May 28, 2013
There's nothing like starting a new job running - at full speed. That adequately describes what Kim Bryant did in early January, when she took on the Market Manager post for Cumulus Media's trio of stations - heritage Hot AC WPLJ, heritage Talk WABC ... and what would soon be Country WNSH (NASH-FM). Not only has NASH-FM quickly established a footprint in the Big Apple, but Cumulus just broke out the brand format to stations in five other markets. Here, Bryan describes how the Cumulus team is building a strong foundation for WNSH in New York ... and what to expect as the new Country brand spreads across the country.
When you were hired this past January, was NASH-FM already in the works?
I knew that NASH was going to be the format launched at WFME when I started. We were working on the details in getting it on air, and making sure we launched with the right social media and all the other stuff. I worked on it as soon as I started
How does NASH-FM's target demo differ from WPLJ?
That's interesting because I was just at a WPLJ event this morning, Scott & Todd's annual Summer Blast-off, and I would say the majority of that audience was female 18-34 and 25-54. When I was at the most recent NASH event, it was essentially the same thing in terms of gender and demos. The difference is you've got a select audience listening to Country music. It's more than a different genre of music they listen to; it's a lifestyle. They often live in different locations in the market. And while both stations appeal to females, WPLJ's audience leans towards 25-54, while NASH leans 18-34. That's an important difference.
You look at all the youth-appeal Country artists such as Taylor Swift, The Band Perry and Lady Antebellum, as well as male Country artists such as Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean, who are attracting young girls on top of that. We're also seeing a lot of rockers listening to Country now. People coming from Rock stations tune in and stick around and stay in Country.
So how has New York City's reception to NASH-FM been so far?
We're thrilled. We couldn't be happier with the media supporting us, we couldn't be happier with the reception from advertisers, and we couldn't be happier with the listeners from an engagement and interaction standpoint. We're thrilled with what's taken place.
Have you found any surprises in the early research and/or reception to NASH-FM?
No, the surprise -- which obviously wasn't a surprise to Lew and John Dickey, as well as Jon Pinch -- was that most everyone else around the country didn't realize that Country listeners are absolutely everywhere in New York City. It's amazing; wherever you go in New York, whether you're out in Long Island or walking into a department store in Manhattan, you will hear people listening to NASH-FM on the radio. I've heard it being played in all five boroughs of the City.
Unlike the past, when management would give a format a few books to over a year to establish a foothold in the market, do you feel pressured to succeed more quickly today? Have you set ratings and revenue goals and how long is the deadline to reach them - months ... or a full year or more?
We absolutely have goals. There are ratings goals and revenue goals, and we are comfortable in believing that we will maintain or surpass every one of those goals. We're happy and excited with the results we are getting on both ends so far.
The NASH-FM website is currently a template; no personalities are listed and there isn't much of a "New York" feel to it. Will that change in the coming weeks ... and are you waiting to fill out your air staff - especially in mornings - before you do that?
You absolutely will see that happen in the next few weeks. And we expect to fill mornings quite soon - but I can't say who that will be.
Is NASH's launch in New York less a re-introduction of Country to the market's listeners, and more an intro of New York's Country audience to the Country labels?
Like I said before, when you're professional executives such as the ones who run Cumulus, as well as the executives who run the Country labels, they all know that the listeners have always been there. The social media and lifestyle demo has always been there. The rest of the world may be surprised that New York City likes Country, but quite frankly, Country music today is today's AC.
Plus, you look at Jason Aldean, who was raised on Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Taylor Swift has similar pop and rock references she looked up to and who inspired her. That's what has raised this generation of Country performers, so it's no surprise that pop and rock fans can find something to like in their music.
NASH-FM just launched a live concert series. Could you see future shows include a rock or pop act that influenced the Country stars on the bill?
I wouldn't do that at a NASH-FM event. That's as if you had a Top 40/Rhythmic concert with Beyonce, and you added Aerosmith to the bill. Even though your example has some sort of a connection, we prefer to showcase the Country stars.
Last week's Power Player, Kix Brooks, seemed to predict NASH-FM's national launch when he said that he liked Lew and John Dickey's perspective of making NASH a national brand along the lines of ESPN. Is that essentially what NASH-FM is trying to do on a national scale?
That was perfectly said. NASH-FM is all things Country - not just the music, but all things Country lifestyle. Our goal is to make the Country fan think of the NASH brand as "America's best Country," just as ESPN represents the best in sports. If The World Cup is happening, ESPN is all over it; if it's the NBA playoffs, they're all over that, too. No matter what kind of Country music is popular, NASH-FM will be playing it.
I can go to any supermarket or newsstand and pick up the latest issue of People, and I can guarantee you that half of the artists and movie stars in that issue have Country roots. So what does tell you? It tells me that Country is now a reflection of the times for America today.
The NASH brand is now in five new markets in terms of presentation. Will that also include national music programming as well as Premium Content-style national personalities?
Every market is different, so the NASH brand will have a different flavor in each market. The NASH in Appleton-Green Bay may look and sound one way, but if we launch one in Silicon Valley, California, with all the dotcoms sitting there, you've got to cater to that difference. Every NASH station across the country will do that, just as the ESPN Radio stations in the country have local programming and flavor. Hockey is a huge deal for an ESPN station in Detroit, but it's not that big a deal for an ESPN station in Miami. However, that station will go all-out on the Heat.
Inevitably you'll launch a NASH station in a market that has a Country rival across the street. How do you plan on making a national brand succeed against a Country station that has built a solid local presence?
This is why it's so important to put a local stamp on every market NASH-FM enters. It'll just be like anytime you go into a competitive market with a format that's already heard there. You go in only after you analyze the competitive landscape, look at who rivals are, how and what they're doing ... and you manage accordingly. I believe we're going to do that every single time and when we look at each landscape, we'll be able to find a competitive lane to enter.
Looking ahead, how big do you foresee NASH-FM getting? Could it conceivably be in the top-50 or 100 markets, or more?
I can't speak for Lew, John Dickey or Jon Pinch about those plans, but I'm sure they'll put NASH in all the markets that make sense. Cumulus already has some well-established Country brands in several markets. Why would they drop something that's already working?
Finally, as much as you knew you would hit the ground running with NASH-FM when you started, what's your reaction to how it has gone, four months in, as the brand launches its national breakout?
I was aware of what Lew, John and Jon's ideas, dreams and thoughts were about NASH when I started, but I can't describe how exciting it is to see how this has progressed. It far surpasses what I expected. I feel so lucky to be part of this launch and brand, and quite frankly, to be part of a company as dynamic and growing as Cumulus.