“Secret Weapon” Reveals Radio’s Greatest Ally. As vice president of talent development, iHeartMedia‘s Dennis Clark is often referred to inside the company as its “secret weapon.” Interviewed in Los Angeles by Ramsey Media president Mark Ramsey during hivio 2015, Clark emphasizes that talent is the “difference maker of what radio is today” and what the medium could be in the future. “At iHeartMedia, we realize that our point difference is the talent we have on our radio stations,” he acknowledges. It is up to an individual talent though to have personal drive and that starts, Clark suggests, when they raise his or her hand. “They might become super-irritating or annoying, but we really love it,” he comments because it shows that a person “has the energy and the spirit.” At that point, the person has most likely researched the station for which they want to work, or what their “act” could be. “It has to be a great show inside what the station is,” Clark states. “The person has to really know [that particular] station’s brand, its overall, 24-hour mission, and where [he or she] fits into that package.” That philosophy of Clark’s, which he readily admits is not easy-to-teach, applies to all day-parts, not simply morning drive. In order to get his point across to talent, Clark uses examples of other people “who have built a brand.” For example, Bobby Bones – who formerly did mornings on iHeartMedia Austin CHR KHFI “Kiss-FM” – approached (iHeartMedia’s Premiere Radio Networks) with the idea of syndicating his 6:00 am – 11:00 am morning drive program to country stations. “We listened to his show as-is and felt it could fit,” Clark recounts. “The opportunity came for him in Nashville” on iHeartMedia’s country WSIX-FM “The Big 98” and “he went all-in. His CHR experience has been very helpful for him. He understood – and was a great student of – branding. It is very important that talent [get] that.” While iHeartMedia has quite a number of talented on-air personalities at its hundreds and hundreds of stations, no one has a higher profile than “American Idol” host and television production mogul Ryan Seacrest. Not only does the man spearheading morning drive with Ellen K on CHR KIIS “Kiss-FM” accept direction, he welcomes it. That, Clark stresses, is a characteristic of a great talent. “It goes to show his drive. Really great personalities have many ideas, but they also know when something is not working. Each show is unique and the ideas have to come from them. Ryan seizes the opportunity to have the conversation at the right time.” Years ago on Seacrest’s show, there was a producer whose nieces and nephews were big fans of “Hanna Montana,” the 2006-2011 Disney Channel television program starring Molly Cyrus. Seacrest played a few of her records, even though the label – Hollywood Records – was not actively promoting them. “At the time, it was a fad and it became a phenomenon,” Clark explains. It might be said that one particular social media platform is also “a fad that has become a phenomenon” and Clark declares, “Twitter has been the best thing for radio. It is now; it is in the moment; and it is interactive.” Among the beliefs at iHeartMedia is that the more ears that hear their company’s shows the better – regardless of method of distribution. “This is a cume business,” Clark puts forth. “The more you invite – the more people will come. The more that they hang into a show, [the greater the chance that] they could become raving fans and disciples of the brand you are developing.” The two-day hivio 2015 conference was held Thursday (6/4) and Friday (6/5) at Hollywood’s Improv.
Are Television Ratings No Longer Relevant? A production of Chicago public radio station WBEZ, “Serial” was a hot topic of conversation during the two-day (Thursday, 6/4 and Friday, 6/5) hivio 2015 seminar in Los Angeles. Among those invoking the Peabody Award-winning podcast was TV Guide Magazine Los Angeles bureau chief Michael Schneider, who possesses more than 20 years covering the television business. Regarding “Serial,” he points out to Mark Ramsey Media president Mark Ramsey that, “It is a game-changer and has television people talking, and you don’t hear television people talk too much about audio. You can see the impact of ‘Serial’ on television, which is ironic because ‘Serial’ reminded television people of ‘Dateline NBC‘ and ’48 Hours.'” the most Perhaps the most important issue in television these days is ownership. In announcing their fall lineups, TV network executives indicated they are picking up more of their own in-house productions. “That’s the way [the networks] still make money,” Schneider explains. “They are not making it on advertising anymore because ratings are going down.” NBC and Fox are in the distribution space; however, as the former 12-year television editor of the trade publication Variety points out, people no longer consume programs on those networks live. “They are watching their shows time-shifted, on Hulu.com, or someplace else.” It is Schneider’s contention that television ratings no longer matter. “Look at Netflix – look at Amazon,” he stresses. “We constantly bug Netflix to have them tell us who is watching, but they will not do it. I have no idea who is watching ‘Orange is the New Black.’ All they say is that it is their top-rated show, but that does not help me at all.” Given they do not sell advertising, there is no need to disclose that information – and they are not doing so. Several of Schneider’s friends work at Netflix. Their feedback is that Netflix has figured out just what the audience wants and the company has it down to a science. A strong partisan of CBS Radio Los Angeles alternative outlet KROQ morning drivers Kevin & Bean, Schneider downloads their four-hour show each day. “They do a fantastic job and I love them,” he proclaims of the recent Radio Hall of Fame inductees. “When you take out the music and commercials, they do about two hours of content every day. I have a ridiculous one-hour [one-way] commute.” By the time Schneider leaves for work and then returns home, he has listened to all two hours of the “Kevin & Bean” content. “In the ‘old days,’ I would have heard bits and snippets of their show going in, but nothing on the way home,” he states. “Now, I get a concentrated two-hour dose of that show every day. I am more in-tune to what they are doing.” As a result, he has become even more of an “avid fan” of their daily broadcasts since he feels a greater investment in the program. On the flipside, he no longer listens to the terrestrial station (KROQ). Particularly this time of year, which is Emmy campaign season, Schneider is moderating panel discussions with major television stars and producers. Relevance to a radio audience is that Schneider is a podcaster for Los Angeles public outlet KCRW (Santa Monica Community College). He brings along a digital recorder to his panel sessions and is able to have a “bonus edition” to his “The Spin-Off” podcast. “Suddenly, I am doing four podcasts a month,” Schneider explains. “All I have to do is ask my pals at KCRW to edit it down a little bit. We are in the early experimental stages of podcasts where we can get away with doing something like that. People are hungry for content so they dig it. The more I give, the more I hear from people.”
By Bill McMahon
The Authentic Personality
EAGLE, Idaho — I first learned about “Serial” the podcast from my Twitter feed. It was a day I was thinking a lot about the future of radio and audio entertainment. I was feeling pretty pessimistic. The current crop of news and talk programming on radio wasn’t giving me much hope. The headline style news delivered by most radio stations has become a commodity available on demand on multiple platforms. The superficial reports of common crime, ordinary human misfortune, politics and political process that dominate the radio news menu aren’t distinctive, interesting or relevant to the lives of most listeners. Talk programming is limited to conversations about sports and politics from a conservative political perspective. Digital audio initiatives from radio broadcasters are primarily repurposed radio programs offered as podcasts. The lack of imagination, innovation, and variety in audio content created by radio broadcasters left me feeling depressed about the future of the business to which I’ve dedicated most of my professional life.
The Valuable Lessons for Talk Radio Taught by the Podcast Series “Serial.” One of the spoken-word audio entertainment stories of 2014 is the phenomenal success of the podcast series “Serial.” It is a 12-part episodic experiment in audio storytelling by Sarah Koenig that has garnered an enormous listenership of millions and a remarkable amount of media attention. Basically it is a colorfully delivered “whodunit” murder mystery. According to noted talk radio consultant, talent coach and TALKERS contributor Bill McMahon, “I first learned about ‘Serial’ the podcast from my Twitter feed. It was a day I was thinking a lot about the future of radio and audio entertainment. I was feeling pretty pessimistic. It took hearing one episode of ‘Serial’ to completely change my mood. It rekindled my love of audio entertainment and my belief in its power and appeal. It took me back to the experiences that made me fall in love with radio and audio entertainment. I remembered listening to my first Seattle Rainiers baseball broadcast. I’d never been to a game or met any of the players, but Leo Lassen’s enthusiasm, excitement, and colorful descriptions allowed me to visualize them in my mind. It felt like I was right there in the stadium. I remembered Lan Roberts, the morning personality on KJR, and his fascination with and belief in UFOs. His vivid descriptions and recorded sounds of his midnight experience waiting for a UFO and its passengers that he expected to land in a field east of Seattle were unforgettable. My imagination allowed me to see what he saw and feel his anticipation and then disappointment when it didn’t happen. It was magic. I felt that same sense of magic listening to ‘Serial.’ It’s no accident ‘Serial’ has attracted so much media attention and millions of listeners for each of its 12 episodes in just three months’ time. For creators of audio information and entertainment content, especially journalists, news reporters and storytellers of all kinds, there is so much that can be learned from the success of season one of ‘Serial.’” In an exclusive opinion piece posted in TALKERS today (12/23) McMahon offers his educated take in the practical wisdom revealed by the producers of “This American Life” and Sarah Koenig’s experiment in audio storytelling. To read it in its entirety, please click here.
Michael Harrison: Spreading the Digital Junkyard. In an opinion piece published at TALKERS today (12/23), publisher Michael Harrison (pictured here) asks pointed questions of media industry practitioners about their perception of the state of digital media. He writes, “Have you noticed lately that some of your favorite websites have become increasingly user-unfriendly? Odds are your usual haunts in the newspaper, magazine, general entertainment and information arenas have become cluttered with terribly annoying pop-up ads, videos that start playing loudly without invitation (sometimes more than one at a time) – and maddeningly confusing hodge-podges of editorial and commercial content laid out in such a manner as to make it almost impossible to follow an article without being sidetracked into a unwanted advertisement…Clearly, an unholy alliance of the techno-geeks and sales-freaks have taken control of the major league media website show. The true internet content programmers and strategists have lost their hold on the situation. They have stopped programming with the sensibilities of the user in mind. Sound familiar?” Harrison is quick to declare he’s not a Luddite; in fact, he’s been a champion of the internet since it became public! BUT, that doesn’t mean digital is without its serious flaws and certainly doesn’t mean there’s no remaining value in AM/FM radio. Read Harrison’s entire piece here.
Round One of December PPM Data Released. The first of four rounds of December 2014 PPM data from Nielsen Audio has been released for 12 markets including: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nassau-Suffolk (Long Island), Riverside, San Jose, and Middlesex-Somerset-Union (New Jersey). The survey period was November 6 through December 3. TALKERS magazine’s sister publication RadioInfo has all of the numbers from subscribing stations here. In addition, managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his “Ten Takeaways” from this batch of ratings on the main page at RadioInfo.com here.
ABC News Surpasses Affiliate Goal. In a memo to staffers, ABC News president James Goldston announces the news organization – preparing to re-launch its radio news division separate from recent partner Westwood One – has surpassed its goal for signing new affiliates. Goldston writes, “So far, we’ve signed well over 1,000 stations to affiliation agreements for ABC News, ABC Digital and ABC Air Power – with 200 brand-new affiliates and many stations signing up for more than one ABC service. Not only have we retained many key affiliates, but we have added several of the most iconic, most-respected and most-listened to stations in America, including WTOP, Washington; WGN, Chicago and KFI, Los Angeles.” The new service launches on January 1.
Odds & Sods. Programmer Sue Wilson is promoted to vice president/director of operations at Rubber City Radio in Akron which means she adds supervision of news/talk WAKR to her duties…..SiriusXM begins presenting an audiocast of “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” The news program is now airing nightly at 7:00 pm ET on the satcaster’s TODAY Show Radio channel.
Jim Bohannon Promotes VetsRoll in Wisconsin. Nationally syndicated Westwood One talk show host Jim Bohannon (second from left) is pictured here on remote with affiliate station WCLO, Janesville, Wisconsin “Newsradio 1230.” Bohannon appeared on air with station OM and talk personality Tim Bremel (left) and World War II veterans Stan Van Hoose (second from right) and Mitch Bliss (right) to promote VetsRoll. The organization provides safe ground transportation and an enjoyable experience for World War II and Korean Conflict-era U.S. military veterans and “Rosie-the-Riveters” to visit war memorials and other related sights in and around Washington, DC.
Spreading the News! Nationally syndicated talk show host Dr. Daliah Wachs (pictured here prior to her recent pap smear) tells TALKERS magazine she’s gearing up to take part in a public service campaign for cervical cancer. January is cervical cancer screening month and Dr. Daliah says the “Start Spreading the News Campaign” to advise women to get cervical cancer screenings can help to put a dent in the 12,000 cases and 4,000 deaths that happen each year in the U.S.
NYPD Cops Killed/Protests Controversy, 2016 Presidential Prospects, ISIS Violence, North Korea Internet Fail/Sony Pictures Hack, Positive U.S. GDP News, Christmas Holiday, and NFL Playoffs Push Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/22). The murder of two NYC police officers over the weekend and the ongoing police killings protests in New York; the possible candidates for president in 2016; the ongoing violence being perpetuated by ISIS; the loss of internet in North Korea and that nation’s possible connection to the hacking of Sony Pictures; the report of the U.S. gross domestic product rising 5% in the third quarter; the Christmas holiday; and the NFL playoffs push were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.