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Radio station expands to Internet and print

Posted: Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Neil Rones is turning his new FM radio venture in Juneau into a multi-media affair.

Rones, co-owner of White Oak Broadcasting, is offering KFMG, or Magic 100.7, and KSRJ, or Star 102.7, on the Internet at juneaumagic.com and juneaustar.com.

He is also launching On Air Magazine, a quarterly that will be mailed directly to homes and that will take on some public affairs issues, in addition to providing music industry news.

Rones, a business attorney from California, says he is also working methodically on new programming for the radio stations, although he emphasizes that he won't stray far from the format he established when he went on the air in October.

It will be this summer before hard listenership data is available from Willhight Research, the firm that tracks radio audiences. For now, Rones believes that in providing one-third of the local signals, he is reaching one-third of the Juneau audience.

``I go into stores, and I hear my station on,'' he said. ``It is anecdotal, but I feel very comfortable.''

In every month but one, billings to advertisers have increased, he said.

``I think they've had an impact; they've created a niche for themselves, as any good radio station will do -- as we're doing here,'' said Steve Rhyner, general manager of TAKU 105 and KJNO-AM. ``But as far as (our) revenue goes, they haven't impacted that. . . . They're going to have their share of listeners. I don't think it's going to be as large as they might like.''

The new stations went on the air after years of planning.

The soft-rock sound of the two stations was aimed at women and listeners not enamored with the country or hard rock offered on other commercial music stations. ``Magic,'' an ABC affiliate, and ``Star,'' a Westwood One affiliate, use satellite-delivered programming streams and disc jockeys from distant locations.

Rones said he wasn't trying to draw listeners from any particular station and thinks he has grown the market somewhat.

``I was surprised these formats weren't here already,'' he said.

He persuaded Jeff McCoy to jump ship last month. McCoy had been a producer and on-air personality known as ``The Real Jeff McCoy'' at TAKU 105, which plays country music. His drive-time stint there is now being filled by Shelly Kincaid.

McCoy said he was impressed by Rones' dedication to sound quality. ``I find that people make a lot of excuses -- `Well, it has to be that way; it's Juneau.' . . . Competition makes people better, and we want to be at the pinnacle of that.''

McCoy is scheduling advertisements, working with advertisers on production choices, overseeing production in Juneau, contracting out for work at independent production facilities and overseeing the physical plant.

His latest project was getting the stations on the Internet. That allows people to have the station on at their computer while they're doing word processing, he said. It also allows college students away from home or former Juneau residents to hear the stations, he said.

Meanwhile, White Oak has begun soliciting ads for the first issue of On Air, a 22-pager scheduled for publication in June.

The cover has been designed. It features a photo of Sarah McLachlan and hawks features on Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey and Sugar Ray.

Rones said there will be national and local advertising, and locally free-lanced articles and commentaries, particularly on education and family issues. ``Station management is not providing any editorial content, except for deciding what local articles would be on.''

Rones, who made periodic trips to Juneau for a few years prior to launching the stations, said he was inspired by the short-lived weekly publication The Paper, which was put out by former Empire editor Larry Persily.

``We were very impressed with what we perceived was a true independent spirit of The Paper,'' he said.

On Air will feature points of view, although as a quarterly it's ``not a forum for continuing debate,'' Rones said. However, the publication could go monthly, if advertisers and readers support that, he said.

Rones has purchased a mailing list and will send out 16,000 copies of the premiere issue through the postal service. There might also be some retail outlets with copies in Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell and Haines, he said.

Rones has had short on-air news features on the stock market and the Legislature, and said others are in development. However, he doesn't foresee a full-blown newscast in the near future. Any change has to be made carefully so that the core audiences aren't alienated, he said.

Rones has purchased a home in Juneau, and he says he spends about half of his time here. The stations now employ six people.



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