What’s the Future of Radio?

The Atlanta Press Club (www.atlantapressclub.org) held a breakfast meeting today, entitled “Atlanta’s Changing Tunes: Radio formats and delivery2015-03-03 08.04.27 of audio programs are shaking up the city.”

The event was moderated by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Radio & TV writer Rodney Ho. Participants included Chris Chandler, anchor at WSB Radio; Ninette Sosa, reporter/anchor, WYAY, NewsRadio 106.7; Denis O’Hayer, Co-Host “A Closer Look,” WABE 90.1; Tanya Ott, Vice President of Radio, Georgia Public Broadcasting; and Adam Ragusea, Visiting Asst. Professor, Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University.

chris chandler WSB

WSB Radio Anchor Chris Chandler!

It’s been a busy week for radio:

  • WYAY hired Steve McCoy to anchor a morning show from 5 – 9 a.m. weekdays. That kicked off on March 2. Around the same time, word leaked that a number of part-time and full-time staffers had been laid off including Tim Darnell, Carolyn Ryan, Greg Black, Rich Benson, Drew Nelson, Tim Glynn and Kara Stockton.
  • WSB Radio laid off long-time reporter Pete Combs for what were cited as financial reasons. Combs is well-respected in local and national radio circles and it’s expected he’ll be working again soon (click here to get a copy of his resume).
pete combs 3

Recent former WSB Radio reporter Pete Combs.

Ho started out with a general question about what got them into radio. Ott noted that she’d planned on a career on Broadway first, and Sosa mentioned that her father worked for Voice of America in Central America, so she has radio in her blood. Both Chandler and Ragusea have musical talents that could be “fallback” careers!

Commenting on the McCoy hire, Sosa noted that the first two years of 106.7 were All News, but that the station then began a shift to a more mixed format. The station now has talk for much of the day with news blocks throughout the day of varying sizes.

steve mccoy

Steve McCoy starts at 106.7

WABE’s Denis O’Hayer noted that “anybody who sells Steve McCoy short is making a big mistake.” He talked about how an all news format is much more demanding and difficult a format than top 40, but that McCoy would master it quickly.

Regusea had a great line when the conversation turned to whether AM radio had a future. He called radio the “cockroach of the media world,” meaning that it’ll be around forever. Terrestrial radio will never die, he said, but that there would be strong growth in other areas, such as podcasts and Internet radio programming. He cited the strong growth of radio in immigrant communities as well.

O’Hayer mentioned several times how adaptable and flexible radio has been, how it’s the”lab” for innovation, leading television and print. Radio, he notes, has become a larger term for all kinds of communication.

Of course, you can’t have a group like this and not talk about the WRAS/GPB deal. O’Hayer said that WABE’s growth over the last few months had been in the works for more than five years, although the implication was clear that the GPB deal had accelerated the process. A GSU student in the audience voiced some concerns about the situation, but seemed to get a good response from Ott.

Ott talked about how the kind of changes we’re seeing in Georgia are happening across the country and O’Hayer reminded the audience that radio is still the medium that can turn stories fastest.

GPB’s Ott mentioned that NPR research shows local news is the “least skipped” content among on-demand radio options and that minority listenership is very high on public radio.

Chandler talked about the popularity of locally produced news . He related how at WSB story count is key, with much shorter stories. That differs, of course, from WABE and GPB, which producer longer form stories.  106.7, Sosa noted, programs their A block with five minutes of stories (sometimes 10 stories, so you run the math!). But 106.7 also runs longer-form stories on the weekends.

Ragusea talked a bit about the revenue possibilities of podcasting, highlighting a show called “99 Percent Invisible,” that makes a lot of money off of advertising (note to self: shift this text blog to audio podcast!).

So where will new talent come from? Rather than coming from people in junior positions at radio stations (there are less of those opportunities), the new talent will come from people who’re creating new content at home or in the basements.

Mitch Leff is The Atlanta PR Guy. He’s the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook.



2 Responses to “What’s the Future of Radio?”

  1. 1 kitkat37 March 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    “During the Q&A, Chisom “Ziggy” Onwumere-Amadi, WRAS music director and a host of The Message hip-hop show, asked Ott why the 30-minute show GPB promised to air on the main network hasn’t happened yet. She said she’s had numerous discussions with the students but they just haven’t been able to finalize anything. She also said they have nine interns and invited WRAS students to apply. Ziggy said nobody there really wants to work at WRAS.
    As folks who have followed the situation know, GPB last summer took over about 100 hours a week of WRAS FM air time for NPR-related programming, much to the chagrin of WRAS fans, students and alumni. So far, the results have been modest (0.4 ratings). Ott said she has been happy to know that more minority listeners have been listening than expected and many have become quite loyal. But she acknowledged many people still don’t know about the GPB/WRAS partnership and the ones who do have been inundated with negative press.”

    This was the breakdown from the AJC. It doesn’t appear that Ms. Ott in fact addressed the question even remotely sufficiently. As a former manager of a college station – not GSU – my colleagues and I have been shocked and disgusted by this so-called “partnership.” Calling it that would insinuate the radio students had any say or were even remotely benefiting from this arrangement. Suffice it to say, this has not been popular in radio circles nationwide and as it stands right now, I don’t know a single person who has been listening to GPB when you can find the same material on WABE.

  1. 1 TV/radio briefs: Conan in Cuba, Atlanta Press Club radio panel | Radio and TV Talk Trackback on March 4, 2015 at 11:00 pm

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