Editor’s note: Each Thursday, Local Tech Wire’s RTP Beat feature will focus on an entrepreneurial company taking advantage of high-tech opportunities. We kick off the feature with a look at Curtis Media Group, a broadcasting company that has embraced the Internet. For Curtis Media Group, growth in Triangle-area radio has really taken off, but with an on-line twist.

A company that now captures the majority share of listeners with 15 locally owned-and-operated stations also has brought on seven Internet sites to provide more reach.

These days, company founder Don Curtis is not just interested in acquiring stations. He also is leveraging flexibility of the Internet, combining it with traditional radio to drive more interactivity and options for listeners and more value and transactions for advertisers.

“In the last three years, the Internet has changed the way our stations (Curtis Media Group) interact with our listeners and advertisers,” says Bill Whitley, general manager of CMG Interactive, Curtis Media Group’s Internet division. “This is translating to impact for our advertisers and giving them a better bang for the buck.”

According to the Scarborough research study last November, 47 percent of U.S. Internet users who are buying products or services on-line are also listening to news on-line at some point.
Research, Whitley says, also tells us that the Triangle region is one of the most wired and Internet-savvy areas in the country. This coupled with the area’s strong news demographic provides CMG Interactive with a model that’s providing revenue, he says.
Three of CMG Interactive’s most popular web-based offers include: TriangleRadioNews.com, TriangleHelpWanted.com, and TriangleTrader.com.

“The key benefit of having listeners on-line versus on a dial is that we know what they’re doing 100 percent of the time,” Whitley says. “It provides an opportunity to engage listeners by having them interact with advertising messages easier and more quickly than with any other medium.”

For example, while a listener is tuned in via TriangleRadioNews.com, CMG’s streaming news channel, a banner is at the top linking to TriangleTrader.com, a site where people can locally bid, buy and sell items. By way of an audio commercial CMG can direct the listener to the advertiser’s web site since 100 percent of the listeners are online at the time of listening.

With the number of stations and programs CMG owns, it also provides them with a way to cross promote between the Internet and traditional radio. Whitley says there has not been significant trade off from regular listenership.

“No doubt, we’re in the radio business and the Internet products are reaching a broader audience,” says Whitley. “The Internet is an extension of our radio platform for advertisers and listeners day or night based on what the World Wide Web can do.”

The power is really in the ability to cross promote since, he adds. For example, TriangleTrader airs on 570-WDTF, 620-WDNC and 680-WPTF. “Our advertisers can plainly see the results of that because listeners are one click away,” says Whitley.

Internet doubles listener feedback

Listeners also are using the Internet to interact with CMG programs via email.

“High-speed internet access has made a tremendous difference for the show,” says Jerry Agar, afternoon talk-radio host on Curtis’ 680 WPTF-AM, the area’s largest news station. “In addition to phone lines, listeners can email me their thoughts and this allows me the ability to react immediately.” He says it’s beneficial for those listening in from work where participation would be a challenge.

This is especially important to Agar because his show runs from 3pm to 6pm weekdays, a time in which many are at work. “It has literally doubled the amount of people that can let their opinions be heard,” he explains. “Phone lines get full, but the Internet is never full.”

Another option for Agar-fans even without a radio is to catch him on-line at TriangleRadioNews.com. “While people are continuing with work, the site can be minimized, but now with the ease of a click, listeners can shoot me a quick note,” he adds.

Simply put, Agar gets more information with more voices and more opinions. “That’s what I crave and what makes the show successful.”

During a three-hour span, he can receive varied input, have more conversation and the listeners have added anonymity. “Listeners now have the ability to send me links to articles, ‘have you considered this,’ or simply include the article in the email, says Agar. “Before this revolution, there simply wasn’t time.”

Agar has embraced the changes the Internet has brought. “Certainly when I got into this business, we couldn’t have imagined this type of interaction with listeners.”

From a talk radio perspective, he says, it’s all about the issues of the day. Radio and the Internet is a way to getting the signal to more people.

Whitley says additional web-based applications are being discussed, although he would only say the new ventures “will compliment our current product line.”