Five reasons why independent news outlets and local campus radio make powerful allies

The Sprawl founder shares the benefits of a radio show/podcast collaboration

Lauren Kaljur Lauren Kaljur  - January 28, 2022

Jeremy Klaszus, founder of The Sprawl, an independent news outlet serving Calgary, Alberta, strives to tell stories that “surprise and delight.”

So when he was asked to produce a podcast by CJSW 90.9 FM, Calgary’s only campus and community radio station, he jumped at the chance.

The half-hour radio show and podcast, The Sprawlcast, is now in its third year. Each week, Klaszus surfaces stories focused on a specific theme of interest to Calgarians, like the city’s geographic income segregationcommunity-building corner stores and what the city can learn from Vancouver’s quirky and famous Commercial Drive.

Here are some benefits to pairing up with campus radio to produce a show or podcast:

1. Get the goods

If you’ve ever considered producing a podcast, you’ll know you need a ton of gear. Klaszus says the decision to partner with CJSW was a no-brainer because of the resources that come with it. The station provides access to a professional studio, equipment, editing software, tech support, knowledgeable production staff and an audience of listeners.

Since Klaszus had some experience reporting for radio at CBC, he was able to get started relatively quickly.  

“For folks who are newer to audio, they do have staff to walk you through how to do it,” he explains. “And that’s huge. Because the alternative is, you’re in your basement with a microphone and whatever setup you can cobble together.”

2. Grow your audience

No matter who your target audience is, there’s an obvious benefit to gaining the ears of community and campus radio listeners. They can become future contributors or supporters. 

To this day, community radio remains a key information resource. For those who refuse to listen to podcasts or radio, Klaszus posts a transcript for each episode on The Sprawl’s website so the content is searchable and accessible. 

He says that while the precise number of listeners is hard to gauge with radio and podcasts, they get about 2,000 downloads each episode, a number in line with the outlet’s membership.

But another important measure of success is direct feedback.

3. Connect with your audience

Newsletters are a great tool for building relationships with readers and growing revenue, in part because readers appreciate hearing directly from a journalist. Podcasts have the same power.

In one recent episode, Klaszus interviews David Goa, a scholar of religion, on the importance of meeting and connecting with strangers. It’s an intimate, thoughtful conversation.

Klaszus says he specifically chooses stories well-suited to audio — and it shows. Each episode offers a thoughtful glimpse into issues Calgarians care about led by a compelling, approachable host.

“If they see that you’re committed to this thing and you’re putting in the effort and it’s not like a side project of an article or whatever, I think they’re more likely to give attention to it,” says Klaszus.

4. Bring your readers in

As a member-funded news outlet, The Sprawl does a great job of involving readers in the creation of new products. In 2018, they had a member drive to launch Sprawlcast.

If you’re thinking about a podcast or radio show, consider inviting readers to help you make it happen. It rallies your audience around a specific goal, helps raise awareness about the new product and gives you something to celebrate with your readers later.

5. Diversify your news products

Delivering journalism in new formats helps make new people aware of your work. It’s also a way to deepen your connection with your readers and supporters. 

As former Buzzfeed newsletter director and publisher of the Not a Newsletter Dan Oshinsky explains in an interview with The Fix, offering multiple products builds relationships. “When we ask them for the next step to support us or donate, they will really care about us and have a good relationship with us on a few different platforms.

“Those are the readers who are most likely to convert. So that’s where that comes in. It’s just an additional way to deepen engagement.”

But Klaszus says quality must stay top of mind. “The podcast space is so crowded, right? So if you’re going to go there, it has to be good. Is it quality stories that connect with people? If it’s not that, then little else will work.”

The Sprawlcast is just one way to collaborate with campus radio stations. You could also connect with the station’s programming director to find out if there’s already a news show, and offer up a short five minute segment. 

You could take inspiration from The Sprawl and make your show a limited time pop-up to test the waters before a more permanent launch.

If the station offers a newsletter, consider arranging a newsletter takeover or swap to grow your subscriber base.

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