10 Questions with ... Jill Strada
May 24, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- B.A. Degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL
- January 1996-January 1999: Promotion Assistant/on-air personality - WJHM/102 JAMZ
- January 1999-January 2004: Marketing & Promotion Dir. and APD/MD - WPYO/95.3 PARTY
- January 2004-July 2007: PD - WPYO/POWER 95.3
- July 2007-current: APD/MD - WQHT/HOT 97
- March 2009-current: PD - WRKS/98.7 KISS-FM
1) You started in the promotions department at WJHM (102 JAMZ)/Orlando. Who were some of your early influences?
Actually when I started at WJHM, it was owned by Beasley Broadcasting. Then it was bought and sold a few times and ended up being owned by Chancellor Media while I was there ... later to be sold to CBS. The Promotion Director at that time, Carlos Pedraza, was the person who brought me into radio as his intern in the Promotion Department. I did everything at the station from part-time promotions to on-air shifts. I was like a sponge, always wanting to learn and do more. Carlos, along with the many talented radio personalities and DJ's -- Bartel Bartel (R.I.P.), Cedric Hollywood, Monica May, Jimmy Jamz, and DJs Twice As Nice (Richie Rich & DJ Ray) - all influenced me in my early years in radio. It was with this group of people that I discovered my passion for radio.
2) What was/were the most influential people and radio station(s) growing up?
Hot 97 was the most influential radio station for me growing up. Everybody who loved Hip-Hop loved Hot 97, whether you lived in New York or not. Locally, 102 JAMZ was very influential to me, as it was the first radio station in Orlando to play Hip-Hop music. The folks that I just listed - Bartel Bartel , Cedric Hollywood, Monica May, Jimmy Jamz Richie Rich and DJ Ray -- were local celebrities. I admired these individuals well before we worked together.
3) How do you feel about PPM? Has it made a difference in your overall programming strategies? What are the benefits, if any, once you fully understand it?
Like any ratings system, PPM has its flaws. When we were in the diary system, we had challenges there as well. PPM reflects real-time listening whereas the diary system was a popularity contest. Programming philosophies have changed to a degree, but the bottom line is ... good radio is good radio. We were not doing things wrong all of these years. We are just being challenged to improve our radio stations by making sure the jocks' content is engaging and tight, the imaging is quick, and the songs are the hits ... always.
4) Did you always want to be an MD or PD?
No, I got into radio initially because I loved music and people. I was intrigued with radio as a business. I always wanted to understand all aspects of the game, so I worked in the Promotion Department, I was on-air, I sold commercial spots on the station ... I did just about everything. When I started working at WPYO in 1999, I was able to learn the radio business from a start-up perspective, which was a great experience! And as I grew in my career, I became very passionate about programming. I'm a marketing person at heart, and programming is essentially marketing songs, artists, jocks and a brand. I love it!
5) Other than some of the obvious artists, what do you see as the major differences between a Rhythmic station such as WPYO (95.3 Party) or WQHT (Hot 97) and an Urban/Urban AC station like WRKS?
The differences between Rhythmic, Urban and Urban AC stations, Rhythmic stations can lean Urban and play Hip-Hop or they can lean Pop and play mainstream songs. Urban stations usually stick to a Hip-Hop and R&B format. Rhythm and Urban stations typically target a 18-35 demographic. Urban ACs are your Adult Urban stations that target a 25-54 audience. They play R&B and Old School and are a lot more gold-based that Rhythmic and Urban stations.
6) How you prefer to be promoted on new records? And how do you feel about waiting on a record you hear until the research validates it? Are there times when you just go with your gut?
I'm cool with my record reps sending me new songs to consider for rotation and keeping me updated on the songs national progress. Certain artists are in a "no-brainer" category - these are the core artists of the station that come out with a banger and I know it's going to be an automatic hit with my listeners. That song goes into my new music category and will typically test early on and move into heavy rotation. Other songs require longer exposure on the station before they test. Either way, research validates all of that. There are various forms of research, the most common is callout research, but I also use focus groups and I also just go out to where my listeners are and watch how they react to songs that are being played.
7) What are your thoughts on today's syndication? What would make it better and more effective and does it affect significantly on the number of hours that you have control over the music that you play?
Syndicated shows now have to confront the new challenges that PPM presents. The syndicated jocks have to learn how to play the game in our new measurement system. Some of the things have proven to work for them in diary just do not work in PPM. The talent has to be open to learning how to win in PPM, which isn't always easy. Same thing goes with music being played on the syndicated show ... the show has to test music just as we do at radio. The songs being played on a syndicated show can't just be the jocks favorite tunes at the time. There has to be a strategy in the execution of the art. If research is being conducted, then giving up control over the music being played isn't as difficult.
8) Because of callout research are today's Urban and Urban AC programmers going to be slower in adding and playing new music? And what is the maximum number of spins a record in power rotation could be expected to receive in a given week on WRKS?
Yes, Urban and Urban AC stations with a 25-54 demographic are slower in adding music to their playlists. KISS-FM is a gold-based radio station. While we play current songs on the station, that is not our focus. The maximum number of spins a song will receive on KISS-FM is 25 spins per week.
9) Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I am always looking to improve in all areas from management and leadership to programming, branding and marketing my products. I am never going to stop expanding my mind and learning new things.
10) As you look back over your career ... any regrets? Missed opportunities?
No, not at all. I wouldn't have taken this journey any other way.
What would people who think they know Jill Strada be surprised to know about you?
I was a crazy hip-hop head back in the day ...15 years old, wearing baggy clothes and looking crazy fly! I loved dancing to Hip-Hop and would be in the clubs all night going at it. I was the chick in the middle of the dance circle getting down! Somehow I was always able to talk my way into the hot clubs after hour spots even though I was underage. I never took "no" for an answer. I was always able to find a way to make things happen. LOL ... wow, you took me back ... good memories!
What current radio stations other than your own, do you admire & why?
WPYO/POWER 95.3 in Orlando ... I gave birth to that station. It's still my baby.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
The lack of mentorship in our industry. We have to develop the next generation. I make time for that, it's important ... and it's personally very rewarding to watch individuals growing into their own.
What's your favorite reading material (other than All Access)?
I read management and leadership books, self-help books, and sometimes I find time for novels. Reading is definitely one of my most favorite past times.
Do you feel that Urban stations should be more careful not to blindly copy formats but tailor them specifically to the age and racial make-up of their own markets?
Yes, it is important to program to your market specifically. The songs on the station may be similar nationwide, but the on-air personalities, the station's imaging and the promotions on the station should be unique to the market.
How important is consistent marketing to a station's overall success?
This is very important. However it may not always be realistic depending on the economic situation at the station. Contests and promotions that are designed to build audience are essential for ratings success. They help brand a radio station by creating hype, passion and listener loyalty.