“… if you’re 3 minutes short playing polka music, I’ll get 10 calls.”
What got you started in radio? My parents had gone on a mission trip with our church to Haiti, and my sisters were babysitting me. They decided when Mom and Dad got back, I should know how to do an airshift. They dropped me off at the station with the evening guy, and he trained me. I’ve been in love with it ever since. I’ve got 5 sisters and 4 of them are older. They obviously didn’t want to babysit me at night!
I did the air shift until I graduated from high school. I did play by play for my first softball game at 16, and then I started doing the football and basketball games after that. I had another high school kid with me on air, and we took another kid with us to do stats, and the 3 of us just went on the road and did games every week. After college, I did about 5 months at KAMI, which is no longer. Then I decided to get back here.
Who have your radio heroes been? My Dad, Gil Poese, would have to be my biggest influence in radio. He is now 88, and he does our morning and noon news every day.
My Dad’s theory when he bought the station in 1959 was that it’s not our radio station, it’s the listeners’ station, and we’re going to be here no matter what. If they call and want the answer to something that you may think is stupid, we’re going to find the answer for them. We get about 200 calls a day here at the radio station – everything from people wanting someone’s phone number (that has nothing to do with the radio station) to lost and found.
How did the business develop … is it all your Dad’s vision? It’s pretty much my Dad’s vision. We’ve never had a consultant. My Dad isn’t too much into technology: he still types his news up on a typewriter. But, even still, we were one of the first stations in the state to have a website, back when it started. We’re probably the smallest HD station in America. Anything I’ve thrown at him, he’s said go ahead and do it.
We’re keeping everything local. We do go on automation at 7pm every night; we’re live from about 5:50a – 7p every day. It’s still pretty much like it was.
You’ve got deep roots in your community. You’ve been on air for decades. What’s that like? I got a phone call last night at 8:41pm from a guy complaining that we play too much new music. He called me at home to tell me that.
We’re not unlisted out here. Everybody knows who we are. I like it. Whether it’s good feedback or bad feedback, everybody’s listening. I hear from people all of the time … I hear from people that have moved out of town, and write or call and tell me that their local radio doesn’t have any local news, it’s just music all of the time, and they really miss our local focus.
I was talking at a school last week, and I said that when I was growing up I thought some of the stuff my Dad did on the radio was pretty corny, but now I see why he did it. We don’t just flip on the music for 50 minutes every hour. If we get 50 minutes of music in 5 hours, that might be pretty good.
So it’s all talk during the day? We do play music, but we use the Brownfield Network for our farm markets. We have 11 towns with reporters that call in once a week with the news of what’s going on in their town. We’ve got 8 schools that do a 3 minute update on what’s going on in their school. It’s not just us; we want other people on the air, too, so we get as many people on the air as we can.
Student reports from the schools? Yes. A lot of schools have their yearbook staffs do it. Our school up here in O’Neill is very effective in their approach … they’ve received awards from Apple for how they’ve trained their students to do reporting, and now they do training of other teachers for Apple, too.
How many employees do you have? We have 10 fulltime employees. We have 4 high school kids that work over the weekend, and run the station. My 12 year old son does an air shift on Monday afternoons, from 3:30 – 5:30. He does it all: he introduces segments, does the weather, and puts programs on. He started doing it before I did! I’ll probably get one more year of work out of him. He’ll get to junior high, and then he’ll have sports.
You’re managing a lot of moving parts, and not just in radio. We’re not like we were 38 years ago when we just had to worry what we were putting on the radio. Now we have to worry about what we’re putting on the website. Our Facebook and twitter feeds are updated every day. We send out texts in the morning for sports, weather and school cancellations that people can sign up for.
How do you handle the AM? The AM is Classic Rock. We simulcast the morning show, and then we play a half hour of polka music until 9am.
Uh, Polka isn’t exactly Classic Rock. No. This is one of the things my Dad did I didn’t understand … but if you’re 3 minutes short playing polka music, I’ll get 10 calls. You know, there are a bunch of guys that go get coffee every morning. They drive around for a half hour to listen to the polka show. I’ve thought that if I did an HD channel, I could do polka music. I’d probably sell 500 radios if I had them shipped in.
HD? We needed a transmitter upgrade about 3 years ago, and I talked my Dad into it. I still don’t really know if it was the right decision. We don’t use our side channels yet … nobody has an HD radio, unless they buy a new car. It’s really got a bigger sound quality difference than I thought it would have. When I got a new truck and heard it when the HD locked in … I was surprised. It really does sound great.
Streaming? We stream our locally produced programs. We don’t stream 24 hours a day. We do all of our sports broadcasts, and the daytime talk shows.
You keep sports online as podcasts? Yes. We also record some local features like the Birthday Club and keep those online. It’s pretty amazing how many people go back and listen to the Birthday Club, just to hear their name on the radio.
You broadcast sports from 15 schools, but there’s no main school? No. O’Neill has 2 schools, a Catholic school and a public school. On our sportscaster’s package, we offer 10 games a year from every school. Sometimes we throw the local games on the AM and do some of the outlying schools’ games on the FM. We don’t do all of the O’Neill games, we move around. A lot of our hometown games, we don’t do. We do the games when they are on the road.
Website? Our newspaper isn’t very strong here; it’s a weekly. We supply them with pictures a lot of the time. On our website, we put the noon news stories on every day – the local news. We don’t put the national ABC news up; it seems like people have other places they like to go get that information. Every day, we get 1,900 – 2,200 unique visitors that check out our site. On snow days, we’ll get 4,500 – 5,000 that will check it out.
O’Neill has what population? 3,600. Our nearest station to the east is 70 miles. 65 miles to the south, 70 miles to the west …. We cover 7 counties, and a bunch of towns. We cover the 15 schools in our area. Between all of our employees, we stream 6-7 hours a day on our website.
How many people are selling? Two are fulltime selling local, and I handle the agency business.
We’re calling one of our salespeople the mass media specialist. She has developed a couple of accounts for our maiden voyage. For them, we’re now doing their Facebook, twitter, radio advertising, website advertising … everything. A lot of our small town businesses don’t seem to have a radio advertising budget. We want to help them and earn their marketing budget. For example, we’ll go into their stores to take pictures of their displays, and put those on their Facebook pages.
Any NTR? Events? We sponsor our Farm & Home show, which is station produced. That’s a good money maker for us.
Our Party Line show that I host, we’re probably one of the only stations that charges to put an ad on. Sell anything, or want to buy anything, over $30, and it’s $3.50 to put on the ad. If you’re a business, it’s $12. If you’re selling cows, it’s $10. Last year, in that one hour, we did $46,000 in paid ads. I’ve had other stations come and watch me to learn how to do it … but if they’ve been doing it for free for years, it doesn’t work for them to switch to paid. Our guys get results, that’s why they pay. It’s always been paid since we started in 1957.
We still send out a bill for people to pay. It’s all on the honor system, but people do pay. A guy wanting to sell 50 head of cattle, paying us $10 is quite a bit cheaper than taking them to the live stock market!
How many are live on air? Two fulltime, my sports person, myself, my dad and my son.
What do you do outside of the office? What’s fun? I like to golf. I like to fish … well, my son likes to fish, and I like to go out with him. I like to grill.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? I always tell them I’m disappointed in myself for not going to school, getting deeper into journalism or more business training. I talk about how radio … any media … is diversified. Social media is important. Website design. Video. Today, radio stations need all of that.