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Looking for a New General Manager? Start Looking at PDs!

There is a stark reality in radio right now; Program Directors are being phased out. Many radio companies clearly see PDs as nothing more than middle management that can be eliminated by a combination of technology and regionalization.

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A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a former colleague of mine who felt he was at a crossroads in his career. He’s currently a host and wanted to ascend to management to become a Program Director/Content Manager. Since I took a similar path in my radio career, he reached out to me for advice.

“Don’t become a PD,” I said.  “Become a General Manager.”

This elicited confusion on the other end of the phone until I laid out to him what I’ll now lay out to you.

There is a stark reality in radio right now; Program Directors are being phased out. Many radio companies clearly see PDs as nothing more than middle management that can be eliminated by a combination of technology and regionalization. The PD jobs that DO exist pay only a fraction of what they used to. As a result, many talented individuals have left to seek out other career avenues.

This fact is one of the true tragedies in our industry. Of all the positions at a radio station, the position of Program Director is BY FAR the one that requires the most versatility. There is not one corner of the building that they can avoid. From sales, to HR, to legal, to engineering, the hands of a PD touch everything. 

That being the case, why do we not see more of them in executive positions of leadership?  

Most of the General Managers and Regional Presidents in radio started out in one area: sales. It’s easy to understand why. Showing that you can drive revenue is the easiest way to earn yourself a gold star. However, the approach has handicapped the industry to a great extent. When the major decision makers are only versed in ONE aspect of the business, the other aspects can suffer as a result.

Two people I know very well, Mike Thomas and Chris Oliviero, were recently made exceptions to this age-old rule. Thomas, a longtime PD was hired as Manager of Good Karma Brands’ largest market (Chicago). Olivero, the former CBS Radio Programming Exec was tabbed to lead Entercom’s massive cluster of stations in New York. When I saw these “against the grain” moves, I applauded them. As we move into 2021, I’d like to see it become a trend.

Allow me to use some of my personal experiences to expand on why this would be a good thing for radio.

YES, THEY CAN SELL

I can honestly say that in my 20+ years as a PD, I’ve spent almost as much time working with sales as I have with talent. I attended meetings, went out on calls, and helped put together presentations. I kept track of the Miller-Kaplan just as much as I kept track of my ratings and digital metrics. I worked hand in glove with every GM, DOS, GSM, and AE that was on staff. This is no different than what most PDs have done throughout their career. We understand that this is a for-profit enterprise and getting results for our partners and clients is important. PDs are also the very best brand ambassadors. No can explain the content to a client better than they can.

THEY KNOW HOW TO LEAD

On-air talent are artists…and artists are hard as hell to work with. The best PDs know how to get the best out of air talent, no matter how difficult they can be. They are skilled leaders who know how to teach, motivate, and relate to people that some may find weird or off-putting. Often, they must be the calmest person in the room when things are very tense. They are also easy to talk to and confide in because they are good listeners. If a PD can coach the high-strung morning news anchor, why can’t they coach the high-strung salesperson?

THEY SPEAK MULTIPLE LANGUAGES

One of the great things about starting out my career in small market radio is that I got to do a little bit of everything. I was on air, worked in sales, planned promotions, engineered broadcasts, and negotiated contracts. That mentality stayed with me. I’m glad that it did. Because (as I mentioned before) successful PDs are involved in every facet of the business. As a result, you need to speak the different languages found in every department. It was common for me to talk to a host about their show, then pivot to the engineers’ office to talk about tech issues, then take a trip to the HR office to go over compliance, then jump on a sales call with a client. Everyone uses different lingo, and a good PD must be able to communicate effectively with everyone.

THEY’RE NUMBERS CRUNCHERS

I often tell people that I was never very good at math. Yet, I would spend so much time working with numbers. Every month, I’d get trapped in the vortex of going through ratings. I’d spend days punching in numbers to PPM Analysis Tool, analyzing every daypart, hour, and quarter hour. A similar rabbit hole would be jumped into every year when budgets were being designed. How much can I work with? How can we do more with less? If we move money to THIS line item, will it help us more? Like every GM, PDs must live in an Excel Spreadsheet world.

THEY CAN NEGOTIATE

I’ve had countless conversations with agents, vendors, and partners. Some have been entertaining, others have been contentious. I was heavily involved in working out agreements with many different parties. In most instances, I was the point person. PDs understand the art of negotiation. They know what they can and can’t afford, and the value of any asset. They’re never afraid to walk away if that’s what’s in the station’s best interests.

THEY UNDERSTAND CONTENT

At the end of the day, radio is a content business. We are defined by what comes out of the speaker. At their core, good PDs are content curators. This is the one skill that far too many GMs and executives lack. There are some exceptions to this rule, but not many. This is not something that I blame GMs for.  Most of them just don’t have the experience to understand what works and what doesn’t. They’ve never had to. Most of them came up in sales where they only thing that mattered was hitting their budgets. The bottom line is more than just the bottom line. Hopefully, more industry leaders will realize that.

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BNM Writers

No Replacing Rush

There never will be a big, bold voice like Rush that can deliver the way he did for so many years.

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After the passing of conservative talk media icon Rush Limbaugh, I labored with what kind of piece I was going to write on the subject.

I certainly wasn’t going to pen a flowery, sentimental column.  Not that I take offense to anyone that did. It’s just that the internet was going to be full of them and all from people who listened to Limbaugh far more than I ever did. 

I wanted to do something that was more proactive and looked forward.

I was going to wait a couple of weeks, let the deluge of memorials and tributes to come in, and then I was going to submit a piece that I have been quietly working on for some time:

THE TOP CANDIDATES TO REPLACE RUSH LIMBAUGH.

I had a list of people that I felt, as a former programmer, were great talents and ideal fits to sit in front of the “Golden EIB Network Microphone.”

As I usually do, I made a slew of phone calls to my contacts at iHeart and in different talk radio circles, to gage their opinion on my list of candidates.

I didn’t get more than a few conversations in before I realized that the column I was about to write was fool’s gold.

The reality is…there is no replacement for Rush Limbaugh. There never will be.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  iHeart will eventually have to figure out something to offer the hundreds of EIB affiliates throughout the country from 12-3p ET/9a-12p PT.  Maybe it’s Buck Sexton.  Maybe Clay Travis makes the pilgrimage from sports to news (which, by the way, I think would be an intriguing choice).  Maybe Tucker Carlson can be lured away from all the projects he’s working on for Fox News.  Maybe it’s a combination of different people offered to different regions of the country.

No matter who gets to replace him in that timeslot, Rush Limbaugh left a void that can never be filled.

This truth has been staring us in the face for quite some time.

IF IT COULD’VE HAPPENED, IT WOULD HAVE BY NOW

Rush did not die suddenly.  His terminal illness had been known for some time.  Even before that, iHeart (and EIB affiliates) have been wrangling with the question of, “Is there life after Rush?” 

Many thought that Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and even Ben Shapiro could be the heir apparent.  However, none of them could command the high dollar rights fees that Rush affiliates were paying.  How high?  An EIB affiliate that I am very familiar with negotiated DOWN their yearly rights fee to a little over $100k recently.  That was getting a discount.

Not to mention, many conservative voices have all found greener pastures on the digital frontier.  Beck has made a fortune building The Blaze.  Shapiro turned The Daily Wire into a profitable, growing content platform that has attracted high dollar investors. 

Why would they want to replace Rush?  They don’t NEED the money or exposure.  Plus, as the old saying goes, you never want to follow a legend.

WE’RE IN A DIFFERENT ERA

Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist and press aide to Mitt Romney, summed up the current situation perfectly in a recent article in the New York Times:

“There’s so many different platforms to interact with conservative voices, and there are so many more voices.  If you’re pro-Trump, you’ve got Breitbart and Newsmax. If you’re more of a moderate Republican, you’ve got The Bulwark and Charlie Sykes. I follow 25-, 26-year-old conservatives on Instagram who are sharing two-minute videos that young people connect with personally.  I don’t think you’ll see it ever again where one person is the king of this realm.”

Exactly.

The media landscape is far more cluttered today and that trend is only going to continue.  There are multiple voices for every flavor of Republican out there and all of them are available on demand.   Because of that, no one person can take the mantle of “King of All Conservative Media”.  In a way, Rush has already been replaced, not by one person, but by many others who were likely influenced by his success.

Williams also makes a great point when talking about young talent and younger consumers.  Those who fit into the Millennial or Gen Z classes don’t have the attention span to listen to a 3-hour radio show, regardless of it being live or on-demand.  Short from programming delivered on social media channels such as YouTube or Instagram have not only proven to be more popular with people of those generations, but also drives far more engagement. 

WHAT CAN AFFILIATES DO?

At some point, “the long goodbye” that is being offered to Rush affiliates will end. 

So, if you are one of them, what should you be doing?

You have two choices: hope or be proactive.

You can hope that iHeart will offer you a palatable replacement.   You can hope that there is another syndicated show you can time-shift or slide into Rush’s old timeslot.

However, as a colleague of mine once told me, “hope is not a strategy”. 

Stations should be taking the money they were paying Rush and re-investing it into building out local programming.   

Sure, the popular decision will be to take the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expense and put it back towards the bottom line.  That’s the safe play.

As I’ve argued before, now is a great time to not be safe, but to be bold. Take that money, or even a PORTION of that money, and GO LOCAL.

Find a talent that connects to your audience and build out their brand to better your own.

There are conservative voices out there, its all a matter of finding them and grooming them to be great.  Maybe it’s a former political official…like Joe Scarborough.  Maybe it’s a talented youngster who volunteers at the local college radio station…like Sean Hannity.  Maybe its an ivy league educated writer and author like Ben Shapiro.  Maybe it’s a tandem that has good chemistry together.

Talent is out there.  It’s on local stations to find it and cultivate it.

There never will be a big, bold voice like Rush that can deliver the way he did for so many years.  That era of spoken-word media is over. It’s on individual radio brands to find their own way.

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BNM Writers

Joe Biden, Already a Failure

In Bill O’Reilly’s opinion, the honeymoon is over. National chaos and pain are only beginning to kick in. Even if the media refuses to share the facts.

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Photo by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem CC BY 2.0.

It may be only six weeks, but that is plenty to offer an early report card.

The grade – F.

Bill O’Reilly didn’t mince words when he joined the Glenn Beck Radio Show on Friday. When asked what the week’s biggest news story was, O’Reilly said it was the early and clear failure of President Joe Biden.

“I said I would give Joe Biden a chance because he asked for one,and in our Judeo-Christian tradition, if somebody asks you for a chance, and they’re not a convicted felon, you give them a chance” O’Reilly said. “But after six weeks, we have absolute pandemonium in the country.”

The hard-hitting O’Reilly laid into Biden, criticizing the President’s change in border policy, which effectively invites illegal immigrants to flood America’s borders.  

“How exactly is it helping the country to allow undocumented people to cross into the United States, request asylum, hand them $1100 in cash so they can go anywhere they want, and not test them for Covid,” he asked.

O’Reilly noted that 106 undocumented people tested positive for Covid-19 in one day alone. 

According to Beck, 6% of illegal border-crossers have tested positive for Covid-19, and he added “I’d rather have children locked in cages, as they say, that are protected, waiting for someone to claim them that can be clearly tested to be a parent or a relative, rather than this system now of colored wristbands by the mob and the cartels down across the border, that are smuggling these children into America, clearly for the sex trade.”

O’Reilly has spent much of this week, both on his website BillO’Reilly.com and in interviews, such as this one with Beck, detailing the 180 degree difference between the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump and the new Biden administration. He and his guests, such as Trump immigration advisor Stephen Miller, have documented how children are being smuggled across the border into the United States, after which authorities are helping them locate and bring over their parents and families as well. He added, “it is absolutely astounding, and the reason it’s happening is because the media does not report it. So people listening to us now don’t live on the border, they don’t know what’s happening. This is going to lead, in the next two years, to hundreds of thousands of undocumented people coming into the United States.”

The push to help Americans see the impending danger from the administration’s radical change of course came at the same time Trump voiced his anger and concern about the effects of these extreme policies, which favor non-citizens over Americans.

“The spiraling tsunami at the border is overwhelming local communities, depleting budgets, crowding hospitals, and taking jobs from legal American workers,” the former President said. “When I left office, we had achieved the most secure border in our country’s history. Under Biden, it will soon be worse, more dangerous and more out of control than ever before. He has violated his oath of office to uphold our Constitution and enforce our laws.”

Trump continued, saying “Our border is now totally out of control thanks to the disastrous leadership of Joe Biden. Our great Border Patrol and ICE agents have been disrespected, demeaned, and mocked by the Biden administration. A mass incursion into the country by people who should not be here is happening on an hourly basis, getting worse by the minute.”

Bill O’Reilly has been one of the most vocal news personalities informing the country about the crisis in recent days, pointing out what many see as the resulting deleterious effect on America’s economy and neighborhoods. His urgency stems from the media’s common suppression tactic of hiding negative impacts of the policies of their protected class of Democrat politicians. He adds, “nobody will know, because the media blacks it out.”

The way O’Reilly sees it, there are three developing trends that will eventually combine to crush Biden’s approval ratings and turn public opinion decisively against him.

“The economy, and you’re seeing a shaky stock market now. Immigration, and cancel culture,” O’Reilly listed as the big three areas where Americans are beginning to feel the negative effects of radical Democratic policy shifts. “Those three things are going to undermine his administration. But here’s the really frightening part about it – if you, and me, and Stu were talking to President Biden right now he could not explain, and does not know, what is happening on that border. He does not have the capacity, in my humble opinion, to absorb information and analyze anything.”

In Bill O’Reilly’s opinion, the honeymoon is over. National chaos and pain are only beginning to kick in. Even if the media refuses to share the facts.

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BNM Writers

Winterble, Daugherty Discuss Dr. Seuss, Cancel Culture

“We lost a battle for sure,” Daugherty said. “Did we lose the war? I don’t know. I hope to heck not.”

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Photo by Evelyn Giggles CC BY 2.0.

After moving from the San Diego to Charlotte market last year, radio host Brett Winterble has quickly learned that the best way to attract listeners in the Tar Heel state is to forge a connection with college basketball. That’s why former North Carolina Tar Heel basketball coach Matt Daugherty is a frequent quest on The Brett Wintertble Show which airs on WBT AM in Charlotte. Daugherty was in studio again on Thursday, and while the pair did touch on sports topics, the main part of their conversation was devoted to Dr. Seuss and cancel culture in general.

”You look like a guy who read Dr. Seuss as a kid,” Winterble said to Daughtery. “My favorites growing up were, One Fish, Two Fish and of course the classic, Green Eggs and Ham. I read them and my kids read them, but now all of a sudden, they are too dangerous. Dr. Seuss has been banned. Our glorious monarch, King Joe Biden I has decreed that Dr. Seuss cannot be read at a celebration of Dr. Seuss Day. Five weeks ago they were just fine, but now they are too dangerous to even be sold on Ebay? What in the world is going on? Have we as conservatives lost the war?”

Winterble’s comments come after six of Theodor Geisel’s works are no longer going to be published due to racial stereotypes. Geisel wrote more than 60 other books under his popular pseudonym Dr. Seuss which will still remain in print, but that does not stop Winterble and Daugherty from claiming Dr. Seuss is a victim of cancel culture.

“We lost a battle for sure,” Daugherty said. “Did we lose the war? I don’t know. I hope to heck not.”

Winterble makes the comparison to other items sold on Ebay, but yet six Dr. Seuss books are banned.

“You can go on there and buy a poster of a certain political leader that ruled Germany in the 30’s and 40’s (Hitler), but Dr. Seuss is too dangerous? You can go on there and buy polyurethane items that should only be used in the hushed tones of the bedroom and yet people find Dr. Seuss objectionable? What’s next?”

Daugherty worries that cancel culture will eventually cross over into the world of sports.

“I think we will eventually start erasing players from the Hall of Fames,” he said. “Now of course, there were some scoundrels, particularly in baseball, but you can’t just erase that history. You can learn from it, but you can’t remove it.”

“I love working with young people,” Daugherty continued. “I always tell them to stand up for what you believe in, but to be a good leader, you also have to be able to listen. It seems we have lost that art of debate. We see plenty of argument, but people rarely make a point and then take the time to listen to the other side. If you can do that, you learn something. A lot of it has to do with dialogue happening over social media instead of face-to-face. 50 percent of communication is body language. You can’t see that on Twitter. It’s so much easier to cancel someone or throw out zingers if you can’t look them in the eye and see how much it hurts them.”

Winterble agrees and also urges open discussion if something is considered offensive or harmful.

“People have their identity so wrapped up in whatever issue it is, that when someone attacks the issue, it feels like they are attacking the person. There is some value in all of these things (like the Dr. Seuss controversy), but the default position should not be to rage quit and erase everything.”

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