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Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
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This week, we present a conversation with John E. Kage, PD at Denver’s KS1075. John was incredibly forthcoming in response to our annoying questions, and gave us some real insight. We’ll return to your regularly scheduled promo roundup next week.

How important are social media, your website and other digital media to you and your listeners?
Extremely important. First and foremost it’s a part of the life fabric of the listener. We participate in their lives there and enhance the depth of our personalities with a deeper touchpoint than we can sometimes do on the air. It’s also a useful tool to drive listening appointments. The hashtag makes for a useful tool to keep the call letters in news feeds and to create a buzz for KS1075 and with over 200,000 listeners across our platforms we make the most of all of these opportunities. is still the home base for blogs, concert info, music news and relevant content, and we drive hits back to the site through our social platforms. This keeps the site relevant and a healthy for sales as well.

How effective is your summer show in terms of a spike in your ratings, profit to the station, and importance to your brand?

I’m a big believer that the brand comes first. Does doing interviews back stage at Summer Jam spike the ratings? No. Although we have gotten smarter with how we execute those interviews in a PPM environment. I can also make the case that when we gather 18,000 listeners in a concert venue, we are taking P1 meters away from the radio for six hours. That being said, the ticket giveaways and back stage opportunities certainly drive ratings leading up the show. But in any case, the opportunity to have all of Today's hottest artists with our air personalities and to showcase these same artists to our audience far outweighs any ratings pitfalls that may occur that day. It’s brand depth, a stamp of station relevancy and the look it provides us and the experience we are able to provide our listeners trumps everything else and helps to keep is the #1 contemporary station in this market. Profit from these shows obviously creates NTR money for KQKS and yes, we do well with it.

3) What are some examples of things you are doing today (in terms of programming, marketing, promotions) that you were not doing even a year ago? Back in May we didn't have an Instagram account. We created one, Asked the listeners to hashtag KS1075 on instagram for a shot at back stage and 2,700 uploads later we are at 5,200 followers and growing daily. Once video became available on Instagram we were able to use that for a no smoking campaign that gathered 45 - 50 video uploads that made the client very happy. We take whatever the latest social platform capabilities are and utilize it for Programming and sales. Our morning man, Larry Ulibarri, just had a 25,000-guest Facebook party at a local nightclub to celebrate his milestone. The place was packed. And I'll tell you, the first time we did a “Facebook fans only” solicit for caller 107 without cracking the mic and the phones lit up for an hour straight, the power of these platforms really hit home. We do this with text and Twitter as well.

How are you as a station and as a Programmer staying so far ahead of the PPM curve and figuring out how to garner such strong, consistent ratings?

Thank you for the compliment. In PPM you can search through mountains of data, analyze minutes, days, weeks, etc. Certainly I sift through the data like everyone else, looking for big-picture issues and trendable data. But ultimately I try not to lose sight of the fact that good radio still drives ratings. A good morning show, hit music, impactful breaks by air personalities that stay simple in message, concerts, contesting, and above all, brand awareness. If those things are in place and you’re super-serving the core, then the wins seem to come in PPM as they did in Diary. I like to think those things were in place before we transitioned over five years ago. Also, our VP of Programming John Dimick was very adamant that we not overreact to anything in the initial stages of PPM. I really appreciated the patient approach to the data. The only thing I really did to stay ahead of the curve, as you say, was to keep things more streamlined, focusing on forward momentum at all times. If you make a mistake in Diary, the listener may love you but tune out—and then later still write you down. If you get irrelevant or lose focus in PPM and they tune out, you pay for it.

What are your thoughts on a local on-air staff as opposed to a syndicated show?
I always think of the day I was driving in to the station during a blizzard and the syndicated show across town was talking about playing football in their front yard with Curt Warner in Arizona, and worked a cactus into the conversation. Meanwhile, in Denver, we're working on six inches of snow and the highways are at a standstill. When the Aurora theater shootings happened last year, our morning show was live at 3am and I thought handled it as well as any talk or news station. Beyond the obvious points of weather and breaking news, we are capable of touching listeners locally every day with our dynamic personalities. Our listeners are invested in us and we are invested in them. We have a soul to KS1075 that syndicated stations can't touch. So yes, we think it's a very real advantage for us, and we’re lucky to be local.

If you could give a few bits of advice to young, up and coming PDs or passionate MDs, what would it be?
I have always been really lucky to have great mentors in this business. When I was a young DJ, Tone E. Fly at KDWB taught me the fundamentals of one thought per break, a tight board, how to work phones, etc. As a music director, I sought the advice of Erik Bradley right out of the gate and learned to read records, timing of records for my own station, where they fit the format, the differences between rhythm stations and how records crossed from Urban to CHR, or sometimes the other way. As a Program Director, I was trained under Cat Collins at KYLD and for 10 years I apprenticed as his APD and studied his approach while he was here. So to an up-and-comer I say: “Work very hard, Do more than you are paid for. Learn the fundamentals and set ego aside.”

The best MDs and PDs aren’t breaking every new record that's released or first on everything. The best PDs and MDs to me, simply play the hits in a time frame that’s proper for their market, stay focused on the brand of the station and can get their air talent to be entertaining and meaningful and stay within the fabric of the station. Working with sales to not say “I can't,” but “How can I?” while tweaking each agenda into something effective for the client and keeping it within the brand of the station (when possible). A good working knowledge of social platforms and web platforms is essential—and not just to sign in and post, but to know when, what and how to post, and what to keep and leave behind. The savvy and skills that come with success are a never -ending work ethic, having a voracious appetite for information from smart people in this business who will give you their time, and to not letting your ego get in the way of constantly saying “What can I do better?”

Is there a true value in “breaking” records? Is playing it safe with research more valuable? Is it a combination of the two?

I never, and I mean NEVER, go looking to break a record. Take a look at the year-end chart for any station; for any of us who have ever worked out a year-end countdown, you quickly find that you played 10-20 massive hits, 10 more good ones, and the last 10 that are subjective in terms of how big they ever really were. That's over a YEAR. Yet you'll see people picking five records a week with words like “smash” attached.

That being said, there is a certain freedom that comes with knowing your own market. I may hear a record and know that it fits Denver and KS1075, and without a single story or validation from anyone else, I go on it. That doesn't make me a record-breaker. That makes me an educated Program Director with years of experience with my call letters who just placed a record into the playlist with, in my mind, the most chance for success over any other record that week. Big difference. Sometimes I want a story where I watch. Sometimes I don't care what the story is, My experience in Denver tells me it isn't right for us and we hold off. I ask a lot of questions of other programmers. I make my own chart relevant to KS1075 in Mediabase. But the answer to your question directly is “What is the best available record for KS1075 right now as I make this choice?” And then we make it.