Why KFAN and other local radio stations are engaging listeners through games

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KFAN is not a typical sports talk station. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising that I find it talking about games more than sports more often. Smart games, dumb games, inventive games, ripped-off games.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that The Fan, which has the highest audience share among all sports stations in the country, continues its bent of the genre. The Fan is a boutique of radio talent, held together by a theme emphasis. It’s less a format than it seems. But, The Fan continues its success by being unique.

Gamification is a fascinating programming strategy that was not originally intended to be used, but which has proven successful in audience development as well as advertiser engagement. Chad Abbott, program director, says that gamification is appointment listening. This is a different approach than most of the programming day.

The Power Trip Morningshow and Dan “The Common Man”, Cole in the early afternoons are two of the most popular gamers. Power Trip played the Initials Game every Friday morning since press time. This is a total of 420 weeks. It was created by Cory Cove (one of the troika personalities who oversees the show), and it’s a challenging and complex 20-minute game built around a set initials. Regulars on the show are given clues that lead to answers. They all share the same initials.

This summer, an invitational tournament for bracketed initials was launched. It is based on Cole’s success with “Progrum Password”. It’s the old TV password game that has been ported to radio. The June championship round was played in front of a live audience at iHeart Media’s St. Louis Park studios.

Instead of featuring listeners or callers, the games are played by station staffers and bit players. Sometimes, they may be assisted by personalities from sister radio stations. Abbott says, “We like it showcases our talents.” Abbott also observes the streaming audience grow in real-time. “I watch thousands of people tune into.”

The industry has noticed. KFAN’s PM drive host Dan Barreiro mused that a game could be added to the station. Jason DeRusha, who took over the afternoon drive on WCCO Radio recently, added a version Card Sharks. They also play games on MyTalk 107 and KS95. I’m sure there are others. It’s surprising, most likely, on stations that discuss news or sports. Maybe people are seeking a distraction from their real lives.

Cole recalls, “We were trying for some time to kill some of our time, and I noticed the popularity Initials,” “I was surprised at its appeal,” Cole recalls. Brandon Mileski, Cole’s producer, created the KFAN’s annual Preposterous Statement Tournament. This bracketed tournament pits hyperbole from local officials against each other. Cole points out that it is technically not a game. It’s not a game, but it’s still one the most intelligent things on local radio.

Initials was created seven to eight years ago. However, “we’ve been playing games for 20 years,” says Cove. He has a 13,000-item initialed terms database on his laptop. Cove spends three hours each week prepping Friday’s game. Cove created a home edition, which raised $356,000 through a Kickstarter campaign and sold 20,000 copies. Cove was able to negotiate intellectual property rights with iHeart prior to the game becoming a station franchise.

He believes Power Trip took off because the hosts realized that their job was entertainment and not sports savants. “Being middle-schoolers has paid off, right?” The show is usually No. The show is usually No. 1 or 2 among men 25-54. However, Cove claims that Initials has significant female listenership. Perhaps because it offers no middle school risk, Cove believes that Initials is a valuable weekly listening window.

Are we seeing oversaturation? It’s media, of course. Local radio has given new life to a genre that was largely extinct on daytime TV.

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