Licensed to Williamstown, Kentucky, radio station WNKR has been serving listeners in the Northern Kentucky area since 1992. After acquiring Middletown, Ohio-licensed WNKN to expand their reach into the Cincinnati/Dayton market, owner Grant County Broadcasters standardized on the ENCO DAD radio automation system to enable easy and efficient operation of the two distinct but nearly-identical stations.
WNKR (106.7 FM) and WNKN (105.9 FM) both feature a Classic Country music format hosted by local personalities. While the two stations broadcast identical music playlists and share the same on-air talent, they deliver different content and commercials targeted to their specific audiences. Each station offers distinct newscasts, community reports, and weather and traffic updates, while WNKR uniquely broadcasts live University of Kentucky sports and simulcasts its programming on the Internet through streaming solutions provider and ENCO partner StreamGuys.
At the time of the acquisition, WNKN was already using ENCO DAD, but WNKR was using a different automation system. Grant County Broadcasters VP of programming and operations Peter Zolnowski recognized ENCO DAD as the ideal solution for unifying their operations on one platform, and in June 2018 switched both stations to an updated and expanded ENCO installation. “I had used ENCO at another station many years ago, and when I saw the latest version I really liked its user-friendly interface and flexibility,” he recalled.
The stations immediately benefited from efficiency improvements, starting with their music playlists. “The ENCO DAD system gives us the flexibility to run both stations off of one music log,” said Zolnowski. “In one ENCO library, we can use a cart number that has a legal ID for WNKR, and another library can use the same cart number for the WNKN equivalent. We can then create one log that has the same songs and same imaging components using the different libraries, rather than having to edit two separate music logs just for the sake of imaging.”
Further optimizing the combined operations, ENCO’s advanced live voice tracking capabilities enable on-air hosts to be heard on both stations at roughly the same time with uniquely localized content. A few minutes before each break, the host records the corresponding WNKR and WNKN segments back-to-back, which are then played back at approximately the same time on their respective stations.
The stations have also saved considerable time by pairing ENCO’s DAD Dropbox utility with the AIM Automation Import Master from Mr. Master. The AIM software fetches network programs, spots and syndicated content from their providers, placing them into a Dropbox folder for automated ingest into the DAD system. A second Dropbox folder allows similarly effortless ingest of locally-produced content. “With our old system, we would need to manually convert incoming content, wait for the conversion to finish, then create and label the cart,” explained Zolnowski. “With ENCO Dropbox and AIM, no manual conversions are required, and all of the metadata from the network is directly populated into DAD, so even the affidavits can be automated.”
Zolnowski praises DAD’s ability to reliably accommodate last-second changes as valuable for the station’s small staff. “If a major event happens and we want to insert an extra news or traffic break, we know it’s going to air flawlessly even if we drop it in just seconds before the on-air song ends,” he said. “That’s important, as we don’t have someone at a console ready for something like that to happen. We can break our routine by quickly throwing something in, and the system handles it perfectly.”
In addition to its automation advantages, the station’s upgrade to ENCO DAD has also delivered benefits for manual operation. Zolnowski highlights the Presenter interface’s arrays as one of their users’ favorite features. “Our jocks love to use the arrays, and we run WNKR’s sports broadcasts with them,” he said. “We can load all of the spots and imaging for a game onto a certain page of the array. When it’s game time, rather than our traffic director having to do a custom log, our board operator simply opens the array, follows the log, and punches up the right spots at the right times. And if we have any technical problems with the remote game feed, our music log is right there, so we can immediately switch back to our regular music programming.”
Zolnowski’s future plans include adding ENCO’s second-generation WebDAD solution for remotely controlling the station through a web browser. “We have several staffers who have their own home studios, and if there’s breaking news or a weather emergency, they won’t need to lose critical time coming into the station,” he said. “With WebDAD they’ll be able to log in and do whatever they need to do remotely in a timely fashion.”
While the ENCO DAD system has already delivered substantial benefits, ENCO’s ongoing innovation has Zolnowski also excited about the future. “My initial experience with ENCO was 15 years ago, and my how the product has grown! It was a good system then, but they’ve grown with the times,” he said. “They’re continually working to improve and add features, and very open to suggestions. I love working with them, and I’m always looking forward to more advances as they make them available to us.”