This year WFIU turned 60! That’s 60 years of education, entertainment, and community service that enriches the lives of thousands of listeners.
We have come a long way since the 1950s when the broadcast week averaged 37.5 hours. Back then programs were few, and our relatively uncomplicated technology evolved at a leisurely pace. As late as 1984, LPs were still cataloged using a card catalog system; local programs were recorded on reel-to-reel tape and laboriously edited with a razor and splicing tape. Programs were delivered by mail, and if late, a staff member rushed to Indianapolis to get a copy. Stations were eagerly awaiting a brand new technology just around the corner—CDs!
No one anticipated the explosive changes that would rock the media world: a proliferation of TV and satellite channels posing new competition, the spread of the Internet and its ability to provide station streams from around the world, and the emergence of a different type of media user—one who accessed content over a variety of platforms and listened on his/her time. Though radio dominated the media choice menu, there was no doubt that other platforms were becoming increasingly attractive
WFIU needed to maintain a strong radio service while, at the same time, meet the needs of multi-platform listeners. This meant finding ways in which our product and services could thrive on emerging platforms. In addition, we had to operate within a tight budget that routinely was threatened by state and federal funding cuts. Our producers and engineers met these challenges, and over the last decade, several major shifts prepared WFIU for the future.
To address a growing listener desire for local content, WFIU shifted from a program pass-through station to a producer of local and national content. Though we continue to broadcast flagship national programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Performance Today, we also create programs such as Harmonia, Night Lights, A Moment of Science, and a number of topic-oriented programs for local and national audiences, and on a variety of platforms.
In addition, we began online-only production with podcasts of programs such as Earth Eats, Ether Game, Harmonia, and Kinsey Confidential, which can reach non-radio consumers. The result has been very satisfying. More and more local voices now populate our airwaves. Often these voices reach global audiences and bring rich Indiana resources to national and international attention.
To better serve our existing strong radio audience, translators were built in Terre Haute, Columbus, Kokomo, Greensburg, and French Lick/West Baden. Although new digital platforms are on the rise, we realize that most current and immediate future listening is still done on radio. A new signal (WFIU HD2) for home and online use was also added, providing more radio programming options and creating the infrastructure for expanded online programming.
Much of our cultural programming was refocused from announcer-assisted, CD-spin programs to on-site reporting on music and the arts. This change of philosophy has encouraged community reporting and interaction with members in the arts community. Programs such as Artworks, daily features, and area performance reviews entered the schedule. And our online efforts were built in a way that could position WFIU as a center for community discussion and discourse.
News capacity increased, adding local programs such as Noon Edition and Ask the Mayor. WFIU restructured the news area into a multi-platform division that includes radio, online, and television. And as a long-time member of Indiana’s public broadcasting consortium (IPBS), WFIU continues to play a pivotal role in organizing the state news service which reports daily from the Statehouse.
WFIU was, and continues to be, an early adapter of new technology. We were one of the first public radio stations to create an accompanying Web site in the early 1990s, and one of the first to anticipate the influx of new generations of on-demand listeners and social media users. We’ve addressed these trends through strong interactive online content.
You may not know that WFIU is considered a national leader in innovative multi-platform programming that includes online versions of traditional programs as well as a variety of new, online-only content. For the month of September 2010, WFIU’s online service peaked at 100,000 users.
A robust involvement in online development enabled WFIU to venture more boldly into emerging areas of online fundraising. To date, online-only fund drives were tried out with Night Lights, Harmonia, and A Moment of Science, and the initial results are encouraging. One advantage of online-only solicitation on nationally distributed programs is that it targets a global online audience and creates a new pool of supporters.
As we celebrate WFIU’s 60th anniversary we ask: what makes WFIU strong? The answer is surprisingly simple—strong licensee support, talented and innovative staff, and an engaged and generous listenership.
IU has been extremely supportive over the years, and there is no doubt that our staff is exemplary. And then there is you—the listeners who have supported WFIU over the decades. Your financial contributions have helped us weather funding droughts that crippled many of our colleague stations.
You, individual and corporate supporters, are the most reliable source of financial support we have. Your support protects us from external turbulence. Without you, WFIU’s role as a community resource would be severely limited.
Please reconfirm your support to WFIU during this 60th anniversary fund drive. Our goal of $350,000 will fund our shared vision of public radio’s core mission—to provide citizens with media content that lets them learn, make informed decisions, and enjoy their cultural treasures.
Happy 60th, listeners!