10 Questions with ... Ryan Wrecker
July 21, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I was lucky to attend a great broadcast school – Central Michigan University. WMHW-FM offered some hands on experience starting immediately in my freshman year. In my 2nd year at the school, I bumped into WOOD Radio programmer Phil Tower by accident. He gave me my first job in radio as a weekend board operator. He also helped me get my first full time job by referring me to consultant Tim Moore – who sent me to Lima, Ohio for a few years. From there I took a gig in Milwaukee as a sports producer/anchor/reporter at WSSP-A but found myself back in Lima to be closer to the woman that became my wife. I worked for Maverick Media (now Childers Media Group) programming WEGE-FM and WWSR-FM, but found news/talk was my real passion. When the opportunity to program the huge heritage station WOWO opened, I somehow convinced Jon Zimney to bring me on board… and soon fell in love with the community and Federated Media -- one best companies to work for in the entire country.
1. What inspired you to go into radio? Why radio?
I went to a Catholic grade school, and my first experience in broadcasting was announcing the daily prayer through the PA system. I’m not sure why I loved it so much, but it gave me a great feeling. In fact, I was later told that as early as 3rd grade that I wanted to get into radio. I’m not sure why -- I was just born with the love of the medium.
2. You took over programming at WOWO in 2012; what were the challenges of taking over a heritage station and brand? Was walking into a station with WOWO's reputation intimidating at all?
WOWOLand is a way of life with the listeners. They feel they own stock in the station… much like the Green Bay Packers. Understanding the lifestyle of the listeners was extremely important to learn quickly, and I found that they were not like typical news/talk audiences. It was intimidating at first because people would come up to you like you were a celebrity based strictly on the association with the station. But I soon learned it was because of their fascination with the station, its personalities and what we stand for in the community. We stood for something so much bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced -- and it’s a lot of pressure to not let them down.
3. How do you think talk radio can grow once again? With all the discussion of the challenges facing talk radio, what do you see as the road ahead?
Digital audio distribution will be key to the future of sustaining talk radio success. We have the talent, we have the audience and we have the technology. What we don’t have is a natural hunger to produce additional original content. I think we need to be willing to try new things and put in the extra effort. I also think we’ll get to the point where we can ask our listeners to help to make that content available by selling additional content through subscriptions. I believe that if we give the audience something extra that is actually great content, we can do a few thigs – first we can monetize it with sponsors and second we can eventually use a paid subscription model to give exclusive rights to our most passionate listeners. It’s the only way we’ll be able to reach a younger demographic without fully turning our back on the large audiences we already have.
4. How are you incorporating social media and new media (like podcasts) into what WOWO does? What's different about that now from just a few years ago?
One of the things I’m most proud of is our terrestrial television show on our local NBC affiliate. Our morning show is the lead-in to the "Today Show" every weekend morning from 6-7a (ET). It’s a live, HD simulcast originating from our studios. It has helped us build a new audience base as well as promote the station and forward sell the audience to condition them to listen to us when they’re not by a television.
5. What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
I have two, with the most recent being winning a Marconi Award for Medium Market Station of the Year. It became a huge victory for our company and brought a lot of pride to everyone in every market. The other was a promotion we pulled off while in Ohio. We renamed a city after Twister Sister frontman Dee Snider. Cridersville was turned into “Snidersville” for a day, surrounded by a market visit from Dee, a motorcycle ride for charity, and a celebration party in the city.
6. Who have been your mentors, influences, and heroes?
Phil Tower from WOOD Radio has been a great friend and mentor. He’s always been there for me and has guided me in many situations. When I started working for Federated Media, I was introduced to one of the greatest minds in news/talk – Jon Zimney. He’s an amazing programmer that I learn from every single day.
7. Where do you think radio will find new talent? Do you look outside the business? Where? Or is there still sufficient talent in smaller or feeder markets to fill the slots you might need to fill?
I think we’ll start to look at television talent differently when we put more emphasis on video production. I also think that podcasters and YouTubers will have a huge advantage transferring their talents to other broadcast mediums. A lot of new talent will be guiding themselves by using their own metrics to determine what works and what doesn’t from independent audio and video as they brand their own name. They’ll also have audiences they can bring with them, and that will be a huge advantage working in their favor.
There’s a lot of talent out there, especially in smaller markets. But in the wake of streaming audio and video being accessible to anyone, I think you can’t just look at any one place anymore.
8. Of what are you most proud?
My son. My wife and I just had our first child, Emmett! I can’t get enough of him.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
…coffee is the first thing that comes to mind. That and my wife texting me photos of my son.
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
The best advice is “professionals perform.” If you’re ever in a situation where you’re nervous, or you don’t think you’re equipped to do the task… just remember you’re a professional and do whatever it is the best you can. Don’t miss out on an opportunity. Somehow it works out.
The worst advice was that people don’t care about you on a personal level. Your audience absolutely want you to open up to them and be a real person. Being genuine will win.