CBS Radio

In June of 2010 I started work as an Assistant Web Administrator for CBS Radio St. Louis. CBS operates three radio stations in St. Louis, KMOX (1120 AM), Y98 (98.1 FM), and Fresh 102.5 (102.5 FM), each of which has a standalone website operating on a WordPress.com platform. My duties focused on daily maintenance of all three sites, but also ranged out to recording video and editing it for web presentation, as well as developing custom websites to promote special station-sponsored events.

Because of the relatively locked-down nature of the WordPress.com platform, most custom development I worked on was in the form of standalone applications on a shared hosting account that were inserted into a WordPress page using an iframe.

2010 Election Results

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As one of the premier political news/talk radio stations in St. Louis, election coverage is vitally important to the station. For the 2010 election I was tasked with creating election results pages for the races relevant to our listeners. CBS corporate provided links to real-time results pages powered by data from the AP, and standard practice at that point was to link away from our own site to those pages.

I took it upon myself to come up with a better system that would keep our users informed and also keep them on our site. I dissected the source code of the pages provided by CBS corporate and found the linked JavaScript file that populated the live results. I then created a standalone HTML page for each race, uploaded them to our shared hosting server, and used iframes to add up to the minute election results for every major race to a single results page on the KMOX site.

As of this writing, a copy of this results page still exists on the old KMOX WordPress site. I also have a screenshot available on request.

Y98 Mega Wedding

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Mega Wedding is probably the highest-profile promotion run by CBS Radio every year. Engaged couples throughout the St. Louis area vie for the chance to have an all-expenses-paid Valentines Day wedding broadcast live on Y98. Once finalists are chosen, the public is invited to vote for the winner in an online poll. Millions of votes are cast, tensions run high among the competing couples, and inevitably someone is accused of cheating (the polls are run through PollDaddy, who ensures that no cheating actually takes place. Of course, that does nothing to slow the accusations).

Like much of our custom development, this site promoting Mega Wedding was a standalone site iframed into a WordPress page. One unfortunate result of this setup was the lack of page hits when a user navigated to other pages within the iframed site. I saw the opportunity to increase pageviews (and thus ad revenue) with some improvements to the setup. I created a separate WordPress page for each page within the Mega Wedding “site” and used target="_parent" on all internal links to load new pages in WordPress instead of within the iframe. This made development a little difficult because none of the links worked until the pages were added to WordPress, but the end result was a substantial increase in traffic for y98.com.

The last interesting piece of custom development for this site was the navigation. Each element of the wedding (dress, tuxes, cake, venue, etc.) were decided in online polls once the couple had been chosen. The vendors supplying these goods did so on the condition that we would be able to gather information on prospective customers (i.e. voters in the online polls). To do this, we created user-info collection forms, and the links to vote would go to those pages instead. Of course, this would annoy any users attempting to vote multiple times (allowed and encouraged, for pageviews of course). To make this more user-friendly, I used PHP’s cookie functionality to set a cookie when a user submitted their first info collection form. When a user with that cookie on the computer accessed the site, the links to vote would skip the form requirement and go straight to the voting.

Full screenshots of this site as I built it are available upon request.

Light the Town Pink

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Light the Town Pink is a fundraiser to fight breast cancer that all three stations participate in, but is mostly headed up by Fresh 102.5. It was one of the first promotions requiring custom development that I worked on at CBS Radio.

Because this promotion was shared between all three sites it was not inserted into WordPress as an iframe, but rather simply hosted and viewed directly on the CBS Radio St. Louis shared hosting account. The site is of relatively simple design, using PHP’s include() for the navigation and sidebar templates, and using conditional comments to create fallbacks to the transparent and gradient PNGs in IE6 and earlier.

Full screenshots of this site as I built it are available upon request.

Paint the Town

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Paint the Town was an outlier in terms of complex promotions at CBS Radio because, as a single-page promotion, it didn’t require a standalone site and was instead built entirely in WordPress.

Building a page with a complex layout using only WordPress’s content entry system is a bit difficult because creating custom CSS is not an option. The only styling available was inline styles, which, as anyone versed in HTML and CSS can attest, are terrible. The page includes meticulously stacked and aligned images, image maps, embedded videos, and photo galleries, all created without using custom CSS or resorting to anything so unseemly as table based layouts.

As of this writing, a copy of this page still exists on the old Fresh 102.5 WordPress site. I also have a screenshot available on request.