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Radio Mall - An Amazing History

By Dave Dworkin

The whole thing started as a joke. It was 1985 and I had just been fired from the morning show at KQRS FM in Minneapolis/St. Paul.the fifteenth largest radio market in America. Three weeks later my ratings came out and I had the highest numbers the morning show had achieved in six years, but I was out of work. I had written all these jokes for the show, so I decided I would try and sell them to DJs in other markets. I started by placing three ads in the back of Radio and Records. I named the new company "Ghostwriters" and I soon had clients in all the major markets, but I never had enough total clients to make a living.

For a full year, all I did was sell jokes. One day I saw an ad for some cheap sound effects. It was a three-record set for $15. I found out I could get them wholesale for $5. I figured that many of the DJs I was already mailing to might need this kind of product. That went well, so I started looking for other products to sell. I built a mailing list of every commercial radio station in America and I did a ton of direct mail and continued my trade paper ads.

One of the big turning points came in 1988 when Country consultant Steve Warren asked if he could piggyback in one of my mailings. I rounded up a couple other clients and quickly realized that with just a few more clients, I could make a profit before my fliers even reached the radio stations. One of the piggyback clients called me a few weeks after the mailing to let me know he was pleased with the results, but wondered if it was appropriate that the outer envelope said "Ghostwriters." He figured that some of the people at the radio stations would assume it was just my stuff, which they may have already seen several times over. I decided that the outer envelope should say "Radio Mall" as it was kind of a mini shopping mall in an envelope - just for Radio Professionals. The "Radio Mall" project was a huge success, and I built it up to the point where I was mailing 6000 envelopes a month.

In 1996 I launched my first web site. Someone had beaten me to radiomall.com by thirty days, but I was able to add a hyphen and was happy enough to have www.radio-mall.com. The early site looks funny by today's standards. You can see it at www.archive.org. Just be sure to include the hyphen. Then again, www.yahoo.com didn't look much better back in those days. I was eventually able to get the site without the hyphen, after paying a $1000 fee to the previous owner.

November 1, 2005 will mark the 20th anniversary of this endeavor. I've sold products to over 7000 stations. I now offer over 200 different products and I own the copyright on twenty of them. And to think it all started as a joke.

© 2005, Dave Dworkin Reprint rights are granted to www.lpfmradiomagazine.com, but the copyright must be noted.

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