10 Questions with ... Mark Adams
July 29, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I began my on-air career in Jonesboro, AR -- where I also attended high school -- at KJBR. Later I did nights at KOY (Y-95)/Phoenix, which directly led to my first MD position at KKXX/Bakersfield, CA. I later moved on to become the APD/MD/night jock at XHTZ (Z-90)/San Diego. My first PD job was in 1994 at KBOS (B-95)/ Fresno, CA, where I also added programming duties for our Sports-Talk KCBL (The Ball). I've done Modern AC/Adult Alternative at WPNT (The Point)/Milwaukee for Saga, Mainstream Top 40 at KZQZ (Z-95.7)/San Francisco for Bonneville, and after the Bay Area I worked in Portland, OR for eight years as the VP/Programming for Rose City Radio, which included Rhythmic Top 40 KXJM (Jammin 95.5) and News-Talk KXL-A. Most recently, before relocating back to The Pacific Northwest to join CCM+E Portland, I spent six years with CBS Radio/Houston as the VP/Music Programming, including Mainstream Top 40 KKHH (HOT 95-7), Country KILT (The Bull), Hot AC KHMX (Mix 96-5), and Regional Mexican KLOL (Mega 101).
1) You were in quite a dogfight in Houston, battling a well-programmed, heritage station. What's your take on the experience?
I had a lot of fun in Houston and we enjoyed a very successful run with HOT 95-7. Prior to moving to Houston, I'd acquired a lot of experience in head-to-head Top 40 battles, notably in both Portland and San Francisco, and applied many of those lessons in developing a strategy to challenge KRBE. We created our own distinctive brand and music position; counter-programming KRBE in some regards as our strategy was in part predicated on targeting acculturated Hispanic women and creating a musical coalition more in line with the market's demography. We also developed a winning morning show and a great on-air staff, created a unique imaging package which became signature to HOT, and coupled that with an aggressive promotional and marketing strategy which helped compliment the overall branding and personality of the station. Houston's a complicated market with a lot of very good radio stations. I found the experience invaluable.
2) How did the Portland radio landscape change while you were away?
There had been some significant ownership changes that resulted in several stations making changes both to formats and dial positions while I was away. Larry Wilson's Alpha Broadcasting was not in the market the last time I was here. They now own several stations that were previously held by Rose City Radio as well as CBS Radio, which has also since left the market. Both Entercom and Clear Channel had made some format changes as well. That said, many of the major players were in the same positions and on the whole I'd characterize the competitive landscape as more familiar than not.
3) Fill us in on the portfolio of stations that you are now overseeing as VP/Programming.
Z100 (KKRZ/Mainstream Top 40), K103 (KKCW/Mainstream AC), JAM'N 107-5 (KXJM/Rhythmic Top 40), The Brew (KFBW/Classic Rock), Oldies 106.7 (KLTH/Classic Hits), 1190 KEX (KEX-A/News-Talk), Rip City Radio 620 (KPOJ/Sports-Talk), and Radio 102.3 (KKRZ-HD2/Alternative).
4) Congratulations on your recent ratings success. What were the key highlights?
CCM+E Portland had a great Q1 and Q2 culminating with our June book: We held the top four positions A25-54 in the market, (#1 K103, #2 Z100, #3 The Brew, #4 JAM'N 107-5), the top three stations A18-49, (#1 JAM'N 107-5, #2 Z100, #3 The Brew), had the #1 station both W & M 25-54 (K103 & The Brew, respectively) and dominated A18-34 with the Z100/JAM'N 107-5 combo. We have a great programming team here and a lot of credit also has to go to PD Justin Riley as well as PD Chris Shebel. The three of us have a great dynamic and we work well together across all of our stations.
5) What are the unique opportunities - and challenges - that come with overseeing a heritage station like KKRZ?
Success and heritage can be both an asset and a liability, i.e. everyone is gunning for you. I know better than most how big the Z100 brand has always been in Portland and have a unique perspective on how to go about tearing it apart. Shortly after I arrived in mid-December of last year I worked closely with Justin Riley (PD of KKRZ) to really scrutinize our strengths and weaknesses, identity both potential vulnerabilities as well as areas of opportunity, and develop new tactics to tighten up our mechanics and execution while simultaneously working to create PPM growth and greater performance stability. Z100 was by no means broken or doing poorly; but we've enjoyed improved performance during the first half of this year and have probably become an even better radio station. Justin is a very good programmer and a smart guy; between the two of us I think we've made it a lot tougher for anyone across the street.
6) How much musical common ground is there between Z100 and Jam'n 107.5?
By design, very little. We re-designed, re-branded, and re-launched KXJM in late February to become the new JAM'N 107-5. In part to get that station out of the way of KKRZ, while simultaneously creating a more exclusive music lane for the new station to occupy and own. JAM'N is more recurrent and gold-based than current; taking advantage of the market's Rhythmic Top 40 heritage while also keeping a stake in the contemporary lane for competitive purposes. Outside of a handful of the biggest crossover pop titles, JAM'N is pretty much in its own lane. Z100 is Portland's #1 Hit Music Station and Justin and I feel strongly about keeping separation between the two brands so as to have them better compliment rather than directly compete with each other.
7) If you could add one full-time position to your budget right now, what would it be?
You can never have enough digital and social ninjas. We have a great team here and I'd like to clone them all. (Shout out to: Dan Bozyk, Kelsie Loos, Jay Mackin, and Danny Davoodi.)
8) Who is your favorite air personality not on your staff and why do you like them?
I'm going to cheat a little bit. He's not on my staff, yet he is. He was on my staff before, now he kind of is again. Confused yet? I'm a big fan of Mo Bounce of Z100 New York. Mo worked for me in Houston at HOT before Sharon (Dastur) made him the proverbial offer he couldn't refuse a few years ago. Now he also voicetracks our night show on Z100 Portland and does an excellent job. He's always over-prepared, executes flawlessly, and brings great fun and energy to the radio.
9) What was your favorite station to listen to when you were a kid?
As I was trapped out in the sticks during middle and high school, there weren't a lot of great options. I begged and borrowed aircheck tapes and videos from any number of people and some of my favorites included Alan Kabel on B96 in Chicago, WAVA Washington DC with George McFly and Greg Thunder, Spyder Harrison on Philly's Eagle 106, Jo Jo "Cookin'" Kincaid on Q106 San Diego, Hollywood Hamilton, Broadway Bill Lee, Slim, John Lander, Fred Winston, Elvis Duran, Scott Shannon, Rick Dees, and many others. I spent the first several years as an on-air personality doing a lot of (no doubt, very poor) imitations of people a lot more talented than I was. And to this day, like any good radio geek, I turn down the volume when the music is playing and turn it up for the DJs and the imaging.
10) What is the current state of the radio "talent pool?"
It's better than many people may feel it is. While there's inarguably more voicetracking, syndication, and other options for the digital delivery of content in our industry today, I would argue that often such dynamics have as much to do with upgrading a local talent position as addressing a budgetary vs. ROI consideration. When you have access to someone like Mo Bounce at Z100 New York, or Johnjay & Rich in Phoenix, or someone who is just a total icon, like Angie Martinez at Power in New York, why would you not want to have that level of talent associated with your local brand? Content is king; demonstrably listeners are primarily concerned with being entertained by good content that connects. Using Mo Bounce again As a quick example, he does at least as much prep for his Portland show on Z100 as the show he does for Sharon in New York and delivers #1 results for both markets. He *is* our best, local option.
All of that stated, of course there are fewer overall on-air positions and therefore fewer avenues for talent to break into the industry and I'm not unsympathetic to that dynamic. It's tougher today. However, over the years I've met many people who are passionate about radio, dedicated to furthering their career, and who possess innate talent that simply needs development, and have been willing to do whatever it takes (wherever that may take them) to succeed in spite of the those challenges. I'm hugely gratified when I can play a small role in mentoring someone and helping them fulfill their career aspirations. I know many programmers who feel the exact same way. Developing new talent is always going to be a challenge; it was just as much of a challenge for me back in the early '90s and it continues to be today. But I feel there are still many opportunities for talented people whom can make an impact to break through.
For someone vacationing in your market, what one thing would you say they "must see"?
Portland's a beautiful city. I'd recommend taking a walk along the riverfront or through the Pearl District, downtown. We're also less than 90 minutes from the ocean, and about the same distance from Mount Hood or to the base of Mount Saint Helens. Do you know the reason everyone tells you it rains all of the time in Portland? The Oregonians would rather it remain secret that Portland is one of the prettiest and most livable cities in the country.