“…it let us focus on what we did uniquely and best.”
What got you started in radio? Growing up around radio stations, I could tell how much fun it is. Fun people work in radio, and, sure enough, I’ve had a lot of fun.
What was your goal? I wanted to be a big time disk jockey, but that didn’t happen. I went into sales, and that lead into ownership. I like having been on both sides of the bench, because when you hear the two departments argue, you know both sides.
Dad sold the first station I worked at, and then he bought a station in Pawhuska, OK. I started running the board there. May 1, 1976 was the day when I first cracked the microphone. Dad bought another station in Ponca City, OK, and he put KPMC on the air. It is now my flagship station. He sold it in ’84, and then I worked for the new owners in Ponca City, and then worked with my Dad in Sherman, TX.
Ken Greenwood, who just passed away, had taken ownership of KPMC and asked me if I would be the manager, with options to own. That was in 1991.
Talk about your community? Ponca City … in its heyday, Conoco had a big presence here. In the early 80s, when we were blowing & going, they had over 5,000 employees. Since the merger created Conoco Phillips, they’ve well under a thousand employees here. But, we’ve still been able to thrive as a community. We didn’t have massive growth, but we didn’t have to have the last person turn the lights out, either. A town of 25,000 surviving while losing 4,000 people is pretty strong, and it says a lot about the community that it survived that.
Businesses impact? In the mid 90s we still grew extensively. The employee losses didn’t happen all at once, and so we could grow even though they were tough times.
How did you grow from one station? We bought KOKB-AM in 1997, and were able to pay it off in a year. KLOR, the classic hits station, we added in 1999. We then bought 2 stations in Perry that we moved into Stillwater in 2004. We created a “Groupon-type” website about 18 months ago.
Who have your radio heroes been? Lewis Coleman, my father, is one of my heroes. My other dad, as I called him, and my other hero was Ken Greenwood.
What are you doing on the tech side? Why did you set up your trimulcast? In Stillwater, there are hundreds of radio signals booming into the market. When we started doing sports talk that was centered round Oklahoma State, we saw that we had something no one else had. It was Ken Greenwood that said, “You’re doing something good with the AM sports talk, do what you do good, and put it on the FM.” I thought I was an old timer … and you didn’t put talk on the FM. But we did that. And it let us focus on what we did uniquely and best in Stillwater. And then it just seemed natural to add the 1580/Ponca City on there, as there are a lot of Oklahoma State fans here.
Why is it unique? We root for the home team. We make it clear that we are for Oklahoma State sports. We don’t cater to everybody. In Oklahoma, if you’re an Oklahoma State fan, you don’t like Oklahoma University. Who would like your rival? So, it doesn’t bother us to say things that are not nice toward Oklahoma University. Our format is unique, so we’re going to ride this pony for all it’s worth. We’re not trying to be something for everyone. We’re trying to be the choice for fans of Oklahoma State.
We do some good old-fashioned radio in the morning. The school superintendent, the mayor, the police chief; we run them through as much as we can on the morning show. We’re not as heavily about sports in the morning; it’s more about the city of Stillwater.
Do you do PBP for Oklahoma State? No, we don’t. We are strictly sports talk … and we avoid paying the rights fees. We do great outside of the 3 hours of the game every week. We do some high school PBP, and we split the trimulcast for the four high schools that we follow. We broadcast 2 high schools near Ponca City, Blackwell and Newkirk. In the Stillwater area, we do Perry and Guthrie.
How do you do the remotes? Three of them use cellphones, and one uses a tie line. The phone service works fine with today’s cellphone infrastructure.
You do a morning show that’s focused on Stillwater, and broadcast that to Ponca City? Is that working? We’re living with it. It’s not perfect, but while it’s not focused on sports, we still do have sports coverage in the morning.
Your Ponca City studios are unique. The headquarters in Ponca City is in the town’s historic theatre which was built in 1927. The city did a big upgrade to the building, and had strung fiber optic cable around. At the time, the city needed some of our tower space to install their system to read the electrical and water meters … so we worked out an arrangement where we use some of the fiber, and the fiber goes right to our transmitter site. Instead of an STL from the theatre to the tower site, we’re using the fiber optic lines. All of our satellite dishes are at the tower site, and we have all kinds of room to send audio and data back and forth. It’s a municipal partnership that works.
HD? No. Someday.
Streaming? All stations, 24/7, except when we have syndicated programming that we can’t stream. We have some NFL games on the sports stations.
Website? www.PocaCityDeals.com is our site, which is sort of like Groupon. I’m a control freak. I don’t want to do something with somebody and have then tell me what I can’t do … so I did it myself.
Just in Ponca City? Right. It’s been up about 18 months now. It’s an independent site that the radio stations push traffic to. We also do Facebook promotions, helping our customers increase their likes. The stations really don’t have websites. We put all of our focus on their Facebook pages. The maintenance of a Facebook page is much easier. You can enter anything from anywhere. It’s a simple way to have an internet presence, and we’ve got 3,000+ likes on one station, so we’re doing OK.
How do you manage it? Two people, both air talents, post most of the content. We don’t have a social media director yet, but we may have one soon.
How many employees? Twelve full time, and about as many part time, spread across the 2 cities.
Beyond Facebook, are you using other social media? Not at this point. We decided to focus on one, and do it the best we could, and Facebook is the biggest of them all.
Podcasts? Archived sports? Not at the moment.
How do you production? It’s handled locally, and we’ve got one outside voice talent. The air talents do most of the voices, and I do some occasionally.
How’s recruiting? Tough. Took me 14 months to hire a salesperson. I got someone from out of market, but it was very hard. Getting people is difficult these days. We’ve done it to ourselves for air talent … we don’t operate 24/7 with live people, so jobs aren’t there, and the people wanting to get into the field have disappeared. Luckily, I only hire maybe 1 person a year … we have very low turnover.
How do you do that? I don’t yell. We try and have fun.
Community events? We promote lots of them. In Ponca City the studios are side-by-side, so people can appear on both stations back to back when they visit the studios.
Station events? We have a Ladies Night Out once a year, and we simulcast the July 4th music to the city fireworks show. We break format to do that.
How’s business? Things are up in my market. We’re seeing a very good year. My market’s growing and we’re expanding in digital.
What do you do for fun? I still like to mow – I’m still mowing my yard. I like gardening. We like going to our lake house, which is very small. I love to go and take a boat out.
You are a part of the NAB board. Why? I’m passionate about the industry; I’m passionate about letting people know what it is we do. It just amazes me that people take radio for granted. We saw it in the May 20th Moore tornado that the radio stations that broadcast information about the event saved lives. The next morning, the broadcasters helped put things back together. We did a fundraising drive and raised $11,000 in 10 hours. Radio has a great story to tell. We’ve had good things come out of bad things. The NAB has some great advocates for radio.