Maine Small Business Owners Are Integral Part of Portland Radio History

Portland_Radio_Maine_Small_Business_OwnersOn August 20, 1920, radio station 8MK went on the air in Detroit, Michigan. This was the first radio station in the world to commence regularly scheduled, daily programs. At exactly 8:15pm that day, 96 years ago this week, an announcer proclaimed into a megaphone attached to a crude transmitter, “This is 8MK calling.” This was followed by the playing of two phonograph records, “Roses of Picardy” and “Annie Laurie.”

When the second record completed, the announcer took to the air again and asked the audience of about 30 homes, “How do you get it?” Then, an advertising executive from the Detroit News, the newspaper that owned the station, played Taps ending the historic broadcast.

Radio has grown from reaching a slim audience in 1920 to become the most used medium in America. According to Nielsen, every month, AM/FM radio reaches 97% of all adults…and Maine small business owners have been part of radio’s growth.


The first station to hit Portland radio was WCSH on July 25, 1925. Most people now know WCSH as Channel 6, an NBC television affiliate owned by newspaper giant Gannett publisher of USA Today.  The station began broadcasting at 970am from the Congress Street Hotel (the station was owned by the Rines family who also owned the hotel).  The station is now WZAN which is owned and operated by Portland Radio Group, the home of ESPN Portland.

Today, 91 years after WCSH took to the air, 699,526 adults tune-in to a Portland radio station every week. They listen in their cars; they listen on their computers; and they listen on their phones.  And despite being inundated with an onslaught of new media option, these adults still spend more time listening to the radio then to any other medium.


Many of Maine’s most successful small businesses owners and marketers have used Portland radio over the years to fuel their growth. This includes Stacy Dodge, owner of Bill Dodge Auto Group. Her company runs 8 dealerships throughout southern Maine including brands such as Kia, Infiniti, BMW, Cadillac, and Hyundai.

Portland Radio Delivers Measurable Results

“We have been using radio as a primary marketing source for about 10 years now.” said Ms. Dodge. “We have seen very measurable results and are able to target our audiences more effectively.”

Ms. Dodge goes on to say, “It is extremely important to be able to keep your ads current and there is a very quick turn around with radio. A new program or incentive can be announced to us in the morning and we can be on the air with a current ad reflecting the most recent information in the afternoon.”

“We are also more effectively able to market specific brands to a specific audience which is sometimes harder, and more expensive, to do with other mediums, said Ms. Dodge. “Radio is a very cost effective way to get your message out to the people you want to hear it.”

Portland Radio Provides Word Of Mouth

Jim Darroch, Director of Marketing for Madison based Backyard Farms, has successfully utilized the endorsements of Portland radio personalities to expand his company’s business. “Our most powerful marketing tool is a happy customer telling his/her friends about our tomatoes, said Mr. Darroch.  “When popular radio personalities share their honest thoughts and opinions about Backyard Farms with their audiences, we’re able to reach thousands of people with the power of a friend’s recommendation.”

Theresa Torrent, Senior Planner of the Maine Coastal Program, echoes Mr. Darroch’s strategy of leveraging the equity radio personalities have with their listeners. “It has proven to be the most effective method that we have tried for getting our message to a receptive audience,” said Ms. Torrent. “With radio we have been able to create engaging messages often working with the radio hosts who the listeners know and trust.”

Advertising on Portland Radio Delivers Qualified Leads

Cathy Manchester, a real estate agent based in Gray, Maine, credits her advertising on Portland Radio with the ongoing success of her business.

“When we began advertising on the radio several years ago,” says Ms. Manchester,  “our business doubled! We went from selling 100 homes a year to approximately 200 homes each year! Radio advertising continues to provide a steady stream of well qualified customers for us!”

Advertising on Portland radio allows one Maine small business owner to define the quality of her business.  Michelle Raymond runs Heirloom Consignment in South Portland. Her store sells “re-circulated” home furnishings and decor. According to Ms. Raymond, “Listeners think [radio advertising] is expensive and feel you are a successful business if you’re on the radio. Also radio reaches a much wider range of audience than paper or internet advertising.”

Radio Is Maine’s Billboards

Maine law prohibits roadside billboards. Although this protects the state’s scenic vistas, the law does restrict an advertising medium favored by many auto dealers across the country. But this does not deter auto dealer Tucker Cianchette of Tucker Ford in Brunswick “We advertise on radio, says Mr. Cianchette, “because it allows us to get a personal message to a very large audience from every demographic. This is Maine’s version of a billboard.”

Geoff Titherington owner of Bonanza Steakhouse in Sanford also believes in Portland radio’s ability to attract new customers to his restaurant from a wide radius. He says radio provides him with “wide coverage in Maine of folks who do not live in our city, and may not be familiar with our business.”

Other Maine business people who say Portland radio has contributed to their success include Louise Spang, of Hazelwood Handyman; Jenn Thompson of Northeast Technical Institute; Cheryl Poulopoulos of The Salvation Army Seaside Pavilion; Brett Davis of Brett Davis Real Estate; Don Lerette of Rowe Auto Group and Robert Maynes of Mathews Brothers Company.

Simply Put: Portland Radio Works For Maine Small Business Owners

Unlike the other Maine business people already mentioned, Scott Libby of Royal River Heat Pumps in Yarmouth only recently began to advertise on Portland radio. “The response,” says Mr. Libby, “has been unbelievable.”  According to Mr. Libby, while on sales calls, his prospective customers will spontaneously begin to sing his radio jingle.”

Marc Greenberg of Marc Motors Nissan in Sanford who is a veteran radio advertiser still shares Mr. Libby’s enthusiasm for the medium. When asked why he continues to invest in radio advertising, Mr. Greenberg simply says, “Because it works.

Radio Helps Our Businesses

In a recent article for Forbes Magazine, marketing expert Doug Schoen wrote reviewed everything that traditional AM/FM radio has to offer. He concluded, “It’s quite clear that we should all be paying more attention to radio, its reach and potential to help our businesses. It’s doing the job with expert efficiency.” 

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