was recently recognized by Billboard Magazine as one of the top five
innovators in media. His experience includes developing digital
business strategies for media companies, designing content
strategies for broadcast and interactive, and coaching executives.
As the President of McVay New Media Consulting, Anstandig has
advised The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Clear Channel R&D, The
White House Commission on Remembrance, Glencoe-McGraw Hill, TM
Studios, and various broadcasting companies in the USA, Canada, and
Europe. Most Recently, Anstandig became the co-founder of Listener
Driven Radio, a software company with applications that empower
broadcasters to become “crowdcasters.”
Prior to joining McVay Media in 2001, Daniel’s experience includes
stints as General Manager, Network/Syndicated Program Director, and
On-Air Personality. In 2001, he was named the #1 Young Entrepreneur
by Young Entrepreneur Magazine, in recognition of an internet-radio
company he founded. Daniel is also a proud two-time recipient of
Edison Media Research’s 30 Under 30 Award.
1. How has
your consultancy (McVay Media) evolved over the last few years?
I have personally been involved in the media business on a number of
levels—from programming radio stations and network/syndicated shows
to consulting radio stations and developing digital audience/revenue
strategies. My programming experience is largely in the AC, Hot AC,
and Christian AC formats.
I first fell in love with the radio business at the age of nine.
After some on-air work in Cleveland as a youngster, I was part of an
internet-radio company that partnered with Interep Interactive to
sell digital audio advertising. The players in Internet-Radio at the
time were bold trail-blazers with a definite agenda to take
listeners and ad dollars away from broadcast radio.
When I first started consulting radio stations in programming and
digital media at McVay Media eight years ago—most broadcasters had
an indifferent approach to interactive. They were largely unbothered
by the digital media sellers who were clandestine about eroding
their ad shares. Only a handful of my clients at the time had
serious ambitions to exist and do business “in the digital world.”
So much has changed since then. Paraphrasing a point from my friend
Holland Cooke, there used to be an attitude that “radio was leading
people to digital media.” Now, the best we can do is follow them
Radio’s audience has shifted. Beyond the fact that there are
abundant options for any listener to choose from—there is a
significant portion of our audience who has grown up knowing only
“instant gratification.” This new generation of consumers fearlessly
searches for new flavors, new destinations, new entertainment, new
appliances, new services, new artists, and new information. If they
don’t like their options, they just keep looking with confident
knowledge that someone has created what they want… they just have to
find it. It has been a challenge for the church too.
That has dramatically shifted our approach to consulting
radio stations. We focus on much more than the programming that
comes-out-of-the-speakers—but also the entire listener experience,
from the station’s mobile presence to online engagement.
2. In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles facing
Christian radio today?
A problem for the
Church and Christian radio alike is the trend of “Snack-o-tainment.”
Snack-o-tainment is in, and most Christian radio stations want to be
“deep.” Snack-o-tainment is a word that was first used by Wired
Magazine to describe how people now consume entertainment in
bite-sized pieces. Whether it’s television, movies, games, or your
radio station, the attention span of an average listener is
diminishing. Especially if you are targeting the 18-44 year old
demographic, this is no time for promos that take 15-30 seconds to
wind up and get to the point—or programs that take 30 minutes to get
to a profound learning point in the 28th minute of the program.
Between cell phones, television, the internet, movies, games,
fashion, e-mail, and podcasts, listeners can meander effortlessly
from media to media without personal regard to our agenda. The
pressure is on to “get-yer-point-across-when-ya-got-em.” It’s not
easy, and it’s definitely not ideal for stations who have important
and life-changing messages to share, but it is the reality of how
people consume radio (and any other entertainment now). It forces us
to be more powerful with the small amount of time we are privileged
to have with each listener.
Another challenge is
the practice of “slogan-and-promise” programming. Some Christian
radio stations have jumped into “best mix, most music” imaging and
promises. Like no generation ahead of them, 25-44 year olds are
immune to slogans, advertising, and marketing cliché’s. This
generation is the aftermath of the highly targeted and desired
baby-boomer market. They think they’ve seen everything, so your
marketing message is immediately scrubbed against a bridle and
ruthless mental filter based simply on its inherent classification
as a “marketing message.” It’s important that we stop taking
ourselves so seriously and start talking to our listeners on their
My friend, Steve Swanson at WAFJ/Augusta, has often spoken about our
ability as a format to get beyond our perception of the target
listener as a standard-issue 37 year old woman with 2.5 kids and a
puppy, and get real about the variety of people our stations serve.
PPM is showing us that there never has been a “Becky” or “Nancy,”
and that our P1’s are actually a broad variety of listeners—and more
evenly split between males and females than we think, too! As a
format, I believe we’re being called to reassess who we think is on
the other side of the radio.
3. Recently you launched a new service called “Listener Driven
Radio”, how can Christian radio stations benefit by using this?
Thank you for
asking. We are very excited about Listener Driven Radio (www.ListenerDrivenRadio.com).
It is a new model for radio built on crowdsourcing, that allows
listeners to go online, or to their mobile phone, and offer their
input into what plays next on the radio station. LDR is constantly
absorbing listener input, song votes, and comments on music, and
automatically adapting programming in real-time. Your audience can
control the station’s on-air product … within the parameters that
the Program Director creates. It gives a personality much more than
a request line to bring the radio station to life with audience
feedback. This is an opportunity for Christian radio to turn
listeners into collaborators and give them ownership over your
programming. Also, since listeners can vote for songs, request
songs, pick which song should play next, and upload or vote for new
music through the radio station website or their mobile phones, LDR
gives Christian radio stations reach into the digital space
that they may not currently have.
4. Do you see any music trends emerging in Christian Radio?
One thing that is so
important about Christian radio is our ability to “be light during
dark times.” I love hearing artists like Francesca Battistelli,
Brandon Heath, and Jonny Diaz that give us a fresh sound and feel.
Songs that focus on the love and hope that we stand for as Christian
radio stations are beacons to a greater audience when times are
tough. As my grandfather always used to say, “When you laugh, the
world laughs with you. When you cry, you cry alone.” Brutal, but
more than a tad true!
Strictly “musically” speaking, I feel that we are emerging into more
of a “pop” cycle now. I am seeing bands with a “pop” edge do better
in the research now than they have in past years. For some time, I
felt that Christian radio was getting cornered into a “modern AC”
sound—lots of guitars and husky voices with little variety in sound.
It seems that we have been emerging from the “modern” phase now and
embracing more pop acts.
When I think of the stations that sound “alive” musically in
Christian radio, it’s the ones with people who are in love with the
music behind the scenes.
5. What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio
Ha, cue the soapbox!
You’ve struck a chord. :-) Personalities are THE most
important part of what we do as Christian radio stations, and I
believe we underestimate their importance in our format and
industry. People bring the radio station to life, and they
differentiate you from any other audio service that plays the exact
same songs. I travel about 40 weeks out of the year working with
stations in a variety of formats, and I hear a lot of Christian
radio. In many cases, Christian radio stations sound “formulaic” to
me... The microphone turns on, and the jock says the same
predictable thing, in the same predictable voice, with the same
predictable words, into the same predictable song. Within 15
seconds, I am predictably bored as a listener. ...and it’s not just
Christian radio. This is “color by numbers” programming—squeezing
dynamic people and personalities into a tight cookie-cutter format
and telling them what to say and how to say it. Life doesn’t work
that way, and our listeners know it!
For several years, I have had the pleasure of working with The
Joy-FM in Florida. They are passionate about the people they
serve—and they believe in the power of personality radio. Dave
Cruse, Bill Martin, Carmen Brown, Dan Brodie, Jayar Reed, and
Michelle Tellone have become friends and trusted confidants to
listeners—much more than “liner card jocks.” Listen to them online
www.thejoyfm.com. You’ll hear real
people on the air. Listen to Jayar on The Joy-FM in afternoons. It’s
unlike any other afternoon show in Christian radio.
Tracey, Mike, and Dave, the morning show at WRBS/Baltimore, is also
an impressive example of real friends who have real
conversations—and they happen to be on the air at the same time.
They are not afraid to get personal on the air and poke fun at each
other when they get too serious. At the same time, what they stand
for as people (and who they really “work for”) is clear.
Also on my Internet-Radio tuner... and some folks worth listening
to... Shine-FM’s Johnny Rocket and Malcolm Hunt in Edmonton, Monk
and Kelly at WVFJ in Atlanta, Stephanie Nicole in Calgary, Gary,
Roxanne, and Susie at KPEZ/Austin, Beth Warden (syndicated) out of
British Columbia, and Murphy, Sam, and Jodi (syndicated) out of
Baton Rouge, Louisiana... and there are more!