OU’s student-led radio station hopes a minor facelift will result in a wider audience
Ohio University’s campus radio station hopes five letters will result in more streams, views and clicks.
The All Campus Radio Network, known since the 1970s as ACRN, will tack “Media” onto its name in the near future in an attempt to change its brand and broaden its audience, said Megan Fair, a sophomore studying journalism and general manager of the station.
Fair said ACRN has evolved far beyond radio, putting out print articles and videos, as well as physical copies of in-studio music sessions. But she said many students don’t know much, if anything, about the extent of ACRN’s operation.
“Sometimes people don’t realize what we are,” Fair said. “(The change) is kind of making it a much more well-rounded station. We’re not just streaming college rock anymore; we’re doing a little bit of everything.”
Pressure to become more than just a radio station isn’t limited to campus outlets, said Rusty Smith, program director at WOUB, a National Public Radio Affiliate based in Athens.
Smith worked for ACRN in the 1970s when it was still transmitted via carrier current, meaning the station’s tunes traveled through electrical wiring and could only be picked up on an AM dial in a small area. Back then, ACRN played in OU’s cafeterias, and could be picked up in a car in the certain spots on campus, Smith said.
When the station started, it dealt exclusively in AM radio transmissions. Now, ACRN can only be streamed online, and offers audience members much more than medium frequency college rock.
“The media market is so interconnected now, you have to have more to compete,” Smith said. “Digital first is a big push on the local and national level.”
Though ACRN feels that push, Fair says the transition to a multiplatform media outlet has been “natural” for its members because of the era they were raised in.
“I think the name change came from a nominal place, but reflects the natural changes occurring within the station,” Fair said. “There is so much crossover that it is very rare to meet a member of ACRN who is only in one single department. ... We’ve all grown up in a digital age, and so we’re all digital-minded.”
ACRN’s departments — 16 in total, ranging from visual media to editorial — have become more interconnected over the last four years, said Zack Baker, a senior studying journalism who has been directly involved with the station for three years, but has “paid attention” since he was a freshman.
“I think ‘branching out’ is a really good way to describe the way we’ve grown over the past few years,” Baker said. “We all work together really well, and I think that helps us collaborate on some really cool multimedia projects.”
Tony Cardwell, a freshman studying journalism who hosts a radio show for ACRN and writes music reviews for the station’s website, said he was attracted to the outlet because they seemed “open for change.”
“When I talked to them about video, they were more excited than the more established groups on campus,” Cardwell said, adding that they only hinted at the fact they were becoming more digitally-focused. “They were being facetious. They are multimedia.”
ACRN’s website offers a bevy of videos, photos and articles, as well as links for users to download or stream broadcasts. The station also uses its website to announce live shows hosted by ACRN.
“Student-run stations, like ACRN, they’ve got nothing to lose … and everything to gain by having a web presence,” Smith said.