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Doug Hamand Leads Cumulus Programming With Radio Wisdom Learned From Several Cross Country Stops

“Radio is a small, small world. Everybody knows everybody. You’ve got to be careful. Don’t be a crappy person, don’t blow your chest out when you’re doing well.”

Jim Cryns

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Doug Hamand is a man who likes to plant roots. Early in a radio career, you’re required to move around more than an Amazon worker in a warehouse. You just don’t have the luxury to call your own shot. As you progress in your career, you make choices that better suit a family.

Hamand is currently Vice President of Programming Operations for Cumulus in Atlanta, and has held that position for seven years. Before that, he held a similar position with iHeart in Tampa for more than 21 years.

The cool thing for Hamand about the switch from Tampa to Atlanta, among other things, was the wonderful fact didn’t have to physically move.

“I was asked when I interviewed for the Atlanta job how important it was for me to stay in Tampa,” Hamand said. “I told them it was very important. We’d been here a long time and didn’t want to start over. It’s also more expensive to live in Atlanta, and you can’t replace this winter weather with anything better.”

Doing a job from a distance isn’t as hard as it once was. “During the pandemic, we closed a lot of the offices,” Hamand said. “We’re on Zoom and video meetings all the time. Everything I need to do I can do from here. I don’t get the interruptions like I used to. I don’t get people sticking their heads in the doorway wanting to talk.”

That doesn’t mean Hamand didn’t welcome and enjoy helping people, he did and still does. But without being physically in the same office with 100 people, it makes it easier for him to attend to the nuts and bolts of his job, the revenue and ratings part, without interruption.

The way people have meetings all day via the web has changed that aspect of his career, Hamand said the way talent searches for a position has changed as well. The days of the manila envelope containing a typed resume and a cassette air-check are over.

“Today, they’ll send me an mp3, or a link to their website,” Hamand said. “I can immediately hear whether they’ve polished their craft. They can send a good resume and a solid cover letter by email, but I’ll know in the first 30 seconds of listening to their demo if it is right for me.”

How does he know? Hamand said he judges a candidate by tempo, how they deal with the listener one-on-one. The uniqueness of their delivery is considered. Hamand looks to see if they’re creative, and if they’re funny out of the gate.

“Its’ all those things,” Hamand explained. “Sometimes they may not be exactly as they presented themselves. When I get down to the final three applicants, I’ll have them send me three unedited shows. I can judge who they are by that point. A true feeling.”

We discussed big stations flipping formats and what that might mean in Atlanta.

“I can’t speak to some markets but nothing like that is happening here,” Hamand said. “I’ll tell you what scares the heck out of me. By 2023, Ford F150 trucks will no longer have the opportunity for owners to listen to AM radio.”

Some people are concerned the removal of AM radio presents a safety risk to the public.

Pete Gaynor, the former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said AM stations play a “particularly vital role” in the National Public Warning System “as many AM signals can be received at great distances, which is critical when disasters impact entire regions.”

Granted, a lot of our big news/talk people are on HD2, but we have to teach listeners what that means.

“A lot of television stations had the right idea when they just shut analog off and forced people to go digital,” Hamand explained. “I don’t know if radio can pull that off. You’re converting an entire audience. Have we done a good job as an industry with this? Not really.”

Born in Emmetsburg, Iowa, Hamand said he listened to a lot of radio, like CKLW out of Canada after the family moved to Detroit. “It was just over the border. Big 8 was a top 40 station.  He listened to a bit of Howard Stern as a kid on WWWW-FM.

The family moved to Canon City, near Denver.

“My stepfather had family in Colorado,” Hamand explained. “Canon City was a small town, but it was a lot of fun. In junior high school I took theater and speech classes.”

Hamand said there was a jock at the local KRLN who invited him in for a tour. That changed everything for him.

“It was weird, shag carpeting over the walls. A quarter was on one of the needles so it wouldn’t pop up. It wasn’t really what I was expecting, not nearly as cool as I thought it would be when you’re listening on the radio.”

Aesthetics aside, Hamand was hooked. He became friends with the DJ and started going to the station during his junior year during his first hour.

“It was just up the street,” Hamand said. “He let me hang out and watch, learn as much as I could. I would play carts, set up records.”

Finally, the big break.

“I got to out-tro ‘Sister Golden’ Hair by America. My stomach was in knots but it was amazing.” Hamand started filling in for some air shifts during his senior year. After graduation, while also working part-time at an auto store, he worked some more fill-in shifts. I knew this was going to be my thing. I started working at 96 Rock in Colorado Springs under a program director named Chuck Finney. He was having a meeting and I overheard him talking about ratings. I was just in there looking for carts and stuff.”

Hamand was curious and joined the conversation.

“I asked him what a ‘cume’ was,” Hamand said. “Chuck took the time to explain the ratings system to me. I always thought that it was nice of him to take the time to do that, describe the ratings aspects to me.”

He worked for a while in Vail, then it was back to Lakewood/Denver, Colorado and a startup station, KQKS where Hamand did nights.

“I enjoyed six amazing years there,” Hamand explained. “We were a real ratings success. In those days I’d earn more doing radio appearances at venues than I’d make on the air in salary.”

Hamand still gives students a tour of radio stations when time permits. He considers it paying back.

“That’s how I got started, a tour of a radio station,” he said. “It was a pivotal moment for me. When radio stations have glass around the studios and people can watch the talent do their stuff, that’s a lot of fun. That’s entertainment. It can be a worm and hook for a young person to get into the business.”

From Lakewood it was on to West Virginia and a morning show in Charleston. Hamand said it was all good fun, but it was still a job.

“Here I was with my first daughter in kindergarten and I was getting up before 4am to do a show,” Hamand said “Then I’d get home around 8pm, and do it all over again. You don’t think of it, you just do. There’s a fire burning in you and you do what you need to. You do pay a price.”

Then it was off to Lexington, Kentucky.

“I thought I knew everything by this point,” Hamand said. “I had the proverbial playbook memorized. But that was when things changed. I realized I was a better coach than I was on the air. I think I had good vision. I put the Ben & Brian show together back in the day.”

Hamand explained how Ben and Brian were working at two separate radio stations in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I knew if I could get these guys together, they’d be great,” Hamand said. “I talked with each of them and they agreed to meet with me. I put them together in a hotel room with a white board. I told them when I came back after the weekend, if one of them were dead, we would know they wouldn’t have been able to work together.”

They got along famously, and their career together took off. He struck gold again with Bandy and Bailey, another successful morning duo. What does he look for when mining for a new show?

“I listen for comedic value and timing when considering talent,” Hamand said. “I see if they can find the ‘out’ to a segment. It’s easy to get ‘in,’ but I need to hear the middle as well. There’s a real story arc. Of course the chemistry has to be there.”

Hamand said a PD can’t be afraid to dump something if it’s not working. And they don’t hesitate. They can’t afford to.

“I had one show recently where it just wasn’t working. They weren’t talking off the air and it was blatantly obvious it wasn’t cordial on the air. The show was horrible.”

Hamand said a new team may get 90 to 100 days to improve, but there’s no time to let a horse with a broken leg continue on. You have to put it out of its figurative misery. There comes a time when you have to punt and absorb your losses.

Everybody knows getting canned is part of the radio business. Many station owners and management won’t allow their talent to say goodbye to their audiences, like the recent explosion of KGO in San Francisco. The management didn’t let any of their talent sign off. Hamand said that decision for him is made on a case-by-case basis.

“If I trust them, I’ll let them say goodbye,” Hamand said. “Radio is a small, small world. Everybody knows everybody. You’ve got to be careful. Don’t be a crappy person, don’t blow your chest out when you’re doing well.”

Hamand said overseeing talk, music and sports requires different techniques. Each has their own challenges.

“I always say if you’re brilliant in basics you’ll win,” Hamand said.

When he looks for a talent, he goes primarily for the personality. “I do like the loud guys, but when they start to scream, that doesn’t work for me,’ he explained. “I also like some low-key shows. It isn’t a one size fits all thing. Here in Tampa, there is one person that screams at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all the time. I’m thinking, they are not listening, it’s just me. Tone it back.”

There’s no question listeners are changing how they ingest their content, it’s morphing daily.

“We still rule the car,” Hamand said. “It’s like the situation with the Ford truck. A listener doesn’t feel the need to figure all that out, they just know they want what they want at that moment.”

“We need to find a way to fuse it all together,” Hamand explained. “It’s all a tender balance.”

When working with his on-air people, Hamand said they need to hit core topics every 10 or 15 minutes to stay fresh for the listener. He’s not a believer in long teasing.

“If you’re going to tease information, make it realistic. Don’t make the tease last three hours. I had a situation with a morning guy who would wait two hours to pull a trigger. You can’t do that, just pay off the damn tease.”

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BNM Writers

Market Still Finding 2023 Footing

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

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While it’s hard to imagine 2023 being as painful for investors as 2022, experts still cannot say for certain we are destined for blue skies ahead. Many in the media are starting the year by sifting through the stock market tea leaves; trying to figure out what historical data can tell us about probabilities and expectations for the next twelve months.

Some think the United States is poised for a market rebound, while others remain quite bearish, feeling that negative policy implications have yet to be fully realized.

Peter Tuchman of Trademas Inc. joined Neil Cavuto on his Fox News program Friday, to offer his thoughts about where the American stock market might be headed in light of the newly-divided United States Congress.

“Markets have a sort of a gut of their own,” Cavuto opened. “Today’s a good example. We’re up 300 points, ended up down 112 points. What’s going on?”

“Markets don’t like unknowns, and markets need confidence. The investing community needs confidence,” Tuchman said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild that. And as we saw the other night with what went on in the House, it feels like people should get busy governing as opposed to all this posturing.”

Six months ago, Tuchman didn’t have a solid feel for the direction of the market. And just two trading weeks into the year, he still doesn’t believe any real trend has been established.

“The market has yet to find its ground. It’s yet to find its footing,” Tuchman told Cavuto. “And still, even coming into 2023, the first week of trading we have not found our footing. We have come in on a couple of economic notes that were a little bit positive. We opened up with a little bit of irrational enthusiasm. By the end of the days we were trading down.”

Meanwhile, some financial outlets, such as CNBC, have dug into the data showing what a market rise during the year’s first week – such as what we experienced this year – potentially means for the rest of 2023. They published a story last week with the headline, Simple ‘first five days’ stock market indicator is poised to send a good omen for 2023“.

On an episode of his popular YouTube program late last week, James from Invest Answers dug into 73 years of stock market data, to test that theory and see if the first five days of yearly stock market performance are an indicator of what the market might do over the full year.

“Some analysts pay attention to this, the first five trading day performance, can it be an indicator of a good year or a bad year,” James began last week, “I wanted to dig into all of that and get the answer for myself. Because some people think yes. Some people swear blind by it. Some people think it’s a myth or an old wive’s tale. Some people think it’s a great omen.”

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

Based on James’ analysis…

If the gains from the first five market days of the year are negative, the market rises 86 percent of the time over the full year, with an average gain of 6%.

If the first five days are positive, the market increases 92% of the time, with an average yearly gain of 16%.

Most importantly, in this year’s scenario, where the first five days saw a jump of more than 1%, the market traditionally ends positive for the year 95 percent of the time. Those years see an average yearly gain of 18%.

“Is it a good omen, does it look bullish?” James asked. “Well, yes, based on history. But remember, there are factors like inflation, interest rates, geopolitical turmoil, supply chains, slowing economy. All that stuff is in play. But history also says that the market bounces bounces back before the market even realizes it’s in a recession. That’s an important thing to know.”

On his Your World program, Cavuto wondered if the recent House speaker voting drama has added to the uncertainty facing markets.

“Historically, Wall Street definitely is a bit more friendly to a Republican administration,” Tuchman said. “We’re in new ground, there’s no playbook, Neil. And I went over it with you the last time. There’s no playbook for coming out of a pandemic. No playbook for what’s gone on over the last two and a half years. Let’s think about it. March 2020, the market sold off so radically. We had a rally of 20 percent in 2020. 28 percent in 2021, in the eyes of a global economic shutdown due to the Federal Reserve’s posturing and whatnot.

“And now we’re trying to unwind that position. In tech, and in possible recession, and inflation and supply chain issues. So, there’s no way historically to make a judgment on what the future looks like in that realm, let alone what’s going on in the dis-functionality of what’s happening in Washington. I would like to disengage what’s going on in Washington and try and rebuild the confidence in the market coming into 2023.” 

So while the data might indicate a strong year ahead, the fact is that many analysts still won’t make that definitive call amidst such economic turmoil gripping the country. 

Along with U.S. markets, they remain steadfast in their search for solid footing.

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BNM Writers

Does Radio Need A Video Star?

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

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Last week numerous stories about using video with broadcasting or audio podcasting became a hot topic of discussion.

A Morning Consult poll found that 32% of Americans prefer podcasts with video, compared with 26% who like just audio better. Among podcast listeners, 46% said they favor them with video, compared with 42% who said they would rather listen without video. It’s worth noting that these are podcast listeners, not radio listeners.

Video has become the latest trend in audio. Almost everybody is trying to do some form of video. Many shows already stream online. A few others simulcast on a television or cable channel. It seems nobody believes in pure audio anymore. It’s a wonder everybody didn’t go into television instead of radio.

Before everybody else starts adding webcams in the studio, it’s worth weighing the reasons to move ahead versus slowing down.

The first person to realize they could use video of their show may have been Howard Stern. In June 1994, Stern started a daily half-hour show on E! network, featuring video highlights from his radio show. Stern added slick production values and faster pacing on the E! show.

Don Imus started simulcasting on cable during the same month. It’s possible others that I’m not aware of started earlier.

Stern’s E! show made sense. It answered the most common questions people asked about the show, in addition to what’s he really like; the first questions people usually asked were: 1) Are the women really as good-looking as he says? 2) Do they really take their clothes off? The E! show answered those questions. In addition, it gave a backstage glimpse of the show.

The same month Stern’s E! Show began, Imus began simulcasting his show on cable networks. I would have feared losing ratings. In fact, Imus’ program director did!

I spoke to my long-time friend and colleague Mark Chernoff (Current Managing Director of Mark Chernoff Talent and on-air talent 107.1 The Boss on the NJ Shore, Former Senior VP WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, VP Sports Programming CBS Radio) about the impact simulcasting Imus’ show had on WFAN. Chernoff may have the broadest range of experiences with simulcasting radio programs with video. 

Imus began on CSPAN but shortly afterward moved to MSNBC. Chernoff told me: “When we started simulcasting Imus, I suggested we’d lose about 15% of our radio audience to TV, which we did.” Chernoff added that there was a significant revenue contribution and that the company was content with the trade-off.

WFAN had a different experience simulcasting Mike and the Mad Dog on YES in 2002. “In this case, TV was helpful, and we increased listenership,” said Chernoff. WFAN also benefited financially from this simulcast.

Imus was on in morning drive while Mike & the Mad Dog were on in the afternoon. Keep the era in mind, too. Before smartphones and high-speed streaming, it was not uncommon for people to have televisions in the bed or bathrooms and have the tv on instead of the radio as they got ready for their day. In the afternoon, fewer people would have had video access in that era.

Ratings measurement moved to Portable People Meter (PPM) by the time WFAN started streaming middays on its website. Chernoff reported streaming had no ratings or revenue impact – positive or negative – on middays. However, the company did provide an additional dedicated person to produce the video stream.

The early forays into video by pioneers such as Stern, Imus, and Mike & the Mad Dog are instructive.

There are good reasons to video stream shows. Revenue is a good reason.

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

Another good reason is if the video can answer questions about the show, as the E! show did for Howard Stern.

On the other hand, audio companies are going to throw a lot of money at video, based on the notion that it’s what they “should” do because:

  • It’s the latest trend. Being late on this trend is different from missing the Internet or Podcasting. Industries already revolve around video; television and film come to mind.
  • Podcast listeners like it (by a slight plurality).

Before turning on webcams, see what viewers will see. The studios at many stations I’ve worked at were better not seen. Considerations include; the set, lighting, wardrobe, visuals, and a plan.

Too many video streams of studios feature the fire extinguisher prominently in the shot or the air personalities milling about during terminally long breaks.

Before going live, watch the video with no audio. Is it interesting? Compelling? Does the video draw you in, or is it dull?

With program directors now spread so thin handling multiple stations, a dedicated person to oversee streaming should be a requirement for stations streaming shows.

Other considerations:

  • How could this help us, and how could it hurt us?
  • How does the video enhance the show?
  • Will personalities do their radio show or perform for the cameras?
  • What production values are you able to add to the video?
  • What happens during those seven- eight-minute breaks if it’s a live radio show (vs. a podcast)? What will people streaming video see and hear? Does everybody on the show get along?

Do you have revenue attached? What do you expect will happen to the ratings?

WFAN earned significant revenue for two. Therefore, the company wasn’t concerned when the ratings took a hit for the first one and were surprised when they helped the second one. They didn’t see any impact on ratings or revenue the third time.

After all the budget cuts and workforce reductions over the past decade-plus, before audio companies invest in video, shouldn’t we get: people, marketing, promotion, or research monies back first?

Most of us decided to get into radio (or podcasting) instead of television or film. There’s a reason they said, “video killed the radio star.”

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BNM Writers

Streaming Platforms Cannot Be Forgotten By News/Talk Program Directors

BNM’s Pete Mundo writes that if you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations and what comes through the streaming platforms.

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If you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations. Didn’t you know that? Oh. Well, you do. 

I’m not just referring to our over-the-air broadcast but also what comes through our streaming platforms. Alexa, Google Home, apps, computers, etc., are all streaming platforms of our radio stations, which for most of us, are airing different commercial inventory than what is coming through the radio.

I understand none of us are unnecessarily looking to add to our plate, but our streaming platforms are the way we are getting more people to use our product. So neglecting, or forgetting about it, is a bad business decision, especially in the talk space. 

Across all clusters, talk radio is far more likely to have high streaming use when it comes to total listening hours. Listeners are more loyal to our personalities and often can’t get the AM dial in their office buildings during the day, or even if they can, they don’t want to hear our voices through static, so they pull up the stream. 

It’s never been easier to listen to talk radio stations, thanks to our station apps and websites (although welcoming some sites to the 21st century would be a good idea). So, given the challenges many of us face on the AM band, why not push our audience to the stream and make sure the stream sounds just as good as the over-the-air product?

The tricky part in putting together a quality stream sound is trying to balance what ads are programmatic, which ones are sold locally, where is the unfilled inventory and what is filling that gap?

And unlike your over-the-air product, where you can go into a studio, see what’s coming up, and move inventory around, that technology is not available in most cases. So yes, it’s a guessing game.

But as the talk climate continues to change, the best thing we can do to build our brand and trust with the next generation of talk radio listeners is to find them and engage them where they are, which may not always be next to a physical radio. That will be on a stream. How do I know that? Because if they have a smartphone, they have (access to) the stream.

Of course, the over-the-air product remains the massive revenue generator for our stations, as in most cases, the streaming revenue is not close to comparable. But then, if we look years down the road, that will likely start to change. 

To what degree? That’s unknown. But double-digit growth on an annual basis should not be out of the question when it comes to stream listening. It should be a very achievable goal, especially in our format. So our listeners who are P1’s, love the station and want to consume as much of the content as they can, can be on the AirPods in the gym, desk at work, or in their home office and listen to our radio stations. 

Heck, with Alexa and Google Home, they don’t even have to turn a dial! They just speak. So if they’re there, let’s keep them there.

There are simply too many media options today to lose our listeners due to sloppy streaming quality that makes us sound like a college radio station. Instead, listeners, who find us there should be rewarded with a listening experience that is just as high-quality as what they would get on the AM or FM band.

And if we play our cards right, it will be better, serving the industry incredibly well through a new generation of listeners.

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