With all the bad news coming out of the radio industry mainly due to the problems created by the huge corporations that control so many stations, it’s often easy to lose sight of the stations that are run by smaller and better corporations. or independent owners who understand the reason broadcasting exists.
Yes, such owners do exist and you might be listening to one of their stations right now. Today I want to focus on KOLA (99.9 FM), broadcasting an oldies Inland Empire format.
KOLA has been on my radar for decades. In the mid-1970s, the station was one of the first to adopt the top 40, playing the hits through an automated system that was once stuck. Coming home sick from school, I heard “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace, if I remember correctly, 16 times in a row. But even then, KOLA was an interesting station to listen to.
He signed in 1959 as KFMW playing Beautiful Music like many FM stations. The Top-40 with the new KOLA call letters came in 1968. I have a recollection of an album-rock format from the 1980s, but I don’t have any details on the format. They’ve been playing oldies since the early 1990s, sometimes acting as an IE clone of the neighbor – but not timeshare – KRTH (101.1 FM).
They broadcast from the Inland Empire, but the signal hits parts of Los Angeles and surrounding areas like a local, depending on geography. It is one of the strongest FM signals in San Pedro.
They’ve been using live local personalities since playing the oldies, and they do an absolutely terrific job of staying up to date with their audience. As with KRTH, they have changed over time, adjusting the definition of an oldie over the years. It’s something that drives old purists crazy, but helps keep the resort fresh. While they once went back to the 1950s for music, KOLA now focuses on the 1990s, dipping into the 80s and new songs from the early 2000s.
They are not oldies, you say? A 2004 song is now 17 years old – it’s as old as the oldest song played on KRTH when they debuted in 1972. It’s all about perspective.
I met morning man Jesse Duran, heard on weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m., to ask him what makes KOLA so special. As you might have guessed, it’s not all about the music.
“We are in a small Mom-and-Pop type business,” said Duran. “People who love broadcasting for the art form it should be.”
Indeed, Anaheim Broadcasters only owns two stations in total – KOLA and its sister KCAL (96.7 FM). But being small doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do it right, does it?
So KOLA does it well. “We have local DJs on every shift except at night,” Duran told me. “No voice from other cities. We all live locally, so we can talk about what’s important to our listeners besides playing the music they love to hear.
Duran told me about a time when they were talking about an event going on in town when people called to ask why they weren’t talking about another. “We bond with our listeners and we are part of their family just as they are part of us. Part of that keeps us on our toes when it comes to local coverage, ”he said.
Radio with a passion, he calls it. Something popular radio stations know well.
Duran, who is heard with Donna D and Loren Coronado, has been doing mornings for eight years on KOLA. Cindy Davis arrives at 9 am; Vic Slick at 2 p.m. and Kevin Machado from 7 p.m. to midnight. On Saturdays at 5 a.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., you can hear the late great Casey Kasem counting ’80s hits on reruns of America’s Top 40.
The station remains active with local concert sponsorships, on-air contests that local residents actually win, and publicity and promotion of local businesses and events. Kind of what the local radio did naturally. The result? A station which has been hugely successful for many years, and which dominates the latest audiences.
In the most recent Nielsen audience results available at the time of this writing, KOLA had a local audience share of 8.4, more than 3 full points above KFRG’s second place ( 95.1 FM) 5.2. It’s impressive. And it shows what happens when you focus on serving your local audience.
“I am fortunate to work for a company, owner and program manager who all embrace local radio,” said Duran. “Have fun, play the hits.”
And keep local radio alive and thriving.