Healthy New Year
One can't help but imagine hearing Elton John's "I'm Still Standing"
subtly playing in the background as sort of a radio anthem.
Innumerable death knells have sounded for the medium yet - to borrow
from a true anthem - its "flag" continues to proudly "wave."
Among the recent threats it has needed to fend off is Internet radio.
Although pooh-poohed as being a serious or legitimate challenger to terrestrial
radio, Internet outlets nevertheless possess their share of proponents.
Site operators such as Manhattan Beach, CA-based Linda Mackenzie are establishing
comfortable and informative niche markets.
A more dynamic, energetic, pleasant and enthusiastic entrepreneur won't
readily be discovered as Mackenzie, who five years ago on a shoestring-like
budget launched Internet radio site HealthyLife.net. "I've always
been a pioneer but pioneers don't always make money," she jokes.
"I was the world's first data communications engineer for the airlines
and did that for about 18 years."
The former owner of a dietary supplement manufacturing/distribution company
as well as one of America's first used PC stores unplugged in 1995 to
write books and to do radio shows.
For eight years, Mackenzie voiced positive talk programs for Wisdom Radio,
PAX Radio and the Cable Radio Network. "I was heard in 246 markets,"
she proudly states. "I tried to find stations that would syndicate
positive programming [but didn't discover any]. I saw the [power of the]
Internet and was familiar with computers. I knew it would work and decided
to start HealthyLife.net."
It became apparent very quickly into Mackenzie's research phase however
she knew nothing about audio equipment or ways to develop websites. "Few
people [in 2002] were audio-, radio- and Internet-savvy so I had to figure
it out myself," recalls the author of "Inner Insights - The
Book of Charts," winner of 1998's COVR Award for Best Metaphysical
Through a series of fortunate, if not highly unlikely, circumstances she
was able to find the person who'd become the site's PD (Dennis Glines)
and someone else who was audio-proficient. "[Dennis] did radio in
San Francisco and in Monterey," explains Mackenzie who literally
bumped into him at a golf store. "We got together with a great guy
[who] actually knew about the Internet. We began testing the network [in
October 2002] with my show [which] was on five days a week."
Relatively few individuals were knowledgeable about Internet radio's module
a scant five years ago so Mackenzie was faced with uncovering a way to
inexpensively sustain the site. "I decided to design a `Pay for Play'
[system for the hosts] until advertising began coming in," she recounts.
"I didn't charge listeners - I charged the hosts. That was the only
way to stay on but [in the meantime] we've reduced costs for the hosts.
I always wanted to pay them rather than charge them but we did what we
had to do. I wanted to make it viable for [listeners]. There will come
a time [when we pay our hosts] and I think that's within two years."
Depending on a particular on-air talent's preference, shows on this Internet
site can be pre-recoded or done live. "When I did a two-hour show
on [terrestrial radio], I'd [take] 36-42 calls in 40 minutes of call-ins,"
Mackenzie recounts. "I only do about 20 minutes of call-ins on my
one-hour Internet radio show. In the beginning, many people were still
on dial-up [so] there wasn't a way for them to use their [phone line].
Now that [nearly] everyone is on DSL, we're getting more calls. We find
the biggest call-in times are around 8-9am [Pacific Time]."
Interest for the all-positive talk site was generated mainly through Mackenzie's
numerous blog appearances.
Four like-minded hosts were brought onboard five years ago (January 2003)
and Mackenzie had enough money the following year to go 24/7. "That's
when everything just exploded," she points out. "We're a `How
To' network [rather than a] `New Age' network. We have programs on addiction,
sex, astrology and natural health [but] don't do any sensationalism. That's
not allowed on my network. If you provide answers, you can do controversy."
Innovation on Mackenzie's part was the key to the site's success. "If
you can believe it, we began with about $3,000 in equipment," she
notes. "I did a lot of research to find out what was best and got
some used equipment in West Hollywood. We now have about $30,000 in equipment."
Locating a suitable radio automation package was among Mackenzie's greatest
challenges: It took her a year to do so. "I knew I had to have something
we could grow with and was reliable [but] it couldn't be as expensive
as [what is used in terrestrial radio]," she comments. "Everything
in radio is expensive because the market is so small. We found a good
package and have been running without a glitch for well over six months.
Instead of having thousands of files, we've batched some together so there's
less chance of error. There's been a lot of homework on my part."
Typically during summertime, the site attracts about one-half million
listeners a month but as Mackenzie remarks in some winter months, "We've
gone as high as 920,000. We know that because we have page views."
It is her contention this specialized, positive talk programming format
would be lost in an Arbitron-type measuring shuffle. "It was viable
when Arbitron had Measure Cast," she maintains. "I had all the
cities I go to but didn't have [a male/female composition split] or [any
idea of] age group [breakouts]."
That's one reason she initiated "The Clubhouse" four months
ago (September 2007) where people sign-in and provide those statistics.
"We're finding our audience is about 89% female," reveals Mackenzie.
"The age groups are interesting too [because] we span the board [although]
we don't have the 12-17 market. Our biggest age group is [50+] and the
average listener is online [at our site] about two hours [a day]."
Considered to be a fad by some, Internet radio is viewed by others such
as Mackenzie as the way of the future and she emphasizes it is going to
be the method of communication. "It is unbelievable how many things
are out there. They're working on mini-microwave setups for Internet radio.
The Internet is going to be the medium of choice for most people. Eventually
everything is going to be Internet-based."
Several automobile manufacturers of course are already going in that direction.
"Scion is starting with Internet radio," Mackenzie remarks.
"We get about 10,000 listeners a month just on our archives, which
we keep up for three months; then we take them off. I'm trying to get
people to listen to shows live. You have to come to the site to listen."
Three sales reps were recently hired and although they don't have previous
radio experience Mackenzie comments, "They have great contacts. Before
I went out for advertising, I wanted to make sure I had listeners and
consistent programming [from] hosts I knew would stick around."
That took about four years. "I tried selling advertising way back
when but no one knew what Internet radio was," she laments. "Now
that we have real demos beginning to come in, we're ready and are looking
for a global market."
Pharmaceutical ads won't be heard on her site because Mackenzie opines,
"They'd turn off my listeners. Our listeners are into natural food
and raw eating so I won't [put on] a McDonald's commercial. I actually
thought we'd be a little further along financially than we are but it's
only now that the NAB and RAB are saying it is okay to do Internet radio
advertising. They are giving their blessing. I've got the equipment and
listeners and have [improved the technical quality]."
Representative HealthyLife.net advertisers include Horizon Wireless, Bose,
A&E Channel and Kohl's. "One of [our AEs] is [pitching] Whole
Foods, which would be a good genre for us, but we're also looking at [companies
such as] Toyota," Mackenzie notes. "We like to do things in
integrity and not off-the-cuff. We have many listeners in - and get [frequent]
call-ins from - Germany, England, Norway, and New Zealand."
By keeping expenses in-check from the very beginning Mackenzie was able
to have her Internet radio operation profitable after the third month.
"The station has always paid for itself," she declares. "There
are about eight [sites] similar to mine but I don't consider them to be
competition. Knowledge is power only when you share. Whoever is going
to come is going to come [so] I don't spend a lot of time [worrying about]
competition. I do my thing and know my people are going to be here no
matter what. I also think there's enough for everyone. Lime Radio [the
former Wisdom] was my biggest competitor but they came into the market
five years late."
Although obviously not required to do so, 24/7 HealthyLife.net strictly
adheres to FCC regulations. "I think the FCC will eventually want
to come in and monitor this," Mackenzie contends. "We don't
want to reinvent the wheel so we've done it from the start. Our hosts
must be from radio, television, film or have national lecture experience."
Approximately 40 people, including Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland
(heard on Mackenzie's site the past four years), already comprise HealthyLife.net's
At least two-dozen more each month try to join those ranks and Mackenzie
candidly admits, "I'm pretty tough and may only take on one a month
- maybe. I don't need to go crazy. It's more about quality than quantity."
Having an environmental/ecology show though has been on her wish list
since the beginning. "It's very hard to find someone into ecology
[but who isn't] an activist," she explains. "I'm looking for
someone who wants to give facts on how we can help the planet without
doing any bashing. We don't have time [for that. Our hosts] really want
to help people and the planet."
They also get a certain amount of time to promote themselves within their
programs. "We try to make it a win/win situation and they can even
sell spots on their own to support their show," Mackenzie explains.
"We'll produce the ads for them. When Guy Finley began on my site,
he had about 100,000 listeners. He didn't want to [but] I talked him into
doing a live program. Last year, he had 300,000 people on his email list.
Most of my hosts see immediate [increases] in their website traffic after
Each HealthyLife.net personality is given a packet spelling out how they
can most effectively market their programs. "We have so many listeners
because each host has a following," comments American Board of Hypnotherapy
member Mackenzie. "They begin marketing the show and it begins a
domino effect. We'll work with hosts [who don't] have much radio experience.
We make a personal commitment [with our talent]. It's a family. We won't
give them actual number [of listeners] per hour because I don't care.
We are a group. I hold a host conference once a year in Southern California
so they understand they are not alone."
It generally takes Mackenzie just ten minutes to prepare her one-hour
"Creative Health & Spirit" show, broadcast live each Tuesday
at 8am (PT) but her day begins at 4:45am. "About 60% of my job is
to find out about this industry and what the trends are," she explains.
"I try to market the station, which could mean putting it on a locator
site. I'm also doing newsletters or setting up conferences."
Making Mackenzie's power-packed schedule as President of Creative Health
& Spirit and GM of her five-year old HealthyLife.net Internet radio
site even more impressive is the fact that, more than 20 years ago (1987),
she was diagnosed with Epstein Barr/Chronic Fatigue.
Hypnotherapy, visualization, diet, vitamins, supplements and herbs were
utilized to neutralize the syndrome by a constantly upbeat executive.
"I knew I was supposed to be doing this," Mackenzie proclaims.
"The lowest point in the past five years [though] was not being recognized
by the radio industry."
by Mike Kinosian
www.INSIDERADIO.com Thursday, January 3, 2008