10 Questions with ... Bo Matthews
January 19, 2016
1. What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
My first job in radio was at WNCD, then CD-106 The Wolf in Youngstown, OH. At first, it was a local owner, then Jacor, then CC. Started out like many others ... being an intern/part-timer, happy as hell to do as much as anyone would give me. The more you learn, the more responsibilities you get, the bigger the job. Soon realized that I wanted this to be a career and I took full advantage of working at a big company with many stations around the country. Moved to Florida, and got to learn from ridiculously talented people (Dom Theodore, Marc Chase, Brad Hardin, Chris Kampmeier). I still get to work with Marc and Brad today in my current role. When I got to Cleveland, I got to learn from Kevin Metheny, Keith Abrams and Gene Romano. Whenever something challenging comes up, I am always thinking, "What would ______ do?" (Insert one of the people above). I am very lucky to have had amazing leaders and mentors in this company.
2. What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it?"
I went to school for English Education at Youngstown State University, which is also funny because at one time, Kasper, Jagger, and myself would see each other around campus and have classes together. There was a time where I was teaching high school English during the day, and on the air at night. I would be playing the Goo Goo Dolls on the air at night in Fort Myers while grading papers - talk about multi-tasking! It was a pretty easy decision to pick radio over teaching school. I got to wear shorts to work, and be in a wildly creative and competitive environment. I was also into theater, drama club, and speech team while growing up. So much of that was being critiqued and working on getting better. Radio was a way for me to still get the thrill of performing, critiquing myself and others -- AND I get a paycheck for this? Sign me up.
Working with talent and coming up with creative angles is still my favorite part of my job. I'm still just a kid in high school on the speech team, kickin' ass. As I type this, I am sitting in my office wearing jeans, a Twenty One Pilots T-shirt, a Cleveland Indians hat. This is winning. This is it.
3. Can you give us a brief outline of your radio career to this point?
I have been working for the same company since I was 19. Youngstown - WNCD and the short-lived BEAT (now Kiss); Fort Myers, FL -- Star (Hot AC); launched and first PD gig of WBTT, then WRLR (Hot FM talk -- all syndicated mostly from Orlando); Jacksonville, FL - at KISS and Planet (Top 40 and Alt); Cleveland at the Mighty WMMS and KISS FM (Rock/Talk and Top 40); and currently SVPP of the iHeartMedia/Cincinnati cluster with day-to-day PD responsibilities for WEBN.
4. How long have you been at the legendary WEBN and what makes this station so unique?
I have been here for two-plus years now, and it feels like I just got here last week. It's one of an elite group of radio stations that have survived and succeeded in the Rock format for a very long time. I really think these Midwest cities are quite similar with what they want from their Rock stations, and I think WEBN is the coolest of all the stations with an animal mascot. The FROG kicks ass, and still looks like someone could have designed it last week. I love WMMS, but the Buzzard has a mullet. We tried to make him look cooler over the years when I was there -- but I don't know if that image will ever be as cool as the WEBN Frog. Oh, and we like fireworks and chili more than anyone else. I guess our market situation is unique because I think we are the only market with more than one Active Rock station. For a while, I wanted them to just go away, but now, even if they went away, our gain would be so minimal, so who cares.
5. You have the dual role as iHeartMedia SVP/Programming in Cincinnati while programming WEBN ... how do you balance your time so both roles are effective?
Easy! It's all about the team. I am proud and honored to be a part of 700 WLW, the highest-rated News/Talk station in America, but without Scott Reinhart and the amazing talent on that station, this doesn't work. Deelo is a great Top 40 PD with a bright future. Surrounded by these folks, I can't lose.
6. Let's talk about The KiddChris Show in mornings. He's been successful in other markets before coming to WEBN. What makes this morning show work?
Kidd Chris has been the victim of many circumstances in other markets where he started to taste some successes. On WYSP, he was building something special. Then in Atlanta, they were experiencing a nice growth pattern on Project when the station went away. He has now been on WEBN for three-plus years and this is the longest he has ever been on a station in his career. So much of this is consistency, especially on a Rock station like WEBN that has been around for nearly 50 years and living in the shadow of a long-standing morning show called the Dawn Patrol. Our competition (if you wanna call them that) is on their third morning show in three years. With their constant change, it has sped-up our process for the KiddChris show. We are now the "established" show that people in Cincinnati know. They know it, and they love it! KiddChris is throwing up major numbers right now, and has created a rabid fan base in Cincinnati. KiddChris is extremely talented, and is a true student of his craft. He also knows what it takes in 2016 to win. We take chances and bail when they don't work. He also owns online and social media.
7. WEBN is one of the stations that recently made the move from the Mainstream Rock panel to Active Rock. It looks like you're playing a fair amount of currents. Has this been a gradual transition for the station?
No. We are now on the Active Rock Panel because the Mainstream Rock Panel is no more. We don't have a mission to play any more currents than we had previously. Nothing to see here. If anything, over the past couple years, we have pulled back on currents.
8. Now that you're on the Active Rock panel, what's your take on the available current Rock music for the Active Rock format?
I am bummed out about it, and this is something I have been preaching for years. The '90s were the last good era for what we do (I think), and how much can you play Nirvana? We need to be broadening our tastes and what people think a Rock station should sound like. Why was it okay for Rock stations in the '90s to play Alt leaning songs? The Smashing Pumpkins, 311, Green Day, Everclear, Janes Addiction, Blink 182, Weezer, Beck, Sublime ... those are Alt artists, and we were okay with them being on Rock Radio. Why not now? Why do we need every band to sound like Seether? We need to be finding new sounds and be okay with things sounding a little out of place. This past year we played Awolnation, Struts, Royal Blood, Milky Chance, The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, Kongos, Zak Brown Band -all on WEBN. I don't know that WEBN did much of that before. We were in a holding pattern -- not touching Alt bands. We need those bands and different sounds in order to win. We played them in 2015, and listeners didn't show up at the station with burning torches - they liked them! In fact, we NOW have the highest ratings than EVER before in the PPM era.
9. How much does WEBN use social media like Facebook and Twitter to interact with its listeners?
Bruh. We just crossed 200K on Facebook. POW. This is what we have, and I would publicly give the middle finger to Facebook for their ever-changing algorithms to prevent our station posts from showing up in our followers' feeds. Our cluster is always on top of the rankers when it comes to online metrics. Our biggest challenge is beating ourselves last year. iHeartMedia is in a league of our own when it comes to digital.
10. Finally, I know that you're a Cleveland Browns fan, but WEBN is the radio home for the Cincinnati Bengals. How do you balance this personally and professionally and what do you think of the Browns hiring former Bengals OC Hue Jackson as their new head coach?
This has been fun. I now own Bengals gear, too. YES, I love the Browns. Growing up in the Youngstown area was interesting because half the people liked the Steelers and half liked the Browns. I often joke that I landed on the wrong side, being a Browns fan. I rationalize it as - when the Bengals win, it helps the stations. We tri-cast the Bengals on iHeartMedia/Cincinnati, so I have a vested interest in them winning. This year was easy to root for the Bengals because the Browns were just awful. So far, I am loving what I am hearing from Hue Jackson as the new Browns Head Coach. He's the most engaging, exciting HC the Browns have had in a while -- and it's only week one.