10 Questions with ... Jeff Winfield
July 28, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Director of Programming for NRG Media LLC in Cedar Rapids, IA for the past ten years. NRG has 42 stations in the Midwest, including eight Country stations. Previous to NRG, he was on-air at KHAK/Cedar Rapids, IA for 14 years tutored under programmers Tim Closson and Tim Roberts before gaining PD stripes. He also met wife Dawn during his KHAK (K-Hawk) days. Winfield also spent a couple of years at KFXE/Pine Bluff-Little Rock, AR (now KIPR) and a year at WHBF in the Quad Cities back in the 80's.
1) NRG MEDIA has 42 stations which is a pretty large portfolio, but compared to the Clear Channel's and the Cumulus' of the world, it's much smaller. Does this enable the company to be more nimble when it comes to programming decisions?
Absolutely! And this might be shocking to some, but we rely on our highly competent teams in their markets to make decisions for their station and clusters. We can't sit here in the corporate office and claim to have truth on all issues. I'm here as a resource to bounce ideas off of, to brainstorm, or sometimes just to confirm that their plan is a good one.
2) You have a strong Country background but don't currently oversee a Country station in your market. Do you miss that?
I'd be lying if I said no. I also we wish we owned radio stations in Cedar Rapids/Iowa City! Country radio has been very good to me and attending CRS each year keeps me close to what's going on and it was a thrill to be a part of the Agenda Committee a couple of years ago.
3) You spent 14 years at KHAK and now 10 years with NRG/Cedar Rapids. A lot of people in radio talk about "marrying a market." What made you marry this one?
Ironically a "Mary"! I can assure you that wasn't my plan. When I moved back home in '88, I sent out packages to all area radio stations. KHAK called and had a part-time position available. I took it figuring I'd have a place to do airchecks and keep looking for a gig. A few weeks later I was placed into full-time nights (remember those days?). From there a young Tim Closson was named PD and we hit it off. I was named MD, then afternoons, then PD, met my wife Dawn, had two children....and worked for one of the best people in the biz, Mary Quass. I joined K-Hawk just as she purchased the station---what an incredible ride and a great staff! After selling in the consolidation craze in the late 90's, Mary started up what was then New Radio Group...I jumped on board and have worked for her at NRG since '02. I've been able to better myself in the industry and provide a stable life for my family at the same time.
4) Does NRG work to create any synergy among its eight Country outlets? For example, do the PDs talk about songs, tours, promotions, etc.to create shared opportunities?
Sure, and not just with the country stations. We have a nice I-80 corridor in Nebraska with Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Kearney with some big radio stations. If there's a way to include other markets we'll do so. In July there's a big festival in Northern Wisconsin (Hodag) and Hodag Country in Rhinelander and Y-106.5 in Wausau-Stevens Point will both have a huge presence there.
5) What have you found to be the biggest challenges of programming in a smaller market?
Doing more with less, time management. Embracing the digital world and updating the skills of our programmers and on-air talent to be relevant on-line and with social media.
6) What do you find most rewarding about doing small market radio?
Somewhere along the line this has been forgotten, but we can truly impact the communities we serve! Our radio stations are there to entertain, to inform, and to engage our listeners and clients. And you'll run into our employees at the grocery store, at church, or at school. I firmly believe in the power of local.
7) Are you seeing growth among 18-34 and 18-49 listeners for Country radio in the eight markets you are in?
No question. In our rated markets, all of the country stations probably had a 25% lift in younger demos in the last book. And Y-102 in Kearney is a 20 share station P18-34! Thank you Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida-Georgia Line, etc!
8) Do you see any regional nuance to what is popular or is it typical of what most everyone else is having success with?
For the most part, a hit is a hit, but there are geographic differences. Anyone who's driven across Nebraska can tell you it's a lot different than visiting Northern Wisconsin.
9) What did you learn about radio and this format specifically from working around Tim Closson and Tim Roberts?
Priceless. Tim Closson is like a big brother to me. He believed in me and I followed him around like a puppy dog at my first CRS! I credit him with introducing me to people in the industry and allowing me to grow in confidence. Tim Roberts was by far the best idea guy I ever worked for. It's certainly no surprise to me that he's such a huge success and leader in Country radio.
10) If someone came to visit Cedar Rapids and you were their tour guide, what are the top three destinations you'd suggest?
The massive Flood of 2008 really impacted CR but we are rebounding nicely! First off, visit the National Czech and Slovak Museum in the Czech Village and visit the newly renovated NewBo area with the new market and shops. Stop by the Starlite for a greasy burger and a beer, and of course, make sure to visit on a home football Saturday and head down I-380 to Iowa City to watch my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes in historic Kinnick Stadium!
1) I noticed that Ashton Kutcher and Kurt Warner are from Cedar Rapids. Besides yourself, who are we most likely to have a "brush with fame" experience with if visiting?
Stop by the Irish Democrat on First Avenue and you might just run into Masters Champion Zach Johnson enjoying a cold one