mike stern interviewed by fmqb, snubs brew city

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Posted by no collectivo milwaukeeo on November 23, 2013 at 19:49:19:

of course mike stern did time in milwaukee at lazer 103 as pd in the early to mid 2000's. but fmqb wasn't interested in that or mike stern isn't proud of that slot. released early just today, ✓ out this feature fmqb did on stern.

Mike Stern, Consultant, Jacobs Media
By Joey Odorisio

Programming veteran Mike Stern has an extensive resume in the radio industry, having worked in multiple major markets such as Chicago, Detroit, Denver and Las Vegas, among others. After exiting Emmis-Chicago in 2007, Stern has focused his attention on a number of other facets of the radio business. He last chatted with FMQB for an eQB Cover Story just over three years ago, after starting his own talent coaching agency, Talent Mechanic. Since then, Stern has worked in a variety of positions in the industry, from writing gigs to consulting Arbitron. Earlier this year, he re-joined Jacobs Media after almost two decades away from the company. Stern recently took the time to discuss with FMQB what he has learned over the past few years, as well as some takeaways from the recent DASH Conference in Detroit, plus his thoughts on the Rock format and more.

Let’s start with the roller coaster you’ve been on in the past few years! How many different positions have you held?

Please make sure your seatbelt is buckled and keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times; enjoy the ride. Yes, it’s been an interesting, challenging time but I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

Since leaving day-to-day station programming, I’ve: written about News, Talk and Sports for Radio & Records; written about Top 40 Radio for Billboard; worked with the Nielsen Audio (when I started it was Arbitron) Programming Services Team on their communication with Program Directors; opened my own talent coaching business called Talent Mechanic; and now re-joined the team at Jacobs Media. Aside from that it’s been pretty dull.

Are you still involved with Nielsen Audio?

Yes, I am still working with their team and continuing to learn all the time. Their ability to look at the ratings data across every market continues to provide fascinating insights that we are trying our best to make programmers aware of.

How have these different roles given you a different perspective on the industry?

I think you hit on the operative word; perspective. What’s been great is that each one of those positions has been a learning experience. The opportunity to explore new formats I hadn’t worked in before, learn about ratings from the Nielsen Audio perspective and work closely with all kinds of talent have all broadened my view of what successful programming entails and added immensely to what I believe I can offer the stations I now consult.

This is your second stint at Jacobs, coming two decades apart. What is different now about Jacobs Media’s place in the industry?

While they were constantly innovating for their clients when I worked there the first time I really believe Fred, Paul and the team at Jacobs Media have taken a huge step forward to become a thought-leader for the entire industry. Their insights on the impact of social media, mobile technology and now the connected car are helping lead radio forward through a difficult time and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Jacobs was a part of the DASH Conference last month in Detroit. What did you take away and what were the highlights?

There were a lot of highlights, but there are two things that really stood out to me personally:

First, if you haven’t experienced a connected car check one out. Buy, rent or just take a long test drive but until you’ve experienced it you won’t truly understand the impact this is going to have on our industry. It’s that different and it will force you to think a little differently.

Second, it was fascinating to watch the panel of morning drive hosts from Detroit who agreed to be filmed experiencing a connected car and then come to the convention to talk about it.

Their insights about how it effects what they need to do in the studio were fascinating. It made them realize that every piece of content needs to be prepared and executed better than ever before or, as one of them said, listeners might not just tune to a competitor but leave terrestrial radio completely for that commute.

What do you feel will be the hot button topics in 2014?

While it isn’t necessarily new, for me at least, what’s really standing out is the need for stations to embrace being local. We’ve always said it’s radio’s greatest strength, but over the years we’ve paid lip service to the concept.

Now as I’m getting to see radio in multiple markets, I’m seeing firsthand how much more value than ever there is in being a station where people can come to find out and discuss what’s going on in their community. It’s the information and content that isn’t readily available from other sources that radio can really own and maximize.

Since you currently work primarily within the Rock format world, what are your thoughts on the Rock radio world currently? How about the health of Modern Rock radio vs. Active/Mainstream stations?

Every indicator is that Rock radio is as healthy as ever. Alternative had a big comeback this year with stations enjoying hotter music than we’ve seen in years that’s resulted in great ratings. Active and Mainstream stations are doing great playing a strong, hit-driven mixture of Rock music that incorporates multiple decades of great music that works together nicely instead of relying heavily on current product that hasn’t been as strong as of late. Classic Rock continues to drive huge passion among Baby Boomers while also finding new audience members as new forms of music discovery continue to introduce new generations to great music from the past.

The recent Edison Research/Radionomy study of at-work listening habits was also very exciting as the respondents pointed to all flavors of Rock as one of their favorite options when they are working. Many Classic Rock stations already do a great job of maximizing that opportunity and I would love to see more Active, Mainstream and Alternative stations learn to do the same.

You work a lot with talent one-on-one via Talent Mechanic. How is the younger talent pool in radio today, considering the past decade of continued growth in voice tracking?

The real lesson I learned running Talent Mechanic is less about the size or depth of the pool and more about how we handle the talent we have. With Program Directors spread so thin, it’s hard to find the time to coach our hosts, but it’s imperative that we start.

There is great, raw talent out there who want to succeed in radio. They need good coaches and leaders to help them get there. If we can focus on improving the hosts we have, the depth of the pool will become less of an issue.

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