Oct 19, 2011

First pledge drive for Pittsburgh's WESA seen as key indicator of listener support

Pittsburgh's WESA is making its first fundraising appeal to listeners since the station changed format and call letters under new owner Essential Public Media. Its $250,000 fundraising goal is less than half of the amount raised in a record-breaking February 2010 drive for WDUQ, as the station was known during its years as a split-format news and jazz station, the Pittsburgh Tribune reports. But back then, listeners who pledged a total of $525,000 were responding to Duquesne University's decision to sell its public radio station, a transaction that finally closed this summer.

After the switch to its all-news format in July, the audience for 90.5 dipped to a 1.4 share of Pittsburgh radio listeners, according to Arbitron data cited by the Tribune. But EPM execs expect to recover and improve upon WDUQ's performance. They're aiming for a weekly cume of 200,000 listeners, which would top WDUQ's best-ever Arbitron book of 180,000 listeners in 2009. They also plan to raise 60 percent of WESA's $2.5 million operating budget through four fund-drives each year.

WESA and its new step-sister station WYEP, the contemporary music station that's a partner in EPM, are combining their fundraising efforts and running simultaneous fall pledge drives, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Station officials and local observers see WESA's maiden fundraiser as an important indicator of listener support for the new service.

"It's going to be a great benchmark for us to see where we are moving forward," Susan Meyer, director of marketing, told the Post-Gazette.

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