Four years ago, Dave Williams launched iCRV – an online radio station devoted to making local matter in Connecticut – along with his then-wife and partner Ibby Carothers in Ivoryton, Connecticut. Today, the station has grown to host 70 shows on a monthly or quarterly basis, and has broadcast over 6,000 programs.
Last week, CT Examiner staff reporter Julia Werth sat down with Williams to get a better idea of what iCRV is really all about and where he expects to go with the station in year five.
Where did you get the idea to start iCRV?
It was born out of frustration. There is no dedicated real-time information in Connecticut. New York City and Boston are two enormous markets making the area in-between impenetrable and unserviceable. Our goal was to be relevant on a hyperlocal basis, to be the ultimate connection between the brand and the end user. It has taken a lot of effort, a lot of resources, a lot of sleeplessness and up until next month a lot of financial bleeding.
How did you pick the Connecticut River and shoreline area as the location for iCRV?
I came to visit Old Saybrook in the early 2000s and fell in love with the area. To drive just six or seven minutes and be able to be in a totally different village is incredible. Not one town has everything – but with the bundle of towns you have it all.
What’s the difference between you as an online radio station and a traditional radio station?
We have no transmitter expense, no interacting with FCC, that’s the only difference. The listening process is the same especially now that most people listen through apps or online anyway.
What is the goal of iCRV?
To make local matter in Connecticut. We want people to support local – local musicians, local music venues, local people. We want to bring all the content to life – culture, music, museums, historical society, our textured past, our own soap opera of settlement of CT River Valley. It’s all about celebrating where we live and encouraging people to get involved with this area.
How many regular listeners do you have?
We have 180 to 700 listeners at any given time. Through the course of a month you’ll have over 160,000 listeners from all over including strong listenership in New York City, upstate New York, Rhode Island, western Mass and Boston, in addition to 103 of the 169 towns in Connecticut. Having people in New York listening to a program dedicated to an area two hours away is exciting, it means they’re truly interested and maybe willing to travel here.
Out of the 6,000 segments you’ve had over the past four years, what is your favorite show?
A one-and-a-half-hour block called Shelter Island on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that protects you from mainstream media. We talk about all the great things going on.
What’s the most fun show you ever did?
The most fun was creating our own soap opera written by a professor from the University of Hartford. We laid in tiers and tiers of sound effects making it engaging in its dramatic appeal and education. It was the most gratifying for me personally.
What’s your most memorable experience?
We recorded live in front of the Riverwind B&B and afterwards a listener sent me $25 because I sounded parched on air. She wrote me that the program helped her feel connected to the area. That feels amazing, to be able to move someone to actually mail me a check.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve had over the past four years?
When the power goes out I have to go reboot everything from home.
What’s the hardest part about running a radio station with just 2 people?
Getting untethered from the studio is challenging. When I go away on vacation I’m still up and going on an app to a share screen to manipulate programs remotely. I probably didn’t think that one all the way through before launching.
Also, making the ad-supported model work. We’ve been in the wrong color ink for four years, but that appears to be changing as we are finally gaining some traction in the merchant community.
Thinking back to when you launched, are you where you thought you’d be four years in?
The listenership and programs are bigger than I ever thought. I would have hoped it would not be as difficult to get businesses, chamber of commerce and tourism to care about us. But, we’ll keep plugging away.
What are you plans for year five and beyond?
While we do need more ad support to right the ship as it were, we could not be more grateful for the 28 monthly advertisers we have with us, from Essex Savings Bank and Essex Steam Train to Esty’s in Old Saybrook and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County who have all been along for the whole ride, to Middlesex Health, Flanders Fish Market, and Mystic Seaport Museum who have recently joined the platform…we are so appreciative of the support do we have.
My goal is to get the monthly core listenership to 300,000, but we can’t do that without merchant support. Where we differ from traditional radio is that if we get an extra listener we have to pay more. Every individual stream is what we’re paying for because we pay for a certain amount of bandwidth.
We’d love to be out live in the community more. We’d love to do SEO optimization, digital marketing for the brand, love to have SWAG, street teams, love to have a space where we could have our own music festival and events that bring to life this area. If you want to be part of community you have to be in the community.
Every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. CT Examiner editor Gregory Stroud hosts “Big Questions in Small Places” on iCRV, sponsored by Illuminating Media.
On May 23, our special guest is Margaret Mccutcheon Faber. Faber earned a Ph.D. from Oxford in Cultural Anthropology, sits on the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council, and runs Classic Africa, a safari and tour operator to southern and east Africa.
Note: The original version of this story reported monthly listeners of 30,000. This has been corrected. The actual listener totals are 160,000.