Over their 28 years the executive team at Saga Communications believes they have found the sweet spot in the radio industry, focusing on owning and operating radio stations in small to medium size markets.
Forget Charlotte, think Asheville. Ignore Boston, acquire Springfield.
The strategy makes sense; in large markets the competition for consumer attention is intense, whereas in a smaller market there is an opportunity to develop a loyal fan base by focusing on locally relevant content the audience may not be able to get anywhere else.
But that’s not to say the demands of radio jobs in small markets are any easier.
“Smaller markets means each person must do multiple jobs,” explains Executive Vice President of Saga Communications, Steve Goldstein. “Even more so these days”.
Hiring managers for radio jobs crave versatility, the more you can do to help the better, and once you get your foot in the door, who knows, you just might stay.
“It used to be that smaller markets were stepping stones to larger ones, but in many cases we have retained people we know are qualified to be in larger towns,” says Goldstein. “At a meeting this past week of morning show hosts, 10 out of 11 had been with us 10 years or more. Remarkable.”
Identifying talent is where Goldstein has made his most indelible mark, “there is not a Saga station out there with marginal talent – only the best for Steve Goldstein,” says Lisa Miller, President of Miller Broadcast Management. “And that’s how Steve continues to operate, hiring only the best for his company.”
For more on what it takes to be successful in radio and the future of the medium, here’s Steve Goldstein, Executive Vice President for Saga Communications:
As someone who has worked their way up through the radio industry, from news anchor, affiliate relations, programming director to executive, what do you believe are the key skills and attributes for success in a radio job?
Goldstein: Clear understanding of audience desires, needs and trends. An ability to balance left and right brain functions.
If we don’t entertain and inform, we will become irrelevant. Those are the skills people need to have. How to connect with people is job one in radio.
Time magazine recently dubbed this current generation as the “Me Me Me” generation – full of entitlement – Do you agree? In your experience is there something lacking from today’s college graduates as they enter the workforce?
Goldstein: No doubt, as a whole they are less patient, but I think they are super-smart and we hire as many as we can to help change our culture.
I had meeting with our interactive team last week, and continue to be blown away by their work ethic and smarts. But if we don’t create a good environment for them, they will be gone.
I read a Nielsen-Billboard study recently that so far in 2013, the top ten streamed songs and the top ten most played radio songs are dramatically different, with only three songs on both lists (see chart below)…does this mean broadcast radio is missing the mark with the consumer, or something else?
Goldstein: Excellent question. Radio stations need to aggregate large audiences to be successful. If they fail to stay in step with changing music tastes, they will perish. It’s that simple.
RadioInk magazine comes out with an annual list of the best program directors of the nation – which is always littered with program directors from Saga owned stations – in your opinion, what makes a great program director?
Goldstein: Although the business has changed dramatically, and the role of the program director has changed (think multiple platforms) – we now acknowledge that by calling them Brand Managers the essence of what they do has not changed.
I preach to our crew the importance of being “brilliant at the basics” and making sure that each time someone listens it is a good experience. And we continue to teach at Saga. I’m not sure there is a lot of that going on elsewhere.
You conducted a session at the 2012 Radio show on “Making Radio Apps your New Transmitter” – this just goes to show Saga isn’t resting on what has always worked – what was the over-arching message of your session and what is at the core of Saga’s mobile strategy?
Goldstein: Coke comes in big cans and little bottles. They understand the importance of flexibility of the consumer’s needs. We need to observe and learn and be more adaptable. Audience consumption patterns are changing. I’ve got 20-something kids …. I see it.
You know, people consume more written word news than ever today…but it’s not from newspapers.
The world is becoming more and more ‘on demand’, the consumer can seemingly get exactly what they want at any moment – what does a radio station have to do to stay relevant to the audience, and in turn attractive to advertisers, in this technologically advanced marketplace?
Goldstein: We need to develop new programming, and repurpose our programming and customize it to be attractive in different platforms.
You’ve worn many hats in radio – looking back, and not factoring in salary, is there a certain role that was your favorite? Why?
Goldstein: I wouldn’t trade any of it in, but I must say, I like what I do today – crafting programming in multiple formats on multiple platforms.