By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
NASHVILLE – Day two of the Radio Show in Nashville included sessions about the connected car featuring Fred Jacobs; a conversation with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn; and it culminated with the Marconi Awards reception. Here are some conversations that took place in the halls of the Omni Hotel, and four blocks away at the home of Cumulus Media, where I was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the NASH America Morning Show.
“I’ve had a really cool relationship with Cumulus,” says Ty Bentli, who along with Kelly & Chuck is the host of NASH America’s Morning Show. “They offered me the opportunity to come in and talk about the job, my ideas, and where we wanted to go with the show. We worked at it, and the next thing I know I’m packing up my family and moving to Nashville.”
Bentli explained his goal for the show is, “to become more interactive with our listeners. We are seeing a younger audience and a lot of enthusiasm and energy in our studio.” Bentli also dropped a few hints at what is very soon to come.
“We will be incorporating more features, topics that show people who we really are, more interactive with social media, and also a podcast popping up.”
Gary Lee is a respected industry veteran of radio and TV traffic reporting who has moved to the app world. Lee, the VP of media sales for TrafficCarma, says it is vital for radio stations to have a traffic presence.
“Live and local, that’s what it’s all about. Our industry has faced many challenges. We need to adjust to those changes, but being relevant and local, whether it’s on air or using an app is vital to radio stations,” says Lee.
Lee believes both the reporter and the app can work together for a common goal.
“In the case of our app, a driver with the touch of a button can relay an incident to a dashboard that the radio traffic reporter can use. Now, that information is available to other drivers by integrating it into their traffic report. For the radio station, an app is also another ‘vehicle,’ no pun intended, for revenue.”
In regards to the connected car, Scott Burnell, global lead for business development and partner management for Ford, believes radio – at times – is missing the big picture.
“Radio is missing technology. They are missing the fact that people are not consuming radio over the air outside of the vehicle,” says Burnell, who adds, “They are building habits including apps and then bring that into the vehicle. Broadcast is always going to be in the radio, but it is a level playing field now. People who listen to Spotify or Pandora outside the car now want to listen to it inside the car.”
As a person on the technology end who owns no radio station or broadcasts on-air, Burnell says radio can level the playing field. A big point is the new dashboard doesn’t just have music coming out of it. It can also emit vital information that can be turned into ratings.
“There’s a plethora of data available coming out of the vehicle. We’re in the nascent stages here. You can track, down to the VIN number, the individual user, and it can be combined with a mobile number, and what you listen to can be very measurable, especially in newer cars. You just need to be able to track it, and have it tracked.”
Youth apparently is not a deterrent to making it big in sports. John Focke is the executive producer and studio host for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves Radio Network and play-by-play host for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Focke says there’s still a path to fulfilling your dreams in radio despite consolidation.
“First, get an internship and start to get to know those sports stations. Understand the digital side of things so you can be a writer for their website, help with remotes, do podcasts, start your own podcast. You have to get your foot in the door,” says Focke, who says starting out in a small town was actually a benefit for him.
“Even though there are not that many stations around anymore I’d still seek them out. It’s a great way to get experience. No matter what, you can never give up. Find your dream and follow it, and don’t cheat the process.”
When Paul Rotella is seen walking down the hall you know he is on a mission. The president & CEO of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association, Rotella is championing opening up the FM chip in Smartphones.
“Following the recent tragic events in Seaside and Elizabeth (New Jersey), along with the terrorist bombing in New York City, the NJBA has been the lead state association for the complete activation of the FM chips in all Smartphones. We have been very successful working with people like Jeff Smulyan [Emmis CEO] and getting the activation to promote the NextRadio platform. Our last major challenge will be getting the FM chip light up in the Apple phones,” says Rotella. “This has now risen to the level of a national security issue. During emergencies like super-storm Sandy or terrorism, you may lose power and TV but the one thing that always works is radio. By taking the cell-phone and making it the new transistor radio, everyone will have access to the news and vital information they need, especially in a crisis,” says Rotella.
He believes the thing holding back FM chip activation can be summed up in one word – money.
“Every phone that is made and comes into this country has the FM chip light up. Then the chip is deactivated. The carriers want you to buy their streaming time for their data plans. With Apple, they want you to use their apps to listen to things. However, our NJ congressional delegation is in favor of this as well as the FCC commissioners I’ve talked with. We need those chips unlocked.”
Jeff McKay, a veteran New York-based operations manager, newsman and traffic reporter, is a special features correspondent for TALKERS and RadioInfo. He can be emailed at McKayway@aol.com.