Boston.com launches online radio station

RadioBDC, run by former WFNX staffers, aims to expand content and advertising appeal of Boston.com

RadioBDC’s reach may be worldwide but its focus is parochial. The online radio station and newest member of the Boston.com family made its debut on Monday with “I Want My City Back” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a ska band from Boston.

Front man Dicky Barrett called into the station as it went live to introduce the song and thank Boston.com readers, who had voted online for “I Want My City Back” to kick off the station’s programming.

The station is the latest effort by The Boston Globe, the corporate parent of Boston.com, to broaden the offerings and the advertising appeal of the mass market website, which attracts more than 6 million unique visitors a month.

The station’s studio, located inside the Globe building on Morrissey Boulevard, is manned by six former staff members of WFNX, which after its sale to ClearChannel earlier this year will also stream online-only. RadioBDC will be live from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, with an automated music stream going out the rest of the time.

RadioBDC faces stiff competition from broadcast and satellite radio and online music streaming self-programming services such as Pandora and Spotify. “I think it’s an uphill battle, even on the web,” said John Carroll, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Boston University.But there is, I think, a growing sense that as valuable as it is to be able to program your own radio station there’s also some value in the serendipity and the possibilities of tapping into other peoples’ platforms, to media organization’s platforms.”

The Globe’s push into online radio is also another reminder of tough times in the news business. As the Globe is adding staffers at RadioBDC to seek out new sources of revenue, it is laying off 10 employees elsewhere in the building and offering buyouts to 23 people in advertising and 20 in the paper’s editorial section. “The Boston Globe is not a newspaper anymore, the Globe is a media organization with multiple platforms,” says Carroll. “And they’ve been very good at recognizing that and adjusting how they distribute their content – and also what kind of content to create.”

The Globe operates two websites:  Boston.com, which is free, carries Boston Globe sports articles and a small selection of news articles daily, as well as a wide assortment of other news and lifestyle coverage from its own staffers separate from the paper. BostonGlobe.com, which contains all of the coverage of the print Globe, is a paid subscription site with limited monthly free access.

Lisa DeSisto, general manager of Boston.com and chief advertising officer for the Globe, says that after launching BostonGlobe.com last year, the company was looking for new types of content to fill some of the holes left by moving most daily Globe articles off of the Boston.com site. DeSisto says the Globe saw the sudden availability of former WFNX personalities as a great opportunity to bring new content to the free site. “It was a way to deepen user engagement with Boston.com,” she said.

The Globe is also pushing to bring in new advertisers through RadioBDC and has hired a former WFNX sales rep. DeSisto says that Heineken, Coors Light, Anheuser-Busch, Sapporo, Pernod Riccard, and Comcast have already signed on as advertisers. The sponsorships are “multiplatform,” meaning the companies will air audio ads, sponsor events, and run banner ads online.

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In addition to Santoro, the new station on weekdays will feature former ‘FNX on-air personalities Julie Kramer, who will co-host with Santoro from 10 – 11 and then continue alone until 2 p.m.; Adam 12, who will host from 2 – 6 p.m. with an all-request hour at 4 p.m.; and Paul Driscoll, who will take over from 6 – 10 p.m. Driscoll will also host a show on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

In an interview, Santoro said the news component of his show would be geared towards a rock and roll audience. “While the news stations in town might lead with the fire on Main, we might lead with something different,” like the cost of college, Santoro said. “My entire career has been built on doing news for the rock and roll crowd. Coming out of rock and roll, there’s a different mindset to it than hard news.”

Santoro says he doesn’t see much difference between terrestrial radio and online radio. “The microphones are the same. The headphones are the same. I don’t think it’s going to be that much different. The only thing we don’t have is a position on the dial.”