DAYTON, OHIO — On July 19, 2017, the future of a Class B FM serving the Cincinnati market and the Miami Valley was put into question. The owner of Class A WNKR-FM 106.7, licensed to Williamstown, Ky., agreed to purchase one of three signals owned by Northern Kentucky University and used for an Adult Alternative operation with a fervent but albeit small following.
The purchase of WNKR by Jeff Ziesmann‘s Grant County Broadcasters was poised to give his company a huge coverage boost, if the decision was to use WNKN as a simulcast partner for the Classic Country format already heard on WNKR. That station’s signal is best-heard on the I-75 corridor in towns south of Covington, such as Dry Ridge and Corinth, Ky.
That’s exactly what transpired … sort of. Today, WNKR and WNKN are “two distinct but nearly identical stations.” This is thanks, in part, to the use of the ENCO DAD radio automation system.
While the two stations broadcast identical music playlists and share the same on-air talent, they deliver different content and commercials targeted to their specific audiences. Each station offers distinct newscasts, community reports, and weather and traffic updates, while WNKR uniquely broadcasts live University of Kentucky sports and simulcasts its programming on the internet through streaming solutions provider and ENCO partner StreamGuys.
At the time of the acquisition, WNKN was already using ENCO DAD. Under NKU ownership, WNKR was using a different automation system.
Grant County Broadcasters VP/Programming and Operations Peter Zolnowski elected to use ENCO DAD for unifying station operations on one platform.
The stations immediately benefited from efficiency improvements, starting with their music playlists. “The ENCO DAD system gives us the flexibility to run both stations off of one music log,” says Zolnowski, known professionally as “Peter Z.”
He continues, “In one ENCO library, we can use a cart number that has a legal ID for WNKR, and another library can use the same cart number for the WNKN equivalent. We can then create one log that has the same songs and same imaging components using the different libraries, rather than having to edit two separate music logs just for the sake of imaging.”
Further optimizing the combined operations, ENCO’s advanced live voice tracking capabilities enable on-air hosts to be heard on both stations at roughly the same time with uniquely localized content. A few minutes before each break, the host records the corresponding WNKR and WNKN segments back-to-back, which are then played back at approximately the same time on their respective stations.
The stations have also saved considerable time by pairing ENCO’s DAD Dropbox utility with the AIM Automation Import Master from Mr. Master. The AIM software fetches network programs, spots and syndicated content from their providers, placing them into a Dropbox folder for automated ingest into the DAD system. A second Dropbox folder allows similarly effortless ingest of locally-produced content.
“With our old system, we would need to manually convert incoming content, wait for the conversion to finish, then create and label the cart,” Zolnowski says. “With ENCO Dropbox and AIM, no manual conversions are required, and all of the metadata from the network is directly populated into DAD, so even the affidavits can be automated.”
Zolnowski also singles out DAD’s ability to reliably accommodate last-second changes as valuable for the station’s small staff. “If a major event happens and we want to insert an extra news or traffic break, we know it’s going to air flawlessly even if we drop it in just seconds before the on-air song ends,” he said. “That’s important, as we don’t have someone at a console ready for something like that to happen. We can break our routine by quickly throwing something in, and the system handles it perfectly.”
In addition to its automation advantages, the station’s upgrade to ENCO DAD has also delivered benefits for manual operation. Zolnowski highlights the Presenter interface’s arrays as one of their users’ favorite features. He says, “We can load all of the spots and imaging for a game onto a certain page of the array. When it’s game time, rather than our traffic director having to do a custom log, our board operator simply opens the array, follows the log, and punches up the right spots at the right times. And if we have any technical problems with the remote game feed, our music log is right there, so we can immediately switch back to our regular music programming.”
Zolnowski’s future plans include adding ENCO’s second-generation WebDAD solution for remotely controlling the station through a web browser. “We have several staffers who have their own home studios, and if there’s breaking news or a weather emergency, they won’t need to lose critical time coming into the station,” he said.