicely labeled for you, Priceless.

cheers.

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