Photo by Skybear Media | Michael Delorme for the Thurston County Chamber.
KGY was founded at Saint Martins in 1922 when radio stations were coming into existence. Father Sebastian Ruth, OSB, was the gentleman who officially licensed the station. KGY started with evening programming for listeners – a small operation in Saint Martins and they grew into the media group it has become today.
In 1939, Nick Kerry’s great-grandfather, Tom Olsen, bought KGY and it has been family owned and operated ever since. In 1960, they moved to their iconic waterfront building on Port of Olympia property and a more modern radio format was established with sweeps of music, personality-driven DJs, commercial breaks on the quarter-hour, and local news, weather, traffic, and community information content. In the mid-1970s, they began broadcasting 24 hours a day, instead of signing off from midnight to 5am. And now, in 2022, they celebrate their 100th year anniversary of providing Olympians with music, news, and plenty of good times.
Currently, the station is under the management of Nick Kerry, General Manager & Director of Sales. Nick shared: “Radio is a ‘people business’ and the station has worked with a lot of different people over the years. We are independent and family owned, and that really appeals to our audience – maintaining trust with our listeners is crucial because KGY is so community focused.”
What does KGY offer?
Two primary stations: KGY & KAYO
95.3 KGY – Remaining local is the biggest priority for the station. KGY focuses on what is happening in Thurston County (advice like road closures and disaster situation) rather than heavy news. (KGY) 35+ older demographic playing the Greatest Hits of the 60s,70s,80s.
96.9 KAYO – Serves a larger area like the “South Sound” region including Tacoma, Olympia, Shelton, and as well as Aberdeen and Centralia. Playing mainstream Country music, it’s more entertainment focused, fun, and lively. Aims to be a companion to listeners and offers music discovery. (KAYO) core demo is Adults 25-54, positioned as “Your Country 96.9 KAYO.”
What is the biggest challenge today?
The biggest challenge today is with younger (Gen Z) listeners: They are used to just streaming everything… do they even know how to ‘tune-in’ on a radio dial to find the station they want to listen to? [chuckles]
What advertising opportunities do you have?
Our marketing team creates a plan for local businesses to advertise with consistency and frequency. We work with you to form a budget and craft a compelling message. We record clients at studio or have talent that can do the message or voice over.
What is the future of KGY?
We want to continue the legacy of KGY. Some things we are considering include: another station or other opportunities, possibility of expanding beyond radio into other media types, and offering a combination of radio advertising and digital advertising.
How can the community support KGY?
By being dynamic, fun, and loyal! When we have an exciting and engaging community, then we as a radio station can mirror that. KGY is here to entertain, support, and be a resource for our community.
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