Thinking Un-Conventionally About Radio

Thinking Un-Conventionally About Radio

What happens at a radio convention?

Like those in all industries, a radio conference offers a chance for professionals in different aspects of the field, from program directors and on-air talent to consultants and music scheduling software developers, to discuss, celebrate and improve upon the craft for which they harbor so much passion.

You learn from CEOs the realities of running radio stations in a difficult economy.

You hear programmers explain how new media has made the radio signal just one part of a station's overall marketing strategy.

You listen to disc jockeys with ridiculously deep voices speak humbly about their fortune of getting paid to entertain people every day.

The 35th Conclave Learning Conference took place July 15-17 in Minneapolis. Helmed by executive director Tom Kay, radio's longest-lasting summit affords those who've dedicated their careers to the art of radio the invaluable experience of honing their skills face-to-face.

Following are first-hand notes and quotes from this year's convention, accounts that spotlight the state of radio in 2010, what awaits in the medium's future and more.

"I want to congratulate you for being here, many of you on your own dime. This is where you learn what makes radio successful."

- John Gehron, founder of media consulting firm Broadcast Wisdom.

"We're still a very relevant industry. We have people listening in droves, even the 12- to 24-year-olds. But we have to move into new areas."

- Jeff Dinetz, president/COO NextMedia Radio Group, on radio's need to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other digital platforms to retain top-of-mind awareness with listeners.

"We point listeners to our websites. We have interactive managers in every market. We are doing 7% of our revenue on the digital side. 50% of that is customized solutions for small businesses. In 2011, our expectation is that digital will deliver 10% of our revenue. That's one reason our presence in small markets has improved."

- Gary Rozynek, president/CEO Maverick Media, on how selling advertising in less-populated, more community-driven metros goes beyond the AM/FM dial.

"We used to use overnights as a breeding ground for developing talent. We have no bench, and that's just sick."

- Dinetz, to hearty applause, citing that the industry has too heavily relied on cost-cutting syndication and out-of-market, non-live 'voice-tracking' to fill third-shift programming, in place of training emerging announcers.

"I'm going to close my eyes and think of someplace warm (seagulls sound effects ...) Now, I'm going to open my eyes ... (Bleep) ... Snow."

- A promo that Darrin Marshall, creative services director/Clear Channel Washington, D.C., produced for WIHT (Hot 99.5) after a brutal snowstorm blanketed the area. "I stayed at the station for 36 hours," said Marshall, citing the importance of relating to what listeners are experiencing at every opportunity.

"One of my jobs was to feed the goat, Rita. Her job was to clip the grass out back around the transmitter."

- Dave Ryan, morning show host KDWB (101.3)/Minneapolis, remembering his (and a co-worker's) key responsibilities at a small religious station at the start of his career.Notes and quotes from 35th Conclave Learning Conference celebrating radio, held July 15-17 in Minneapolis.

"There's one reason people listen to radio: to be entertained. If you're not more entertaining than another song, shut up."

- Terry Phillips, creative director/CBS Detroit.

"The PPM (ratings) data we have seen tells us that listeners pretty much interpret everything (not a song) as a commercial. The less you stop the music to identify yourself, the better. We have also done away with the long, pointless slogans. For us, it's just 'All the Hits'."

- Ricky Roo, formerly of KDWB, on how Arbitron's Portable People Meter has, in numerous markets, replaced the company's decades-old diary method, whereby listeners write down what they remember hearing throughout a given week. With PPM measurement, a portable device monitors what listeners are choosing - and tuning away from - in real time.

"I just heard smooth jazz - in the restroom - for the first time in 18 months."

- Bruce Reese, president/CEO Bonneville, on how PPM findings have driven many operators to abandon niche formats in favor of more mass-appeal options, such as top 40, rock and country.

"You can't beat a station that has personality. This is showbiz."

- Paige Nienaber, "VP/fun and games," Clifton Media-CPR.

"You know that billboard your station has? I think you should cover it 60% of the time. That's what you are doing anytime you leave your station vehicle in the parking lot."

- Nienaber, on the need for stations to be seen on the streets constantly. (His favorite station vehicle among his clients? The one whose wheel wells are adorned with impossible-to-miss strobe lights).

"Imagine how excited we'd be if there were an artist here ..."

- Mike Klein, program director WZKF (98.9 Radio Now) and WLGX (Gen X Radio 100.5)/Louisville, Ky., on how touring an empty performance studio at Clear Channel's Minneapolis cluster didn't diminish the giddiness of a contingent (including this author) of proud "radio geeks."

"Program directors get into the business because they love music and want to discover new music. Nobody wants to program 'Jack & Diane' for the 800th time."

- Sean Ross, VP/music and programming Edison Research, as captured on "KLAV-TV," the Conclave's dedicated hotel channel, by videographer Art Vuolo, aka "Radio's Best Friend."

"I get to go to work every day and worry about, 'Are we playing the right Rolling Stones songs?' Who else gets to do that?"

- Reese, echoing the feelings of numerous attendees on how the biggest problems in radio never eclipse one's gratitude for the honor of making a living as a broadcaster.


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