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Determination and Innovation Led Kim Komando To The Hall of Fame

“If you don’t innovate, you’re going to evaporate,” Komando said. “The show you hear today is probably quite different than the show you heard two years ago.”

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At the crossroads of broadcasting and technology, Kim Komando found her niche in radio by creating her own network. She then used that network to bring knowledge to the masses and will soon be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

But Komando, who grew up in New Jersey, wasn’t planning a life in broadcasting.

Her connection to the tech world started with her mother who was with Bell Labs as a system analyst. Her father worked for United Airlines, giving the family plenty of free flights.

Komando’s first job out of school was for IBM. She tried her hand at television on Fox as Komando, an attractive blond, was told she had a face for the medium.

“I really didn’t like the scripted nature of it,” Komando told BNM. “I felt like I was just reading a prompter.”

However, some people would also say she had a “voice for radio,” and it all began with a Saturday late night call-in show about computers on Phoenix’s KFYI.

“As soon as I sat in front of a radio microphone, I was home,” Komando said. 

At the time, Komando was selling computers for Unisys as a district manager. Komando graduated from Arizona State University at the age of 19 in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems.

Networking

By her mid-20s, she was willing to leave a $150,000 a year salary on the table. Money notwithstanding, she wasn’t happy with the job and consulted with her parents. Komando quit to forge a radio career. There was no need to find a radio name, as Komando is her given name.

“People thought, in the beginning, that I had to make that up,” she said. “But I never took my husband’s name, not even legally, because I am Kim Komando.”

Despite the notoriously low pay, Komando wasn’t discouraged. In fact, she was quite determined. She had a sense of building her brand from the start— as Komando would write syndicated newspaper columns and formed the Komando Corporation in 1992.

Around that same time, Komando sold the “Komputer Tutor” training tapes via informercial that was a “screaming success.”

She landed a deal for running a computer section on AOL (America Online), but getting radio stations for the unproven commodity would prove to be more challenging.

“None of the big companies would syndicate my show, so I did it myself,” she said. “Those were pretty humbling beginnings,” she admitted. “Quite frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Fortunately, her husband, Barry Young, a Phoenix on-air personality, did. By 1995, they had formed WestStar MultiMedia Entertainment, where ultimately her brand would come to life nationally. 

“He taught me radio formatics and he built our first studio,” Komando said.

Aside from her husband, Komando didn’t look to any broadcasters for help, although she credits Fred Weber, who gave her the first radio job, with a special bond. But she always listened to radio. Komando recalls taking her Walkman with AM/FM bands on a trip and would hear stations pop in and out from different markets.

“I thought that was so slick,” she said.

At her fledgling company, Komando was the talent, but also handled affiliate relations and sales.

The Kim Komando Show

Today, Komando’s three-hour weekend show is heard on more than 400 affiliates nationwide. A daily tech update airs worldwide but she does her best to “super serve” the stations. Komando will add a localized “tag” or outro for any affiliate that requests it, so listeners think she’s part of that particular radio station’s on-air team. She even provides an assist with station imaging and records any ad copy for free.

Generating multiple pieces of online content daily, Komando also distributes to station’s websites, “so it looks like they have a tech section.”

It was a slow incline for Komando as only two stations were initially on board—one in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is still part of the network, another in Augusta, Georgia—WGAC,  which also remains loyal to Komando.

She gained traction when Tom Clendening, the former boss at KIRO in Seattle, asked for a demo tape of the show. He wanted the cassette overnighted, but Komando, paying out of pocket, didn’t want to spend extra for the sample to just sit on his desk.

After he hung up, Komando worried that she was too demanding. However, Clendening called with tape in hand the next day and enjoyed the demo so much he was willing to air the show on KIRO AM and FM, Saturdays and Sundays.

While Komando’s tech update is heard in the top market on New York’s WCBS-AM, they haven’t added her weekend show.

The show is done through barter, splitting the advertising time with affiliates. H sponsors include T-Mobile and LinkedIn.

As the technology space has grown in the past 20 years, so has Komando’s presence.

“I have no debt. I have no investors,” she admitted.

“The show is actually more relevant today than it ever has been,” Komando said. “It affects everybody in, pretty much, every aspect of their lives.”

Cars, Homes and The Hall

In an effort to keep her show as fresh as possible, Komando reviews shows every quarter.

“If you don’t innovate, you’re going to evaporate,” she said. “The show you hear today is probably quite different than the show you heard two years ago.”

These days, a major focus for Komando is giving back to callers. A woman spoke to Komando about a man stalking her college daughter after connecting on Tinder. The investigation hit a dead end with police, so Komando stepped in.

“I called in some forensics folks, and we should be serving an arrest warrant to this guy pretty soon,” she said.

Another time, a dad and 11-year-old daughter called the show. She was starting a Disney princesses-themed podcast and asked Kim for pointers.

“I told her how to do the podcast and make sure she smiles… because that comes through. So in my inbox now is her first podcast for me to listen to and critique.”

While the brand is all Komando and she is the only voice on her product, she is mentoring three people.

“I’m hoping that at some point they can have their own podcast first,” she said.

Mentoring is new for the veteran broadcaster, as she explains how important it is to tell the story.

“This is not a TED Talk,” Komando said. “You have to be entertaining and then you can be informative.”

Radio, unlike other mediums, is an intimate way for interaction. You may be speaking to millions at any given moment, but the hosts who do it well can talk directly to one person.

“I can have a great conversation in, like, 2 to 4 minutes, that’s it,” Komando said. “If it requires help afterwards, I call them. I use my personal cell phone number. I get emails and texts. They’re all really just good people.”

As many show hosts will do, Komando, at times, will bring the audience into her own personal experiences, including discussing her mother’s battle with cancer.

“They know who I am. It’s full transparency,” she said.  

However, delving into politics is one area that Komando avoids at all costs on her show.

In addition to her advice on the air and online, she also has been writing columns for USA Today for approximately 20 years.

“I probably work 40-50 hours a week. I don’t have to, but it’s just that I want to,” she said. “I could retire but I don’t want to. I still am having a ball.”

Her main studio is in Phoenix. It’s where her employees are based, although many have been working remotely since the pandemic started.

Komando is also fully equipped at her homes in Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills.

While she has reached the pinnacle of her profession, Kim says the hard work combined with expertise and personality were ingredients for success. One perk of that success is enjoying her hobby—collecting cars. She’s building a garage to hold 13 of them. Her favorite car — which she owns—the 2012 Mercedes Benz SLS.

She doesn’t like to discuss future plans until they come to fruition, but Komando is working on something “that will revolutionize the way that we’re disseminating some of the content right now and some of the broadcasting products.”

In the short term, Kim is excited to be immortalized in the National Radio Hall of Fame later this month.

“That was never a goal when I started out,” she admitted. “You start looking at all of the people who’ve been inducted, like Limbaugh, Hannity, Bing Crosby, all these stellar names. I’m up there too. How the hell did that happen? I’m very humbled.”

Looking at how far she’s come in the industry, she’s delighted to share her insight with so many listeners.

“I’ve been very blessed, I really have. By just doing a good, honest day’s work, I think everybody appreciates that,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s been a really great ride.”

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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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