Category Archives: Programming

Salespeople: Here’s How To Make Live Reads Work

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

If you were to ask any successful PD what the secret to their success was, I am sure they would tell you that being sales-friendly is one of them. I certainly believe that, and continue to be sales-friendly myself. Which takes me to live reads, arguably one of the most requested and successful tactics for today’s radio advertiser. To get some solid advice on how to make live testimonial reads more successful, I spoke with Peter Connolly. Peter owns LIVE, The Personality Advertising Specialists in Detroit. He creates and manages live local radio endorsement campaigns all over the U.S.

GB: What are the most important strategies for a live read, testimonial spot to be successful?
PC: An AE, PD, or any manager should be able to do a marketing gut check and immediately tell if this is the right customer for a live read campaign. Only start a live read testimonial campaign if you believe the results will be dramatically better versus a recorded :30 or :60. The client must have a strong story to tell in two short sentences.

Focus on the client’s needs. A few years ago, while working with Steve Marx (our sales consultant), he became frustrated when he realized we ditched our customer focus and had a one-size-fits-all “live read” solution to everything. We went from highly customer-focused to a “live read drive-through,” and the first step was skipping over the critical step of understanding customer’s unique strategic and tactical needs and challenges.

GB: When you book airtime on a radio station, what is the first thing you expect the salesperson to do?
PC: They must take the live endorsement work seriously. Get me as close to the talent and any other resources they have for maximum return on investment. I want them to make sure their talent has all the tools necessary to win for our client. If there are any problems or issues, bring them to your agency or account’s attention at once. All of us want client success.

GB: What is the biggest mistake a salesperson can make that will get in the way of a successful live read?
PC: If a salesperson does something that loses our trust, we are probably done.

GB: If you cannot coach the talent, what are some tips you would give the local salesperson for coach?
PC: We never start a campaign without meeting talent in person. If our talent is in Rough and Ready, California or Two Egg, Florida, we go there. How can we expect talent to have clarity and belief in our client’s product and goals, and most importantly, to be personal with our client’s messaging as a partner if we don’t take the time to meet them in person?

GB: Can a PD be helpful with a live campaign? How?
PC: Yes. PDs are the best asset to a client and AE, especially for a live read campaign. We know PDs are the ultimate marketer and primary talent coach at a radio station. Often, we reach out to a PD to use their relationship and expertise to fix a delivery issue. PDs can have exposure to research, ideas and events we need.

GB: How long should live reads be to be effective?
PC: We only do :60s, and we have many campaigns that span six to eight years. We never expect a live read to go longer than one minute (some PDs think we do). Often, some of our best live reads are less than 60 seconds. It’s most important that they be very personal, clear, and well prepped units. We want these to be longterm, multi-year campaigns with key accounts. Unfortunately, some customers are not set up for long-term annuals.

GB: Should they have music under them or not?
PC: Never.

GB: How should the salesperson manage the client’s expectations?
PC: We have some clients that have tethered us to digital performance metrics. Radio and especially live read results are far broader than digital metrics and lead generation. For strategic and tactical battles, radio and live reads are still an incomparable tool for providing far deeper, longer-lasting results. Make a list of results that you can track over a continuum.

We also do a lot of agency work. Agencies are expert at looking more deeply at sales results that are far broader than those of a digital vendor. These campaigns have resulted in and contributed to staggeringly higher market share, far higher web sales, far higher phone metrics, and have made unfair gains in market share at a far lower budget. Finding these results is very tough, as we’re dealing with humans. I always ask the clients’ salespeople, who interact with actual customers, for their input.

In conclusion, as a programmer, I like live reads. They help a person’s personality come out, and if done right (and not overused), can form a strong bond with the listener. It can be useful content as it’s (hopefully) helping a listener solve a problem or need. I’ll take a sincere live read any day over a loud, screaming recorded spot or senseless talk for talk’s sake.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

The Robinson Report – Relevancy Revisited (Pt. 3)

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.

Kevin Robinson

By: Kevin Robinson
Robinson Media

“Quality, relevant content can’t be spotted by an algorithm. You can’t subscribe to it. You need people – actual human beings – to create or curate it.”

Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

When you make a move – a big cross-country move – you’re certain to stumble over irrelevancy.

That’s exactly what happened to us here this year.

During our move – Back Home Again In Indiana – THIS TV …

… could not be given away. Who wants low-def?

And who needs FREE hours…

… with super-fast  dial up?

Media friends can count the number of lost relevancy here …

… and ONE of these jammed more often than the other …

… BOTH, at one time, vitally relevant to journalistic reporting.

It’s not things that create relevancy.

It’s people.

So, the shiny NEW toy “podcasting” was met here with a cynical eye.

Because most of them, MOST of them, suck.

The content and assembly is pedestrian at best.

The sonics are foul.

Most are TOO long.

Anticipation certainly rose with the dawn of  the Podcast Movement.

Brilliancy induced to this growing on-line and downloadable wave.

Radio Royalty like Buzz Knight, Dave Beasing and Caroline Beasley.

Talent that have guided great brands.

But now two different chapters are upon us.

The BIGS, those who build platforms and national formats, are buying in.

Big time.

The same who homogenized radio with plug and play solutions.

And  there’s a sea of what Fred Jacobs names PodFade

Under-invested Podcasters.

Both of which might taint the whole movement.

If you’re considering a Podcast, find a niche.

Stay relevant.

Shoot an email or call this way for a :45 second coaching template for newbie Podcast creators.

A 10-point ‘test’ to see if you’re fit for a robust and lasting offering.

Cobbled from the best practices from the best Podcasters.

There is no shelf life for Podcasts,  only bad ones.

People, not pyrotechnics, will raise its relevancy.


Kevin Robinson is a record-setting and award-winning programmer. His brands consistently perform in the Top Three of the target – often times as the list leader. In his 35 years of radio, he’s successfully programmed or consulted nearly every English language radio brand. Known largely as a trusted talent coach, he’s the only personality mentor who’s coached three different morning shows on three different stations in the same major market to the #1 position. His efforts have been recognized by Radio & Records, NAB’s Marconi, Radio Ink and he has coached CMA, ACM and Marconi winning talent.  He lives in Indiana with his wife of 32 years, Monica. Reach Kevin at (314) 882-2148 or [email protected].

The Fall Book Is On. Now What?

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

The fall book is on and before we get too deep into it, here are a few basic and easy to implement tactics that will help you get a better outcome.

Air Talent: Personality? Yes. Excessive talk? No. Listeners do not know that our jocks are often reading liners. Work with them to deliver the message in a warm, friendly, natural sounding manner. The best talent can take liners and make them sound like they are full of personality. The best sounding stations are benefit driven, but do not sound like liner card radio.

Music Flow: Keep the music tempo flow even. Spend the time to make sure that every segue flows. Familiarity continues to be a key element. New music continues to be a limited pool to choose from. Only play the proven current hits as you start the book. Keep the music up but don’t overly push tempo.

Jock liners & production: Have you freshened these lately? Old copy allows jocks to fall into a comfort zone. Have you freshened your music promos, hook promos and station promos in general? Short and to the point is always best.

Usage: The more research I see, the more it becomes very clear that AC radio stations are used for relaxing, unwinding and helping to “keep things calm.” Many programmers have fought this over the years trying to replace it with up, hot, hip. Presenting your station the way listeners use it is important. Recommendation: do not fight the easy/relax part. It is how they use it. Include it in your verbiage and let your listener know that they have found the radio station that helps them relax and feel good.

Basics 101: Slowly and deliberately selling calls (name and frequency) and position. Calls always first & last. Making sure your music position is clear, simple and most important, unique. Brand your name to everything you do. From weather, traffic and other items, always make sure they have your name “embossed” on them. In diary, over 80% of diary keepers record listening by exact frequency.

Local: You hear a lot about local these days, and yes, is it is important. Letting your listeners know what is going on in their world still matters. Great localization ideas include:

– Use local points of interest in traffic reports (“The accident is right across from the McDonald’s at 3rd and Main.”).

– Do a “”Here’s what’s going on in town today” segment on the morning show (much more useful than some of the bits that are out there).

– Write liners and allow jocks to talk about people and the places they are listening. Local names, people and places still work.

Morning Show Idea: Take an idea from ABC. Do a weekly “Person of the Week” on Friday mornings. Salute a local person for a contribution they have made to the local community. Ask listeners for nominations.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

Programming Advice from Warren Buffett

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Well, kind of. I recently read an interview with “The Oracle of Omaha,” arguably one of the savviest investors of all time, Warren Buffett. While reading through his interview, it occurred to me that many of his points could easily be applied to radio, so here’s my drill down on what he said about investing and how it applies to radio programming.

When Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett makes investing decisions, he focuses on one thing only: the facts. He says your opinions and emotions aren’t likely to help you.

WB: “Being contrarian has no special virtue over being a trend follower,” Buffett says. Instead, the Oracle of Omaha suggests taking a pragmatic approach to investing decisions. First, gather all your facts. Next, learn how to dissect them to find the pertinent information you need to make your decision. For Buffett, that means looking for the pieces that are “important and knowable.”

Radio Translation: If you know me, you know that I always say “I would much rather argue the facts than the opinions.” When making programming decisions, gather up the right information and facts. Example: Your GM comes in and says, “Everybody I know hates a song we’re playing.” Opinion, yes. Fact: If the music test says it’s great, play it. Or: “A listener called to say we play the same song over and over.” Chances are, when you look it up, the facts say you’re not, but that listener most likely just does not like that song.

WB: “If something’s important but unknowable, forget it,” he says. “I mean, it may be important whether somebody’s going to drop a nuclear weapon tomorrow, but it’s unknowable.”

Radio Translation: You don’t know what is going to happen in your market or station. Always be the best you can be today and be prepared for market changes, but do not act on them until necessary. 99% of the time, these things do not happen.

WB: Whether or not you choose to invest in something should be based on your research, not on your reaction to what other people are doing and saying. As Buffett puts it, “what others are doing means nothing. Concentrate on the facts, not how you’re feeling.”

Radio Translation: Forget about “what you hear” in the market. More often than not, it’s gossip that is not accurate.

WB: “Don’t watch the market closely,” he told CNBC amid wild fluctuations. “If they’re trying to buy and sell stocks and worry when they go down a little bit … and think they should maybe sell them when they go up, they’re not going to have very good results.”

Radio Translation: Worry about your station, not your competitor. More often (almost always) listeners are not sitting around with a “scorecard” on you and other stations. They don’t compare.

WB: Though it’s tempting to sell when the market begins to drop, giving in to your fear is not a sound strategy. “You cannot possibly succeed that way, you’ve got to do the opposite. It’s when you’re not scared you probably want to sell, and when you are scared, you probably want to buy.” Even when the market it tumultuous, it’s helpful to tune out other investors and concentrate on what you know.

Radio Translation: Research and facts can and will guide you in a tumultuous market, and most of them (markets) are tumultuous today. Use your research like a pilot uses radar. My son, Michael, is a Captain with Spirit Airlines. I once asked him what happens when he is in the clouds and can’t see a foot in front of himself. His reply: “In bad weather, a pilot trusts and uses his instruments.” In radio, we should treat our research like “instruments”. Trust it and let it guide us properly.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

Tactics that Increase Ratings. Yes, These do Work!

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

As we approach the fall book, here are 10 “easy to implement” tips that will make a difference in the way you sound, and the outcome of the book.

You may read these and think “we already do these” but please take a closer look. Many “basics” often get overlooked or forgotten.

Keep the music familiar and focused. Be careful and choosy with new music. Check the log carefully daily for balance and flow. Avoid clumping of any same sounds. Keep the tempo “even.”

Sell the music position and the benefits of listening to the station. Music is the #1 reason people listen to the radio. Sell your music quantity and quality benefits. Specific music quantity benefits work much better than generic. Example: “Continuous Half Hours” are better than “Long Sets.”

Own at work listening. Winning 8 a.m. -4 p.m. (real at work hours) is the key to 25-54 ratings success. Make sure you are using your morning show to promote the stations at work benefits. Stop talking about at work by 4 p.m. After all, who wants to be reminded of work late in the day?

Morning fun. Keep the morning show bright, up and most important, loaded with interesting, fun and compelling material. Remember, there is a difference between “fun” and “funny.” If your morning show is music based, play at least nine songs an hour in AMD.

Branding. Attach your calls to all services and features. Make sure it is not “Your traffic” versus “WXXX Traffic” Sell your positioning statement and key benefits. Always, when going back to music from spots. Always, on the end of weather when going back to music. Nielsen reports that over 85% of diary keepers record listening by exact frequency. Avoid “phantom cume.” Calls and frequency can never be said enough.

Use as much “Appointment” promotion as possible. Creating more occasions of listening is the #1 way to increase time spent listening. Make sure each morning show promo has a specific reason and time for tune-in. Same applies to contesting. Let them know when you will be playing your contest.

Keep listener testimonials fresh. Listener testimonials are strong weapons to credibly promote the key station benefits. Make sure all testimonials talk about a specific thing such as morning show, most music, best music etc. Stay away from “stroke” testimonials such as “we love you.” Live testimonials versus phone type’s sound and work best.

Watch the talk. Keep the personality but also keep a lid on extra, non-essential talk. It is amazing how much unnecessary talk happens on radio stations.

Sell “More Music Weekends.” Many stations have a much more music intense sound on the weekend due to lower commercial loads and less services. Take advantage of this and promote as a benefit. “Weekends always mean more music” or “It’s a More Music Weekend.”

Production elements. Make sure all liners and sweepers clearly promote the strategy. If it’s more music, focus on it and sell it hard. Work in some jingle cuts you have not used in awhile. Look at prior packages that have not been used recently. If re-writing liners/sweepers be careful not to lose the basic point.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

5 Things All Air Talent Can Learn from Dan Ingram

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

The headline on June 25 was shocking: Dan Ingram was dead. Dan has been called the “World’s Greatest Top-40 DJ.”  I would have to agree since I got to listen to him daily growing up in New York City,  where WABC was our local station. For those of you who do not know who Dan Ingram was, please allow me a brief introduction.

He spent over 20 years doing afternoon drive at what was arguably the most successful and highest rated Top-40 station of all time, WABC in New York. While doing that, Dan was also one of the leading commercial voices in America. If you’ve never heard Dan, it would be worth your time to spend some time with the many airchecks that are all over the internet.

During his long tenure at WABC, Dan was easily one of the most imitated DJ’s in America and all over the world. After all, what jock wouldn’t want to sound like “Big Dan.” WDVD, Detroit PD Robby Bridges spoke to Dan once, who told him he always envisioned his show as “second person singular.” The intimacy of radio at its best is you are entertaining the listener one-on-one — so never “you guys” or “everybody,” always “you.” Once you listen to Dan’s airchecks, you’ll quickly hear that Dan Ingram was an artist. An entertainer. A master of his craft who understood how to use radio to its maximum.

Radio has changed a lot since “Big Dan” was on WABC, but there are many lessons that today’s personality can learn from Dan and his success. Here are my top 5.

1. Dan Ingram always sounded happy. How he felt “personally” did not often come across on the air. His larger than life personality and smile was part of every break, every time. Jon Wolfert, President of JAM Productions in Dallas who worked closely with Ingram said, “I think that he did let in some of his personal feelings about songs, events and situations, but he did it in such a humorous way that it never got in the way. Doing that made you feel like you were listening to a real person who was living in the same world you were. The beauty of Dan is that he did his show on several levels at once; the casual listener, the radio insider, the advertising world. But no matter which group you were in, there was always something there for you to smile at.”

2. Ingram was PPM friendly before PPM was even a thought! WABC had fairly strict guidelines about talk. That did not get in Dan’s way. He became the master of inserting huge personality into every break, even if it was :08 long. He seemed to “bask in the glow” of how good and effective he could be with these short but great “breaks.” Dan understood the “magic of brevity.”

3. Nobody was more creative with station imaging than Dan Ingram. He wrote the book on how to use jingles to add fun, excitement and forward motion to your show (while doing a killer job identifying the station for ratings). Dan Ingram clearly knew that “keepin it moving forward” was paramount to his and the station’s success. When you listen to an Ingram aircheck, listen for his meticulous use of the station jingles. From name sigs to quick shotgun cuts, he moved beautifully from song to song and sometimes commercial to commercial with WABC jingles.

4. Nobody prepped like Ingram. When he was on WABC they had board ops. I had the chance to visit him one day while I was in high school. For me, that day was so impactful, that I can still remember every minute of the visit. In between songs, Dan would call out all the cart (cartridge) numbers that he wanted to use next, as well as the jingles he wanted to insert. He would clearly tell the board op when and how he wanted the sequence to happen. This made the engineer as important as Dan, as they had to work as one to make the sound happen. Only the best board ops could work with Dan. He was quick, tough and fast and knew what he wanted. If the engineer could not keep up with him, they would not work that shift again! Jon Wolfert puts one more spin on his prep. “During the songs he’d set up the next break with the engineer as you described. But he never came into WABC with his adlibs pre-written. He’d show up 5 minutes before air time, having thought of an opening topic in the elevator on his way up to the 8th floor, and just sit down and do it. That was the gift. You can’t learn to be Dan. But it certainly is a worthy goal.”

5. Ingram knew that “Fun and Companionship” was what it was all about. That’s why his material was always about the music, artists, the station and, of course, as Joe McCoy, (Dan’s PD at WCBS-FM in the 90s) put it, “The king of the double entendre”. McCoy went on to say that Dan was “the thinking man’s DJ.” “He played with people.” If Dan was not happy with something at the station, he found a way to make a joke out of it with his quick, “smile in voice” way. No matter what was going on in the world, Dan knew that his listeners expected a fun, up-lifting experience. McCoy also added that “some of Dan’s best moments were on the jock-crossover breaks. They were often better (and more fun) than any of the music they played.” Ingram knew that “Fun and Companionship” was what it was all about.

Yes, radio has changed. But there’s a lot to be learned from the pioneers of contemporary radio. Dan Ingram was just that. A pioneer who paved the way for all of us.

Rest in peace Kemosabe and thanks for everything you gave and taught us.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

How Commercial Radio Broadcasters Can Learn More About Public Radio

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: Our MAB Digital Guru’s weekly post usually appears in our Web/DIgital/Social section of MAB NewsBriefs.  Again this week, however, I’ve elected to put Seth’s piece in our programming section.  -Dan Kelley

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

The spheres of commercial radio and public radio are, for the most part, completely isolated from one another. Broadcasters don’t pay much attention to what their counterparts on the other side are doing. But as we move towards a world where on-demand audio is enabled by podcasts and voice commands, commercial radio broadcasters can learn a lot from public radio broadcasters. Sure, Bubba the Love Sponge is never going to need to run down the day’s stock market numbers like Kai Ryssdal; but there’s a lot of insight that can be gained by watching what public radio is doing.

For starters, the players in the public radio space are, by and large, much farther ahead when it comes to podcasting. Part of that stems from the fact that it’s simply easier to take a talk radio show and make it available on demand when there’s no music that needs to be removed. An episode of Fresh Air can be posted online without any major changes, while most commercial radio morning shows cannot. But public radio companies like NPR, PRX and WNYC have also made significant investments in the space. Every commercial radio programmer and on-air talent could benefit by looking at what they’ve done.

If you’re working at a commercial radio station, what’s a good way to learn more about public radio? Here are three places to start…

1. Listen.
If your primary exposure to public radio comes from their morning and afternoon drive news shows, it’s worth spending some time with their other programs you may not be aware of its breadth. Public radio’s offerings are incredibly diverse. Here’s a list of different shows to sample that I’ve selected because they show a range of different styles:

    1. This American Life: Led by Ira Glass, This American Life set the gold standard for storytelling journalism. Just as Howard Stern inspired a generation of shock jocks and Rush Limbaugh inspired a wave of conservative pundits, Glass has spawned countless disciples, many of whom have gone on into podcasting. After you’ve checked out This American Life, listen to the massive podcasting hit Serial, which is produced by the same team, and you’ll hear the stylistic influences.
    2. Death, Sex and Money: Lest you assume that all public radio programs are stuffy, Ana Sale hosts this podcast featuring one-on-one conversations with celebrities and other guests that tackle difficult topics that aren’t normally discussed in polite conversation. It’s NSFW but it will convince you that public radio broadcasters can be every bit as edgy as their commercial counterparts.
    3. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!: Game shows aren’t just for television. This format offers a lighter take on the week’s news and can serve as an inspiration for commercial broadcasters who are more focused on entertainment than journalism. The show is also recorded in front of a live studio audience which adds to the fun and the complexity of the production.
    4. The Moth: This show is an excellent example of how radio broadcasters can crowdsource their material. It compiles recordings of storytellers from around the country. (It’s also worth going to a live Moth storytelling event. If you dare, get up on stage and share a story.)
    5. 2 Dope Queens: WNYC in New York has invested considerable time and energy into podcasting, often using the medium to showcase people from backgrounds that are otherwise underrepresented in radio. This show, hosted by African-American comedians Jessica Williams (former The Daily Show correspondent) and Phoebe Robinson, is a prime example. It’s been such a big hit that it’s now a television show on HBO.
    6. Up First: Voice-activated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are making it easier for people to consume audio at home. A number of media outlets, including The New York Times and ESPN, are taking advantage of this trend by offering short, daily podcasts that people can consume first thing in the morning. NPR’s Up First is a good example of a daily podcast that aims to build daily listening habits.

2. Learn.
The audio content that public radio creates often takes a very different form than what we create in commercial radio. I can hit the post on a Linkin Park song without breaking a sweat, but I’ve never used a shotgun mic to record B-roll audio in the field. How do public radio broadcasters do it?

Fortunately, NPR actually makes many of the secrets of their trade available online. Spend some time on NPR’s training website and you’ll refine your skills and even pick up some new ones.

3. Read.
If you want to find out even more about how public radio broadcasters practice their craft, there are two books worth picking up:

  1. Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production: Jonathan Kern, who spent years training NPR staffers, explains exactly how they do what they do in this classic tome.
  2. Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio: Jessica Abel, a cartoonist by trade, loved narrative radio so much that she decided to write a behind-the-scenes book about it in graphic form. It’s a unique way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of shows like Planet Money, Radiolab, and Invisibilia.

As commercial radio broadcasters, we rarely take the time to look outside our own market or format. But if you really want to excel at your craft, it’s helpful to look for inspiration outside of your usual surroundings from time to time.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

What Anthony Bourdain Taught Me About Radio Broadcasting

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: Our MAB Digital Guru’s weekly post usually appears in our Web/DIgital/Social section of MAB NewsBriefs.  This week, however, I’ve elected to put Seth’s piece in our programming section.  -Dan Kelley

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

Last Friday morning, we awoke to the sad news that Anthony Bourdain, the preeminent pioneer in the world of food tourism, had taken his own life. He was an icon. I was a fan. In many ways, Anthony Bourdain shaped my career.

Like many radio broadcasters, I have bounced from city to city across the country. Every few years, I seemed to pack up my belongings and find a new home. In the course of all my moving, I learned that every city is unique. Sometimes, I learned this lesson the hard way.

My radio career began at WBRU in Providence, in the shadow of the Boston music scene. I was a college student working at the station, and like most twenty-somethings, I thought I knew a lot more than I did. After graduating, I stuffed my belongings into a U-Haul and headed out to St. Louis, where I became the Imaging Director at 105.7 The Point. I was hired by Allan Fee, and every once in a while, we didn’t see eye to eye. I distinctly remember a heated discussion we had over a music imaging sweeper that I was creating. It was the early 2000s, and I thought we should include the song, “The Impression That I Get,” the 1997 modern rock hit by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Allan was opposed. I didn’t understand why.

What I didn’t realize at this early stage of my career was that my point of reference was distorted by my time in New England. Sure, the Bosstones could sell out five nights at the Middle East for their annual Hometown Throwdown, but that didn’t mean they were any more than a one-hit wonder hundreds of miles west in St. Louis.

Instead, St. Louis was in the midst of a long-term love affair with The Urge, a local band that could easily sell out a string of shows at Mississippi Nights. I only knew The Urge from their minor hit, “Jump Right In,” that we had played for a few weeks in Providence. But in St. Louis, they were gods. Looking back on that discussion now, I see it as an epiphany: This was when I first discovered how important it was for a radio broadcaster to understand and tap into the local culture. I realized that Allan was right, and I was wrong.

While sports has never been my strong suit, I quickly learned this was another arena in which it is vital for broadcasters to know their market. In fact, sometimes music and sports align. When I returned to Providence as WBRU’s Program Director, I embraced the Dropkick Murphys. If I were blindly following the music charts, I never would have touched this Boston punk band. Instead, we spun them more than any radio station in America. This paid off in spades when they released a song called “Tessie,” a re-imagining of a classic Red Sox anthem, just as the baseball team broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. That song was not a hit anywhere else, but we had it in heavy rotation, because we understood the local culture.

Radio Terroir
The need to understand local culture extends far beyond just music and sports. Anthony Bourdain was one of the people who taught me that. During my brief tenure in St. Louis, I was exposed to a variety of regional dishes, including toasted ravioli, Imo’s pizza, and Ted Drewes ice cream. At the time, I didn’t recognize their significance.

But years later, I started a social dining group in Boston. This club introduced me to the world of local celebrity chefs. I saw surprising parallels between the culinary world and the world of rock and roll. On a national level, fans fawned over superstar chefs like Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, and Gordon Ramsay.

But among them all, Anthony Bourdain was unique. His straight-talking book, Kitchen Confidential, read like a rock star memoir, filled with tattoos, scars, and drug addiction. (I highly recommend listening to the audio version, which Anthony narrates himself.)

What made Bourdain stand out was his understanding of place. He was keenly aware of the fact that just like every city or town has a different music or sports scene, every locale has a different food culture. He loved using food as a gateway to explore different local cultures. He built a fascinating career out of it.

There’s a fantastic word in the culinary world: “Terroir.” It describes how the location where a food is grown impacts the flavor. It’s used most often in wine making. When the wines made from grapes grown on the shady side of a vineyard hill taste different than the wines that use grapes from the sunny side, that’s terroir. More and more, however, the word terroir has been adopted to describe food. With the rise of the local food movement, top chefs increasingly use the availability of fresh, local ingredients as a major factor when creating their menus. As a result, the place informs the taste.

More than anybody, Bourdain embodied that connection between taste and place. He showed the world why people eat breakfast tacos in Austin, banh mis in San Jose, and coneys in Detroit.

Several years ago, I produced a podcast called Taste Trekkers. It was a podcast for “foodies who love travel and travelers who love food.” I would interview culinary experts from different cities about their local food scenes. This podcast owed a bigger debt of inspiration to Anthony Bourdain than anyone else. He made me want to explore different cities through food in the same way I had explored them through music during my radio career.Today, I like to think about the concept of terroir applied to radio stations. The reason that Los Angeles radio still plays Dramarama, Detroit radio still spins J Dilla, and Bay Area radio continues to rotate Too $hort is the same reason that barbecue sauce styles change as you drive across the South. The place informs the taste.

From time to time, I’ll see a Program Director move to a new city to take over a radio station. They’re usually eager to put their stamp on the station immediately: change the logo, overhaul the music library, or alter the on-air lineup. In doing so, they make the same mistake I was making when I wanted to image a St. Louis radio station with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones; they’re ignoring the terroir.

Anthony Bourdain would never make this mistake. He always showed great respect for the local culture. I believe that if Anthony Bourdain were to take over a radio station in a new city, the first thing he would do is learn the terroir. He would want to understand how the place informs the taste. We should all strive to be more like Anthony Bourdain.

Thank you for the inspiration, Tony. You will be missed.

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How to Manage Talents Who Hate Each Other!

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Good news! You have a successful, well-rated morning team on your station. Bad news: They do not get along off the air. With so much emphasis on post-show events (promotions, events, appearances, social media), what’s a PD or GM to do?

I think we could all agree that on-air staffs and drama are synonymous. But what happens when there is real-life conflict? Here are some suggestions from programmers and managers who either currently have or have had this kind of problem.

Let’s start with a guy who works with morning shows all the time: morning show coach/consultant Steve Reynolds. He says, “Of course they need a relationship off-air. That’s crazy to think they don’t. The respect they have for each other, the trust they build, their ability to communicate and resolve issues is felt in their on-air chemistry. That takes work and commitment.”

John Gehron, COO at AccuRadio and longtime PD and manager, also has some sage words of advice. “If they are successful, then they are getting the job done on the air. That’s what counts. I don’t think it’s necessary to hang out off the air on their own time.”

Don Kellogg of Lagniappe Broadcasting in Louisiana shares this: “I have actually had to step in between talent before to keep a fistfight from going down. As the operations manager, I explained to both employees that they are both creating a negative work environment for those around them and that is not conducive to creativity and will not be tolerated.”

Country consultant Joel Raab comments, “I think if you can manage the dislike, it can enhance creative spark. Worked with a morning team that literally hated each other off air but sounded like best buds on the air — and had great ratings.”

Music Master’s Marianne Burkett has a good angle on it. “Sounds like an ‘old married couple’ issue. They probably just need to spend some time hanging out together — alone.”

Former radio producer, now mid-morning talent on Providence’s WPRI-TV Will Gilbert has a different look at the subject. “I’ve worked with both — teams that really do like each other or at the very least, deal with each other, and then teams that can’t stand each other. It’s tough to fake it on the air that much. Listeners are more and more media-savvy, and many who listen every day can read between the lines. For me, I could not be happier with my partner. Granted it’s TV and not radio — I truly could not have asked for a better ‘TV wife.’”

Sports radio consultant Tom Bigby has spent decades dealing with talent as one of the founding fathers of the all-Sports format. “You must be talking about most Sports radio talent. I’ve always thought a little bit dysfunctional group gets better ratings. And makes the talent more memorable.”

Longtime Boston-New England personality Karen Blake feels conflict may have a good place. “Also, a manager can really turn things around if he/she is truly a great manager. I can tell you firsthand that having a bad manager at times in my career has been very stressful, when you go to them for help and they do nothing. I’ve lost sleep many nights over a manager that has no balls. I will say, though, some of the best teams are the ones with a little tension. So it’s not a bad thing, but a good manager needs to keep an eye on the quarterbacks of the station and step in when needed.”

Of course, radio is not the only business that needs to deal with personality conflict, as Jim McKeon points out. “Simon and Garfunkel couldn’t and can’t stand each other. They found ways to work together, get along onstage, and achieve greatness. Offstage, separate ways, as Journey says!”

Bob Zamboni (Bob DeCarlo) has a unique perspective as a PD and on-air talent. “While I had a partner for 14 years in Tampa, I was the PD for eight of those years and had a cordial but not friendly relationship off the air. I was a polar opposite to him in manner but was a fan of his wit and humor. At times, we were at each other’s throats, but realized as a team we were doing something special. My philosophy was to accent the positive and keep apart unless necessary.”

How about when you’re married to your partner? On-air talent Kelly Cozadd shares these thoughts. “If they are highly rated and successful, then they seem to be managing it. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, or like them all the time. I did a team morning show with my husband for 25 years. We didn’t always like each other.”

Programmer Tom Calococci says, “Sometimes people lose perspective. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. If they’ve got a good thing going on the air, they should keep that in mind. Hopefully you all get it worked it out.”

Tom’s comments really bring it home: “Don’t lose perspective” and “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” This is especially important when you look at what has been going on in morning television. NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s This Morning both lost main anchors (Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose) and have not only rebounded, but ratings are up substantially since the departures. Everyone is replaceable.

Over the years, I have known many personalities who found themselves in this type of conflict. In most cases, when it’s all over, they regret the behavior. Many times it leads to dismissal, and they always say, “It wasn’t worth losing my job over.” Don’t lose perspective. Don’t blow a good thing. If it’s working in the studio, it’s working. Either way, if you value your position, it’s up to you to make it work.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.

What I Learned From Buying a New Car…

Gary Berkowitz

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: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

My lease was up and after 10 or so years of driving a Honda (loved it), I decided it was time for a change. Cut to the chase, I wind up with a GM vehicle. Best part: it has an HD radio, which my Honda did not. I am now excited!

When the salesperson was explaining all of the bells and whistles of the new car, we finally got to the radio. Here’s how the conversation went:

Gary: Wow, it has HD radio.
Salesperson: Really?
Gary: Yes
Salesperson: I’m really not sure what that is.
Gary: Let me explain (and I do).

She looks at me and says: “I just thought it meant the radio sounded better.”

Needless to say, I love all the HD channels. New formats. New music choices. The audio is great and the signals are pretty solid. I just wonder how many people are out there and have HD in the car but are unaware of it. I guess you could say we have not done a stellar job promoting HD radio. There’s still time.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations.