Homegrown, Bill has been with one station, The
JOY FM in Central/Southwest Florida his entire professional
life, 25 years. He’s worked every daypart, served variously as
PD, MD, Production Manager, and Director of Operations, been
fired once, quit twice, and served on the Board of Directors.
Currently, his job is stable and secure (as far as he knows).
During his two-plus decades in radio, Bill has brought five
children into the world (with a little help from his wife
Kimberly), earned an academic Masters degree at seminary and
taught theology and philosophy at his church and the local state
college. He writes poetry too, but we try not to talk about
1. How does a Christian radio morning
show set itself apart from mainstream competitors?
I don’t think we have to work very hard to set
ourselves apart. In fact, in many ways I don’t want it to be
obvious to someone that they’ve stumbled across “Christian
Radio,” as in outdated jingles, sappy lines, personalities that
aren’t real and guilt-laden promotions. If we’re for-real, if we
live and work and struggle and fail, and yet we find Christ in
the same world as our listeners, the difference will make itself
known… and the acquired taste will be minimized.
2. How has your morning show evolved or
changed over the last few years?
We’ve moved from a two-person to a
three-person morning show. A lot of people in this industry know
my partners, Dave Cruse and Carmen Brown. Dave and I worked
together for years as a two-man show. Carmen came to The JOY FM
as Promotions Director six years ago, but when she joined us for
promo stuff on the air, the synergy was amazing. With help from
Daniel Anstandig, we repackaged and re-imaged “The Morning
Cruise” as TMC “with Dave, Bill and Carmen.” The evolution of
the show from that point was more organic than planned. It grew
out of the relationships we have with each other and with the
3. What morning show topics seem to be
hot right now?
I can’t stress highly enough the word
“relationship.” What’s hot for us grows out of three
relationships: 1) with our community, 2) with artists and 3)
with each other. That’s the DNA of our show. So, when two Tampa
police officers are gunned down at three in the morning on a
routine traffic stop, we’re reacting to it, processing it WITH
our community, live on the show. We’re expressing anger, fear,
compassion, tears, and hope. On the other side, when Carmen
spills coffee on her white tank top on the way to work, we have
a field day with that. We blow it up on the air and on Facebook.
Listeners laugh at/with us in the midst of our trying to make it
through any ordinary day. We treat artists like friends,
inviting them to join us on videos, special events, etc. Because
of this, we don’t have to search for hot topics and trends.
We’re doing life on the air, every day, as a reflector of our
larger community, creating a community you want to belong to.
4. What is the advantage of being live
and local such as your show is?
We are a hybrid of local and network because
of the configuration of The JOY FM terrestrial and because of
new media. Right now, we have several thousand folks listening
to the station on phone apps and about a thousand more streaming
us online, daily. We don’t program to them, but we’re aware they
are there, and that the new media audience is growing! And we
serve a terrestrial audience that covers three distinct media
markets and supports the station financially as a local station.
One way we make this work is by getting off our duffs and going
into those markets for concerts, live shows, promotions, benefit
drives, etc. For one week each summer, we take an artist to
diners in nine different cities for live shows. We call it “The
Summer Cruise.” It reaches about 4,000 enthusiastic listeners,
one at a time! Again, it’s about relationships.
5. What kind of promotions work best
for Christian morning shows?
For us, promotions that involve either of two
ingredients work best: 1) Getting outside the building where we
can be visible and meet our community, or 2) Giving our
community a project they can buy into emotionally with us and
make an impact. We’ve done this with Carmen’s shoe drive for
orphans in Latin America. We’ve also done it with serious
efforts to help homeless ministries in the area. You wouldn’t
believe the level of enthusiasm, cross-talk, advertising and
image-building that can come when you deputize listeners to make
a difference in their community and when they believe they can
really do something important! That works better than any
giveaway or hype-promotion I’ve ever seen. But it has to be
genuine, make a big impact, and you have to get the whole
station, on-air and off, emotionally invested in it.
6. Do you use any show prep services…
tell why or why not?
We subscribe to InterPrep, which we faithfully
print and keep handy. Most mornings we don’t use it, because our
show is planned by life. Still, I’m a structure-guy. I like
knowing what’s going on in the world around me, having a few
things in my back pocket. If I use anything, I treat it like a
springboard, like somebody brought up this topic and now I can
respond to it honestly (if that response is worth taking to the
air). Absolutely no rip-and-read.
7. What are the biggest obstacles facing
Christian morning radio today?
Visibility is, and always has been a big
obstacle. We don’t get reinforcement for our show or our artists
from other media, unless we are deliberately advertising or have
made a big splash somewhere. So, word of mouth, generated by all
the things I’ve been saying, becomes real important. Another
challenge involves all the issues revolving around the changes
in media and the culture of radio. For example, I can have the
biggest talents in Christian radio in my market via satellite
networks, internet or my smart phone. That does two things: 1)
increases competition for local stations, and 2) decreases the
talent pool. I don’t see any way to circumvent these realities.
We have to step up our game, face the changes just like
Nashville does, and find a way to win in this environment. No
whining. No excuses.
8. Do you think there will be more or
less morning syndication in the future of Christian radio?
More. Why do I want a morning show where the
entertainment value is so-so, when I can have Carmen Brown or
Brant Hansen in my car, thanks to new media. On the other hand,
more competition is a good thing. How are we going to compete in
this new environment? Let’s think bigger and provide some
competition for those dominating shows and personalities.
9. What (if any) Christian radio
morning shows do you consider as innovators today?
So many shows have become excellent at working
with a particular, formulaic approach that, in my opinion, makes
them very successful at cume-building, but not very impactful or
deeply related to their audiences. As an industry, we don’t have
too many going outside those models with success to show for it.
I think the guys and girls keeping it real with their audiences,
not limiting themselves to bits and formulas, and yet are
entertaining (realizing they are a persona as well as a person),
are worthy of note. This answer is biased, because it’s what
we’re trying to do, and some in this industry consider us
innovators. I think Brant is leading in this way, but you
already know that! I also respect Lisa Williams for carrying the
torch of being personal and real with her audience, and our
afternoon guy, Jayar, is doing a top-quality show.
10. Where do you see Christian morning
radio in 5 years?
That will be determined by the new realities,
demands and opportunities of the continually developing new
media. We’ll definitely have to be more portable, more
on-demand. But will dayparts really stick in that new
environment? Already, afternoon share numbers (PPM) have been
overtaking mornings in several markets. Ryan Seacrest’s morning
show is on in the afternoon in Tampa. The borders of geography
and daypart may erode to little more than a marketing foil. I
think every show needs to think about being “a morning show” in
terms of entertainment. And for Christian radio, delivering the
uniquely situated spiritual dimensions of life in the real world
in this new environment will be both a challenge and a great