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A radio group in the heartland drives hard into digital

john zimmerJohn Zimmer, owner of Zimmer Radio Group, identifies his business mission this way: “We’ve never defined ourselves as being in the radio business. We define ourselves as the advertising/marketing business. We’re in the business of helping local businesses grow.”

Zimmer Radio Group is comprised of 10 radio stations in the Columbia, Missouri region. The Zimmer brand is a second-generation radio emblem; John Zimmer’s father got started in the 1950s. Zimmer’s two brothers also operate radio groups, in Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois.

“We’re brutal on ourselves. We’re driven.”

When it comes to digital expansion, John Zimmer claims to be in “ready, fire, aim mode,” but has clearly been working on the digital content, and digital business solutions sides for several years.

“In the depression of 2007-2009, with the industry down about 20%, we brought on a web developer and graphic designer. that helped us retain business. We grew local direct reveneue 7%. We still took a hit in the automotive category, and we took a hit on national and regional. We ended up down about 8% overall in that difficult year of 2009. But our local direct was up, and I attribute that to positioning ourselves as the advertising & marketing solution provider.”

midmotoday 250wAs a digital services vendor, Zimmer Radio Group offers web/logo design, and social media marketing. “I think radio broadcasting is still a great business to be in,” Zimmer told RAIN. “But we’ve never defined ourselves as being in the radio business. We define ourselves as the advertising/marketing business, and in the business of local community.

“Everyone in our company is wearing two or three hats. I still empty the trash cans.”

One pure-digital venture is MidMoToday, a news portal for mid-Missouri. This website effort employs a small newsroom, and the group’s radio DJs also contribute article content. Advertising is cross-sold across from the radio side. there is a “deals section” which features discount coupons worked out with local merchants. Of course, the group’s stations are linked in the site’s navigation menu, but MidMoToday is presented and intended as a stand-alone news-and-community content site.

“I think radio broadcasting is still a great business to be in,” Zimmer says. “You have to bring value to listeners’ lives. We want to build lifelong connections, whether on radio or online. That’s our philosophy.”

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Brad Hill

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