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Radio Interview

                                     

Alan Mason

Change Agent

Goodratings Strategic Services

 

 

Alan's Career Capsule
Alan comes from a military family, so when he'd completed his own national service in the U.S. Navy, he started in radio, in a small AM daytimer in Vancouver, Washington.  From there he went through several small markets such as Great Falls, MT and Fargo, ND until he joined King Broadcasting Company's Portland radio station, KGW, in 1970.  Two years later he became Program Director.  In his 18 years with King Broadcasting Company he was a Program Director in Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and San Francisco, CA, as well as being the groups Director of Research and Programming, and a Vice President and General Manager.

In 1988 Alan began consulting radio stations in a wide variety of formats, and was influential in establishing Smooth Jazz as a viable format.  In the early 90's he joined Paxson Communications as Executive VIce President of Programming, while maintaining his outside consulting business, and two years later asked John Frost to join him at corporate, as Paxson expanded into 46 radio stations.  

When Bud Paxson sold his radio stations to Clear Channel Communications Alan focused on consulting full time, and was joined again by John Frost, where they began focusing on emerging Christian music radio stations through Goodratings Strategic Services.  As well as being a partner in Goodratings, he's also Director Of Research for EMF Broadcasting.

Alan's been married to his wife Becki for 39 years, and they currently live in Lincoln, California.  His other interests include genealogy and political strategy.  He was the recipient of the 2007 Rob Campbell Award, and the Radio & Retail Echo Award for industry impact.

 

1. Personally how do you keep the ministry in the “business”? 

We are doing extensive coaching with talent to help them understand how to share their faith in a natural way, in complete English.  We realize the traditional methods of ministry don't reach these people, so we make our "radio station for Christians" strategy one the listeners can learn from and grow with.

My colleague John Frost and I are teaming up with the Ron Hutchcraft ministries to explore how talent can learn to speak their faith in a positive way.  No one involved will benefit financially - it's a ministry effort to us, because it will result in a training exercise for clients and non-clients alike.

 

2. Overall, how is Christian radio different today, from 5 years ago?

There were very few consistently successful Christian radio stations five years ago.  Only a few were able to draw a large audience and keep it.  The focus was almost entirely on the music, with a "music is the message" strategy. Today the most successful Christian AC stations realize the music is only the start, or basis of their success.  Talent, imaging, branding and marketing are just as important.  Just today, two of the stations we work with, KCMS in Seattle and WPOZ in Orlando ranked third place 12+ in their respective Spring 2007 books.

The format is much stronger, but it's still at the beginning of its growth curve and there's lots of headroom for growth in most markets. Five years ago John Frost actually had new jokes, and Tate Luck was a radio person.

 

3. What do you think are the main characteristics of today's Christian radio PD?

Overall, the are able to balance art and science.  Radio isn't all numbers, but it isn't all doing what feels right either.  Today's PD had better understand the value of strategy, know how to motivate and accelerate their airstaff, and know how to collaborate with the other department heads.

 

4. What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station?

We leave that entirely to the station.  We don't have lists of songs you should add, and we don't make recommendations.  New music is a strategic decision for each individual market, and the local people know best. Oh yes, it must also be musical.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for Christian radio?

The kind people talk about.  The ones that engage the listeners, further involving them with the station.  The ones that use creativity and not just the 9th caller.

I am especially fond of the "Make a donation to Alan Mason" promotion, where every radio station in America asks each listener to send Alan $5.00.

 

6. How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio?

Our format has some of the best label people I've worked with in my over 40 years.  Rarely have ideas and suggestions been rejected, and some have even taken the time to learn more about out business, so they can help.

 

7. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today?

At the top is not understanding that being the tallest midget is not a win.

I see far too many instances of radio stations who set the bar so low that when the get over it, they haven't won anything. We also continue to have a challenge with getting listeners to take us to work with them, and we're continually mistaking loyalty to the format with loyalty to the station.

Tommy Kramer continues to have a problem with the water hazard on any golf course he plays, but that will never change.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality?

To engage the listener in a way that moves them from being a passive listener to an active participant in the radio station. Either that or say the slogan first thing when coming out of a song, then do the horoscope for secular artists, tell a joke from the same "prep sheet" half the country uses, and take 45 seconds to say 15 seconds worth of "material."

 

9. What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today?

What's very cool is that there are now so many of them.  KSBJ continues to grow and try new things to keep itself strong, and relative newcomers like WPOZ keep moving the bar higher.  One of my personal favorites, through, because he is fearless about trying new things that are strategically viable, is Scott Valentine at KCMS.  But there are so many more that it's constantly exciting.

 

10. Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years?

There should be a 25-54 adult top five ranking in every major market, and the format will be fully established as a "player" in many markets. That means it will move from the "What else can we do" level to as valid as country to AC

Then we can take on the challenge of fewer of the 25-34's listening to radio, and what Internet radio means through the eyes of the listener.

 

 

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