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Radio 1190: Mikey Goldenberg on doing a pledge drive that's not annoying

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Radio 1190, CU Boulder's campus radio station (and winner of at least ten Best of Denver awards since its 1990s launch), is in the midst of a pledge drive that runs through Friday. But Mikey Goldenberg, who's overseeing his first major drive since becoming the outlet's general manager last fall, thinks those who tune in will actually enjoy it, since the station is eschewing most of the elements that make standard begathons so irritating.

"We're keeping the programming going," Goldenberg says, "not stopping everything and begging for money. We don't want to turn people off and turn them away from the radio. The fundraising and the gifts are important, but we don't want people to get tired of us asking for their support. We want to give them insight into what it is we're trying to do, but at the same time provide them with what they love when they turn on Radio 1190 -- music, news, specialty shows."

This mix is very different from the one Goldenberg oversaw at his previous job, as a morning-show producer at Alice/105.9 FM. In that gig, he focused on creating comedy and conversation intended to appeal to the station's female-skewing demographic. Not so at Radio 1190.

"We're student-run, and our board is made up of students and professionals who are directly involved in the station itself," he notes. "So we're not necessarily catering to advertisers, and we don't have to have one specific sound and a specific programming content. We can be much more freeform and cater to a vast demographic, which is why we have so many listeners in Denver. We have something for everybody who loves music, be it hip-hop, punk, pop. We have a funk show on the weekends, a New Orleans show on Sunday mornings, a rockabilly show and a lot of great indie-rock. We do hit music that people know and love, but we also try to give them something a little deeper than what normal mainstream radio plays for them."

Although Radio 1190 is an official CU Boulder entity, the station must raise a significant amount of cash each year to keep the lights on -- and in some ways, fulfilling the mission this year will be even more challenging. In addition to the still struggling economy, the outlet faces a new quasi-competitor in Open Air, an indie-rock-based Colorado Public Radio station run by Radio 1190's former general manager, Mike Flanagan, and featuring several alums from the college signal as on-air talent. And to add to the level of difficulty, Open Air's own pledge drive, held in conjunction with other CPR affiliates, took place only about six weeks ago.

Goldenberg acknowledges that Open Air has the potential of "dipping into some of the pockets we hold. But at the same time, we have a fourteen-year head start on them and target a very niche demo with very loyal listeners. So I feel like there's enough for everybody."

How much moolah does Radio 1190 need to accumulate? In another break with standard pledge-drive procedure, Goldenberg isn't saying. In his view, "releasing a number limits us from an asking perspective. So we're taking smaller bites out of the overall total and giving hourly totals, so people can feel their money is going to contribute to what we're trying to do.

"I'm not bringing my commercial radio experience here to make the station sound more like that," he insists. "I'm trying to help 1190 change radio from our perspective. And I know we can offer so much more."

Compared with most pledge drives, the staff already is....

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More from our Media archive: "Colorado Public Radio on refinancing, fund drive, launch of Open Air."

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