'Private' Radio Station
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Raleigh, N.C., Dudley Price, Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, Washington: Aug 6, 2003.

Copyright 2003, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

To see more of The News & Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsobserver.com.

Editor's note: Seems like an interesting opportunity!

Aug. 6--RALEIGH, N.C.--Lexus dealer David Johnson has borrowed a promotional tool from the real estate industry to get an edge on competitors -- a personal radio station.

Since Johnson had a low-power transmitter and antenna installed a month ago, drivers whizzing past the Johnson Lexus dealership on Capital Boulevard can tune their radios to 1610 AM to hear about featured vehicles, oil change specials and financing options. The messages can be heard within about a half-mile of the dealership.

"It gives us the opportunity to communicate with a customer whether we're open or not," Johnson said. "It's your own private radio station, and we're very happy with it."

Johnson said he's the first local car dealer to offer radio broadcasts, but others may start using them, too. Executives with the dealership recently made a presentation about the system to other Lexus dealers in the region.

Residential real estate brokers and homebuilders have used the tiny transmitters for years to beam descriptions of houses to passing drivers.

Mark Goulais, customer relations manager with Radio Technologies, said Real estate brokers and homebuilders are the main buyers, but the company has also sold transmitters to banks, schools and even cemeteries.

"The larger ones use it for hours and to give out different locations of the cemetery, such as `Follow path B to the such and such funeral,'" Goulais said.

The Federal Communications Commission doesn't require licenses for the small transmitters, which broadcast using just one-tenth of a watt. The transmitters resemble VCRs and have a range from 300 feet to about half a mile.

Johnson became intrigued with the commercial possibilities of the radio transmitters after listening to recorded messages at several historic sites. Johnson called to find out who made its parking information transmitter and now Johnson estimates his transmitter has attracted hundreds of customers to his showrooms since it was installed.

"It's an idea in infancy," Johnson said. "Any way a business is able to communicate with its customers or potential customers is definitely something it needs to look at."

Credit: The News Observer, Raleigh, N.C.