Chances are the idea of becoming a radio show host has crossed your mind at some point. Thanks to Alternative Talk AM 1150 KKNW, direct from Newport Corporate Center in Bellevue, that dream — which for many of us began when we were wide-eyed children — may be within reach.
KKNW is an utterly unique radio station.
“I don’t know of quite another station like ours,” said sales manager Erik Krema, The concept for KKNW was born a little more than 15 years ago. We were looking to do something along the lines of positive talk,” said Krema. “The original idea was to focus more on mind, body, and spirit programming, but we’ve expanded that as the years have gone by.”
The station’s programs are decidedly different than what you hear elsewhere. There are shows on tarot card reading, channeling, and astrology. There’s a show about the Bellevue art community and local music. There are shows aimed at the local Russian, Norwegian, and Italian communities. There’s financial advice. The station has you covered. Want to learn about how to transform your reality? (whatever that means), there’s a show for that.
“We’re giving a platform for local voices in our community that wouldn’t normally be represented on radio,” said operations manager Eric Reidar Burris.
The format is unusual, but no more so than the station’s business model. At KKNW, it’s all pay to play, meaning you pay to host your own show. “We decided early on, it’s tough to garner ratings with a 10,000-watt AM station using the standard :30/:60 spot-revenue advertising model,” said Krema.“We thought, why not sell all of our time in one-hour blocks, except for overnights?”
When KKNW sells an hour, the station actually is selling 56 minutes. The other four minutes are used for station promotion, news, traffic, and weather. This also gives the outgoing hosts the time needed to switch places with the incoming hosts. And the hosts can use the 56 minutes however they like. “They can monetize it, if they choose,” said Krema. “They can sell three or four commercial breaks in their show and keep the money for themselves.”
KKNW currently airs more than 60 shows, give or take, and about 75 percent of the hosts have been with the station many years. Most of the shows are one hour and air once a week, but a few air several times a week.
So what’s the criteria for hosting a show?
“What we really look for in show hosts is they don’t have to be experts in radio — although they do get better and better over time — but they are experts in their chosen field, and they have a desire to let people know about it,” said Krema. “What we really want are hosts who want to help other people move to a better place in their life. Some of our shows have been on for 15 years, so that tells me they are connecting with their audience.”
“We try to give people free reign,” added Burris, “but we will not air anything hateful.”
Although the station is not a ratings powerhouse, KKNW does strive to be competitive with other talk radio stations out there.
KKNW is owned by Hubbard Radio, which also airs Warm 106.9 FM, Movin’ 92.5 FM, KIXI 880 AM, and Rock 98.9 FM, all of which are broadcast out of the same building in the Factoria area.
As Harry Chapin memorably sang in his 1973 hit, “W.O.L.D.” “I’m the bright good morning voice who’s heard but never seen. Feeling all of 45, going on 15.”
The dream is within reach.