Hiring and retaining talented sales professionals is vital to the success of the broadcasting industry in Michigan. This has been a top concern of MAB members over the past several years. This year, the MAB Foundation has stepped in to help by partnering with Michigan State University’s Sales Leadership Program. The Sales Leadership Minor at MSU is offered to students as a compliment to their major field of study. Students must pass a screening process before they are accepted into this competitive program. The MSU Sales Leadership Program is mutually beneficial to both the students and corporate partners. Corporate partners in this program can interact with top sales students at MSU throughout the school year and students in the program can meet and network with representatives from several companies and industries that are looking to hire them after graduation.
The MAB Foundation is passing these benefits on to MAB members. Four companies per semester will work with the MAB to represent the broadcast and media industry in Michigan at several events including career fairs, classroom interactions, professional development days and more. Semester 1 is off to a great start with Michigan Radio (Detroit), Jackson Radio Works (Jackson), WSYM-TV Fox 47 (Lansing) and WNEM-TV (Saginaw) participating in the program.
Story and photos by: Russ White, MSU Today/WKAR.org
MSU alumnus Jeremy Whiting is the new professional general manager of Michigan State University’s award-winning student radio station WDBM 88.9FM, better known as the Impact. He’s just the third GM in the almost 30 year history of the radio station, which will celebrate 30 years on the air on February 24, 2019.
A decade ago, Whiting was the student general manager for Impact Radio. He was happily teaching broadcasting and journalism to high school students, but he says of the opening at WDBM-FM: “If there was anything that was going to pull me out of my current job, it was this. I really got to thinking about it. I met with the students, and it was really apparent that it was a really good fit.”
Whiting says the mission of WDBM “really hasn’t changed. We’re still looking to educate students, and we also want to have a professional presentation on the air. We want to sound a lot like commercial radio. We want the average listener to be able to flip through the dial, hear music that is good, hear DJs who are good, and not really know any difference between something more to the right on the dial. Then we want good programming. Diverse programming. Programming that has a set format, but that also provides opportunities for voices from the MSU community and from the Lansing and East Lansing communities to be represented on the air.”
Of the challenges and opportunities facing the entire radio medium Whiting says of the industry’s future: “The Impact is really continuing to evolve as a brand, not just as an FM station. Certainly there’s always going to be a huge audience that is listening to the FM signal, whether you’re driving in your car or listening at home or whatever, but mostly in the car these days. People at home, they’re often listening to our live stream. They’re listening to podcasts. But we’re also producing other content like sports programming, news and content listeners can download from our website or interact with on Facebook. It’s all about that local connection and trying to find different ways that we can get information and content out to our audience that is relevant to them.”
Is Whiting bullish about over-the-air radio’s future? Yes.
“The actual delivery system might change in the future, but the content is still going to be the key. People are still going to want to have a live DJ telling them local information. I think the reason that Spotify and Pandora and some of the other services are popular is because friends can share playlists. They’re looking for recommended songs. They’re looking to hear what other people are listening to. And that’s really a strength of radio. You’re finding out what the masses are listening to. Popularity is often not what we’re going for with at a college radio station. We often discover up and coming talent. I think that’s very valuable to people. You can go on Spotify and find most of the artists that we play on the air, but you’re not going to find many stations like Impact that are picking those artists and recommending those specific ones to you, often before you’ve heard their name or heard their music anywhere else.”
So what are Whiting’s short and long term goals for Impact Radio?
“My short-term goal is just to get acclimated and to really get to know the staff and make sure they have the resources to be successful. Longer term, though, we want to upgrade the technology at the station. We’re looking at going to the next level for our radio automation system to enhance all the backend technology that helps us play music. We’re making sure we’re spending our student tax dollars wisely and really making sure that the equipment we have for the students to use is ready to work now and well into the future. We really want to stay relevant. We want to find good programming that is going to appeal to MSU students and our broader community and constantly reinvent ourselves when necessary.
“I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel because WDBM has such a strong foundation. The students are fantastic. The students are passionate, not only about radio, but about the Impact brand. It becomes their home, you know? They’re there at all hours of the day and night. We broadcast 24/7, but there are also people working there 24/7 doing other things besides being on the air. They’re all really passionate. Things change. It was weird coming in and seeing that much of the station is similar to when I left 10 years ago, and some of it is totally different. But that’s fine. It’s meant to evolve. It’s meant to stay relevant. If you’re looking for what’s happening in the MSU community and looking to hear up and coming music, Impact is where it’s at.”
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.
By: Seth Resler Jacobs Media Strategies
When I talk to radio stations about their overall digital strategy, I use the framework of Content Marketing. Content Marketing begins, of course, with content. While videos and podcasts are wonderful forms of content for radio stations to produce, for most stations who are strapped for time and resources, launching a radio station blog is usually the easiest and most effective way to grow your website traffic.
Of course, somebody needs to write these blogposts, and most stations don’t have a cadre of journalists on staff, which means blogging duties are going to be doled out to folks — usually DJs — who already have a lot on their plate. In my experience, there are two types of on-air talent: those who are hungry to be multimedia personalities and are willing to write, create videos, host podcasts, and put their creative talents to any use they can in their efforts to become a star; and those who got into radio because they prefer talking to writing. For this latter group, blogging can seem like an unbearable chore, and it can be difficult to get them to produce the content your station needs to grow its web traffic.
I sympathize with this latter group. I made several attempts at launching a blog over the past fifteen years, and none of them stuck until I stared writing about digital strategies for radio stations. Just as it takes a while — often years — for a DJ to find their voice on the microphone, it can take a long time for a DJ to find their voice as a blogger. In fact, their on-air voice and their written voice may be very different. They certainly are for me. When I’m on the radio, I deadpan short, snarky breaks laced with pop culture references; when I write, I strive to be instructional and helpful.
Nonetheless, we now live in a multimedia age, and our most successful on-air talents are the ones who find ways to be kings and queens of all media. You don’t need to look any farther than iHeart Radio’s Bobby Bones, who just published a book and has made a slew of television appearances, including an upcoming stint on Dancing With the Stars.
But you’ve got to crawl before you dance, so let’s start with blogging. Every week, I have to write a blogpost, and the process inevitably consists of three hours of me banging my head against the wall, screaming, “What am I going to write about?!” Then, an idea pops into my head, and I sit down and knock out a blogpost in 20 minutes. The 20 minutes is not difficult. The three hours are excruciating. The worst part of blogging for me — and I suspect many others — is thinking of something to say.
So here are five ways that you can help your airstaff overcome writer’s block:
1. Brainstorm a list of blog topic formulas.
Blog topics formulas are simple turnkey topic ideas that can be used over and over again but produce a different blogpost each time. An easy example is, “5 Things to Do Around Town This Weekend.” You could use this formula 52 times a year and each time you would produce a compelling piece of content for your listeners.
Gather all of your blog contributors in a room and brainstorm a list of blog topic formulas. Here are some ideas to help you start. When you’re done compiling this list, publish it in a place where all of your writers can access it.
2. Let DJs write about the things they are passionate about.
Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to write about things that you care about it. Find out what your on-air personalities are passionate about and allow them to blog about those topics. They often enjoy this outlet because these are topics that may be of interest to the audience, but don’t warrant a lot of on-air time. For example, you might have a morning show host who is really passionate about wrestling, or an afternoon jock who loves sharing recipes for healthy meals. If these topics fit with your station brand but are second or third tier subjects, let the jocks blog about them.
3. Crowdsource blogposts.
You may require your on-air talent to produce blogposts, but that doesn’t mean they actually have to do the writing. Allow your jocks to invite influencers in your market, such as local bands, chefs, or athletes, to contribute to the blog. This can be through written interviews, guest posts (see these examples), or by having multiple people contribute different answers to a question (here’s an example).
4. Share the website analytics with blog authors.
Employees like to see how their contributions are impacting the overall success of their organization. That’s why, when I was a program director, I believed in sharing the ratings with my airstaff. In fact, I always appreciated the jocks who came into my office to learn more about the ratings.
The same holds true for website analytics. Share them with your blog contributors. In particular, show them which blogposts are attracting the most website traffic. This information can be found in your website’s Google Analytics data. (Here’s a guide to Google Analytics for Radio Programmers.) The more they see that their efforts are having an impact, the more enthusiastic they’ll be about contributing. Moreover, when they see which blog topics are reacting with the audience — and which are not — it will give them guidance on selecting future topics.
5. Set the bar low and raise it slowly.
The fastest way to discourage reluctant writers is to set unrealistically aggressive goals. It takes time for on-air talent to make the transition to blogging, and they may not all adopt the practice at the same speed. Requiring your air talent to start writing daily blogposts tomorrow is only going to frustrate you and them. Instead, set a modest goal: one blogpost each week. When they’re able to hit that goal on a regular basis, gradually raise the bar: two blogposts per week, then two good blogposts per week, then three per week, etc. Most of all, be patient and supportive. This isn’t easy, and you won’t see success overnight.
Reducing writers block is one of the most important steps to take when launching or ramping up your radio station’s blog output. For more information on how your radio station can launch a blog, check out this guide.
For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.
According to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC released an order setting the amounts for the Annual Regulatory fees that are due by September 25. The agency also released a Fact Sheet detailing the fees for broadcast and other licensees regulated by the Media Bureau and how those fees should be paid.
Fees are due for stations based on the FCC authorization held on October 1, 2017. The FCC also notes that expanded band AM stations, that have previously been exempt from fees as they are part of a paired license with stations in the core AM band, now have to pay fees independently from their paired station.
The Fact Sheet sets out the fees owed by radio stations based on the population they serve, and for TV stations based on the size of the DMA in which they are located. The Fact Sheet also sets out details of the payment process, and notes that those licensees whose total fees are $1000 or less are exempt from any payment obligations as their fees are considered “de minimis.”
The Board of state Canvassers unanimously certified Promote the Vote ballot proposal which means that the voters will decide whether to allow same-day voter registration and whether any eligible voter should be able to vote absentee. With the action, the proposals portion of the ballot is set. Proposal 1 will be the marijuana legalization initiative, Proposal 2 the constitutional amendment to overhaul redistricting and ban partisan gerrymandering and Proposal 3 the voting access constitutional amendment.
According to a report in Gongwer, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision granted a motion by the state to stay a ruling that Michigan’s ban on the straight ticket voting is unconstitutional. This means that the voters will not be able to choose a party’s slate of nominations with a single selection during the general election.
Ruth Johnson praised the decision in a statement: “Michigan now joins more than 40 other states in which voters choose the person instead of the party. For too long, important ballot questions and nonpartisan offices, including judges of all types, were skipped over by people who marked a straight ticket thinking they had voted their full ballot.”
With the lowest unit charge window for the November elections now in effect (as of September 7), we thought that it was a good idea to review the basics FCC rules and policies affecting those charges. With this election, where control of Congress may well be hotly contested and may result in competitive elections across the country, your station needs to be ready to comply with all of the FCC’s political advertising rules. Lowest unit charges (or “Lowest Unit Rates”) guarantee that, in the 45 days before a primary and the 60 days before a general election, legally qualified candidates get the lowest rate for a spot that is then running on the station within any class of advertising time and particular daypart. Candidates get the benefit of all volume discounts without having to buy in volume – i.e., the candidate gets the same rate for buying one spot as your most favored advertiser gets for buying hundreds of spots of the same class. But there are many other aspects to the lowest unit rates, and stations need to be sure that they get these rules right.
It is a common misperception that a station has one lowest unit rate, when in fact almost every station will have several – if not dozens of lowest unit rates – one lowest unit rate for each class of time in each daypart. Even at the smallest radio station, there are probably several different classes of advertising spots. For instance, there will be different rates for spots running in morning drive than for those spots that run in the middle of the night. Each time period for which the station charges a differing rate is a class of time that has its own lowest unit rate. On television stations, there are often classes based not only on daypart, but on the individual program. Similarly, if a station sells different rotations, each rotation on the station is its own class, with its own lowest unit rates (e.g., a 6 a.m. to Noon rotation is a different class than a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m rotation, and both are a different class from a 24-hour rotator – and each can have its own lowest unit rate). Even in the same time period, there can be preemptible and non-preemptible time, each with its own set of charges resulting in different classes of time, each with its own lowest unit rate. Any class of spots that run in a unique time period, with a unique rotation or unique rights attached to it (e.g., different levels of preemptibility, different make-good rights, etc.), will have a different lowest unit rate. Stations need to review each class of time sold on their station, find the lowest rate charged to a commercial advertiser for a spot of the same class that is running at the same time that the candidate wants to buy a spot, and that lowest rate will be what the candidate is charged.
One question that still comes up with surprising regularity is whether these rates apply to state and local candidates, as well as Federal candidates. Indeed they do – so if your station is running advertising for candidates for mayor or city council; or for governor or the state senate; or even for the board of education, municipal court judge, or state attorney general – they and any other candidate in any public election for which your station chooses to accept advertising gets lowest unit rates. See our past articles on this topic here and here.
In modern political elections, where PACs, Super PACs and other non-candidate interest groups are buying much political advertising time, broadcasters need to remember that these spots don’t require lowest unit rates. Even if the picture or recognizable voice of the candidate that the PAC is supporting appears in the ad, spots that are sponsored by an independent organization not authorized by the candidate do not get lowest unit rates (note, however, that spots purchased by independent groups featuring the voice or picture of the candidate may trigger public file and equal opportunities obligations for the station if the station decides to run those spots). Stations can charge these advertisers anything that the station wants for non-candidate ads – no need to stick to lowest unit rates.
From time to time stations may face the one exception to the above paragraph, where political parties are requesting lowest unit charges. In some cases, parties may in fact be entitled to these rates – but only where the spot features the recognizable voice or picture of the candidate and the party is using specific types of donations to pay for the ad. These donations are ones that are subject to political campaign donation limitations (known as “hard money”). To get lowest unit rates, the advertising purchases must be authorized and “coordinated” with a candidate (and, in Federal races (and in several states that have adopted laws on the subject), the spots should make that coordination clear with the “I approved this message tag” or, under some state laws, some variant of the tag that discloses the coordination. Not all party spots are entitled to this treatment – only this special class of coordinated expenditures – and stations are entitled to get written confirmation from the party or the candidate that the expenditures are coordinated under the election laws. If not coordinated, the parties get charged the same as any other third-party organization.
Various advertising sales packages, and how they are factored into lowest unit rate calculations, also seem to lead to many questions by broadcasters. Candidates cannot be forced to buy single-station packages to get low unit rates. Instead, the package must be broken down by the station into a price per spot for each class of spot that is contained in the package. That is done by allocating the package price to the various spots of each class that are contained in the package. Then the allocated rates, on a unit basis, are compared to other spots of the same class that have been sold on the station either on their own or in other packages to determine if the spots from this package have any impact on the station’s lowest unit rates. This allocation is done in an internal station record, which does not need to go into the public file, and does not need to be revealed to the candidate. Other than the station, only the FCC will see this allocation if they decide to conduct some sort of audit. We wrote more about this process of allocating spots in a package here.
And these are just some of the myriad issues that arise in computing lowest unit rates. Stations need to be familiar with these rules, and apply them accurately through the lowest unit rate window. Check with your own legal advisor to discuss the specifics of these issues as they arise as they are often very difficult to apply in the real world. Some of the other situations that arise with lowest unit rates, and with other political issues that come up in any election season, are covered in our Political Broadcasting Guide, available here. This article is in an update of an article from a series that we did several years ago on Political Broadcasting Basics, which we may update from time to time over the next few weeks. But until we post the updates, you can find the original articles on our blog by clicking on these links: equal opportunities, reasonable access, the no-censorship provision that governs candidate ads, and the potential for station liability for untruthful statements made in third party ads.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.
A reminder to broadcasters that this coming Thursday, September 20 at 2:20 p.m. Eastern, FEMA and the FCC will be conducting another nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. This year’s test will also include testing of WEA, the Wireless Emergency Alert System – so in addition to conducting a broadcast Emergency Alert System text, you’ll likely also receive one on your smartphone.
The test will be similar to a required monthly test, but will originate at FEMA facilities in Washington, D.C.
EAS equipment properly setup should pass on the test as required.
Broadcaster Reporting Requirements: Remember that broadcasters need to complete the filing of ETRS [EAS Test Reporting System] Form Two after the test and before midnight the same day, September 20. Then Form Three is the “detailed post-test data” that must be filed by November 5.
Another reminder for news, programming and production personnel: Broadcasters and cable providers are not to air the audio attention signal for WEA or the EAS during any news coverage of the test. Any transmission, including broadcast, of the WEA or EAS attention signals or codes, or a simulation of them, under any circumstances other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement violates the Commission’s rules and undermines the important public safety precautions that WEA and EAS provide. See 47 CFR §§ 10.520(d), 11.45. While the Commission encourages improving public awareness of WEA and the EAS, including the upcoming nationwide test, broadcasters and cable providers are reminded to exercise caution and avoid inadvertently broadcasting the WEA or EAS tones in a news story.