Daily Archives: May 7, 2008

Lessons From A Cold Day At Old Main

The sign at the edge of town says “A Small School Of Distinction”.

We simply called it, a distinctly small school.

Bethany College is nestled into the the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

You don’t find it by accident.

The student body was about 1,000 strong and somewhat larger during Friday night fraternity keggers in the 70s.

We liked our beer. So did our neighbors at West Liberty State just down Route 88.

I went to Bethany because my uncle did and it was eight hours from the watchful eyes of my parental guidance.

Bethany had a radio station. The ten watt signal barely made it to that sign at the edge of town.

WVBC was my laboratory for four years.

It was there I learned the importance of programming for the local community.

WVBC had a talent line up that could rival most major market stations.

Ok, we weren’t ready for prime time, but most went on to great careers.

Here are a few.

Dave Sims does play by play for the Seattle Mariners and a show on XM.

Chris Moore hosts talk shows on Fox Sports Radio and has been with ESPN, the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.

Blaise Howard is General Manager of WBEB Philadelphia.

Bob Orr is a Washington Correspondent for CBS Evening News.

Kurt Franck told me every morning how he would win the Pulitzer Prize. He did at the Toledo Blade.

Faith Daniels had a different last name then. Faith did news for WVBC and later was part of NBC’s Today Show.

Toriah Tolley, (Tory to us) anchored for several years on CNN.

Many others worked in television, radio, and newspapers and are names you know.

So it was with this band of merry makers we learned the ropes of radio.

Years later, after dealing with a local near disaster someone asked where I learned to handle such a thing.

The answer was easy, WVBC.

It was a cold rainy Saturday afternoon in November when the power went out.

Our General Manager, Jim Humes gathered as many of us as he could find and headed to the WVBC transmitter.

The transmitter was in the basement of Old Main. It was an unpleasant place, especially without lights and heat.

Somehow we managed to rig a small studio. We had a mike and a turntable and found a way to get the transmitter back on air.

We spent hours on-air reporting what we knew about the situation.

Over the years I’d flashback to that day whenever there was an emergency situation. Days like when I was at WLW and the Space Shuttle blew up or we had a major blizzard at WSYR Syracuse.

The afternoon at Old Main taught me the importance of an emergency plan for any station.

Today it is tougher than ever to handle local emergencies. Newsrooms are small or non-existent. Often available staff does not have proper training.

The time to think about the ‘what ifs’, is long before they occur.

I suggest you take time to think about how you would handle a serious situation.

9/11 was a good drill, but years have passed and people have forgotten much about it.

There will be another day when you are faced with split second decisions.

Think about who you’d call in to work. How you would get them to the station. What you would need to do to make sure you served the public and made sure your community is safe.

Involve your staff in the planning.

It is never too early to think about your emergency plan.

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Posted by on May 7, 2008 in Radio programming


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IPOD vs. HD and the winner is….

Yesterday I visited several Best Buy and Circuit City stores trying to buy a replacement car radio.

Most of the radios on display offered several features such as IPOD ready, HD ready and Satellite ready.

All the salesmen were enthusiastic about the IPOD feature. It was simple to operate, just plug in and you’re in business.

The satellite ‘ready’ feature required a $100 part to receive either XM or Sirius. Colorful posters advertised all of the programs, personalities and features available.

The salesmen were well informed about the choices.

HD, that hot new thing pushed by the big radio companies was another matter.

The radios were HD ‘ready’, which like satellite required buying another part for $100.

I asked what could be heard on HD.

None of the salesmen had the slightest idea. Each had a different, but very vague response. Their body language saying “please don’t ask me about that”.

This is the ‘front line’. The radio industry needs these guys to be excited about the product and at the very least aware of it.

As Earl Pitts would say, “Wake Up America!”

I hate to tell you guys on Basse Road and in Buckhead, Georgia HD is DOA.

The bigger threat and opportunity is IPOD .

I chose an inexpensive Sony with a very nice IPOD interface. I can listen to podcast programs of my choice with ease.

You’re missing an huge opportunity if your station doesn’t offer podcasts.

Every radio on the shelf had IPOD interface. Those with standard HD were expensive, or required a costly interface.

Hey, didn’t the radio commercials say HD is free?

Podcasting is another way for you to re-purpose your content and connect with your listeners.

Here are five ideas to help you build a simple daily podcast for your station.

  • Have the morning show do a short rundown of their best calls, bits and news items after each day’s show. Kind of like Oprah’s ‘after the show’ segment. They host. It takes 15 minutes to prepare.
  • Archive great bits and recap them in a special programs.
  • Invite listeners to submit their own podcasts with the best being available for download.
  • Find vintage airchecks of your morning show and put them up on the web for download.
  • Partner with people that offer great lifestyle content and link their podcasts to your website. Again, like Oprah these are your Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil. the specialists with great content.

It is astonishing how many radio websites have no audio available.

Our world is audio.

Imagine your sister television station without video on their website.

The local paper without pictures.

That’s what most radio station websites are like. They ignore the most important ingredient. AUDIO!

Think in sound.

Use lots of audio to connect with your audience.

The IPOD is just one more way to touch the listener and keep them coming back for more.

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Posted by on May 7, 2008 in Radio programming


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