10 Questions with ... Doug Harris
May 3, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started in retail menswear, eventually owned three stores, where I learned the power of radio. Sold stores (divorce), worked in club/concert business at Cardi’s of Texas. Met Yoko. Recruited by 101 KLOL in Houston to be promotions director. Stayed 12 years. Made some headlines with some great PD’s. Next, Creative Director at CRN International until 1999. Moved back to Houston, started broadcast consultancy with marketing specialty, worked in 26 countries. Now owner of Noisemaker Communications (marketing, PR, advertising) and just launched Radio Brave. Just kidding about the Yoko thing.
1. So, how did the idea for RadioBrave come about? Who thought of it, and how did it come together?
I’m trying to make radio more accessible to people who have something to say -- and that includes advertisers. Now that a :60 has become a :30 that has become a :15 that is now a :05 but all you can afford is a banner ad, there is still a need for a longer communication episode for some messages. I’ve put a dozen brokered shows on terrestrial signals in the last ten years, but it’s hard to make the numbers (costs vs. ROI) work for some people who still LOVE the idea of having a radio show. So, Doug talks to Pat, Pat talks to Cruze, Doug talks with Pat and Cruze, adult beverages are consumed, and Radio Brave is born.
2. The stream is a mix of music and brokered talk programming, and brokered talk has, shall we say, a certain reputation, but there's good brokered talk and bad brokered talk. What are RadioBrave's criteria for the kinds of shows you're looking to air?
The simple answer is, “Would I listen? Would anybody listen?” A great set of pipes delivering audio pabulum may sound good, but it’s boring. And it won’t motivate listeners to think, sing, bark, or buy. There are a number of interesting people with compelling messages that may not have the smoothest delivery, but they connect. And people respond. Those are the shows we are looking for and will help develop. But no idiots, infomercials or dullards.
3. How do you plan to get the word out about the station? As a marketing expert, what kind of consumer-facing marketing can you do to draw an audience?
The Interweb, baby. The sponsor (and content provider) for “Big Ideas for Small Business” has a database of over 130,000 customers. That broadcast is tailored to them. The underwriter of our movie critics show -- a HUGE movie lover -- has a 60,000+ list. And the Houston Film Critics appear on over 30 media outlets. Most of these broadcasters have fans already that will help spread the word. And will do some Facebook ads. But it wouldn’t be a Doug Harris project without an attention-getting device. OK, a stunt. And one is coming…
4. You've referred to the talk programming as "just like the old days." What about radio in the old days can be adapted to the new era? What are the primary lessons radio can learn from its past?
We must get back in the business of listener benefit and stop testing the boundaries of listener tolerance. Just because it’s cheaper doesn’t make it better for the listener. Remember national contesting? That went over like a fart in church. Air personalities that aren’t live and don’t even live in the city whose listeners they are speaking to? Live personalities warned not to speak longer than :41! Who came up with that? A banker -- not a broadcaster. If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg had met to script the demise of terrestrial radio and the rise of web-based entertainment, they couldn’t have done a better job of killing us than radio did to itself.
5. Over the years, you've been involved with several entrepreneurial efforts. What advice would you give radio people thinking about going out on their own with new business ventures, whether they be radio-related (podcasts, streaming) or something else?
If you want to stay connected to the industry you love, take the risk. If you want to more effectively control your destiny, take the risk. Easy for me to say. I don’t have children, my parents have passed, and my brother is a talented, successful guy. The cost of entry to creating your own product has opened the door and podcasting is a great new frontier. Or you take the skills you have learned in broadcasting and apply them to other industries. My experience as a promotions director has made me an expert in creating trade show booths. My clients are stealing the show at huge conferences because I’m treating the expo as a car dealer remote. You have applicable talents. And the only secure job in radio is “owner.”
6. Of what are you most proud?
Hard not to sound like a douche when responding to this question. My work at KLOL was the most satisfying and perhaps the highest profile of my portfolio (douche alert!). The KLOL Rock and Roll Auction (10 years, over $1,000,000) and Outlaw Radio were highlights. Could not have done either without great jocks, adventurous PD’s. a killer sales department, great record reps, and the Jedi GM, Pat Fant. A real beagle as a station mascot for a news station (Cronkite, the News 92 FM Newshound) was pretty cool. But, SUCCESSFULLY creating a contest using Dr. Pepper’s most obtuse slogan and awarding a Pontiac Fiero is a very private source of pride.
7. You've reviewed movies for many years. You can only have one to watch for the rest of eternity. What's that movie and why?
”The Godfather.” Incredible story, unforgettable script and characters. Beautifully shot, beautifully edited. A masterpiece. Number two? “The Shawshank Redemption.” Same reasons. Guilty pleasures? “Galaxy Quest.” “That Thing You Do.”
8. Who have been your mentors, influences, and inspirations in the business?
My godfather Jimmie Menutis (google him) was a Houston night club impresario in the ‘50s and ‘60s. One of the greatest promoters of all time. I learned a lot from him. Wouldn’t be where I am today if weren’t for Pat Fant, a creative collaborator and the facilitator (enabler) of some of the craziest stuff I’ve ever done. Ed Levine -- balls so big he used a wheelbarrow. Ted Edwards, Ken Anthony, Rick Lambert, Denton Marr, Andy Beaubien -- PD’s who walked softly but carried a big stick. Helped me get past “yes” and “no” to discover “how.” Not an asshole in the bunch. Paige Nienaber is brilliant but most likely just visiting from another planet. Let’s enjoy his work before he is called back.
9. 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?
This too shall pass.