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Private Radio

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Editor's note: Seems like an interesting opportunity!

Raleigh, N.C., 'Private' Radio Station Shows Medium's Marketing Versatility


Dudley Price, Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, Washington: ,Aug 6, 2003.

Abstract (Article Summary)

Raleigh resident Virgil D. Duncan's company, TIS, first started selling the low-power radios 20 years ago to real estate brokers and restaurants. And Wisconsin-based Radio Technologies LLC, which made the unit at [David Johnson] Lexus, has sold more than 100,000 "Talking House" transmitters since the company was founded in 1985.

Bruce Reimer, the company's vice president and general manager, said the large transmitters sell for between $25,000 and $44,000. Reimer said Highway Information Systems is the largest supplier of highway information transmitters to state transportation departments and turnpike authorities in the United States.

He called RDU to find out who made its parking information transmitter. But Highway Information Systems no longer makes the small transmitters and ended up buying the unit from Radio Technologies and then installed it for Johnson Lexus. That unit cost $1,192 including installation.

Full Text (710   words)

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.

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.

Raleigh resident Virgil D. Duncan's company, TIS, first started selling the low-power radios 20 years ago to real estate brokers and restaurants. And Wisconsin-based Radio Technologies LLC, which made the unit at Johnson Lexus, has sold more than 100,000 "Talking House" transmitters since the company was founded in 1985.

Mark Goulais, customer relations manager with Radio Technologies, said national sales tripled in the past three years and now totals tens of thousands each year. 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.

Meg Russell, owner of Southern Wake Realty, bought three "Talking House" transmitters when she opened her brokerage a year ago.

"It's about tripled exposure to my listings," said Russell, who uses audio and virtual tours exclusively to sell homes. "People don't have but so much time ... and if they can just slow down and hear a description of the interior of the home it either makes or kills the deal right there as far as their further interest.

"If you're a Realtor and they call you after hearing the tour, you pretty much know they're interested."

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.

Duncan, an electrical engineer, was one of the first in the area to sell the small transmitters, when he started TIS 25 years ago, after leaving Capitol Broadcasting, where he had been a vice president.

"One-tenth of the business was for Realtors and restaurants," said Duncan, 82 and now retired.

TIS was sold in 1998 to Chicago-based Quixote and renamed. Under the current name, Highway Information Systems, it now sells larger and more expensive transmitters.

Bruce Reimer, the company's vice president and general manager, said the large transmitters sell for between $25,000 and $44,000. Reimer said Highway Information Systems is the largest supplier of highway information transmitters to state transportation departments and turnpike authorities in the United States.

Triangle residents probably are most familiar with the one alongside Interstate 40 which transmits parking information for Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

It was RDU that steered Johnson, the car dealer, to Highway Information Systems, now based in Durham. Johnson became intrigued with the commercial possibilities of the radio transmitters after listening to recorded messages at several historic sites.

He called RDU to find out who made its parking information transmitter. But Highway Information Systems no longer makes the small transmitters and ended up buying the unit from Radio Technologies and then installed it for Johnson Lexus. That unit cost $1,192 including installation.

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.

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