10 Questions with ... Aaron Schachter
May 31, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Joined Cox in early 2003 as an overnight news producer for WOKV. In late 2003 I was promoted to Morning Show Producer/Imaging Director. In mid-2005 added overnight duties on sister classic rocker WFYV. Moved to nights on WFYV in 2007. Promoted to Executive Producer of Jaguars Radio Network (NFL) in early 2008. Promoted to APD of WFYV in December of 2008. Promoted to PD of WXXJ in May 2009.
1. Congrats on X102.9 becoming the format's #1 PPM rated station for the first quarter of 2011 Monthly 6+ results. Why is the station having so much success?
It really is the perfect storm of circumstance...the Jacksonville market is a die-hard rock market. It's the birth-place of Southern Rock, has a very healthy Active Rock local scene, and has really responded to the new sonic direction of the Alternative Rock format. We also take great pride in our writing. We allow our imaging to be the personality of the station. We don't use jocks on the station so we rely heavily on our weekly writing sessions to deliver the content outside of the music. People are now quoting our promo and sweeper content to us all the time.
2. What are you most proud of from the ratings?
In less than three years we've hit some milestones that some stations never get a chance to hit. We forced a #1 rated heritage competitor out of the market in 17 months. We are also now the highest rated Alt Rock station in the country...but I get my largest sense of pride comes from the impact we've had locally. When we host arena football games we see fans making signs quoting our promos. When we do bar gigs we hear DJs spinning tracks they heard first on our station. It reminds us that our impact goes past the walls of our office building. It proves that we have influence over local pop-culture which I find really cool.
3. What was your biggest challenge when you were promoted to PD of X102.9 two years ago?
We had this monster Clear Channel competitor with a heritage morning show. Their station had been #1 in the market for over a decade. We came on the scene with the hope that we could just just make a big enough dent to steal some revenue and help our cluster raise its numbers. We all knew it was going to be a street fight, and that can be pretty intimidating. You really have to get to a special place mentally to take a radio war from the studio to the street.
4. What are your goals for the station now?
I like to think that we have the ability and constant challenge to innovate and think outside the traditional radio-box. We can't rest on our past accomplishments because we made our name bringing something new to the table. I realize another alt. rock station will come to the market at some point. My goal is to make sure any company who makes that decision will regret it.
5. How has the PPM impacted the way you program the station?
When the station was built in February of '09 it was done with PPM in mind. The station has always been lean in terms of clutter, and the momentum is always moving forward. Because of that, the adjustments we had to make when PPM came to the market in October of last year were minimal.
6. How much are you balancing gut with research when making decisions on new music?
Most of the music decisions I make are based on research. My company (Cox Media Group) has a reputation for treating research as a necessity rather than a luxury. I believe this is another reason why our product is second to none. We (The Radio Industry) can't tout the importance of local programming and then ignore what local research tells us in favor of what our emotions tell us.
7. Why has the station been able to be successful without any jocks?
The staff that works at WXXJ treats the station like a 24-7 radio show. We turnover the entire imaging library monthly to keep the local content fresh. We have lifestyle events that bring our audience together for fun outside of the regular concert or meet-and-greet. We've also found great success on the social networking front. We recognize sites like facebook, and twitter have changed the way we communicate with the audience. We now participate in a dialogue instead of the traditional monologue. We accomplished everything we've done with no marketing budget. We've never used a billboard, TV commercial, or any other media besides our airwaves and online assets.
8. What recent promotion has caused the most excitement with your listeners?
My two favorites were Surfing With Switchfoot (the band rolled through town on the way to Tampa for a show. We got 20 listeners to go surf with the band, and ended the day with an intimate acoustic at our favorite beach bar), and Brick By Brick with Paramore (the band helped 30 of our listeners build a house on behalf of Habitat For Humanity). In both cases, we were able to execute a special experience that listeners couldn't buy that the bands really were in to. When doing those kinds of promotions it becomes easy for the band to say, "Hey we're having some fun, let's stay longer than the hour we agreed to..."
9. What do you like best about living in Jacksonville?
Most say the weather, but I'd rather the cold stuff. I always feel ripped off when the winter ends three weeks after it starts. What I really love most about the city is the sense of pride each individual area has. Each side of town has imaginary borders, and the people who live inside those borders support their side of town like their favorite team. Somebody from the beaches wouldn't ever want to go hang out on the Westside, but Westsiders would never be caught dead in artsy San Marco or Riverside. It gives off this great sense of hyper-local pride.
10. What's one thing that may surprise many people to learn about you?
I can put ketchup on just about anything.
When you're away from work, what are you music listening habits to the radio, iPod, online, etc.?
It's hard to "turn off" from work. If I listen to other radio stations I ultimately end up having work thoughts in my downtime. When I really want to disconnect I listen to the Bill Simmons podcast. I have a lot of respect for what the guy does and how unlike radio it sounds. The guy records this massively downloaded podcast in his house, and his phone is always ringing. It is so unpolished and raw, and that makes it enjoyable for me.