- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A month into the social-networking business, it looks like “Hot” 99.5’s (WIHT-FM) Hot Spot is just that.

The D.C. contemporary-hits station was one of seven Clear Channel outlets across the country to roll out its own branded social-networking Web site at the end of April.

WIHT’s Hot Spot is fashioned after MySpace but geared to Washington-area listeners of 99.5. Users can create their own personalized Web pages, upload photos and videos and post blog entries. They can send messages and “befriend” other users, including on-air personalities, who have their own pages. The site also lets users listen to live streams of the station.

As of yesterday afternoon, Hot Spot — hotspot.hot995.com — had 7,692 registered members. (When the list hits 10,000, the station has a promotion to pay 10 persons $1,000 each.)

Radio personalities have long had their own MySpace pages, but Clear Channel says it is (and appears to be) the first radio company to develop its own social-networking platform.

Social networking “is pretty much a buzzword. It’s about getting people more involved, for longer with your brands,” said Tom Taylor, news editor of Radio-info.com.

In addition to cross-promoting station personalities and contests, the sites can be a valuable source of advertising revenue: The Hot Spot runs banner ads at the top of every page and one additional ad on user Web pages.

“It’s sexy for buyers and agencies,” Mr. Taylor said. “Advertisers want that because they’re looking for advertising online.”

Other Clear Channel markets with social networking include San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, Dallas and West Palm Beach, Fla. The company is extending the service to five more stations later this month.

Hello IChannel, goodbye George

The short-lived adult hits station, formerly known as “George 104” and then just “George,” is officially no more.

The Bonneville International-owned station — take a breath here if reading aloud — started on 104.1 after the frequency dropped classical music and then went digital when ownership of 104.1 changed hands to Radio One, which started a gospel station.

Now, Bonneville is using the high definition channel that previously carried George — 103.5-2, the side channel to all-news WTOP-FM — to broadcast a new station called IChannel.

IChannel, which has been broadcasting as an Internet-only station since 2005, features independent and unsigned artists, who are invited to submit their music for consideration via ichannelmusic.com. Bonneville is debuting the station nationally.

In other news …

Falls Church-based MHz Networks last week debuted an eight-channel portfolio on Cox Communications, which provides cable service in Fairfax County and Fredericksburg, Va. The digital channels include programming from France, Russia, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Taiwan.

WJLA-TV personality Arch Campbell, who left WRC-TV last winter after three decades, is hosting a night of comedy at the D.C. Improv to celebrate the late Gilda Radner.

“Gilda’s Annual Birthday Comedy Bash” takes place next Wednesday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50; proceeds benefit Gilda’s Club Greater Washington, a nonprofit that helps those afflicted with cancer. In 2005, Mr. Campbell prevailed in his own bout with cancer.

Channel Surfing runs Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3139 or e-mail krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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