10 Years Ago Today: My WAY-FM Journey

It was on this date in 1999 when a new season began in my life.  I hadn’t even recognized it as such just yet (that would come just over a year later), but I was about to begin a journey that would lead me away from the Nashville music industry – my reason for coming to Nashville three years earlier (to the day) – and back to my first love.  Radio.

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The WAY-FM Media Group (and I say this in all sincerity) is by far the best company I’ve ever worked for.  Before coming to WAY-FM, the longest I’d spent without interruption at any one company was about two years.  I’ve now done that five times over with my current employer.  No small feat to say the least.

I’m the first to acknowledge how truly blessed and extremely thankful I am for being given the opportunity all those years ago by Matt Austin and Bob Augsburg, WAY-FM’s General Manager and President/Founder respectively.  The staff over the years has gone through a multitude of changes, but one thing has remained constant: I’ve truly enjoyed every single individual I’ve had the chance to work with.

Names like Doug Griffin, Karla Lawson, Ace McKay, Kortland Fuqua, Andy Thompson and Jim Turvaville (aka “Turbo”) immediately come to mind when I think of those early days.  Later, it would be programming pros like Doug Hannah and Dave Senes that would cross my path; two men from whom I’ve learned a great deal.

As much as anyone, it was sometimes the “non” WAY-FM staff – consultants and talent coaches – I often learned the most from.  I will always be indebted to guys like John Frost and Tommy Kramer.  Not to mention the more recent and awesomely talented air staff I’ve had the opportunity to work with.  The names are many and include stars like Marcia Ware, Jayar Reed, Jeff Connell, Donna Cruz, Wally and Brant Hansen among others.

I dreamed of this job as a kid.  I often think back to that Christmas I got that first tape recorder.  I’d listen back to myself saying or doing whatever for hours.  Then there was the record player/AM-FM radio/8-track stereo combo I cut my DJ teeth on.   When I remember those days, it’s difficult for me to believe I’ve been doing this for nearly 22 years.

As I look to the future, I can’t help but wonder how much longer I’ll be allowed to do it.  I wonder that, in fact, for all of us in this “business” of radio.  I believe if we, as an industry, listen and put into practice the ideas and methods of thought leaders like Mark Ramsey, Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Michael Hyatt, Fred Jacobs and Jerry Del Colliano, we may surprise a lot of people and actually survive this uncertain future we face.

Make no mistake.  It is a future that will include, if radio is to truly remain relevant, time shift-able any-time content (making our terrestrial signals irrelevant if not unnecessary), constant video content creation and distribution, and a complete and total willingness to embrace all things social media, not as a promotional platform, but as a community one (hat tip to Mark Ramsey).

What will that look like for companies like WAY-FM?  Will it be driven at the corporate level or will individual stations have the opportunity to build their own communities?  When the terrestrial signals are rendered irrelevant, will corporate view individual stations as no longer necessary, or choose to keep them alive, honoring the company’s original mission to impact the local community?

All I know is, with the slice of the WAY-FM pie in which I’ve been entrusted, I plan to do everything in my power to ensure our survival, not for our sake, but for the sake of the community we strive to impact.  I hope I can continue to be blessed with that chance for many more years to come.

Photo credit, FrogMiller

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The Importance of Consumable Content

I read with great interest a recent post from one of my favorite social media bloggers, Chris Brogan, on USA Today, CNN Headline News and the world of bite-sized media.

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His observations of the two media giants won’t be revelatory to most media veterans, but they do serve as timely reminders.  Are you offering your content (your station’s, your blog’s, your label’s, your company’s) in bite-sized, consumable portions?  Or do you view doing so as bastardizing your business model?

The music industry, of course, has had no choice but to revisit the bite-sized model with the advent of the iPod.  No longer are long-form album projects the default purchase for a wider and wider swath of consumers.

For radio this means, among other things, taking advantage of more and more ways to distribute your content (be that podcasts, behind the scenes video from the studio or backstage at concerts, or wherever).   Furthermore, every break has to, from beginning to end, stand on its own.  If I’m new in town and just hearing your show for the first time, will I “get it” from the moment you open the mic, or feel like I’ve joined a conversation already in progress wondering what I missed?  If not, go back to the drawing board.  Study broadcast industry veterans like Tommy Kramer and John Frost for more.

For the publishing industry, the scenario is similar.  You must take advantage of newer and bolder ways to distribute content, as opposed to shunning those opportunities (including the Amazon Kindle and the iPhone).  One of my favorites to follow in the publishing industry is Michael Hyatt.  For more on his thoughts on where the publishing industry is going, check here.

As Chris Brogan puts it, “we’re trending more towards the short info.”  I’ll put it this way:

If you’re not ready or willing to adjust the way you distribute your content or product in order to meet the needs and desires of those consuming it, you will not last.