10 Questions with ... Todd Shannon
March 26, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Worked with Cox Media Group for the past three years. I spent over 14 years with Jacor/Clear Channel as an RVPP Programming, OM and Top 40 Brand Manager.
1) Where and what was your first job in radio? Who are some of your mentors?
My first job was at WPFM/Panama City Beach, FL. First full-time gig was back in Panama City at WILN (Island 106). I've had so many mentors over the years. I have to say the best Market Manager I've ever worked for has to be CMG/Jacksonville's Bill Hendrich. He took a chance on a guy from outside of the company who was consistently beating one of his properties (WAPE). After three years with CMG, he has invested quality time and resources in me to help make me be the leader I am today.
2) I understand you came up with the idea of taking this 225 watt translator, WJGL-HD2 (Power 106.1) and going up against Clear Channel's Urban WJBT and presented it to Cox Media SVP Kim Guthrie, VP/GM Jacksonville Bill Hendrich, Steve Smith and Tony Kidd.
After showing the team the plan and selling the vision with passion, everyone agreed it was the right move. For over 20 years, Jacksonville has had only two Urban choices for entertainment in a metro with over 20% African-Americans. The Beat had a 2+ share lead with Persons 18-34 and Persons 25-54. They were ripe for competition.
3) Take us through the sign-on and the initial programming strategy that you guys developed which led to this surprising ratings score.
The Beat has Steve Harvey in the morning and Hip-Hop/R&B after 10a. Our strategy was to reposition them as a station that played the Isley Brothers in the morning and 2 Chainz after 10am. Power 106.1 is Hip-Hop 24/7. We also repositioned the talent as old and out of touch. With the help of our Social Media Manager Aaron Schachter, we launched a detailed social media campaign to spread the word and established contact with the fans of Hip-Hop in Jacksonville.
4) You've achieved a number of firsts. For the first time in history, a 225-watt translator has moved to the top in a key demo. Yours is the first HD-2 station to be #1 and to beat an established Urban station. What do you plan, if anything, to do differently going forward?
We are grateful for the success of Power, but I'm not about to share the future plans and strategy.
5) How would you describe the radio landscape in the Jacksonville market today?
Ever-changing. The market has seen a number of changes since the implementation of PPM and I'm sure we haven't seen the last. Quality brands with compelling programming will always win.
6) You started out in mid-January and now in the last Arbitron ratings WJGL is #1 in persons 18-34. Were there some obvious weaknesses in your competitor which you found that allowed this to happen?
There were some obvious weaknesses at the launch and many still remain today. Most recently they have started to mirror our titles but Power offers a fresh and aggressive approach to Hip-Hop.
7) The first thing radio pundits will say is that WJGL-HD2/ Power 106.1 was running without commercials and/or with a very low commercial load. Were you airing commercials, if so how many? How much of a factor was that in the victory you scored in Jacksonville?
We launched with 10,000 songs in a row on January 10th. Ironically, our numbers and TSL continued to grow after adding inventory to the station.
8) Looking ahead and with regard to PPM, is it all about participants and sample size or are there other challenges as you move forward in the digital measurement landscape?
We as programmers in the PPM world need to focus on what we can control. You have to keep Arbitron in check with the indexing issues, but it will always be about targeting the participants. You have to identify a format opportunity and have the confidence there will be enough listener interest to fuel the station. Compelling programming on a signal that targets the desired listeners with a solid strategy and tactics will win.
9) What's your read on the format music-wise and how do you feel about the future of urban radio?
Hip-Hop is alive and well. There is incredible music from diverse artists like Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and 2 Chainz. There are still opportunities in many markets to target and offer niche programming in the Urban arena.
10) Which new media options do you feel work most effectively with audience engagement and how to you plan to use them to better connect with your audience?
We are off to a great, organic start in the social arena. We will continue to examine our success in all platforms and move to where our audience wants to engage.
11) Finally, let's talk about the total team effort that made this amazing ratings victory possible.
Finally my favorite part, I get to brag on the team! I have to thank Kim Guthrie, Bill Hendrich, Steve Smith and Tony Kidd for seeing the vision and potential of Power. Our local team includes our first personality Swizzy, Kobe Fargo (PD of WAPE) who schedules the music and works social media, Michael Frank, Aaron Schachter, Jake Mitchell and Chad Kerch. Our Street Team is killing it on the streets under the leadership of David Ratz. Last but not least, Brian Apple provides cutting-edge imaging that is not easy to duplicate. This truly is a team effort and I am very fortunate to be in battle with them, on my side!
Cox Media Group Dir./Programming Steve Smith added: "Special props to SVP/Radio Kim Guthrie for believing in this vision and major props to the entire Jacksonville cluster where we have some of the most amazing brands in radio."
Cox Media Group VP/Programming Tony Kidd: "Todd Shannon and his team have done a wonderful job of executing a plan, which was put together by Todd and the strategic team of Steve Smith, Phil Michaels, Market Manager Bill Hendrich and me. This has been a great example of relentless execution, seeing an opportunity, and then taking advantage of it."
What would people who think they know Todd Shannon be surprised to learn about you?
After 20+ years as a Top 40 programmer, I am not only providing the daily blueprint for Power, but I am programming and back on the air on our Classic Hits station, 96.9 The Eagle.
What person living or dead do you most admire?
My best friend, my dad. He told me years ago it's not about you; it's about your team
At what store would you max out your credit card?
The Apple store.
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?
You have to study the competition and closely examine your radio landscape before trying to create your own "power" in your marketplace. There is a lot of art and science in our approach and ratings success.