Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Interview2020: Ken George, New Media Production Manager at WBUR

March 11, 2009


(@ericguerin and Laura of listen to @kengeorge ramble. Photo Courtesy of WBUR.)

I’ve had the privilege of striking up an online friendship with Ken George, WBUR’s New Media Production Manager in Boston. You may recall that I posted about his efforts at the station as an example for stations everywhere. With that in mind, I managed to twist his arm into an online interview about social media in the context of his radio work.

The results? Some excellent perspective and some terrific advice.  Tune in to this:

Radio2020: So, as the New Media Production Manager for WBUR, what social platform have you been most excited about implementing? Which one seems to be the most vital part of your strategy?

Ken George, WBUR: A gentleman far more knowledgeable about radio than I could ever realistically aspire to be recently posted on his blog that radio is now in the “relationship business.” When put that way, then the value of social media is self-evident.

But simply slathering on social media varnish without an underlying attitudinal shift on the part of the organization will doom the effort (and justifiably so). What is vital? I think, an open mind, a willingness to engage listeners on their terms, to listen, and to stop thinking that the world revolves around those of us inside the studio.

This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I feel it is far too early for me to answer your questions regarding platform. I have observed a hefty response to our Twitter initiative. And our Facebook page has accrued a large number of “fans.”

But it is those conversations in almost real time that Twitter enabled, that has, for me, fostered a deeper connection with our listeners. Individuals have emerged from that mass of quantified data. Names and faces have supplanted anonymous listeners.

Radio2020: I see that WBUR is everywhere. Flickr, Twitter, Utterz, YouTube, Gather, MySpace and Facebook all have a WBUR presence. Tell our readers a bit about the strategy underlying the station’s use of these social media. How has it enhanced community participation, for instance?

Ken George, WBUR: We have only been seriously engaged in the social media space for under a year, so our strategy is still very much in its infancy. A lot of what we do I’d classify as listening. We solicit feedback from users, specifically through the use of blogs and Twitter, about how to leverage the digital space to more effectively serve their needs.

A powerful component of our community building strategy (are) our monthly “meet-ups.” These events inevitably evolve into intelligence-gathering bull sessions on everything from the public radio business model, to hyper-localism to user-generated content. Another issue that has arisen is the desire of some users for micro-pledging applications, something we are now actively considering for the next fund drive.

I am obsessed with this notion of radio as convener of community. Our most recent initiative, The Public Radio Kitchen, leverages the “Web 2.0” space to convene a community of pubic radio foodies. We have the brand, they have the knowledge, so why not bring the two together online and in the real world?

Radio2020: What sort of metrics do you use to measure success with social media? Do you use a “software as a service” (SaaS) like Radian6, Google Analytics, conversation monitoring, or some other approach?

Ken George, WBUR: We love geeking out over metrics. We obsessively keep track of the number of followers social media is attracting as well as (the) sites’ traffic. Google analytics is a must.

Sadly though, too many organizations get hung up on ROI (Return on Investment) at the expense of the bigger picture. I am well aware of the issue. I am also fully cognizant of the fact that the folks most responsive to 90.9’s social media forays do not represent our average listener.

That said, our average listener won’t be average forever. Yes, I have doubts about the efficacy of all of our social media initiatives. But the world is changing, and at a rapid clip at that, a fact most saliently brought to my attention each Tuesday night in an undergraduate course I attend, in which I am in the unenviable position of being the “old man” in the classroom. Talk about a wake-up call. If radio managers could only listen as these kids talk media. It’s a salutary antidote to any of my self-doubts regarding social media.

Radio2020: What advice would you give to other stations just starting on their social media journey? What tools or applications do you advise them to embrace?

Ken George, WBUR: The best way to get something done is (to) begin. Don’t obsess about tools. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude.

Most of the stuff if not free is very low cost. Station managers: Open up an account on Blogger and WordPress. Encourage your staff to do the same. Experiment with Facebook. Start Tweeting. Host a Tweet-Up! How about a listener photo project hosted on Flickr?

Radio2020: After eight years of doing this, what would you say are the most valuable lessons learned about the use of social media in the radio arena?

Ken George, WBUR: As I mentioned above, social media involves an attitudinal shift. Engaging listeners requires an authentic, consistent dialogue with them. Throw up a Flickr photo gallery and think you are doing social media, and you are only fooling yourself.

Listeners and users are smarter then generally given credit. Try to fake it with them and you lose.

Be prepared to spend a considerable chunk of your time doing this. That said, it is a helluva lot of fun.

Radio2020: And, as always, our traditional ending question: Ken, what is your favorite thing about radio and why is it important to you?

Ken George, WBUR: I spent much of my childhood in the shadow of the great WGY, then the “50,000 Watt Flagship Station of the General Electric Broadcasting Company.” That I still remember that tag line is indicative of my hours listening as a kid.

Then, the station was invested in the community. It covered the mayor’s race, and school board. On-air hosts appeared at grocery store openings and school events. Yet listening was a deeply personal experience. It was though those speakers where speaking to me. That childhood experience sums up what I like best about radio.


DJ Jack Speaks: An Interview with the World’s Youngest Radio DJ

February 13, 2009


A few weeks ago, I wrote about DJ Jack Hill, a young (and I mean young!) man who holds the title of being the World’s Youngest DJ. Holding the Guinness World Record, this eight-year-old is a phenomenon! Well, writing about him was not quite enough for me, so I got in touch with his father via email and arranged this brief interview.  Since Jack is only eight years old, his father Robert is the one answering most of my questions. Enjoy!

Radio2020: So how did Jack get started with radio?

Robert Hill: Jack played a local gig at Grove Park, The Weston Super Mare, “Unsigned Music Live”. Darren Daley, the radio controller and breakfast show presenter spotted Jack and was impressed with both Jack’s show and the response from the crowd. He instantly offered Jack his own show on Star Radio.

Radio2020: I gather there is a special show planned with Jack joining Stefano Vennari on the air in Italy. Would you tell us about the event and about what led to it?

Robert Hill: Stefano saw Jack in the 2009 edition of Guinness Book of Records where  Jack is listed as the Youngest Club DJ. He contacted Jack to arrange a meet up to discuss making a new world record. Although we have still never met Stefano in person, his radio station and sponsors have paid for Jack to visit Italy as a guest of honour. While there, Jack will present a 3-hour radio show introducing songs as well as reading news and emails.  He will be assisted by a Italian boy/girl who will translate what Jack is saying [For more info on the show with Stafano Vennari click here.]

Radio2020: What is Jack’s favorite style of music?

Robert Hill: Jack’s music taste is very grown up. He likes classics like Billy Ocean, Queen, Abba and Blondie. He also likes Mika, Madonna and Katie Perry. His favourite music to mix is dance.

Radio2020: What have you, as parents, done to help incubate this amazing talent?

Robert Hill: Jack’s talent is only down to Jack himself. He is obsessed with anything to do with music or DJ’ing. At three years old he had a starter DJ kit because of his interest in music. He would spend hours playing and introducing songs in his bedroom. He also used to help me with some children’s parties and I suppose he emulated what I did to a certain degree. At 5 he took a more active role and would actually announce at my disco’s and play songs, something that realy impressed people. At school all his pictures were of disco lights and equipment.

Radio2020: What plans do you have, as a family, to help Jack advance as a DJ in the coming years?

Robert Hill: I am just going to wait and see what happens. Obviously if anything came up that could help develop Jack I would be interested. Jack is currently having paid lessons to improve his beat mixing and scratching- even his teacher Garaeth Clegg ( aka DJ Kickback) can’t believe how good Jack is.  Mr. Clegg has  said Jack is better than a lot of his grown-up students. I am really happy with his radio show and with Star Radio.  They are really good to Jack and he is improving all the time. The staff all really look after him and he learns a lot from Darren Daley.

Radio2020: So guys, what is your favorite thing about radio, Jack?

DJ Jack Hill: It’s fun! I like being recognized for being on Star Radio. I really enjoy my time at Star, its a job I want to do in the future.

Robert Hill: It’s a safe environment for Jack to learn in. Everyone at Star is really a king and they treat Jack really well. It’s great for Jack to be heard by lots of listeners.

Radio2020: Jack, what is the best thing about being a DJ?

DJ Jack Hill: I like to practice mixing and when I play gigs, I get money. I usually buy new equipment with it. I have my own full size professional equipment and I know what are the best speakers, decks and microphones. I had a Shure SM58 for Christmas and a laser light!

Radio2020: What are your favorite radio shows, gentlemen?

DJ Jack Hill: I only listen to Star 107.7 radio.

Robert Hill: I also listen to Star at the moment. It has great music and all the local news.

Radio2020: And, of course, it has DJ Jack Hill! Thanks for taking the time, guys! Jack, I really look forward to seeing your career grow in the coming years!

Photo of DJ Jack Hill holding his World Record Certificate for “Younget Human DJ” courtesy of Robert Hill, used with permission.

Radio Relevance: An Interview with David Rehr

February 3, 2009


The evolution of our medium is a constant refrain in my blog posts. It is something that I am passionate about. Today, I would like to draw your attention to a great interview on the topic.

Since the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is one of the sponsoring organizations behind this very platform, I am especially pleased to point you towards a recent Radio World interview with the NAB’s President and CEO David Rehr where he states,  “There’s never been more innovation in radio than there is today.”

As evidence, he noted that some 100 companies featured new radio devices at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, in a range that encompasses HD Radio to MP3 players. Eight of the top 20 free apps for the iPhone are radio applications, according to the NAB and Radio Advertising Bureau, whose chief executives attended the convention and talked up radio.

Rehr believes “radio is now becoming a more important component to consumer electronics.” He talked with Radio World News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson about the consumer market, radio’s economic challenges and how those forces may play out in Washington given the change in administrations.

I highly advise checking out the interview. It covers a lot of ground including possible HD delays due to the DTV transition in February, monetizing multicast channels, and the impact of the current economy.  A lot of it goes hand in hand with my recent posts about radio’s expansion into mobile units (cell phones, PDAs, etc).

Ms. Stimson does a lovely job of it, drilling straight to the point with her incisive questions.  Go give it a read and then come let us know your thoughts here in the comments.  (You can also @reply us on Twitter if you wish.)

Photo courtesy of the NAB

An Interview with Rick Boyko, Managing Director of the VCU Brandcenter

January 19, 2009


Since I find the subject intriguing, today I am going to follow up on the post I did last Friday about the new program focusing on radio creatives that is being launched by the VCU Brandcenter and receiving $250K of funding from the Radio Advertising Bureau.

After writing that post I reached out to some colleagues at the Brandcenter and managed to arrange a brief chat with the Managing Director, Rick Boyko. Little did I realize that the difference in time zones would have me on the phone with him at 7:00am my time! Still, Mr. Boyko was patient with my caffeine deprivation and filled me in a little on the thoughts behind this new program.

R2020: What are the two key elements of this new program?

RB: Exposing students to the medium of radio in a way that allows them to evaluate its potential. Radio is not the first thing that comes to mind for many creatives when considering campaigns. You often see the media departments and sales force engaged, but not the creatives themselves. By exposing the students to the power of radio we make them aware of its potential.

The second key thing would be to challenge them. Challenge them to use the medium in an original and exciting way.

R2020: So what would you say are some examples of truly outstanding radio creative in real world campaigns?

RB: Well, there’s David Fowler’s campaign for Motel 6, the “We’ll leave the light on for you” ads. Another one that comes to mind is the Real Men of Genius.

These campaigns are great examples of long-running campaigns featuring serialized stories. This sort of approach is a vastly underleveraged form that radio is well suited for while most other forms of media are not.

R2020: So the sense of continuity is important then?

RB: Yes, exactly.

R2020: So would you mind telling our readers what some of the plans are for using the funds the RAB has committed?

RB: Some of it will be used to fund scholarships, something of even more importance in the current economic climate, and some will be used for physical upgrades to our facilities. A portion will be used to provide soundproofing and technology for a “control room” where the students can produce their audio.

R2020: So I’d like to close with my traditional ending questions: what are your favorite radio memories and why do believe radio is so important?

RB: When I was a child my first radio, transistor radio, was turquoise and beige with a big dial on the front of it. One of my fondest radio memories — and I’m dating myself here — is listening to Elvis Presley on that radio.

The most moving memory I have about radio is listening to the broadcast when President Kennedy was shot.

The most important thing about radio? You can get it anywhere. Anywhere at all!

Photo courtesy of the VCU Brandcenter

A Radio Moment: Pranking LL Cool J

June 13, 2008

Recipe for a classic radio moment: Take one announcer and a famous guest, broadcast them to everyone in range. Saute with interview questions, seasoned to taste. Bring to a small boil and add another famous guest calling in as a prank. Tune in, listen, and join the communal experience.

Spontaneity on the air is a large facet of radio’s character, an assertion that is given weight by a recent prank call to Tony Touch’s “Toca Tuesday” radio show on the Sirius network just the other day.

LL Cool J was a guest on the show, as well as the unwitting recipient of a well executed jape when fellow hip-hop artist Eminem (Marshal Mathers) called up as “Jason from Miami” and challenged him to a game of “Name That Tune.” MTV has a recording of the conversation here.

After rapping some of Cool J’s lyrics, getting him to name the tunes on the basis of a few lines only, “Jason” asks if he could share a few lines of one of his own tunes. Barely a few words in you can hear the uproar in the station as both Cool J and the radio host realize who “Jason” really is.

The ensuing conversation is something wish I could have heard live when it happened as the two legends made plans to meet up and dropped tidbits about their current projects — a topic of especial interest to Eminem fans as he has been on hiatus for over a year now).

“Listen, man, you got this relationship with Dre. You’re cool with 50, so when are we gonna hang out? I got cable at my house, and the game is on.” -Eminem via

So what does this have to do with the future of radio? The human element, that’s what. If you’ve listened to the recording linked above you can feel the draw of being part of an intimate interaction. When LL Cool J extends his condolences to Eminem for a personal tragedy, it is a heartwarming moment. A fantastic example of listeners sharing an amazing moment through the community of radio.

That shared experience is one of the fundamental underpinnings of radio and its place in our lives. It is my opinion that the spate of reality TV is partially driven by a desire to emulate this form of shared experience, although the efforts often seem to be staged spontaneity.

As humans, we are social creatures. This is the driving force behind the explosion of social networking applications that have sprouted across the Internet. It is also responsible for many people’s feelings of attachment to a particular DJ or talk radio host.

If an Eminem / LL Cool J collaboration ends up occurring, this is the moment that will be pointed to as the cause.

Photo courtesy of stuttermonkey, used and remixed under its Creative Commons license

Narcissism Moment: My Interview

June 9, 2008

Neil Hepburn, one of the principles of Tun3r, and I have been trading emails since my recent syndicted crosspost of a piece he did a while back on the Tun3r blog. To my surprise, one of the first things he inquired about was the possibility of doing an interview about Radio2020. Of course when he discovered that I am in New Orleans, the specter of Katrina and her aftermath, as usual, rose to the top.

Anyway, for those of you who might wish to read it here is the permalink.

Thanks to Neil for taking an interest both in Radio2020 and in my home town!

The Prodigal CEO: Dan Mason of CBS Radio Speaks Out

March 13, 2008

One year ago, Dan Mason returned to CBS Radio as the new President and CEO. When he assumed the position, growth rates were slow, as were individual station ratings. Since his return, he has been a champion of fresh technologies and formats. Two notable examples are HD Radio and Internet streaming.

Recently, Mason spoke with Hollywood Reporter‘s business editor and New York bureau chief Georg Szalai. The topics included CBS Radio’s digital initiatives and business outlook, a possible recession, and the proposed satellite radio merger.

The first point addressed was the recent announcement that CBS Radio and AOL have decided to partner on their Internet streaming efforts, creating a common platform that dwarfs anything similar currently in existence. Citing substantial revenue increases attributed to their digital offerings, Mason sees the partnership as a valuable augmentation of the company’s traditional radio efforts.

After discussing his excitement about new means of measurement such as the Personal People Meter (PPM) and the ability to monitor streaming audio traffic through AOL, Mason turns his attention to the oft-invoked question, “What about analyst predictions of a downturn in radio advertising this year?”

“It probably rides along with other media. I don’t see a big difference right now between radio, television, even newspapers. Outdoor seems to be growing faster right now. It’s not a situation where radio as one medium is down. I am not saying we’re having an ad recession. But advertising is down and probably is trailing the GDP, which is a fact and has been a fact. And we, along with other media, suffer from that. However, the online pot of advertising is very deep and is becoming more significant. That puts us in a position to overcome any type of recession that might be down the road, because we’re absolutely fishing in a new pond.”

It’s a nice little interview. Szalai and Mason discuss a number of point that should be of interest to readers of this blog, including:

  • Political advertising as an area of growth in revenue.
  • Larger markets as a defense against possible recession.
  • The current state of HD Radio
  • The issue of consolidation amongst broadcast radio stations

I’d like to close with one of my personal favorite exchanges from the interview:

THR: What is the biggest competition to radio these days? Satellite radio, iPods?
Mason: I think an iPod is an appliance. And as far as satellite radio — when you only reach 5% of the population, that’s just not even to a level that’s mass yet.

Go check out the full interview!