10 Questions with ... Neil Larrimore
April 3, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
MD/Promotions Dir./Host/Producer, WFIL-WZZD/Philadelphia, 1994-97; APD, WWDB/Philadelphia, 1997-2001; APD, WHIO/Dayton, 2002-04; PD, KMBZ/Kansas City, 2004-11; PD, KFYI-KGME/Phoenix, January 2012-present
1. Since we last talked, you've spent a long tenure at KMBZ in Kansas City, and now you're at KFYI in Phoenix. Both were longstanding, heritage stations when you arrived. In these cases, how do you see your role- what's the best way for the "new guy" to come in? How quickly do you think making your mark should start or is it a matter of maintaining while developing a game plan?
It's never easy to come into a new situation where the brand has a long history in the market. Even if the station is in the need of some change, it takes time to know exactly what kind of change is necessary. How is the station percieved in the market? Who are the players? What is the P1 expectation? What is the competitive situation? It's short-sighted to just jump in and make changes for the heck of it.
All of the needs are situational to the station and market. For KMBZ in 2004, it was definitely a time for change in the talk brand, but the news brand was solid so we just had to work on the evolution of that product. For KFYI, we are in a different competitive situation, so the strategy has to be determined and then executed precisely.
2. In the years since we last talked, the PPM has been introduced. How has the meter changed what you do as a PD? Do you see it as a boon or bane?
A little bit of each. PPM has helped us to determine how listeners use our radio stations, but there continue to be concerns about sample size and market spread, so it helps in one way, but continues to be imperfect. From a programming standpoint, diary methodology made us used to thinking about unaided recall... but PPM has changed the game. Now it's about getting exposure and increasing occurrence. End result? We end up about even. Time to embed respondents with subcutaneous chips!
3. You've been in Phoenix for just a short time so far, but what's striking you most about the market as a talk radio market so far? Have there been any surprises, or is it what you expected?
What's surprised me about Phoenix is how transient the population is. There are a LOT of non-Phoenicians who come into town seasonally, to escape those mid-west winters, or for special events (Cactus League Spring Training, for example), only to leave when the desert heats up! There are also a lot of full-time transplants from the midwest, east coast, and some from California. So the challenge is trying to appeal to those in the market who live in Phoenix (and have meters). As far as talk goes, though... I am finding that Arizonans are very passionate, and local politics is a circus here. That makes for good fun talk radio (especially in an election year)!
You're now in an election year at a station that does political talk. How -- and in this case, you don't have to give away trade secrets, just highlighting what's being put on the air -- if at all are you preparing for the election year? Is it a matter of just talking about it and that's all you need, or are you looking to do more specialized programming to boost the station's image as the more politically-oriented of the major talkers in town?
This is the opportunity for our format to shine! This is the time when people pay attention. They listen. When it's election time, why do the ordinary when our brands can extend themselves, become extraordinary, and really serve and inform the listener?!? Luckily, KFYI has a great history and we only hope to make it better!
5. How do you use social media and the web in conjunction with the on-air product? How important are Twitter and Facebook to what you do on the air?
Whereas the website is an extension of the on-air programming, social media is also extraordinarily important. Facebook is obviously the place you want to make an impression and interact. We can have one-on-one interaction with our listeners and get exposure (there's that word again) to their friends, etc etc etc. We are no longer a one media brand.
Twitter has taken over the breaking news space. Although it is not as popular or used as much as FB, it is an extraordinary tool to use for breaking news, promotion and some interaction. In my opinion, it is a tool that should be part of every radio newsroom, not just to push alerts and information, but also to source.
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?
I love radio. I am very optimistic about its future. When I first came to Clear Channel, I had the opportunity to see a presentation by Bob Pittman about the health of radio. It's remarkable, the staying power of our medium! Let's not be intimidated by our detractors who are calling for our demise. Radio will be around for a looooong time!
The challenge, though, is going to be about staying in front of the competing tech. How do we keep engagement up while facing these new interactive foes? How do we effectively accept and embrace our new digital overlords? I feel like our industry is always playing catch-up. That being said, local radio will always win. Great content will always win. I think the history of radio shows how resilient the medium is, and I can't imagine that changing anytime soon.
7. What was the best promotion with which you've ever been involved? What promotions have worked best for you as a talk programmer?
I love doing the events which help in the community. Probably the most successful has been KMBZ's Coats for Kids, which helped the less fortunate kids in the metro. We saw exponential growth and more excitement every year that I was associated with it. To hear the stories... see the notes... and experience the real-world result was extremely satisfying.
In my opinion, those promotions that get you into the community and touch others are the best.
8. At this stage in your career and life, of what are you most proud?
HA! That I've survived (in both)!
Seriously, though. Career-wise, when I look at the stations I've worked for... WFIL... WWDB... WHIO... KMBZ... and now KFYI... I NEVER would have thought that I would have accomplished so much!
Life-wise, I've been able to provide for my family in a business that I love... and they haven't given up on me yet!
9. You may have answered this before, but it's been years and years, so... Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Allow for yourself and others to make mistakes and learn from them.
Finally, be loyal. Even when that loyalty isn't returned (which is so very disappointing), you know that you can still hold your head up high.