By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
DALLAS — The NAB/RAB Radio Show continued Thursday with sessions and workshops dedicated mostly to sales and podcasting. The show culminated with the annual Marconi Awards Dinner which saluted the best of radio’s talent and radio stations.
Some of the winners included Hubbard’s all-news WTOP-FM Washington, DC for Major Market Station of the Year; Beasley took home awards for Major Market Personality of the Year (Michael Felger & Tony Massarotti), Classic Hits Station of the Year (WMGK Philadelphia), Rock Station of the Year (WRIF Detroit) and Sports Station of the Year (WBZ Boston). Hofstra University’s WRHU-FM in Hempstead, NY won College Radio Station of the Year; and Hubbard’s KSTP in Minneapolis took home both the Large Market Station of the Year and Large Market Personality of the Year (Crisco, Dez & Ryan).
One of the more interesting aspects of the Radio Show is the mentoring program, which brought in a Radio Show record 139 students from all across the nation, who want to learn more about radio and get into the business.
These students not only had the opportunity to sit in on sessions, but they also spoke in very small groups to a number of industry professionals, including names like Susan Larkin and Harley Atkins and a host of other professionals both on-air and in management, to discuss everything from their jobs, how they got into the business, and secrets to help them succeed.
“They talk about how they got into the industry, where they see things going, what they look for in talent, but the professionals are also getting feedback from students, so it becomes an exchange of information and the executives walk out of there and say they learned as much from the students as the students learned from them,” says Heather Birks, executive director of the Broadcast Education Association.
As for the success rate for students who take part in the program and then become a part of the radio industry, Birks says the statistics of the just over 400 students who have been in the program over the past five years is eye-opening.
“A survey of the students who have been in the program shows about 75% of those students were able to get jobs in the media, and 49% of those are in radio.”
Birks believes the program may be even larger at the 2020 Radio Show.
Talking about devices, Chris Patyk, the head of rock and alternative programming at TuneIn says the bottom line is regardless of the device, radio has listeners.
“Listening on their phone to a radio station means they’re still listening to radio. It’s the way that it’s being carried has changed. Local radio isn’t going away, it’s now about how it is being delivered to the listener, and radio will continue to connect with people in whatever the delivery system is.”
As for podcasting — the hot topic at the Radio Show — media consultant and strategist Andrew Kalb brought up great points that he calls “podcast don’ts.”
“Don’t think you’re going to be successful just because you have a podcast. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re a major network or just two people talking on the exhibit floor, if you want to try you should, but make sure you have a plan of action,” says Kalb. “Don’t avoid social media – embrace it. Use it to your advantage and use it wisely to enhance your message and podcast, and don’t be afraid to try.
We asked NAB EVP of communications Dennis Wharton what he believes radio is doing right, and what radio can work on to improve.
“What radio does well and better than anybody else is deliver live and local. As long as we can hold that franchise we will be in an industry that thrives. What we can do better is we need radio to become more diverse We need to bring more women and people of color into our leadership and ownership ranks,” says Wharton.
As for podcasting, Wharton adds, “We need to embrace the technology and embrace podcasting — that will keep our business relevant and younger.” When it comes to “live and local,” Wharton says simply, “The live and local franchise is ours and ours to lose. We recognize that’s radio’s ticket to success. We must invest in the community and be the lifeline when breaking news and tragic events happen. Other modes of communication can’t keep up and collapse when power is lost, but radio has always shown the ability to step forward and be the communications lifeline in times of emergency. That’s our ticket to success for decades to come.”
As for what is to come, the NAB announced that the 2020 Radio Show will return to Nashville, September 13-16 at the Omni Nashville Hotel, which hosted the event in 2016.
Jeff McKay is special features correspondent for TALKERS magazine. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.