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Radio Interview

                                     

David Wood

Director Of Programing

Susquehanna Radio

WISG "93.9 The Song"

Indianapolis

 

 

Davids' Career Capsule
I stumbled into radio immediately after high school by mowing the lawn and running the board for high school sports at an AM Country daytimer and a beautiful music FM in Marion, Indiana. I also worked in Bloomington and Kokomo before making it to Indianapolis in the mid-80ís. I went on to do mornings at a now defunct AC station in Cincinnati. I wanted to try my hand at programming and Chuck Finney hired me to program CHR WSNX/Muskegon-Grand Rapids. I moved to AC WRAL/Raleigh and worked for a great company, Capitol Broadcasting. After five years they asked me to move to Baltimore and program WWMX and WOCT. I spent two years there and then had the opportunity to come home and work for another great company, Susquehanna as PD of WFMS. In 1997, we bought WGLD. I moved over to launch the Oldies format there. I became Director of Programming for the cluster in 2001.

 
 

1. Tell us about your market and how it is unique?

Indianapolis has been dominated by two stations for the past 15 years, Classic Rock, WFBQ and our Country station WFMS. Between those two stations, they are taking well over 20 shares of 25-54. This is the home market of Bob and Tom. They have been number one for years and have nearly a 20 share of adults in the morning. WFMS also has a huge morning show. Those two donít leave much for anyone else, so it creates a challenge. Indianapolis has a lot of AC stations. There are four stations doing some variation of the format.

 

2. How did Susquehanna decide on airing the Contemporary Christian format in Indianapolis?

It was a very long process. This is pretty different for a mainstream company. The thought certainly crossed my mind when Disney bought the existing CCM station, WXIR in the summer of 2003. However, we had signal issues. We were a rim shot, class A in a northern suburb. The timing was not right for a change. We found out around the first of the year that we would be able to move our tower into Indianapolis and be on the air in the spring. I hired John Parikhalís Joint Communications to do a format search. I did not tell them what I hoped to find, but I made sure Contemporary Christian was one of the options. The results came back with two strong options. One of them was CCM. However, they recommended the other. But, I was convinced CCM was the way to go. I made my case and convinced my Market Manager. We took it to corporate and they could not have been more supportive. We brought John Parikhal back in to do a more focused study on the potential audience in this market and the results were even bigger than we thought. The decision was now in stone. We hired John Frost (who is phenomenal!) as our consultant and started putting the station together.

 

3. What are your ratings expectations of "93.9 The Song"?

 I donít want to predict a share today, but letís say that we have very high expectations. I believe we will be a major player in adults. There is a hunger for this format and for the first time it is on a signal that covers the market well.

 

4. What is the criteria that determines if a song receives airplay on your station?
We compete for the listenersí time with so many things, not just other radio stations. For them to invest their limited time with us, we have to provide something that is meaningful, compelling, relevant and pleasing to the ear. The music we play is the anchor of all of it. We need to play great songs that have strong lyrics and musicianship. The music in the format can be so unique because it can be strong musically and deliver the message of salvation and Godís love. How cool is that? No other format can do that.

 

5. What kind of promotions work best for your station?

Weíve only been on the air for two months, so I canít be sure. But people in general respond well to things that touch them emotionally. We started out with a ď40 Days / 40 NightsĒ promotion. We registered folks on our website. At the end of 40 days we drew 10 names and donated $1,000 in each of their names to their church or chosen charity. We had almost 8,000 different people register. It was beautiful, because they were registering for something they were giving away!

 

6. Do you have any suggestions on how record labels can serve your station or Christian radio in general?

In general we have the same goal in mind, spreading the gospel through music. We just have different delivery methods and different business models that allow us to do this. The record labels need to sell their product. Radio needs the largest possible audience to allow us to sell advertising. Record labels need radio to expose their product so people will buy. Radio needs the labels to provide music that is accessible and will touch people. It is very symbiotic relationship. Sometimes songs that are popular and test well donít drive people to buy a CD. By the same token, there are terrific songs with great lyrics or are amazing artistry that just donít translate well on the radio. I believe that we (radio and the labels) need to recognize that we need both and work side by side to bring together familiarity and songs that will drive sales.

 

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

The lack of familiarity that I mentioned is a big issue. Because we donít get a lot of cross over and little other media exposure for our artists, it is tough for a lot of the audience to distinguish them. Most formats perform best when they have active superstars. I believe Country is having a resurgence because of the growing superstar status of Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. The decade before it was Alan Jackson, Clint Black and Garth Brooks. We need to cultivate superstars like that beyond Michael and Steven. I think a lot of that responsibility falls to radio. I think K-Love does a terrific job with this with their ďbehind the musicĒ features.

 

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

It really depends on the focus and mission of your station. I truly believe there is more than one right approach. In our case, we are still very much ďin developmentĒ. Our goal is connect with the listener by being informative, real and entertaining. We did extensive research on the audience and we saw that Contemporary Christian music fans want basically the same things from personalities as fans of other formats. It should come as no surprise, because people are people. Granted, there are certainly expectations on things they donít want and it is important for them to be able to listen with their kids. There are certainly some folks who want the radio to sound like ďSunday morningĒ, but in this audience they are more likely to relate to personality that sounds like someone they would enjoy having at a cookout or as a neighbor.

 

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

Innovator is an interesting word. It means different things to different people. Some may disagree, but I think Chuck Finney, John Frost, Dan Vallie and others are innovators because they brought a different perspective and an additional degree of sophistication in approaching the format. The WAY-FM network is doing some cool things. Everyone says that, but obviously there is a reason! I think WPOZ in Orlando is a terrific station. That station just oozes personality and not just in morning drive

 

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

I believe it will still be growing, but I think there will be challenges. We will face the same issues as other formats. Iím not nearly as worried about satellite radio as I am wireless mobile technology. How about an ipod in your car or a slot where you just slide your ipod into the dashboard? How about satellite TV for the car? If the kids are watching Cartoon Network when it is time to go? No problem, watch the rest of the show in the car. Now I also think we have huge advantages over other formats. We have the opportunity for deep emotional connections with the audience that the rest canít begin to fathom, let alone replicate. Many kids have no interest in radio. However, the kids of our audience are singing along with their parents to our stations everyday. But for all of this to play to our advantage five years from now, we have to be vigilant in our commitment to quality and relevancy today.

 

      

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