10 Questions with ... Mike Oakes
June 10, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Program Director at WJOI/WYST/Detroit, WIL-FM/St. Louis, KYMX/Sacramento, WIRK/West Palm Beach, WCRJ/Jacksonville, WZMX/Hartford and some other nice places too...
Morris Communications/Palm Springs since 2012
Albright & O'Malley & Brenner since 2000
Programming/Consulting since 1982
1. First, how did you get your start in radio, and why did you decide on radio as a career?
My first unpaid job in radio was gofer for the Motor Racing Network in Daytona Beach, when it was relatively new. My dad was the Chief Engineer and he knew how to spot cheap (free) talent. I provided technical assistance to the announcers and through that experience got an introduction to one of the local GM's. Passed my FCC test at 16 and started working part-time at WSBB/New Smyrna Beach, FL while attending high school there. I LOVE music and being the guy on the radio who played the music seemed like such a natural thing. With somewhat of a knack for putting together songs that seemed to work together, my goal was to be a Music Director... until I figured out that the MD didn't call the shots. So I kept at it until WCRJ/Jacksonville gave me the keys to the PD's office.
2. You handle music formats both as a PD and as a researcher/consultant, but we're the News-Talk-Sports department, so we'll go there for now: How different do you find the job overseeing talk versus dealing with talent in music formats? Are there things that are common in dealing with talent (or, for that matter, content) no matter what the format?
Music stations still have personnel?
This is my first News/Talk PD position and it's amazing how natural the transition has been. The keys are the same. You treat people with respect. You coach them and make clear what's expected. If talent is out of line you deal with it. Also, regardless of format, you need to know your listener and deliver a message targeted to that audience.
3. How much has having the FM translator signal helped K-News, if it indeed has? Do you see any effect on the audience size, composition, and/or age?
It's been huge. Roughly 50% of our diary entries mention the FM frequency. And knowing that we're now on FM where the hip, cool people live, we've targeted imaging and key programming to reach people in their 30's and 40's. We've doubled our 25-54 audience. The key is knowing that the FM frequency and FM-friendly programming go hand in hand in this process.
4. You oversee local morning and afternoon shows; in a market the size of Palm Springs, how important is it to maintain local shows? What are the hot topics in the market lately?
"Live and Local" is a key cornerstone of our imaging. Our morning host Bill Feingold has his finger on the pulse of the Coachella Valley, and each show is 3 hours of news, info, entertainment and interviews. The show is fun and funny, not a stuffy news show at all. Chad Benson in afternoons is a totally different kind of show, much more topic-driven. It's not a "right or left" show, it's a show that tries to bring some common sense into our not so common world, all presented with a heavy dose of pop culture. It's political season with a state primary on June 3rd so there is that, but the biggest topics are the ones that resonate with a larger audience like the LA Clippers soap opera. It's not a sports story, it's pop culture, relationships and attitudes.
5. What role do you see social media playing in radio, both at K-News and at Crush? How do your stations use social media, if they do?
It's a big deal. Crush 103.9 is our Hot AC station, it's actually a translator, fed from an HD2 on one of our sister station transmitters. With only 250 red-hot watts, we use social media and our online/smartphone presence to augment what we do over the air. It's still a relatively new station, launched in 2012, but we're growing and nurturing an audience and social media is key to that. For K-News, each of our local shows has their own social media presence which is quite active.
6. Who have been your mentors and influences, in the business and in life?
This is a question that will get me in trouble because there are so many. But I have to tell you that I have been absolutely Blessed to have been mentored by legendary consultants George Burns and Jaye Albright. They are nothing short of awesome.
7. What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
This is going to sound corny but it was this morning. Coming to work every day after 40 years in the business, still providing relevant solutions, and creating value for my stations and my clients, is memorable in and of itself.
8. Of what are you most proud?
My wife Donna and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _________.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best: I was up for a PD gig and George Burns suggested I not pursue it, that he had something in mind that would be a better fit for me. That "something else" was to build and launch the AC format at KYMX/Sacramento in 1990, which became a hit and remains the dominant AC brand to this day.
There really isn't a "worst." There were a couple of times I was offered jobs which I probably should have turned down. And yet those experiences opened doors which became great opportunities, including my first PD position. So, no regrets.