The Giant 101.9
Change is coming. Change is good. Change your dial. With that simple mantra, Cape Breton’s newest radio station, 101.9 The Giant, was born. The Giant’s street team pounded the pavement with these slogans of change last spring to create a buzz before the station’s big launch, and it worked. When The Giant hit the airwaves just over a year ago, it quickly became Cape Breton’s most popular radio station.
For 101.9 FM General Manager Dave Newbury, change wasn’t only good, it was necessary. “We just felt it was an under-served market; there hadn’t been any change in radio in Cape Breton for decades,” Newbury says. “There wasn’t anything new or different, but there was a real opportunity for radio to grow.” And, as their name implies, The Giant grew to fitting proportions.
When the first ratings came out just five months after their launch, The Giant was already on top. “It was the number one station on the market right out of the gate,” Newbury says. “Everybody worked very hard at determining what the listeners wanted, and it was pretty gratifying that it was so well received.”
Community input is a vital part of The Giant’s success. Even before it went to air, people in Cape Breton had the chance to shape what they wanted The Giant to sound like. They voted for the format of the station and even decided on the name itself. “Before we went to air, you could go to our website and take the formats for a test drive, if you will. People got to go in, listen for 15 to 20 minutes to each format, and vote on what they wanted their new radio station to be,” Newbury says.
With this user-generated approach, they created a radio station that is creative, interactive, and always plugged in to the community. “We listened to what people were telling us and tried to give them what they wanted,” Newbury says. The results? You can always get local news, even on weekends. From food-bank fundraisers to drag racing, chances are if you are heading out to a local community event, The Giant will be there too. Travelling for business? You can go online where the station is streaming live and never miss a show.
The Giant employs 26 people in Cape Breton, from a youth street team to on-air personalities. “All the talent we needed was here. We advertised right across the country for people, but at the end of the day, most of the people we ended up hiring were from here or were working somewhere else and wanted to come home,” Newbury says. “We didn’t have to go out and import talent, it’s homegrown. The whole concept is homegrown.”
Radio host Tashia Lee moved back to Cape Breton from Antigonish to work on The Giant’s morning show. “It was exciting because I’m from Cape Breton,” Lee says. “I’ve lived in Calgary, Ontario, all over, and being home meant a lot.” Lee says the connection with her community and listeners is the recipe for The Giant’s success—and the best part of her job. “It’s exploded, the popularity of the station,” Lee says. “People approach me all the time, they talk about our morning show and how we get their day started. It makes my job worth it. If I can improve one person’s day, that makes my day.”
Despite a hectic schedule hosting a morning show and attending community events, Lee feels like living in Cape Breton allows her to maintain good balance of work and play. “I get to see my family every day,” she says. “The community events I go to, I enjoy going to. I feel like the balance is there, because I’m home.”
With over 14,000 fans and counting on Facebook alone, it’s clear that The Giant’s innovative style is connecting with people in the virtual world too. The Giant embraces the latest technology and uses sites like Facebook and Twitter as opportunities to connect with listeners both in Cape Breton and abroad. Online fans of The Giant live all across Canada, not to mention in the UK, China, France, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Turkey, and Sri Lanka. For this Cape Breton radio station, there are no boundaries. It is accessible to the world.
Newbury says the team at 101.9 FM is optimistic about what the future holds for them in Cape Breton. “We’re ahead of where we projected we’d be, and we’re looking forward to what we believe is a bright future here,” he says. One thing is for sure; this giant is only going to get bigger.