10 Questions with ... Dan Mason
March 13, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
38 years in the business. Started as a rock-n-roll disc-jockey, which was my stated ambition in my high school yearbook! Went on to many years as a country music jock and PD for WMUS in Muskegon, Michigan and KBUL here in Reno, NV. In 1995 I became PD at Newa Talk 780 KOH, a very nice 16 year run.
1. I'll ask you the same opening question I asked your friend Pat Frisch: How did you get your start in radio, and how did you make the move from country radio to talk? Was that part of the plan or something that just happened?
I always wanted to be on the radio. I grew up listening to the big time jocks in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee: Larry Lujack, Art Roberts at WLS, Big Ron O'Brien at Super 'CFL, Bob Barry on WOKY/Milwaukee, and many others. I couldn't get enough of them. In 1974 my brother knew the afternoon guy on the local top 40 AM station. They needed somebody to do Saturday night 6-Midnight, then turn around and sign the station on Sunday morning at 5:30. They must have been desperate, because I was awful, but they let me stick around. I was fortunate to work with a number of real lunatics there who taught me well. After three years I moved on to WMUS/Muskegon and did country for a long time. Tim Achterhoff was the GM/PD... he turned out to be a very important mentor for me. In '87 I answered a blind box ad and came to Reno sight unseen for the PD gig at KBUL. In 1995 they needed a PD for KKOH, and since I liked listening to the Rush Limbaugh show, for some strange reason they gave me the job. It was not part of the plan, but after 16 years it has turned out to be the best move of my career.
2. Like Pat in Albuquerque, you're in a market -- Reno -- that hasn't joined the PPM ranks. But are you programming now with an eye towards the PPM, or are you waiting until meters come to your market, whenever (and if) they do? Has the PPM in any way affected what you do yet, or are you sticking with programming to the diary?
It doesn't look as if we're going to see PPM in market #124 anytime soon, so while we pay attention to how it has been implemented and how our bigger market colleagues are adjusting, reality is we're still a two-book a year market with no monthly trends. In that respect we haven't changed much, but we have been doing a lot of what is important in the PPM world for a long time: Appointment listening, constant forward teasing, cume drivers. As we only see a report every six months I'm a big believer in trending. How do we look book after book, and are we driving customers to our advertisers. That's how I evaluate our competition too. I'm very fond of saying, "Great book! Do it again and I'll take you seriously."
3. KOH has been a market leader for a long time; to what do you attribute that success? What makes KOH what it is?
I've been fortunate to have great mentors. Brian Jennings was the KOH consultant when I first got here and later head of News/Talk programming for Citadel. There was a lot about the format I didn't know, and he taught me so much. Working for Larry Wilson in the early Citadel days was pretty special too. Guys like that don't fall out of trees. Plus, it's people. Even though it's very popular now to believe local talent isn't very important, IT IS. You gotta have talent on the air that gets it and can connect with people who live here, and as a PD you need to know when to stay out of the way and let them do what they do. I don't think it's all that complicated. What you put on the air needs to sell your benefits and be clean and tight. Then just do what you promise and NEVER B.S. your audience.
4. You're the primary local host on KOH (along with the morning news block and the financial show). How much do you talk about national as opposed to local issues, and how will the election year affect that balance, if at all?
In 16 years I've pretty much done everything here, but being the local talk host is still pretty new after four months. I'm finding that being the host is a little different than just telling the host what to do! Due to the nature of what we do, elections are always going to be a driver of topics, but that means locally too. Some days it's all local, other days it's national. The audience pretty much tells us where they want to go.
5. You're on Facebook and Twitter, but do you anticipate that social media will become more a part of your show and station -- do you think of social media as promotional, as an extension of the show conversation... how do you see things like Facebook and Twitter fitting into the programming?
The short answer is all of those things, and as we strive to bring the more of the younger end of the 25-54 demo into the fold, they become more important each day. I've got our station web site plus my show Facebook and Twitter in front of me every day during the show, plus my email inbox. I'm talking about them almost as often as the phone number. Anyway we can connect and remain top-of-mind is critical. The challenge for us as a staff, and me as a host, is how much of that do you focus on, because the primary concern has to remain what comes out of the speakers, be that on the radio, our Internet stream, whatever. Content remains king, no matter how they're getting it from us.
6. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the radio industry, long-term? What, if any, changes do you expect radio to go through in the next decade?
Ask anybody who knows me: I'm generally the pessimistic type, but those who predict the demise of radio are just flat wrong. Radio remains vibrant and a significant part of people's lives every day. The Internet and social media are creating some very interesting paradigm shifts, and we must continue to adapt as necessary. We're still primarily content creators; we just have multiple platforms available to us now. I do have serious concerns with the continuing de-emphasis of localism. On the music side, everybody has tons of music on their IPOD, so we better give them something of value in between the songs or we're dead. And if it doesn't relate to your community, why should you care?
7. Where, in 2012, is the best place to find new talent? Is there still a farm system, or do you have to look outside the traditional places to find hosts, whether for full-time slots or as fill-ins?
Let's not kid ourselves, there is no radio farm system any more. There are no small markets like my first job where you can go and learn. Most of the content is created somewhere else. We have to adapt to that, and keep the antenna up. The Internet may not be considered non-traditional anymore, but you can find people there who are just doing their own thing, be it a blog, an audio commentary or an entire Internet show. Mostly though, especially in a smaller market like ours, sometimes you just take a chance on somebody and see if it turns into something good.
8. Of what are you most proud?
Doing what radio is all about and helping make a difference in our community. I've been fortunate for many years to be involved with the Emergency Alert System both locally and throughout Nevada, which has included development of Amber Alert in Nevada in conjunction with the Nevada Broadcasters Association. A lot of good people, and not just broadcasters, have done great things to make that happen in our state. Most importantly it has worked. The number of children safely recovered has been very, very high. That's the kind of stuff that matters.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without ________________.
Sports. News/Talk is all reality, all the time. I need that escape. Plant me in front of the plasma or at a University of Nevada game and I'm good.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Be real. Don't B.S. your listeners, your staff, and most importantly yourself, and never be afraid to try something just because somebody else says it won't work or shouldn't be done. We've done a few things out of the box over the years that have helped make us what we are.