10 Questions with ... Chad Wilkinson
July 2, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Executive Producer, WWDB-FM, AM, Philly; Executive Producer, Greater Media Radio, Philly; Producer/Writer Westwood One Radio Network (Lars Larson Show, Dennis Miller Show, Ron Insana Show); Production Director, XM Satellite Radio; Executive Producer, The Lou Dobbs Show; Executive Producer, The Charles Payne Show; President/CEO, Keybridge Radio LLC
1. How and why did you get into radio in the first place? What drew you to work in radio?
I grew up around radio. My dad held a first class radio operator license and we always had a little "radio station" in our basement that broadcast to the neighborhood. I learned about EQ, cueing records, and talking up a song before the age of 8. It was a lot of fun watching my dad build transmitters and updating the station as technology improved.
I went to college to be a TV news producer, but when it came time for an internship, I was lucky enough to score a position with the CBS Radio network and the rest was history.
2. You're working now for NewsMax, which has expanded into talk radio programming. Have you found working for people who are coming to it from a non-radio perspective? How, if at all, is that changing your approach to building the audio portion of the operation?
This multi-platform approach to launching a radio show for Newsmax and partnering with other network talk radio shows for Newsmax LIVE TV has been something CEO Chris Ruddy has been interested in doing for a long time. Chris is also a HUGE fan of talk radio and realized that the tens of millions of Newsmax visitors are also conservative, talk radio fans. So it was a no brainer for Newsmax to get involved in the industry.
It has been very exciting working for a company that understands great content is great content regardless of platform. We are building a show every day (The Steve Malzberg Show) that not only sounds GREAT on radio, but also looks great on TV.
A good amount of the news interviews we do on the Steve Malzberg show are repurposed as news stories on Newsmax.com with a video embed of the interview. The show gains exposure to Newsmax's 14.5 million unique visitors a month and the website is getting great content.
But, nothing has changed in the way I produce. I am still looking for the best stories of the day that mean something to our audience.
3. You've produced some high-profile shows over the years -- what are the fundamental changes taking place that are affecting how talk radio develops in the future? Is video essential? What other elements are changing or coming into play that haven't up to now been as important?
Great question. Talk radio needs to keep up with technology. We need to keep up with the way consumers are getting information and entertainment. Talk Radio shows and networks need to stop thinking of themselves as just "radio". We are creating content, breaking stories, and in some cases, helping drive the news cycle. Why limit that content to one platform? Our job should be to reach as many people as possible regardless of how they are getting the content.
Video is important. If you are sitting at your computer, would you rather just hear an audio feed or watch what's going on? I enjoy watching the show. But I realize a lot of stations and shows worry about the cost of providing a video stream. Having done it, I can tell you retrofitting a radio studio for a videocast doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. The studio we use for the Steve Malzberg Show is a state-of-the-art TV studio with three cameras, a Tricaster, and audio position, and it cost a lot less than some network radio studios I have worked out of. We have been able to build a studio that doesn't require any more people than a typical radio show, which keeps costs down.
Having a solid digital strategy that goes beyond just an audio stream is extremely important not only to reaching people, but also building a future revenue stream for your show or station. Mobile and digital revenue is multiplying at a very fast rate so you need to be prepared NOW.
4. How far out do you think we are before a purely online audio venture can be competitive, revenue-wise, with broadcast radio?
Less than ten years. But I don't think we are going to see purely online audio ventures. The platforms will feature video, chat, google hangouts, information posted about the stories that are being talked about. Terrestrial radio will always have advertising revenue from local sponsors, BUT, as car companies bring in the next generation of radios that feature APs and state-of-the-art integration of smart phones to stream digital content, you we are going to see digital spot rates increase for not only pure digital stations, but also terrestrial stations.
Think about how you are getting your information and entertainment. For me, I commute from Philadelphia to New York City every day and I listen to KYW Newsradio out of Philadelphia to get traffic information. The problem is, the station has a lousy signal north of the city, so instead of listening terrestrially, I stream KYW through my Bluetooth-enabled iphone right to my car radio. The station sounds great, and I never lose coverage.
5. NewsMax is already a popular website and print product and has added the radio and video operation, but how is the company approaching using social media? What part will things like Twitter and Facebook play in the NewsMax operation moving forward?
We are actively engaged in developing social media communities through strategies focused on strengthening our brand. We already have a solid foot hold on both Facebook and Twitter. Just over 250,000 FB fans and 30,000 Twitter followers actively engage with the best Newsmax content posted every day. The New Media department is constantly testing new social media platforms like Google Plus and Pintrest while simultaneously refining our already successful strategies. The goal of all social media is to be actively engaged with a company's target audience. It is not just about reaching a broader audience but instead building relationships which in turn will provide new avenues for marketing and content distribution opportunities along with link building and brand recognition.
6. Who have been your mentors and inspirations, in radio and in life?
I have been very lucky to have some heavyweights in the business mentor me. Bill Lally from KFI, Bart Tessler and Kevin Delany at Dial Global, John Mainelli, Lars Larson, Steve Malzberg, Ken Chandler (Editor-in-Chief at Newsmax), Steve Gallagher at the Sun Broadcast Group, and Andy Denemark at USRN, to name just a few. My number one inspiration is my wife Nicole who has put up with my crazy 14 hour days. She's a saint!
7. How, so far, has working on this, effectively a start-up venture, compared to other shows or situations of which you've been a part that were new, like launching new syndicated shows or your PR operation? What challenges are different and which are giving you deja vu?
Starting a new show, or any new venture is difficult. For a talk radio show, you need to have at least two years to build it. During those two years, you will lose money. Unfortunately with a lot of the big radio groups, they are no longer willing to invest the time or resources to do it right. Newsmax is different. The company is committed to seeing this through. Chris Ruddy, my boss at Newsmax, is a new breed of media CEO. He has made careful, calculated decisions that has made this company grow at an outstanding pace not only from a visitor standpoint, but also a revenue standpoint. As a matter of fact, for the last two months Newsmax.com sites have held the number one position in comScore's News/Politics category, beating sites such as Foxnews.com and Politico.com.
Working for a company that has resources and a vision gives us the opportunity to create a stellar show and an amazing media station.
8. Of what are you most proud?
After 15 years or so, I still get to wake up each day and "play" radio. There are so many talented people that are not working right now, I count myself very lucky. Hopefully, as digital stations pop up and generate revenue, those "on the beach" will have a new platform to be seen and heard.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without __________.
...Diet Coke and since Newsmax gives me all the Diet Coke I can drink, I am stoked.
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career so far?
Never burn a bridge. If a job doesn't work out, thank your boss for the opportunity and move on.