10 Questions with ... Ronnie Ramone
April 2, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started at WLAN/Lancaster, PA in 1992 while in college (at the time the station was family-owned). I then segued to (formerly) Citadel WQXA in 1996 after graduation, serving as Promotions Director and swing-jock under John Moschitta (he is now the OM at Clear Channel Pittsburgh). Back to WLAN (Clear Channel) in 1999 for Promotion Director duties and early afternoons, eventually moving to afternoon drive. In 2002 I joined Cumulus Media's new Rhythmic Top 40 start-up WWKL (Hot 92) for APD/MD and afternoon drive. I left in 2005 to pursue a career outside radio, but I returned to radio in 2007 to join Hall Communications' WROZ for Promotions Director duties, eventually adding the night show after the station dumped Delilah and started to lean in a HOT AC direction.
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
I was hooked on music from an early age. Every week, when I was a kid, I would take my allowance to the record store near my house and purchase a few 45 singles. I amassed a huge collection of vinyl with all my favorite songs/artists of the 1980s. I also enjoyed impersonating DJs on the radio. I was always near the radio to hear Casey Kasem and Rick Dees counting down the hits every weekend in the 80's. I think it also helped that I loved the TV show WKRP in Cincinatti and identified with the oddball characters.
2) What makes your station or market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
WROZ is not quite a Hot AC but certainly more progressed than the majority of AC stations in the country in terms of our playlist and overall presentation on the air.
Musically we play all the core Hot AC artists and our gold library is sprinkled with select songs/artists from the 80's and 90's. Unlike one of our direct competitors in the market, the Golds we play fit well with our currents and re-currents. One of my pet peeves is playing songs that sound dated when played back to back with contemporary songs. We go for hip tracks by artists like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Madonna.
This is an interesting market situation here. In television, Lancaster, York and Harrisburg are all combined, and therefore we rank as a top 50 market. In radio, each market is ranked separately, but there is quite a bit of spillover from market to market and thus, there are a lot of sticks competing. We compete against two HOT AC stations owned by the same company (WNNK Wink 104 and WARM Wink 103), with the same name and product but they have different air personalities in middays and afternoons so they are not a true simulcast. We also have 3 Top 40 stations in the market, including WLAN which is more of an Adult Top 40 and shares quite a bit of music with us. Add in two Classic Hits stations, our sister Classic Rock station (WKZF), several Country outlets, an Active Rock, a Rock AC and even a very strong commercial and just as strong non-commercial Christian station that both do well. You can see that this is a very unique, format-rich area.
Being family-owned and having a full staff has given us a unique advantage over the larger companies. We truly are live and local, and we can make music and other programming decisions on a local level. We are plugged in to our community and we have a lot more manpower than the competition. This allows us (I believe) the opportunity to super-serve our listeners and clients and do it better than anyone else.
3) How do you position the station musically?
We lean Hot AC. We look at the Hot AC chart, the Mainstream AC chart, and we even take a peek at the Country chart from time to time. Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts are huge for us.
4) How are you using social media to market your radio station?
We are really making a stronger effort to tie social media into the radio station. In addition to each air staffer having their own Facebook and Twitter account inviting listeners to follow along with them for their observations and experiences in life, we also have a station FB and Twitter page that each jock is tied into.
The morning team blogs daily and other air staffers are about to start engaging listeners through their blogs as well. We create contests that have social media components. For example, we set appointments through Facebook. When doing big prize giveaways, listeners can find out a specific window of time for the giveaway simply by liking us on Facebook. We create unique links to contests via Facebook as well. We used FB and Twitter to break the news about Whitney Houston's passing, to reveal the winner of American Idol, etc. It is a great tool when you need to communicate information like this to your listeners. All of our external marketing now includes messaging about liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter, too.
5) What can we be doing with our station web sites to better our stations as a whole?
We need to develop more ever-changing content of interest to our listeners. This is one area where local TV stations and newspapers are doing better than us. We need to also eliminate the clutter. I look at some sites and they have so many things on their homepage that it looks like a newspaper. A very busy newspaper. Sites should be informative, entertaining, engaging and truly reflect the radio station's personality. We have a visual resource at our disposal, something we didn't have years ago. We should make it an extension of our brand.
6) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
We are constantly out in the listening area, in places where our listeners are. We are big on listener engagement through listener panels that we do on a regular basis. We are at all the big fairs, festivals, parades and other large scale events. We create events geared to women, such as bridal shows and women's expos. We also create family-friendly events, including one around Christmas and one around Easter. We bring our families to these events and interact with our listeners and their families. Our morning team is very phone intensive and they have great conversations with each other and with our listeners on a variety of topics of interest. Some are serious but most are light-hearted. We research quite extensively, with music testing and perceptual studies. We read Cosmo, we watch the TV shows they are buzzing about, we eat at the restaurants they enjoy, etc. We get into their mindset and we live life with them. We know what our audience thinks because we ask them and we let them know how valued their input is.
7) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
I grew up listening to Rick Dees and Casey Kasem on the radio doing their countdown shows and followed their careers for many years since, so in an indirect way they are mentors I suppose.
I really enjoyed working with Tom Calderone, formerly at Jacobs Media and John Moschitta, who was my PD at WQXA for a few years in the 90s. They really taught me a lot about street marketing and helped me shape my creativity. John O'Dea, OM at Cumulus Media Harrisburg was also very inspiring and gave me a chance to take the ball and run with it in programming at WWKL. There are tons of others as well, too many to mention.
8) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
I am constantly reading entertainment websites, self-help sites, absorbing as much info as I can and finding a funny or conversational way to relate it to the audience.
9) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
As a whole we've become too focused on the bottom line and we've forgotten that you need a good product to make money.
Voice-tracking can be used in an advantageous manner but some stations have become too cookie-cutter in their use of it and the talent that is available on a national platform. Local talent is not always the best option. But, thanks to importing talent from larger markets we've lost our breeding ground for the next great air talents out there.
10) Your thoughts on Syndication and Voice-Tracking?
There is room for both as long as you still develop some local programming. Voice-tracking can work well especially when you are in a pinch and need someone to cover a shift but don't have a live body available. It is also nice to have voice-tracking for holidays so nobody has to work on Christmas, for example. Syndicated shows are a mixed bag...some are good, some are not so good, but exist simply to fill time.
Where do you see the industry and yourself five years from now?
I hope to continue working for Hall Communications. Most people I work with have been here for 20 years or longer. The employees here are treated very well.
As for the industry, while we continue to (rightfully so) embrace new technology, let's remember that what separates us from other musical outlets is what is between the songs. I hope the industry returns to more live, local programming and I hope the smaller markets once again become a training ground for new talent. My fear is that one day in the future the talent pool will dry up because there are not a lot of places for them to learn and grow.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a radio DJ. There was no doubt. As my family reminded me, there was also no money in it. But sometimes you sacrifice material things for happiness and I can honestly say I made the right career move.
What is your favorite TV show?
I am a comedy guy. Everything from "The Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother" to "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia."
What is the biggest misconception about your station?
That we are a "Soft AC" because our moniker is "The Rose." It is actually called "The Rose" because we super-serve Lancaster, PA (The Red Rose city) and York (the White Rose City).
How did you get your on-air name?
We were going through a list of bands I liked and I mentioned my love for The Ramones.
How often does your airstaff front and back-sell songs?
Front-sell into new music and back-sell when we stop down for commercials.
What's the best liner you've ever heard?
I'm old skool on this. "Everyone else is just a bunch of limp wrested weenies."
What type of features do you run on the station?
"Flashback Friday," nothing but 80s and 90s for 24 hours every Friday. "The Melissa Etheridge Show" on Sunday nights, our midday show includes a one-hour request show at noon.