10 Questions with ... David R. DuBose
March 6, 2012
1. What was your first job in radio ... influences?
WBAM-A/F/Montgomery, Alabama Deep South Broadcasting, The Big Bam! Legendary Top 40 operated by the Brennan family.
2. What made you decide on a radio business career? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
I worked through high school and college in radio, so the "radio bug" hit me early. Perhaps the thrill of everyday being different and "wild" is what sealed the deal.
3. If you were just starting out in radio, knowing now what you didn't then, would you still do it? What would be your second choice?
Yes, I still love the business of radio -- working with an amazing group of people every day and having a chance to positively impact the community I live in. My second choice would be TV because I spent about 10 years in television during the middle part of my broadcast career.
4. What still excites you about radio, given the tough economy we're now facing?
Just a week ago a listener called in tears to thank me for our stations providing continuous coverage of a tornado on the ground impacting a suburb of Birmingham. She said her power was out, her cell phone was dead and the broadcast from the Cox Media Group stations was her only source she had to let her know to seek shelter immediately before the storm struck her neighborhood. Great local radio excites me every time I hear it just as it did on my first trip to WBAM way back in the early 1970s.
WBHK has been a market-leading station for the last five years in Birmingham and recently it became the nation's #1 Urban AC station -- no small feat. 98.7 Kiss-FM (WBHK) has been the #1 station in Birmingham for 49 books in a row, which doesn't happen by accident. Our people make the difference. Kiss is live 24 hours a day, seven days a week with local personalities in all day parts except morning drive, which is held down by Alabama native son Tom Joyner.
5. How do you account for this and is it really the things that the station does between the records that make the difference?
Just this past Saturday when Whitney Houston died, we broke in with instant news coverage. on-air /online on Facebook and Twitter. We brought our news people in and provided coverage. We also began on on-air tribute playing all Whitney, taking instant requests and allowing listeners to grieve. News coverage throughout the weekend; special mini-concerts featuring Whitney Houston. This is what radio should be doing in its best hours.
But even during Tom Joyner, we run local news, traffic and weather with veteran News Director Reginald Greene and traffic with Keisha Ellison. Isis Jones does mid-mornings on Kiss, followed by Birmingham native Darryl Johnson, Kiss PD, who holds down 11a-2p. Chris Coleman is a Birmingham native who drives listeners home from 2-7p. Kim Moore handles nights with continuous love songs. Kim and Darryl have been with Kiss since the beginning in 1998.
Our announcers are a part of the community active in working with youth, church and civic groups. Kiss is always first to step in during times of need last year when copper thieves trying to steal Christmas tree lights burnt down the City Christmas tree. Kiss stepped in to find a 35-foot replacement and lights to restore the major symbol of Christmas because the city did not have the funds to replace the tree.
6. As VP/Market Manager for Cox in Birmingham, you oversee an extremely successful cluster. What are the unique challenges of keeping the stations concurrently at the top of the heap and how has Cox in general -- and WBHK in particular -- managed to not only survive but prosper?
The challenge in the environment is reducing expenses without damaging the profit or damaging our service to our customers. This is a constant balancing act but due to the philosophy at Cox Media Group, the emphasis is clearly on protecting our local on-air and our digital product.
7. How do you feel about syndication? Since it significantly reduces local control and input and affects the number of hours that stations like WBHK have control over its music and content, is that ever a problem?
I am not a huge fan of syndication except for Tom Joyner because Tom works with us frequently visiting the market ... and we place significant resources to keep the show local. We do limit syndication but my first choice is always to be local, this is sort of in my DNA.
8. What are your guidelines for staying focused on all the stations in your cluster on a perpetual basis?
Every day I listen to a different radio station (eight in all) then I rotate other hours to spot check my competitors. I meet every week with each of our five PDs and our Marketing Director, as well as the Sales Managers -- and I do a lot of "walking around," talking to our team members. Rarely is my door ever closed.
9. Despite your success, of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
Yes, I know my communication skills can always be improved in sharing the news with our employees and in providing perspective when changes are made within our market and in the industry.
10. What parallels can you draw between WBHK and WBHJ that are symbolic of the sustained success they both enjoy?
Both WBHK and WBHJ have a couple of things in common -- great local talent, a sense of service to our listeners and a relentless pursuit of improving our product. Music is important to Kiss, but that is not all we are about. Kiss has two full-time news reporters in Reginald Greene and Julius White, meteorologist JB Elliot and our own traffic center so, we probably are only one of the FM music stations in the country playing hits, but also focusing on breaking news, traffic and weather 24/7. We wrap all of this with local disc jockeys and carefully balanced music and you have #1 Urban Adult station in America.
How involved do you get in sales strategies, and overall assessments of your cluster's revenue position in the Birmingham marketplace?
As Market Manager at CMG, I have to be involved in sales on an ongoing basis, because without sales driving the engine, we cannot continue to invest in our product. I am blessed with great Sales Managers whom have all been with Cox/Birmingham a long time, so I want to be supportive without "micromanaging." Most of our clients know me and I know the clients. Part of my week always includes sales calls to visit with clients. Helping our customers find answers to their specific needs and assisting with the creation of customized marketing plans is one of my favorite things about the business.
What's been your biggest disappointment in radio today?
My biggest disappointment in radio is too much voicetracking, the loss of local talent and content on some stations. In addition, we seem to have lost some of the fun in radio. Listeners want to be entertained and informed. The best radio stations shall do both.
Who do you consider to be your mentors?
My mentors in the business are our long time programming consultant Bill Tanner, ex-Boss Cecil Heftel, Carl Parmer, Dick Ferguson and my current boss Ben Reed who is also an Alabama graduate.
Best career moment(s)?
For April Fools we decided to do a stunt on 95.7 Jamz, we rented a helicopter, put morning man Buck Wilde in it and told the listeners we would drop plastic Easter eggs -- 10,000 of them -- with $1,000 bill in each egg. Thousands of listeners showed up to win free money, some with fishing nets to catch the eggs in the air, one guy had a dump truck. It was an April fool's joke. The eggs had a "bill" in them; you owe us $1,000. So many people showed up, it shut down the shopping center and Interstate 65. All local TV stations broke into normal programming to cover it live. At that moment, after keeping the morning show and PD out of jail, I realized how powerful 95.7 Jamz is.
How important is social media to ratings success?
In today's environment, social media is critical. We post breaking news, traffic weather and personalities all interact on topics with listeners other than the phone and being in the community with better way to receive immediate feedback.