10 Questions with ... Matt Thiel
June 8, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- WKAI/Macomb, IL - On Air Talent - (2001-2005)
- KQCH/Omaha, NE - On Air Talent - (2005-2008)
- WWST/Knoxville, TN - Nights - (2008-2010)
- WBWB/Bloomington-Indianapolis, IN - Mornings - (2010-2012)
- KSTT/San Luis Obispo, CA - Mornings - (2012 to Present)
- Spinnin' Sessions - Host/Presenter - (Airs in 20 countries on 175+ stations to close to 20 million listeners a week) (2013 to Present)
1) What Got You Interested In Radio?
So many hours of listening to KPNT as a kid, and a field trip to the former KMOX & KMOV studios in St. Louis during high school solidified it all. When KMOX moved their in 2014 I never felt older in my life.
2) Who do you consider your radio mentors?
Tom Land was fantastic when I was with Journal Broadcast Group in Omaha and in Knoxville. He is seriously, the best boss I've ever worked for. A great mind that I never had the chance to pick over enough.
Erik Johnson (now at KXKT) is another person I've looked to for advice on airchecks and random stuff. His shelves are so full of big fancy shiny awards, so he's doing something right!
3) What makes the San Luis Obispo market unique? How does this compare to other markets or stations you have worked at?
The working budget is interesting to say the least. After three years here, I am still a bit shocked at what has and hasn't worked in the market in the past, even before I arrived.
People here love their wine and food. "Love" may be a massive understatement. There's a weekend festival for everything. I'm still waiting for a Hot Wing Festival to be a thing!
4) What is it about your show that you feel really makes it cut through?
When I was doing the morning show with Becky Kingman (now at KKJG) from 2012 to the end of 2014, and we had an insane rapport from day one. We were able to play off each other and we could tell exactly what the other one was thinking immediately.
My sense of humor would attempt to juke her every now and again, and when I knew she was laughing I knew the audience loved it. She was very infectious in a good way. We also had a deep connection with our audience.
My new partner, Jessica Chavez, is a change up from Becky's personality, and that has brought a totally different point of view to our audience. The core listeners have loved it so far.
5) How are you using social media to market your radio station and your show?
You mean pictures of the briskets, ribs, or Boston butt roasts I'm smoking for the weekend or nah?
I abuse the station's Facebook feed, providing probably about 80% of the content. There is so much content that also needs to be viewed on YouTube, Vimeo, Vevo, or whatever outlet, so providing those extras with a bit of commentary gets some play. I'm one of the few in the building the blows up Twitter too (@ThielOnAir).
My wife hates me sometimes with it. I post lots of pictures of random stuff and content that I'll end up talking about on air. I've heard it before and experienced it, but you can end up hating your best friend due to their Facebook feed and end up loving the Twitter feed of a complete stranger.
I also use Twitter as a promotional tool for the syndicated show. Spinnin' Sessions listeners want in on the guts of the production of that show. I'll tease with a photo of next week's script or something.
My web site, www.MattThiel.com, has also been a solid marketing tool for myself. I'll post airchecks, and demos, there. It has helped me land some work.
But, seriously, do you want to see the ribs I smoked last Sunday? Carolina style. You're missing out.
6) What do you view as the most important issue facing radio today?
The need for streaming is so important. Radio has been the most portable form of media from car radios to transistors to cell phones. So many stations refuse to accept the streaming aspect, and believe it's too expensive. All phones are capable of pulling your station, and all new cars are Bluetooth capable.
It's ridiculous not to look at every car as a potential listener, even outside the market. I'm not sold on moving out of Tune-In or any other bulk radio app to your own station's app unless you're selling it well or using push notifications.
Also, some of the younger talent in radio needs a lot of help. Everyone that has cracked a mic has been there before, and should feel somewhat of a pull to help out the up and comers. As a graduate of Western Illinois University, I've spoken to their media classes a few times and done some one on one work on demos with the students. I had that help 15 years ago, and will continue to volunteer my ear to anyone that seeks me out.
7) How do you stay in tune with your audience?
The Internet is a crazy tool. (Please, don't never go through my Chrome history).
I've known hosts that have refused to follow listeners on social media (hence those super-awkward entertainer Facebook profiles). Listeners provide so much content on their Facebook and Twitter feeds that you will miss including the stuff they are extremely interested in that you need to know about. And you'll also get their thoughts on issues domestic and abroad. Those are fun too.
8) How do you prep yourself for your radio shift?
When I hop in the car, I have to have a live show going.
Being on the road at 4:15am means I use Tune-In to hit a few live shows in Eastern and Central time. I want to know what they're talking about, and they are in their prime content slots when I'm driving in.
I'm not a big fan of our prep service, so seeking out current/active content is the way I go. The first stop is social media. Here in the Pacific time zone, social media is lively at 5am. I need to know what's trending and see if I should seek out something I haven't seen yet. After that, I use a lot of outlets that our listeners love like Gawker, Jezebel, Fark, Facebook, Twitter, BuzzFeed, and Cosmo. (Please leave that last one out. Oh no, what have I done now?!?!)
9) What type of features do you run on your show?
I've been doing "Craigslist Love Connections" weekly on Mondays since 2005.
Our listeners LOVE them! We've played it as the idea of "Making Lovers Meet," but it's really a PSA that local creeps are going to creep. And there are a lot of local weirdoes, regardless of where you go.
"Spelling with Sleez" is easily my favorite feature. We wan it from 2007 to 2011. I have a cousin (Sleez), who is a grown man with a great government job that cannot spell past like a 5th grade level. A listener would have to guess if Sleez would "hit or miss" on a 5th grade spelling word. It was completely unpredictable, and even my coworkers thought the whole thing was faked until several of them met Sleez at my wedding. I've contemplated bringing this feature back lately, with a lot of listeners from former stations begging for it on social media.
"Intern Idol," "Brushes with Greatness," "Unconventional Crushes," and "Will It Float?" are some of the other features that have connected with listeners.
10) What has been your station's biggest accomplishment?
The best accomplishment I've been a part of was when WBWB/ Bloomington-Indianapolis, IN was named by the Indiana Broadcaster's Association as "Station of the Year 2011." I was in the top three for "Personality of the Year" at the same show.
What do you do in your spare time?
Waking up at 3:30am and at the station around 4:45am every morning leads you to have a weird lifestyle.
Between golf, Cardinals baseball, and binge watching Netflix, I nap more than your grandparents and will stay up all the way until after Jeopardy! I'm a big smoked meats guy too. We got this crazy Weber smoker as a wedding gift. That thing gets used regularly for 20+ hour sessions on the weekends. Also, waking up Monday through Friday at 3:30am has led me to become a big European soccer fan. The time just matches up for me (Manchester City, by the way).
Who is your best friend in the business?
Lets see ... who got me wedding gifts last year? ... Justin Buznedo, Monta Vaden, Gretchen Helterhoff, Hannah Graham, Becky Kingman, and Tyler Ivens.
Mike Hennig showed up to the reception, ate a ton of food, drank all the beer, and left, but that was expected. I get with Mike and Jeff Degan every time I'm back in Omaha. King Harris is probably one of the most brutally honest people I've run into in radio, and he's the best!
What is the biggest change that you'd like to see happen in the business?
I'd like to see Sales being more open to thinking outside the box. The mindset I've come across is typically "Well, this worked before" even if it is extremely stale. There is nothing worse than doing the same ol' thing because people become less and less interested.
Tell us what music we would find on your phone or MP3 player right now and what is it you enjoy about that particular selection?
The new Florence and the Machine is awesome! I still love Arcade Fire "Reflektor". The National, Matt & Kim, ODESZA, and old school stuff from The Urge.
I need something out of my format when I get away from the studio to decompress. I'm inundated with Top 40, Hot AC, and EDM with the syndicated show. Something different from those takes my mind away.
What was the biggest gaffe you've made on air?
About a year into Matt & Becky Mornings, I gave not only the wrong show name, but the wrong station not once, but three times one morning. I left my brain somewhere else that day.
What career path would you be following had it not been for this industry?
This will blow people's minds that know me: Politics. I had all intentions of working on a campaign, and eventually, I'd like to.
Initially, when I started college, I signed up for several political science classes. I tested out of them, and filled those open schedule gaps by working at a local radio station.