After Portland State’s student-run radio station, KPSU, lost its AM signal last summer, the station’s website suddenly became the de facto medium for broadcasting beyond campus.
After Portland State’s student-run radio station, KPSU, lost its AM signal last summer, the station’s website suddenly became the de facto medium for broadcasting beyond campus. As a result, Station Manager Doug Friend decided to make a complete overhaul of the website a priority. Now, six months later, KSPU welcomes its new website, which was officially launched on Dec. 31.
KSPU lost its coveted signal when Bill Cooper, managing director of Benson High School’s KBPS—which owns the signal—chose to terminate the contract with KPSU two weeks before it was slated to expire. Cooper cited an on-air, sodomy-related quip that sparked outrage among listeners.
Although KPSU mourned the loss of its AM signal, Friend remained optimistic.
“After we lost our signal, we were surprised at how many more listeners we got on our website,” Friend recalled. “We saw our web traffic increase pretty drastically.”
The station immediately hired Web Developer Steve Salazar to build a new website from the ground up, using input from the station’s DJs, producers and others involved in the KPSU team.
However, even if KPSU’s AM signal had remained active, the station would still have required a new website for the sake of convenience, according to Salazar. It was apparent for some time that the old website had become increasingly outdated and that any attempt to upgrade it would have amounted to an exercise in futility.
“What we were getting from our listeners and our DJs was feedback that [the old website] was cluttered, not organized well and didn’t really convey information,” Friend said. “It looked very 1997—functional, but drastically needed to be updated.”
The task at hand was to fashion a site that could be customized with greater ease and provide more room for interaction between users and the website than the previous one had. Salazar, therefore, chose to abandon Drupal—an antiquated application framework for web design—in favor of the more sophisticated Ruby on Rails.
He also linked the new website to social media such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter—none of which had ever been integrated on the KPSU website.
Leveraging the social networks “is another way to get KPSU into the local community…[by] making it more visible,” Salazar said.
Such improvements, which maximize the user’s ability to find content, were necessary, according to Friend.
“Because we no longer have an AM signal, the website is, for the time being, our main avenue for broadcasting,” said KPSU Music Director Jay Turk. “We want it to be a place where people can go to hear music, learn about music, talk about music and spend some time.”
The new website’s incubation period lasted roughly six months. While some KPSU staff members imagined that the new site would be up and running by the end of the summer, Friend and Salazar had a more realistic understanding of what the process of creating a polished, professional-looking radio website
An ebb and flow of unforeseen technical problems also kept the deadline just out of reach, according to Friend.
For two weeks prior to the new site’s unveiling, KPSU juggled both the old and the new site, making them available to the public simultaneously.
Finally, at a New Year’s Eve party at north Portland’s Water Heater bar, the KPSU staff officially launched the new website. And with a click of the “refresh” button, KPSU’s online users witnessed the birth of its most technically advanced online presence to date.
“We are already seeing numbers increase,” Friend said. “So hopefully within next quarter, we’ll see the same thing happen.”
According to Salazar, the average user visit-time is roughly four-and-a-half minutes.
“The value [of KPSU] is apparent, and it’s tangible on the website,” Friend said. “Anybody who knows about social media and the proliferation of the Internet can tell that [the new website] is the way to go.”
Apart from its basic functions, such as live streaming, schedules, DJ playlists and a massive archive, the new site bears no resemblance to the previous site.
“The new website gives us so much more flexibility for the future, as well as just looking 100 times cooler,” Turk said.
Although some of its nuances have yet to be finalized, the website is fully functional.
“My primary objective right now is to move the archive server over to the new website,” Salazar said.
Its style will continue to evolve as Salazar’s expertise and those of KPSU’s new multimedia director are brought to bear on the website’s presentation. In addition, the station plans to hold a meeting fairly soon with students and community members actively involved in the station’s programming to constructively critique the website’s aesthetic layout.
Nevertheless, Friend is still bothered by the deafening silence in place of KPSU’s longstanding AM signal. Although the station still broadcasts through FM signal 98.1, it is currently in the process of acquiring a high-powered FM signal to broaden KPSU’s reach beyond the campus.
“There’s something that’s very special about being able to tune in on a physical dial and hear a local program in your area,” Friend said. “I hope to bring terrestrial radio back to KPSU and Portland State University, and I want people to know that that goal is not diminished.”