The road to a successful radio station in and for Marco Island is strewn with road kill. Now there’s new hope.
Several broadcasters and/or other would-be media mavens have spent and lost a lot of money in a clutch of unrelated efforts to create a radio service that would attract a large number of Marco-area listeners and sponsors to match.
Alas, none to our knowledge has ever worked in the long run.
This gloomy ghost of our failed radio past does not, not include a few stations in this area that are licensed to Marco technically, but originate off-island and whose focus is on greater Southwest Florida.
But the efforts to create a hyper-local Marco has ended up with a jumble of failed call letters, audio formats, under-funded business plans and creaky, under-maintained equipment. Plus a business person or two who had no idea what they were doing.
The “hope” I mentioned is the new station now broadcasting from studios above Hoot’s Restaurant on Marco, 98.1 FM, “The Island,” run by a few old pros who know radio and know Marco Island.
At the helm of this station offering a mix of news, local talk and music is Bob Ladd.
Two, two, two stations in one
“There are two stations involved,” Bob explains. “The other is in Everglades City at 88.1 FM. The two stations are tied together so you can be in either place and hear the station, simulcast, 24 hours a day.” The stations also will be easily audible in Goodland, Chokoloskee, Isles of Capri, Fiddler’s Creek and a ways up Collier Boulevard toward Tamiami Trail.
“We’re doing local news and features at the top of the hour, plus a local talk phone-in show at 10 a.m. weekdays. We’re also working to cover a lot of Marco events, such as the Taste of Marco, the Seafood Festival and such. We did a live remote from the St. Patrick’s Day festivities.”
The station also has access to the National Weather Service reports and updates. And its signal is becoming available on smart phones and the Internet. The “app” to look for is called “TuneIn.”
Right now most of the local news and information on 98,1 FM is in the 6 a.m. to noon period, pretty much prime time for radio, but if the station prospers, its owners hope to expand the talk programming amidst the grown-up contemporary music format.
So, the big question: Are there any sponsors yet? Yes.
“We have several already, such as the Capri Fish House, Kennedy Studios, the Rod and Gun Club, an attorney and others,” Bob Ladd says.
Why Marco radio might work this time
Having dabbled in local radio here off and on and having had decades of broadcast experience at the national level, we think there is one reason this station has a chance of surviving whether others have perished.
The station is on FM Radio, not at the end-of-the-road AM dial, which has housed several previous Marco-based stations.
Around the nation, even very successful AM stations in major markets have improved their reach and profits by simulcasting on the FM dial.
The best Southwest Florida example of that is the venerable WINK radio brand. Atop its history of success on AM, WINK created the powerful 92.5 FM Fox Radio News platform. And WGUF 98.9 FM does very well with the news-talk format on FM.
The other thing that could help Marco’s new 98.1 FM station is its potential for a talk format that allows islanders to phone in and speak out on important local issues.
Give it a try. The number to call is 642-0981.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: email@example.com.