10 Questions with ... Mike O'Donnell
September 24, 2013
1) You were a New England guy forever. How's Northeast Pennsylvania treating you?
Great! I love Entercom ... great company! My family likes it here, and my family's actually grown since we've come to Northeast PA, so things are good.
2) What lead you to a career in radio initially?
I discovered the radio when I was about 12, and I knew that that's what I wanted to do. I really started getting into pop music. I lived in Southeastern Massachusetts, so I grew up listening to Providence and Boston radio. Kiss 108 in Boston had just come on the air, and I listened to them, as well as PRO in Providence, and the old JB105. I grew up on those stations and their big personalities ... all of the personalities on those stations were BIG. That was the focus then. They really let personalities BE personalities and do their thing on the air. I was like, "Wow, that's a really cool gig. I would like to be able to do that."
3) You have some BIG personalities on KRZ, to say the least...
Jeff Walker has been here since KRZ lit, and that was in October of 1980, so he's been here 33 years, doing afternoons for the most part. His ratings continue to dominate. He has massive ratings, and it's always been that way. In mornings, Rocky Rhodes has also been here for a long time. He left for a gig in Orlando at one point before returning, and he's probably been here for about 25 years total. We have heritage personalities, and big brand shows. It's a big brand station! And the shows are local. They are constantly out meeting the listeners and doing stuff in the community.
4) You're wearing a lot of hats. What are your other duties in addition to overseeing the mighty KRZ?
I was originally hired to be the PD of KRZ. I left an OM gig for Clear Channel, and at the time I was really happy to get back to super-serving just one station. But as time has gone on, I picked up all of our music stations in the building, so I oversee Froggy 101, which is the big Country stick in town. Froggy is another heritage brand here, and we have an excellent team on that station as well. And we just flipped a station to Sports as The Sports Hub, and I oversee that as well. It had been "The Mountain," which was kind of a Triple A/Classic Rock hybrid, but we're diving into the FM Sports thing now, which is new for me. I'm getting my feet wet with that.
5) What are you guys doing social media-wise?
I think we do an excellent job. We always try to make sure that we're connecting with our listeners. Initially, it was "Let's get as many 'likes' and followers as we can." But eventually, that line levels off, and we do our best to make sure that we're active on there, not just promoting what the station is doing. Our guys not only promote their shows, but put content out there that's going to connect with people. Those platforms are SO big, and you can use them to perpetuate your brand and keep people coming back.
6) Sum up the radio landscape in the market. What's going on competition-wise?
The most recent big change in the market was Cumulus buying out Citadel. That deal included four FM brands that are direct competitors to us. There's 97BHT, which is a direct Top 40 competitor to KRZ. They have a Country station that's using the NASH brand now. There's a rocker that's kind of a conservative Rock station. And their biggest brand is a Hot AC, Magic 93. They're using more voicetracking, syndicated jocks and satellite programming now. On the other side of town, we have have Shamrock, and they have a heritage Classic Rocker that does well, and they have a couple of other stations too, including an Alternative station and an AM Sports station.
7) What would you say is your favorite part of the job?
As an Ops guy, there are always so many different things that you need to do, but every day when I get up, my goal is to come in and make one thing happen every day. Some days you get up and get in to work, and you have your day planned out, but then the stuff hits the fan and nothing gets done. At the end of the day, I want to make one goal happen, and if I can do that every day, that's a great way to make sure that you're moving along, and you're keeping your brands moving. I love my music stations, and the programming is SO important to me. I love to come in and make a positive change every day on one of my stations.
8) What's the most challenging part of the job?
Time management. There are so many things that you want to do. How do you fit them all into one day? I'm sure that's something that everybody goes through. I recently just moved my whole schedule around, and I devote certain days to certain things. In the past, my meetings with different shows on the different stations would be spread across the whole week. Now I meet with all of my talent on one day. Another day is devoted to all imagine, another to music. This has put more time in my "budget."
9) Speaking of talent, what do you think of the current state of the radio talent pool?
That's an interesting question, because I've been trying to hire some part-timers to do stuff for us on the weekend, for tracking shifts and live shifts. The talent pool is shrinking; There's no doubt about that. The hardest thing programmers are running into today is finding new talent that you can put on the air, and they do a satisfactory job. So many applicants have zero experience on-air, and it's because the breeding ground has dried up. We do inter-voicetracking between markets with our sister stations. There are fewer opportunities to get on the air, so the talent pool has shrunk a lot. I try to find raw talent among our interns, and work with them to develop them to a caliber that I can use. It makes it more difficult, but some of these people have turned into very good talents, and that's a rewarding feeling.
10) What advice would you give to people who are new to the business?
There are jobs out there, but not a lot of them. If you really want it, you've got to start in any position that you possibly can, and keep pushing. Keep networking. Stay in touch with every single person you've met. Make sure that they know exactly what you want. Be willing to do whatever is offered to you. If you can get a foot in the door, that's a good thing.
What would we be surprised to find on your iPod?