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In an age of online streaming and cookie cutter corporate owned radio stations, there’s a local radio station that continues to grow and thrive. WLOH, better known now as The WOLF, has carved out a place in Fairfield, Hocking and Perry counties with a unique sound and commitment to community caring.
Talk to owner Mark Bohach about this business plan and it’s quickly clear that it’s not about business at all. “We really do care about our community. It’s that simple. And that’s why everyone here is involved in boards and organizations,” he said as he began to name all the local organizations that he and the staff support. From the library board to Young Professionals of Lancaster to the YMCA and lots in between, Mark and his staff make it a priority to be involved.
The last few years have represented a period of tremendous growth for the station beginning with the switch from talk radio to a country format in 2015. Since then, they’ve rebranded the station The WOLF and added a tower in Perry County, expanding their services to an important but underserved community.
Being locally owned and operated, Mark calls the station “the anti-corporate media” with a chuckle. “We are the opposite of those big companies,” he said. “We play country music but we want to know what our listeners think. We support our community and the community supports us. That’s how it should be,” he said.
The casual listener would likely think the station sounds so professional and clear that it must be coming from a large market like Columbus rather than from a small studio on Lancaster’s Columbus Street. The sound quality is superb and local personalities give the station a professional but fun feel. Their bread and butter is classic and contemporary country music spanning sixty years. “We play both Georges,” he boasted. “Jones and Strait!”
They also air local, state and national news plus weather and sports. High school football and basketball are popular as well as Ohio State University, Cincinnati Bengals and Columbus Blue Jacket sports. They have five local DJs to keep things moving with a mix of talk about the music and good natured chatter. They also give priority to talking about events and issues important to the community. The Brownfield Ag Network provides farm news while the Nashville based Big D and Bubba in the Morning provide a popular syndicated radio show with plenty of room for the local news and weather listeners need.
Mark does on-air work, some ad sales and keeps the station’s technology current and running. His wife Arlene is the General Manager, running the front office and keeping the business end of things operating smoothly.
WLOH are the call letters but the brand is the WOLF. “We wanted to keep it simple and memorable. And it’s visual. You see it, you hear it. You know what it is,” Mark said. “The WOLF actually took off a lot faster than I expected. People were listening but they couldn’t remember our name. Now they know who we are.”
He is conscious of what the future will bring. “We have to ask the question. What is our place in the 21st century media environment? We’ll be having a meeting with the key players here to talk about that,” he said. “After years of growth, we’ll be sitting down to take a breath and to discuss where we are going. How do we remain relevant to our listeners?”
“You can get country music anywhere but you don’t get the local community just anywhere. A lot of people think of radio as a technology. And it is a technology that we use to deliver a service. If we forget that we are a service, we are lost.”
The changing role of technology in this century hasn’t missed the radio world. Online streaming allows listeners all over the world to tune into their hometown radio station. He said they can see where listeners are located and they often seen Afghanistan and other countries with a U.S. military presence pop up during high school sporting events. “People can hear the hometown news and listen to the game from wherever they are in this country or across the world,” he said.
The technology here is impressive. The studio was designed and built by Mark and their work is computerized and largely automated. Satellite receivers feed in up to the minute news and weather. News breaks, songs and ads are scheduled to run and everything feeds seamlessly but can be overridden by a DJ. Weather emergencies and Amber Alerts are programmed to break into regular programming.
He said the staff of eight is cross trained so that no one has a specialty but everyone is able to do everything. “I am blessed. We have great people here.
“So many corporations use technology to save money. We spend money on technology to serve our listeners better.”
This service they provide extends into a host of areas. For example, Mark regularly interviews Meals on Wheels Executive Director Anna Tobin about their activities. They do live remotes at events like the fair and incorporate upcoming events into their conversations around the music.
Sales Representative Rachel Jones joined the company a little over a year ago. Mark is teaching her the ropes of owning a radio station as her goal is to eventually own a station of her own. She talked about the station’s approach to advertising. “Every business is unique and we treat them that way. What works for a car lot won’t work for a radio station,” she said while describing how she creates unique commercials for each advertising customer to help them get the most bang for their advertising buck. “I talk to them about their goals and help them see the best way to go.”
“When we add a client, we want to keep them for life,” Mark added. “That means getting to know them and understanding them,” he said. The radio station does rely on the support of advertisers to keep the business successful.
While Mark and others in the company are contemplating the future, they are also deeply rooted in the past. The station began as an a.m. station in 1948 and Mark beautifully tells the story of how the station has evolved since that time. The walls are covered in vintage WLOH advertising, awards and pictures. The 1963 a.m. transmitter that powered the station from 1963 to 1990, no longer operational, remains part of the décor.
Mark is complimentary of his staff and community and is clearly proud of the work they do in Fairfield, Hocking and Perry counties. “It’s a fun business and we love what we do,” Mark said. “I’m just grateful we’re able to do it.
Tune into the Wolf at 104.5 FM Lancaster, 99.3 FM Logan and 102.9 FM New Lexington. You can also listen to live streaming online or using their mobile app on your device. Visit them online for more.
They also welcome new advertisers. Find advertising and contact information by clicking here.