You create "demand" in radio...it doesn't come to you.
That sounds great in theory, but there's also only so far it can be taken, subject to the limitations of the audience that's available.
Looking at the demographics of Tifton/Tift County, there are some red flags that indicate that trying to generate interest in a strong local news presentation would be an uphill battle.
Start with the fact that 1/3rd of the Tift County workforce has less than a high school education. Surely you wouldn't argue that this is a demographic that is less likely to take an interest in news programming, radio or otherwise.
Add the fact that at least 15% of the Tift County population had lived in the area less than five years (per 2000 US Census Migration Data). Surely you wouldn't argue that there's a significant part of the population that has less attachment to the area, and therefore less likelihood of having a significant interest in "local news".
And those are just a couple that jumped out at me in a quick review of the market.
The only potentially positive stat I found was the relatively high percentage of residents who actually work in the their county of residence, which does lend itself to strengthening the sense of connection.
What's more "local" than local news or to have an image that when something happens in your town, you know the local radio station will have it on the air.
I don't disagree with you on that point. The problem is, same as I've said about small markets all over the place, the benefit of that imaging is limited by the number of people who actually care. And I believe that number is a smaller percentage than it's ever been.
Actually, it has been my experience as an owner for 20 years and 28 years in the business...that the less educated an audience, the more loyal they are to a local station. For one thing, while literacy rates have increased in many rural areas, the number of people who can not read easily is still high in many of these rural areas...some times running upwards of 50%. In some areas illiteracy rates still run in double digits. Also, less educated people are less likely to drive out of town to shop, etc. because they have less disposable income. This is not to be negative about folks who don't have an education...it's just the way it is.
The percentage of people in Tift County without a high school education is less now that it has ever been. We have some counties in Georgia where it runs over 50%.
Tift County also still has a large agricultural community and while many farmers, including my Dad, don't have a college education, a farmer can't be stupid and stay a farmer. Farmers rely a lot on local radio if it's done right.
If Tifton were a bedroom community to a larger market, I would say that the fact a number of newcomers doesn't bode well for a local station. For instance, the radio station in Covington, GA has a tough time now because a lot of the people who live there, just basically sleep there and drive to work somewhere else. They could care less what happens in Covington. However, if people are new in Tifton, they likely moved there for a reason and that reason could likely be they want to be part of a community. Again, this is not a suburban experience.
On the other hand, Tifton also has a highly educated population with the USDA Experiment station, the University of Georgia facilities, and a college. These folks in a rural area tend to be more community active and thus support local programming. We found when I was local news director at WTIF that some of our more loyal listeners were professors at ABAC, the RDC and Experiment station.
Tifton has a large and growing hispanic population so a hispanic station would likely do well there. Local business people tell me they are more loyal to local merchants and usually have some disposable income to spend in their stores.
This has been a good discussion.