20 Watts

Tuned Out: College Radio Struggles to Stay Afloat in the iPod Era (Pt. 1)

BY Dan Kaplan | REPORTING BY Dan Creahan + Olivia St. Denis

WERW has seen better days.

In 2004, Syracuse University promised funding for a new space for its free-format, student-run radio station, but nothing came of it. After 23 years of existence, WERW still operates out of its closet-like studio in an obscure corner of the Jabberwocky Café.

And here, the word “operates” is key. WERW’s terrestrial radio transmitter is currently out of commission, so it can no longer broadcast on the 1570 AM frequency. Rather, the station has been forced to convert to an online-only format that streams through iTunes to personal computers.

WERW Music Director Andrew Ner­viano sums up the station’s current state of affairs: “To me, it makes it feel like we’re not a real radio station.”

The decline of WERW parallels the fates of many free-format college radio stations across the country. The Arbitron Ratings Service has reported that national listener­ship among the college-age demographic (18-24) has decreased by 18 percent over the past decade. A medium that helped boost acts like Pavement, R.E.M. and Nir­vana to national prominence barely two decades ago is in a state of rapid decline.



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