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Lovin' Life In Small Market America


Congratulations to the team at WCRE in tiny Cheraw, South Carolina (population 6,000), where the station that went on the air in 1953 just celebrated its 60th anniversary. The station was an AM daytimer back in the day and didn't go 24 hours until 1996. Today, the station is also heard on 93.9 via translator (W230AS). Over the years there were seven ownership changes before current owner Jane Pigg came along. Pigg says she wanted to serve the community and there is nothing like serving the community where you work. Pigg admits she had no idea how to be an owner, but with help from the previous owner and a run through the The NAB's "Broadcast Leadership Training" program, where she graduated 5th in the class of 2005, she was ready to take control. Here's the story of how Jane Pigg was able to go from salesperson to owner.

RI: Do you feel like it was the right decision to become an owner?
: Absolutely. I would never look back. It was absolutely the most perfect thing for me to do. I had the opportunity to go to a larger station and go into other industries. My preacher said, "Go where you can serve the most people." If I had gone to a big station and made gobs of money, I would've served myself. But serving the most people was at WCRE. When I went there, I basically went on faith, because I knew that I was going from making a six figure salary to making maybe $10,000 the first year.

RI: How challenging is it to own one AM station when everybody else owns four or five stations?
First of all, we are located in no-man's land. There are no other radio stations. There's a station licensed to Cheraw, but it is a Florence station. There is no media here. The television market is split between the Charlotte DMA, but we're in South Carolina, so everybody watches the Florence stations. They only media in the whole region, is my station. We cover everything. People listen to us because they know we know what's going on, and we will get the word out.

RI: How are you are getting people to continue to listen on the AM dial?
: I'm going to throw a wrench into your story right now. We turned on the FM translator on April Fools Day of 2008. I know that probably 90 percent of my listeners are listening on the FM side. Every AM station deserves an FM signal because of the clarity. Radio has evolved into an FM signal. I don't want to put AM down. I really don't. But, I know from personal experience that the FM station is where my listeners are. If my FM station goes off the air for 30 seconds, I will have 30 phone calls. If my AM station goes off the air, I might have a phone call in 30 minutes. That is reality.

RI: What are your biggest challenges, being in a small market?
: One the biggest challenges would be franchised stores that place 100 percent of their advertising budgets, including the money that comes from the franchise located in our town, with the DMA and not here in Cheraw. The money goes to Charlotte or Florence. Supposedly "Cheraw can pick up off of that advertising." From an economic standpoint, we don't have as many locally owned stores as we had 10 years ago. Locally owned stores put money back into the community. Franchise stores don't put local money in the local community — at least where we are. Some do, but most don't.

RI: Would you advise people to get into ownership like you did? Is it a great experience?
Pigg: It is a fabulous experience. I love owning a radio station. I like serving the community. I like selling things. I like to be able to go to a car dealership and put a campaign on the air and sell cars. I like to go to a dress store and sell dresses. But, when I can use the airways to inform the community and put something on the air that can make a difference in someone's life, that is what pushes my button, more so than selling the cars and the dresses.

WCRE has won many awards over the past 12 years, including the state’s highest honor from the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, “South Carolina’s Radio Station of the Year,” and  has been named one of the top five Oldies format radio stations in America by the National Broadcasters Association. 

Congratulate Jane for being a great small market operator,
For more information on the NAB Leadership Program go here:  

(7/24/2013 9:12:11 PM)
I compliment Ms. Pigg on all she has accomplished and continues to do. Small and local is real radio today and not corporate-controlled and programmed i.e Cumulus or Clear Channel. Keep up the great work! Al Gordon 1640 WJPR Highland Park/Edison, NJ

- Al
(7/24/2013 3:34:37 PM)
There aren't many small market stations doing local radio in 2013 and I always make a point of tuning in WCRE to see how they're doing when I'm in the area.

Great work, Jane, and best of continued success to all of you!

- Brian Douglas
(7/24/2013 3:33:37 PM)
As Jane mentioned, they added the translator in 2008, way before most operators even thought of the possibility and immediately repositioned the stations as My 93-9, an FM with a more modern, tighter playlist. Driving through the market one day I heard Susan Glimour play an obscure 80s song ("Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" by The Korgis) on the noon request show and called to tell her how great she sounded... which was the truth!

- Brian Douglas
(7/24/2013 3:32:58 PM)
I'm Operations Manager for Entercom Greensboro, NC and have been hearing WCRE for years on my drive from Greensboro to Florida when I go "home." At one time, the station was doing automated oldies, with a deep playlist and not many spots. Later, they began to reconnect with the community... lots of local information in drive times, local news, etc. They ran more spots and the station sounded alive. Still, as Jane says, it's tough to get it done on AM and the long term potential was an issue.

- Brian Douglas
(7/24/2013 1:37:13 PM)
Hats off to ALL broadcasters who are fortunate enough to know the privileges and pleasures of being alone in small market. Our WRIP(FM) in Windham, NY (pop: 1,600) is the only station within 35 miles. We literally saved lives when Hurricane Irene washed away entire creekside neighborhoods in our area, homes and all. We've taken most every local advertiser away from the local weekly newspaper (which was not our intent - they are our friends.) It's so nice to be important and beloved!

- Dennis Jackson

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