Former Cleveland radio super-programmer John Gorman bemoans the state of traditional radio today where, he recently described to FreshwaterCleveland.com: “Studios are all empty. They don’t have an air staff. Most of them are disembodied voices coming from another city.” Gorman aims to change that with an exciting new internet station: oWow.com.
Tom Taylor’s daily Now online newsletter, which reports on the radio industry, also covered the new property prominently this week including the station’s key differentiators: Local ownership; live, local, experienced air personalities well-known to the Cleveland marketplace; and a wide variety of music (programmed locally) featuring as the station describes on its website: “A diverse blend of rock and roll featuring both new and timeless music, most of which gets little to no media exposure in the Greater Northeast Ohio region…an eclectic playlist of rock, progressive pop, singer songwriters, reggae, and more.”
Importantly, the site goes on to say: “oWOW’s airstaff serve as musical gatekeepers, presenting and providing the best in new music combined with timeless album tracks from the past. oWOW’s playlist is the result of a collaborative process in which all staff members have a voice. We’re real live people. We’re based in Cleveland. We can do all the things that radio can no longer do.”
It is an approach harkening back to the hey-day of commercial music radio where stations reflected the local landscape of the cities they served – including its jocks and music – free of interference from outside consultants and voicetracking. And, Gorman has the chops to make it work – having programmed Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame rock station WMMS “The Buzzard.” Even the oWOW logo possesses a touch of nostalgia – with original Buzzard logo designer David Helton doing the honors in creating the look of the new upstart media outlet. And, as for the all-important question of funding, early ‘buzz’ is bringing significant returns including support from a local bank, a grant from the city of Cleveland and private investors.
Only time will tell whether oWow can sustain long-term listener and sponsor interest. I for one am rooting for them as a potential model to be returned to elsewhere – whether on-air or online. In Detroit, imagine a property that returned personalities such as Dick Purtan, Ken Calvert, Arthur Penhallow, Lynn Woodison and others to the airwaves with musical variety that featured a plethora of Detroit-grown artists. It’s enough to make both mouths drool and ears perk up in eager anticipation.