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Meet the Market Managers: Todd Markiewicz, Tegna Inc. Columbus

“I love this industry. It’s all I’ve ever done my entire career and I’ve done it at a variety of places around the country. It’s been very good to me and my family, and I love it. I’m passionate about radio.”

Demetri Ravanos




Sports radio is losing a leader at one of its most accomplished mid-market brands. Longtime market manager Todd Markiewicz has decided to enter the brave new world of NIL collectives.

Last month, he announced that his time with Tegna Inc. and 97.1 The Fan will be coming to an end. Markiewicz isn’t leaving Columbus, though. He is giving up radio to help his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes stay competitive as the college sports landscape changes.

Barrett Sports Media wanted to give Todd his flowers before he assumes the role of President of the 1870 Society. That is why he is the debut feature in our third annual Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing.

Markiewicz sees a lot of similarities between his new job and the one he is leaving next month. In this conversation, he shares insight on why stations should be courting business from NIL collectives, what he learned about simultaneously serving sportsbooks and listeners, why it isn’t easy to recruit sellers right out of college, and so much more.

Demetri Ravanos: As you look back on your time at The Fan, what is it you’re going to walk away most proud of? 

Todd Markiewicz: Well, I think there are a couple of things. First of all, I wasn’t looking to leave the broadcasting industry. I love this industry. It’s all I’ve ever done my entire career, and I’ve done it at a variety of places around the country. It’s been very good to my family and me, and I love it. I’m passionate about radio.             

In terms of leaving it behind, you know, there is a sense of pride that I was here 13 years, and that we’ve grown and accomplished so much together as a broadcast team. I feel confident that I’m leaving this product in a better position than it was when I got here, and I think any market manager or GM would want to be able to say that.                    

I will add to that, it’s really hard to leave this group of people. We have such a great team and it really gave me a lot of thought and pause in deciding to go down this new road – just the thought of not being able to work alongside all of them each and every day. 

DR: It’s interesting that the time you are stepping away from the business, and particularly, by the way, working for a company like Tegna, where you have so many different outlets where you can serve advertising partners. You’re stepping away during a time when, on the advertising side, the business has never had to be more creative. Is that something you’re going to miss or is it a little bit of a relief at this point? 

TM: I wouldn’t say it’s a relief. I really enjoy that process. You know, the interesting thing is the verticals of these two jobs are actually very similar from the standpoint of managing a team, building relationships, doing the CNA’s, etc.. You satiate the clients needs by coming back and putting together all the different assets that you have that meet that marketing need.

This is very similar in terms of that. I’m going to be going out and working with businesses and potential contributors to put together marketing programs. The difference is, instead of station assets, I’m going to be working with athletes and other assets. But basically, the process is very similar in terms of building solutions for businesses and contributors. So from that perspective, they’re really not that different. 

DR: It’s interesting to hear how similar they are because I work in Raleigh, North Carolina, now. I worked in Columbia, South Carolina for a while. Both of those markets are similar to Columbus in that so much of the sports culture centers around the college team in town. I’ve often thought that NIL sort of presents this real opportunity for broadcasters in markets like those. Is that something you could see your group when you move over to 1870 pursuing, whether it is for the athletes at Ohio State or a way to go about servicing some of the businesses that are going to be partnering with you guys? It just seems like a natural fit to me. 

TM: I think it absolutely is, and that’s one of the things that appealed to me. It’s just not that far off the mark from what I currently do. It’s just using different assets to do it. The reality is this also needs to be a very creative space. It lends itself to that, whether it’s tying in a player’s name to a business, putting together speaking engagements, or meet and greets, as well as activating the investment from the contributor or business to maximize that opportunity by using media.           

I’ve told the folks at the radio station that you know, I’ll probably be back here purchasing media as opposed to selling. But having that skill set of understanding media, I think is very relevant in this NIL space. 

DR: You hit on something that I want to ask you about, which is it does seem like this space presents a lot of opportunity for broadcasters. You have had the broadcast experience, now you’re moving over to the NIL collective world. I would guess you sort of look at the business you’re leaving and say, “Man, radio, television, digital. These are businesses that should be chasing business from me and NIL collectives.”

TM: Absolutely. Yes, and I see a huge opportunity for utilizing OTT because of how targetable it is. 

DR: I mentioned that so much of Columbus’s sports culture revolves around Ohio State. But also,  you are kind of in this ideal space where that is a school where sports plays a big, big role. You are the big sports radio brand in town. Does that make it easier to recruit younger people coming out of high school, whether they are looking to be on air, on the sales side, behind the scenes, or whatever it may be? Did having the Buckeyes brand associated with yourself and The Fan make it easier to recruit kids coming out of that school? 

TM: There’s no question that it’s made it easier, in particular on the programming side, to find individuals coming out of high school or college that were interested in getting into radio broadcasting. I wouldn’t say it’s made it any easier on the sales side. Those are two completely different animals. 

DR: So you mentioned that they are two different animals. Is that about something beyond The Fan and Ohio State? 

TM: Well, let me put it this way. I started in college on air. I started my career doing news at WONE and WTUE for Summit Broadcasting in Dayton, Ohio, and it was my dream to be on air. I quickly realized several things.              

Number one, I really wasn’t talented enough at it, which is why I appreciate the programming folks so much and what they do every day for 3 hours or more. It wasn’t my forte, but I loved the business, so I gravitated to sales as a result of that. I didn’t want to leave radio.           

I think that when we, as an industry, are targeting salespeople there’s a little bit of a mystery around what radio sales means, whereas when you’re looking at being on the radio, everybody knows what that means. Everybody knows what that looks like. So you just naturally get more interest. There’s more people that dream about being on air than there are that dream about being an account executive, right?

DR: Ohio recently came online with sports gambling. It looks like we’re going to get Kentucky here soon. North Carolina might come on by football season. It probably won’t happen in Texas.            

I wonder as somebody that was in the position you were and kind of watched this go from debate to live and in action, what advice would you have for GM in those places where it looks like sports gambling is coming? Whether it is about what to be prepared for or even what it is their role might be in lobbying lawmakers to help get this to happen, what would you tell them?

TM: Great question and the way I would answer that is to say don’t wait to prepare. If you are a sports radio station or a sports radio format, you need to be prepared now for the opportunity that is legalized sports betting.              

I don’t know if you know how things went down in Ohio, but we were supposed to launch a year sooner than we actually did. So we had been preparing for about four months. We were very strategic and deliberate with how we handled this opportunity because it’s immense for our format. And, you know, our team worked tirelessly. We had very specific intentional meetings just about LSB (legal sports betting), what it means to us, asking ourselves about the pitfalls and the other questions that needed to be asked.              

So when it was delayed another year, what we realized is that four months wasn’t enough time to properly prepare for it. We needed that extra time. So it was a blessing in disguise for us to have another full year to put our plan in place.               

Some of the things that we decided upon are a lot different than the way some other stations are handling it. For example, we knew there would be a lot of LSB advertisers coming into the market. There’s a plethora of them. They’re all looking for those first-time deposits. Some come in and they’re there for two months during launch and they go away. Some are there longer term. Some are late getting to the party and they’re coming into the fold, launching their apps later.

But through all that, one of the most important considerations for us as a station from the programming side was we were worried about listener fatigue. This constant barrage of LSB advertising could have a negative effect on a radio station. Not everybody that listens is gambling on sports, right? A lot are, but not everybody. So we took that listener fatigue factor into account. We spent a lot of time talking about them, and so what we decided to do was take our prime shows, all of which are top in the market with men, and we put a package together that sold each of those shows as a separate show sponsorship.           

Morning Juice has its LSB sponsor, Bishop and Friends has its LSB sponsor, Rothman and Ice has its LSB sponsor, and Common Man and T-Bone has its LSB sponsor. Any LSB can advertise within spot breaks on any of those shows. They can advertise throughout any part of the day, but when it comes to show content or when they’re talking about lines, the features within the content of the show, all of that is the same by show.

So we’ve got one sponsoring one, one sponsoring the other, one sponsoring the other, and so on. What that does is it cuts down on the potential for talking about this app’s line or this company’s line or whatever the case may be. It keeps it more cohesive, and that has really worked really well for us.  

DR: What I’ve always found interesting about Columbus is I think if you are of a certain age, like late thirties and on, no matter where you are in the country, you watched that market kind of become a pro sports market. You guys were in on MLS from day one. The Crew has a passionate following. How do they resonate both on air from a content standpoint and also with advertisers? Soccer has this young, diverse audience. Is coverage of the sport easy to sell or is it still sort of a niche that isn’t easy to take to the average business? 

TM: That’s a great question, and here’s how I’ll answer it because it was a unique situation for the sport here in Columbus. There was a very passionate MLS fan base, soccer fanbase, and then the team was taken away from us. Then there was a huge movement in our community to save the Crew.             

We didn’t cover the Crew early. We maybe talked about them, but we weren’t the flagship. After the community rallied the way they did, I felt like it was the right thing to do, to support the community, to support the Save the Crew movement, and then the Crew, once they were saved.           

To give them the type of platform that they deserve in terms of monetizing it, selling it, marketing it, that was challenging at first, partially because it was new, partially because it’s niche. But that sport has grown leaps and bounds. And with the new stadium now here in Columbus, which is absolutely incredible, Field, there’s been an elevated interest. It’s become a very sellable asset for us. 

DR: I do want to end by asking you about your thoughts on the industry at large. Large media companies are cutting jobs like crazy this year. Is there a trickle-down effect to the locally owned stations in the radio world – positive or negative? 

TM: Obviously, we’re owned by Tegna, which is really a television-rich company. They’ve been very good to us since the purchase.              

To answer your question though, I don’t think there is a negative impact as long as you’re staying local and relevant and the content is on point. You know, we’re winning even from a revenue standpoint. In the Miller Kaplan, we’re winning big and it’s because content is king and it is such an advantage right now because listener habits have changed since COVID. People were working from home, they were listening to music on apps and by other means because they weren’t in their cars. When they returned to their car they didn’t necessarily return to music radio stations, right?

In our experience, that was different for us as a spoken word format. I really think that’s where the advantage for the format is. There’s only one way to get the content I provide to the community, and that is going through us. You can listen time-shifted on a podcast, you can stream us, you can listen on terrestrial air, but the reality is there’s only one way to get what we have, and what a huge advantage that is. It’s bearing itself out in our share growth since COVID.                     

Now, I will say that there has been a contraction of ears overall in the market, as I think a lot of markets have probably experienced. But our shares, in spite of that contraction of ears, have grown exponentially since COVID. I think it speaks to the strength of this format. When you’re doing it right, you’re living local and you’re targeting your community and what’s of interest in that community.              

We’re blessed to have such a great variety of shows and how they present the content. Let’s be real. Unless there’s breaking news, most of our shows are talking about the same stuff that’s going on in the sports world, right? But we do it in such a way that’s so unique from a talent perspective.               

Each show has its own specific tone and texture, and so we have people that listen all day long, you know, it’s not like they only listen to one show or the other. Now some do elevate their ratings above others, but for the most part, we’re pretty consistent in being number one with both men and adults throughout the whole day. That’s pretty astounding when you think about the fact that the content they’re talking about is basically the same. It’s just different ways of presenting and different opinions about the same topics. 

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Meet the Market Managers: Todd Farquharson, Gow Media Houston

“I can walk into a meeting and say, ‘Well, we’re just like you. We’re a local business born and raised right here in Houston, Texas. So we’re very similar to you.’ I think owners of businesses appreciate that.”

Demetri Ravanos




It isn’t easy to be in the sports radio game in Houston. Todd Farquharson and his team at ESPN Houston know that. Three locally staffed stations and two stations that run national programming give fans in the area a lot of options.

Farquharson talks about how Houston became home to so many sports stations in the latest column in our Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing. He also talks about the things our industry thinks too inwardly on, like dial position and the value of ESPN Radio.

ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 in Houston is built largely on the strength of local sales. For Todd, his sales staff, and his programming staff, that means everyone is important to the clients.

Demetri Ravanos: Let’s talk about the Houston market. There are a lot of sports stations there, and it’s a lot of sports stations fighting for what usually are not big numbers. So what makes it worth it to be in a crowded, small space? 

Todd Farquharson: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve been in the sports radio business, I started in ’94 with a local, independent group that would be bought by Clear Channel. It was before there was an all-sports station in town, which became Sports Radio 610.               

Then I guess in 2003, SportsTalk 790 popped up. That’s iHeart’s sports radio station. Our group now was born out of some guys that were at 610. It’s a weird circumstance where you got two competitors were probably enough for this market, but then a third was born out of, “Hey, we want to leave and do our own thing.”            

You’re right. I mean, the Houston sports radio share is probably six or seven when we’re doing well and we’re all fighting for that. What makes it worthwhile is it’s what we know best and it’s where our talent is, and I feel really good about our talent.                      

Ultimately, I’d love to see us grow the market, not just ourselves but the other stations too. Now, I don’t see us working together side-by-side, but what can we do as a sports platform to grow the share? I go to an Astros game and it’s packed with 43,000 people during the playoffs and there’s a lot of fervor and excitement. There’s so many of those people, I guarantee you, that just don’t listen to sports radio. Maybe if they’re exposed to it or give it a shot, they might go, “Wow, I had no idea!” So I hope to not just fight for the sixth share forever. 

DR: Let’s sort of keep it in the realm of what’s going on now. Again, there’s a lot of stations fighting for not a lot of share, but you guys are the only ones on FM. How are you talking about that — whether it is with clients, maybe even prospective hires for you guys? How much are you putting that front and center? 

TF: We certainly make that a big part of our pitch when we’re talking to advertisers. It depends though. The advertisers who know the sports radio space recognize that. Other times, you have to be Captain Obvious and tell the buyer that “this matters because the sound is better.”        

One interesting thing that they wouldn’t know is that we don’t duplicate with the stations very much. There’s very little audience duplication, actually. So you’re reaching totally different people. We crossover mostly with the rock station, with the AC stations, with the urban stations. So we’re going to help you reach a whole different audience.                 

I don’t sell against my competition because if a strategy is working for you on those radio stations, it should work for you on our station. We share the same qualitative demographics in terms of who the listeners are, but ours are totally different set within the demo that happen to be on the FM dial. 

DR: You don’t want to sell against your competition. You want to sell what it is you guys do, but within the industry, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about what exactly the future is for AM radio. So I wonder, does the fact that there are eight car manufacturers that aren’t even putting access to the AM band on the dashboard anymore come up at all in conversations with clients? 

TF: I don’t think it has a lot unless they’re really dialed into the business. It’s not something I want to bring out because, usually, we’re selling schedules for the next three, six, or twelve months. For a lot of people, it’s not a reality yet. So, I think it may come across as negative selling when it’s just not even a factor right now. 

DR: I do want to talk about the way we look at audience now, because I can sit here and say exactly what I said, right? “It’s a small share that everybody’s fighting for.” But that’s not the only way to measure an audience. That might not even be the accurate way to measure it all. So what is it you guys are looking at to understand not just how big the audience is, but what kind of impact you’re content is having on your listeners? 

TF: We certainly want to give the advertisers an ROI. They need the return. So that’s measured often by their experience.             

“Oh man, you know, we are getting some people to walk into the store” or “We’re getting some phone calls” or “The website traffic has gone up 3%.” That’s when we can feel that our ads are working.

But beyond the radio audience itself, we do try to give them exposure to bigger audiences. For example, we have a companion website, It’s focused on Astros, Rockets, and Texans. So it’s very much the same content, but a lot of people that land on the website have never listened to the radio station.

As an advertiser, you may reach, let’s say, 100,000 on our radio stations, but there’s another 200,000 a month that will hit this website that you may not be exposed to. We videotape all our live programing. We’ll chop up that video into 30, 60 seconds snippets, put it on Tik Tok, put it on YouTube, put it on Facebook. So we’re exposing other audiences to what we do that, again, probably never listen to sports radio. We get that. We met a few listeners who said, “Man, I discovered you guys on YouTube. I didn’t realize y’all had a radio show.” That happens every day.

DR: That kind of goes exactly to something else I was thinking about as I was putting doing my research and putting this together to chat today. There was a time in this industry when if you said ESPN Houston is on 97.5 and 92.5, that might be deemed by some in the industry as too confusing. But you just hit it on the head, man. People are coming to your content in so many different ways. I would guess that not only is it not even a huge problem anymore, may not even be a consideration for a lot of listeners. 

TF: I think we are so fractured. I mean this morning, I get up early and go walking and I listen to a podcast until our local morning show came on. So I flipped from podcast to stream and I hopped into my car and I’m listening to radio. You know, we all have figured out how to consume multiple mediums, so I would hope somebody can flip a dial from 97.5 to 92.5 easily. 

DR: You guys have been recruiting for a PD in recent months, and I wonder what some of the challenges that came with doing that in 2023 were. What are candidate’s questions and concerns about, not just your business, but the future of radio in general and are they the kinds of questions you had to answer five or ten years ago when you’re doing this? 

TF: Yeah, it’s interesting. Most of the people that were interested in talking to about the job, I don’t think there were a lot of questions to be pointed about where are we going to be in ten years with the industry or where is the media going to be. Maybe I had a few of those, but I guess they were more interested in, “Hey, I’d like to come work there and be a part of the sports radio station.” So we didn’t honestly have that many conversations about the future of it, specifically to our company.

We’re trying to be broader than just radio, as I mentioned. Beyond our digital platform, we have That’s in five cities, the five major cities in Texas. We have an So we have nice digital platforms that expand into different categories and we’re trying to grow that way as well so that we are not siloed into the singularity of sports radio. 

DR: So are you looking for candidates then that can contribute to building the business, in all of those different ways? 

TF: We’re looking for somebody who acknowledges that we are a bigger platform than just sports radio. Maybe sometimes you might be running promos for InnovationMap or CultureMap sponsors an event and we take our sports radio show live from there. Why not be exposed to all these people? So it’s just a matter of working together and realizing that we’re greater together.

DR: In my position, I’ve been studying the changes to ESPN’s business over the last three years. In the industry, we all have opinions about what is the quality of ESPN Radio programming. We all wonder what is the stability of ESPN’s audio product. 

But I want to talk about it with you from the standpoint of people outside of our industry. When you go out on the street, whether it is meeting listeners, meeting potential clients, whatever, do those four letters still carry the weight that they did, say five, ten years ago?

TF: Absolutely. It’s still the biggest brand of sports. You kind of touched on it. We can be hypercritical within the industry, but let’s say I’m talking to a female business owner and she is not really into sports, but she’s open to listening and she wants to reach the right audience. ESPN means something. She’s she knows it. It’s better than, “Hey, it’s Todd’s sports radio,” right? 

DR: I make this joke all the time that in this format, we have a wheel of five words that you’re allowed to name your station – Fan, Ticket, Score. You know the ones. In Hosuton, none of that exists and the branding is clearly laid out with “Sports Radio 610” and “SportsTalk 790”. You guys have gone with a very specific, well-known brand. I mean, that does say something different than “97.5 The Ticket” would. 

TF: Right. We enjoy our partnership with ESPN in terms of even the backstop programing we get. You can never have to apologize because your weekend or evening programing wasn’t great. ESPN does a nice job. So we love that.            

I love when we can carry the Astros. You know, we’re not the flagship, but when ESPN says, “Hey, we’ve got an Astros game and you’re allowed to run it” I just say alright. When the Astros are in the playoffs or in the World Series, we carry all those games, which is fantastic. And we’re able to monetize that in a way in a really nice way. 

DR: The bulk of your business being almost entirely local, tell me a bit about the role that your talent plays in starting and maintaining those client relationships. 

TF: Yeah, you’re right. The national business kind of withers away. As ratings fluctuate, so does national business. But fortunately, we rely on our direct business, the local business.            

I can walk into a meeting and say, “Well, we’re just like you. We’re a local business born and raised right here in Houston, Texas. So we’re very similar to you.” I think owners of businesses appreciate that.                

When it comes to the hosts, they’re very interactive. They’re anxious to create relationships and maintain relationships. A few of our hosts, frankly, are some of our best salespeople, because they meet people out and because they’re on the air. They have engaging personalities and people want to be around them and they get to know them. When those people are like, “Hey, I have a business. How do I start advertising with you guys?” that is who they usually ask. I love and depend on our hosts. They do a terrific job for us. 

DR: So are those hosts that are also going out and doing their own selling? Is it the folks that have been there for a while or when you launched that new afternoon show or bring in Jeremy to be a part of the midday show are you welcoming them to come in and try their hand at selling their own show as well. 

TF: Absolutely, and to be fair, I shouldn’t say that they’re necessarily selling. What they’re doing is setting up a relationship. “Hey, I met this guy.”

If you are instrumental in bringing some business to you, to us, and we get the deal, we’ll give you a little something to incentivize you to do that again. Sometimes a personality can open a door much quicker than a salesperson can. 

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Meet The Market Managers: Natalie Marsh, Lotus Communications, Las Vegas

“We pride ourselves on who we are as a group and why the sports teams want to be affiliated with us.”

Demetri Ravanos




Las Vegas is a beast unto itself. No one knows that better than Natalie Marsh. She has been with Lotus Communications in Sin City for 24 years, and has seen the market completely transform in that time.

In a city where there is always something new to do, how innovative do your sellers need to be? How much do the old ways of doing business still work with clients?

Forget the sales side for a second. How do Marsh and her programmers keep up with the ever expanding roster of sports offerings in town to make sure both the teams and local listeners are getting what they expect from the company’s five sports stations?

Natalie answers all of these questions and more in the latest Meet the Market Managers column presented by Point-to-Point Marketing. Enjoy!

Demetri Ravanos: Since we’re focused on sports radio, I think the best place to start is the way Las Vegas has exploded as a home for major league professional sports. How have the expectations of your staff, both programing and sales, changed as those teams have come to town? 

Natalie Marsh: I would say it has changed pretty dramatically and it’s been a real learning experience. Fortunately, we had two support stations prior to even the Golden Knights being here. So, we had a team of sellers that were invested in selling the passion and the loyalty of the sports fan.              

That’s just grown and expanded, and now we’re teaching them how to take that to the next level. Now, we have five sports radio stations.

From a programming standpoint, it’s really been about finding the right people. They have to be engaged. It’s different when you have the teams here. The expectations change.              

There is nothing more amazing and maybe a little bit frightening than the owners and executives of the teams listening to your stations. It’s super flattering, but take Raider Nation Radio for an example. Mark Davis listens to that station every day. There’s a different level of expectation or engagement or knowledge that has to come into play.                 

Are our guys going to the practices? Are they seen at the games?               

It’s more than just watching it on TV, which is really what it was prior to us having any professional teams. The game changes when you have to go from having minor league baseball and university sports to having an NHL team, a WNBA team who just won the championship, and an NFL team.             

We pride ourselves on who we are as a group and why the sports teams want to be affiliated with us. There’s a lot of pressure internally to make sure that we’re keeping up to that standard. 

DR: I do want to talk about Raider Nation Radio. Is that something other stations and ownership groups have come to you with questions about the way the relationship works with the Raiders? Because certainly there are teams in other markets across the country with fan bases that would respond to a station like that. How much of a resource have you been for other stations around the country? 

NM: I would have to ask my PD. I’ve never personally had another group reach out to me on, how this came to be.             

For me, it’s about what can we do, and analyzing what we can make from a sales perspective. Also, what can we do that is a different way to monetize the affiliation with the team but also makes the team realize how much of a partner you really are. That’s really where Raider Nation Radio came from.            

Mark Davis or even his dad prior to him had always been second best in the Bay area. That’s the way they’ve always been treated. It was always the 49ers first and Raiders second. So we made a promise as we were presenting as to why we would be the right choice as the flagship radio partner. We were going to have a station that was dedicated to the Raiders. That’s really where Raider Nation Radio was born. 

DR: So I want to ask you about that and the Golden Knights as well because you guys have put a priority on being the flagship stations of the teams in town. I wonder what sort of conversations you are having in the lead-up to those pitches, both with your bosses and also with your staff, about the importance of getting those play-by-play rights. 

NM: So we’ll go back to the Knights, because I’m going to tell you that prior to the Knights, we had rights for our minor league baseball team and UNLV.          

There were certainly times during my 24 years at Lotus Broadcasting that UNLV helped us make some money, people wanted to be on the games. But they’ve had their struggles. And so we were pretty naive about what this was going to look like.                 

I was a sales manager when we went to pitch for the Vegas Golden Knights, and I went to my GM right away and said, “Do we want to pitch for these rights? What do we want to do? What what does it look like?” We made some calls, we did some digging, and I met with my sales team, and said, “Here’s what I’m going to need from you guys. Do you think you can deliver it?” I’m lucky because I had a couple of salespeople that really embraced it.      

Everybody thought “Hockey in the desert? This is going to be terrible. Nobody is going to want to do it.” But I had a couple salespeople that would talk to advertisers and say, “Look, you’ve got to get in this the first year or you’re not going to be able to get in next year. We’re going to sell it out. It’s going to be first come, first serve, and if you don’t get in now the prices will be higher and you won’t be able to get in.”                

These are all things that we talked and strategized about, but I had a couple that actually did it right. We sold it out. The team obviously did its part and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals that first year. So the premise that we sold became a reality.                 

We expanded our coverage because part of our presentation to the Golden Knights was that we would do a game a week in Spanish. I had done some research and realized a couple of markets had sort of played around with Spanish broadcasting in the NHL. Nobody had really given it their all. Our station became the first Spanish broadcast of a Stanley Cup Finals game, which exploded and became viral.

So from that, we thought, “Hey, we’re going to do every home game.” And that’s how we moved forward. And I was able to expand what we had available on the Hispanic side and what we had available on the general market side, amending that contract to include these extra Spanish home games that we were carrying. It’s really been fantastic!                             

When you teach a sales staff how to sell probably the hardest of the four, sports it becomes very easy to sell the Raiders right after that because the NFL is the easiest.            

We’re a little crazy. I heard the WNBA was coming in and said, “We owe it to female athletes and fans to become a partner for them. I don’t know if we’ll ever make money on it.” I said to my boss at the time “I’m going to do my best. I’ll at least make sure it’s a wash for you, but I think we need to do it. It’s the right thing to do.”                 

We started carrying all of their home games because a lot of these facilities aren’t set up to have the away team there with a radio broadcast. The Aces won the championship last year, which we were able to sell strongly. Now that demand is even higher.                 

It’s been fun to watch not only the sales team grow in how they understand it, and how they sell the passion of it. We don’t sit in a market where those sports stations get a lot of ratings. The market size just isn’t there. We only have 800 to 900 meters in the market. So unless they get lucky and one just happened to fall on a sports fan, you just don’t see the movement that you might elsewhere. So we don’t sell on ratings. The sales team has really embraced it. 

DR: So am I right to assume that businesses in a market like Las Vegas, which is built on experience and entertainment, understand the value in sports radio? Because you hit on it, right? It is not a ratings play. There have to be businesses that understand the value of a dedicated audience, even if it is smaller, they are more apt to hear the message than just a straight numbers buy. 

NM: Absolutely. We have been very fortunate in being able to prove that to them. You’ve got to get that trust first. You tell them the story and then you show them.                

We have car dealerships and hotel/casinos on there, We have every kind of business, but those are big businesses with ad agencies that we’ve still been able to convince this isn’t about the numbers. That’s quite a feat in 2023.           

That’s why I’m really proud of my sales team because it’s hard sometimes to convince people this isn’t about the numbers. A lot of clients want to talk about numbers because the other groups want to talk about the numbers. It’s a competitive marketplace for those ad dollars, especially in the last three years.            

You had COVID, then things started coming back, and everybody was so nervous about that. Then last year was a political year, and now this year everybody’s worried about the economy. There’s just a lot of competition in the space. Even as the teams come to town they sort of take money out of the market because of their sponsorship dollars. So then that space becomes even more competitive.

Our programming team is fantastic. They go out on calls with the salespeople and they’re super engaged with our clients and our partners. The whole building getting behind a sales effort makes all the difference in the world. 

DR: So given that connection that the audience has with these stations, with the local personalities, what is the process like on pitching a new client on the benefits of paying that premium for things like endorsements and live events, to really take advantage of an audience that wants to do what these people are telling them to do?

NM: I think there’s a couple of ways that you can make an impact. If you’ve done your CNA properly and you understand which on-air talent is going to mesh best with the client, you bring the talent to them and let that personality express their passion. Then the client can see it and know that same passion exists with our listeners.                 

The other thing that is really successful is taking the client to an event. We do a lot of viewing parties. Not only do we have five sports stations, but I have two rock stations, and rock sets us up really well to do the viewing parties because it’s another male-based audience. So, it’s easy to get a prospective client to a sports viewing party. Last year was the first time we did away game viewing parties for the Aces. This is before they were winning the championship, but we had started taking clients to the games.                  

That’s the other thing — take them to a game and let them see the excitement of the fans. The WNBA, that’s not an easy sell, but if you go to a game, you are sold that it is a really, really good game of basketball. Take a female manager or owner and show them, “Look at these women! You’ve got to support the sport.” And they see the excitement and the passion of the fans.                

Utilizing those three things: Meet our personality and see their passion, come see the passion of the fans at away game parties, or come and see the passion of the fans at the game. They kind of get it and then they’re willing to take a chance. Then when they start getting results, they’re in. 

DR: When you are looking for sellers, whether you’re actively recruiting or somebody’s resume just comes across your desk, how specialized is your search? Is it easy to get someone up to speed on doing business with things like casinos and clubs or are those the kind of accounts that you really need market knowledge and institutional knowledge of those businesses in order to be successful? 

NM: I think it would depend. There’s sports betting everywhere now so that changes things a little bit and makes it a little easier if I’m going out of the market.              

I’m a little spoiled because we have huge longevity here in my group. I’ve been here 24 years and I have sellers that have been here longer than me. That comes with pros and cons, but for the most part, they are pros. We tend to be the group in town that people want to work for, so it makes it easy to recruit in the market.               

I think if I was looking at somebody that wanted to come here from out of town, there would be a conversation of “Tell me what it’s like in your market when you have to sell events because Vegas is different.” I know everybody thinks that their town is different. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’s actually true here.

We get inundated with messages and so you have to be ready to explain to a new business that opens. People have a lot of options here. More than they have anywhere else. Every day there’s something else coming and it just it doesn’t seem to slow down.               

I’ve never worried about if somebody knows how to sell to a casino or not, because if you know how to sell any kind of on-site activation, then it’s probably pretty easy to turn that into what it could look like if done at a casino. 

DR: So I want to flip to the other big side of radio, which is programming. Q Myers is an interesting guy. I personally like him a lot. You have him leading multiple brands. At the same time, his own profile is rising as a host. Tell me a bit about the conversations you guys have about balancing those two sides of this job and how they each serve Lotus in Las Vegas. 

NM: So our sports product is the only product that has a PD and an assistant PD for exactly that reason. So we knew that. We had that in place prior to Q coming here.                

We knew that we wanted a personality as a PD — someone that was going to do both. Once I met Q, it was just a given. There was no way that I wasn’t going to have him be on the air. He’s really just too good at it. It really helped that we already had an assistant PD in place.                 

Now, what I did not know about Q is, he doesn’t stop! I will be driving home at 7:00 at night and I’ll have ESPN on and I’m like, “Oh. Q is filling in for Freddie Coleman again.” And then I’ll be listening on the weekends and he’s got his weekend show. I often joke with his wife like, “You know, this isn’t me, right?”. She’s like, “I know. I was married to him prior to you.” I’ve given her bottles of wine before to be like, “I’m so sorry that your husband works all the time.”

But his passion and energy are contagious. That’s what’s so special about Q because it’s really hard not to want to laugh and smile and have fun at your job, but also work really hard when your boss is laughing and smiling and working his butt off. Even though I tell him to slow down and he doesn’t listen to me, it’s okay. It’s the pot calling the kettle black a little bit because he would probably tell me the same thing. 

DR: So I want to end by asking sort of a bigger question. You’ve noticed that our discussion has been about sales and programming. When people think about the radio business, it’s easy to divide it into those two categories. But I wonder if we look at the other aspects of the business, how healthy is the pool of capable, experienced candidates in your experience when you are looking to fill a role like, say, promotions or engineering or production? Any of those behind-the-scenes roles that do not fall into the sales or programming categories? 

NM: I’ve been really lucky. I sit with a lot of different business leaders on a regular basis, and their biggest complaint is not being able to find talent. I’ve had multiple times that I’ve had to find talent since COVID or even during COVID and have always been able to find the right person. Whether it was an engineer, a board op or a remote tech.    

Again, that longevity does come into play to protect me a little bit, just because I haven’t had maybe the volume that other people have had. So maybe, just by pure numbers, I would start to have more of an issue if I was having to hire more people but when I look at who we have had to hire in those areas, we just have been really fortunate.

I try to have a really good relationship with UNLV and their broadcast school and school of journalism. I’ve had some candidates come from there in those positions. We also do a work-study program with a job and college preparatory school that we have here in town. We’ve actually hired one person from that school, and have been involved from the beginning. They have their first graduating class this year.

So we have another kid in mind. He is interested in coming on board to learn how to run play-by-play while he goes to college, so we’ll likely have a second person that we hire from that school.

I think it just depends on how innovative you get when you’re looking for talent. The last person that I hired, I looked at my engineering department a little bit differently. I realized we needed help in the department but I didn’t think we needed an RF engineer anymore because so much of what radio does is digital and IT. We were redoing all of the studios, and some of that is about computer stuff, not RF.

You can get an RF contractor if you need one out here, but I need somebody in the building that understands all of the aspects of this new digital world that I just hopped into because we were a little bit behind. I think it’s kind of opening up and expanding your thoughts on what does that new person’s skillset need to look like? You have to think a little bit outside of the box in my experience.

Look at our sellers. Every single person that worked in some sort of traditional advertising lost a chunk of our business to digital advertising. That’s just the thing, and so you have to have that component that you can offer so that you can get back some of that budget that you’ve lost going back to like 2008 or 2009.

You just have to be open-minded. And if somebody comes to you and they have a passion for your business and they have a passion to learn, even if they maybe don’t have the experience, then that’s almost worth it to take that chance on that person versus trying to find somebody that has the experience. 

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Meet The Market Managers: Marsha Landess, Radio One Charlotte

“Sales may technically have the clients, but we are a revenue culture.”

Demetri Ravanos




If you want to get technical, it is 287 miles from the front door of Radio One’s headquarters on Julian Price Place in Charlotte to the company’s headquarters on Emerywood Parkway in Richmond. Marsha Landess doesn’t have the luxury of distance though. Neither cluster can ever be too far from her mind.

Landess leads both buildings as Radio One’s Regional Vice President. Her position in this industry is less unique than it used to be. A lot of companies ask market managers to add leadership of a second building to their duties. In order to do it successfully, she says you have to know which values are universal and which situations require their own unique solutions.

In the latest piece in our Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point-to-Point Marketing, Marsha Landess talks about how running a gospel station prepared her to run a sports station, what a revenue culture is, and why programming and sales candidates have to know and be ready to do more than ever before to be hireable.

Demetri Ravanos: I guess we’ll start in the obvious place. You run two very different markets in Richmond and Charlotte. Is there any philosophy or strategy you can carry from one to the other or because of the difference in size and the way they are growing and the makeup of the population, do both buildings kind of require their own bespoke management styles? 

Marsha Landess: You would be surprised how similar they are. Really, for me, it’s about the people, the philosophy, and what we try to accomplish every day. So, I try to create a larger mission and instill that and then hire people that believe in that mission.               

Obviously in Charlotte, I’ve got six radio stations and the Dog House, so it’s very different as it relates to everybody looking to merge our two cultures together when Radio One bought the iconic stations here that they did. But it’s all about the people.                 

We talk about this in all of our meetings. It’s creating great content on the air, which is entertaining and informative, we create great campaigns for our advertisers that bring them results, and we take care of our community. If we focus on those three pillars, the money will follow. 

DR: You hit on two things that perfectly combine for my next question, which are the campaigns and the community. In both buildings, you have what would be defined as niche formats – gospel in Richmond and sports in Charlotte. Those are smaller, very dedicated audiences.                

What is it that you would say to advertisers that may dismiss both of them or any format that might fall into that so-called passion category? What would you say to people that just, at the snap of a finger will say, “Oh, that’s not my audience”? 

ML: Oh, my gosh! Passion is the keyword because the listeners in those two formats are so passionate about each of them. The time spent listening is longer. Actually, prior to having a sports station under my responsibility, I used to say that inspiration and gospel were the most responsive audience I’d ever worked with in all of my years of radio. They listened to the station, they listened to the on-air personalities, and they’re very, very loyal. It’s like hearing a friend tell them to go do something. I feel that about our urban formats all the way around very passionately. Honestly, I say that about all of my formats. That’s probably not a good answer for you.                   

But look those two formats, they’re not going to be ratings leaders. An agency may not come down about a cost per point on that radio station. But customer points don’t buy products, right? People buy products. And the people that listen to those two particular formats love their radio stations and they listen to what’s on them. And what I mean is THEY LISTEN! It’s not background noise to them. That means that the advertisers are getting results. 

DR: In addition to WFNZ, you’ve got WBT in Charlotte. Sports and news seem like a natural pairing. So, I wonder if you have an expectation, or is there always a game plan that if a seller goes out and gets a client, particularly a local client for one station, you’re always thinking about how they work on getting that client on the other station, too? 

ML: Whatever client we go to, we’re trying to really deliver the marketing campaign. So we look at all of our properties and we say, ‘Okay, who are they trying to reach, what are they trying to accomplish, and which of our brands is going to be best with them?’ I’m including digital and including our Dog House. So what’s going to get that client the result the quickest way that we can and most efficiently?               

There’s absolutely no question that sports and news talk just merge beautifully together. But also, if someone is really trying to reach females, then we’ve got our music stations that compliment them really beautifully as well. So it really depends on the client and the age demographics that they’re trying to reach.                          

When endorsements come through, I think that’s the most powerful tool that we have. Especially on news talk and sports. We’re really trying to have a commitment to local and we do very well in endorsements with our local clients. 

DR: Stereotype is probably the wrong word because it’s more of an old joke of radio. Especially if you go back to the eighties and nineties, it was always programming and sales butting heads –  two different departments completely siloed off from one another with two very different goals. I would imagine that is not at all what you see inside of a building these days.

ML: No, and especially not with the clusters that I run. The department heads over the years that I’ve hired, that ability to work together is part of my interview process with them because we are one.

We all have listeners, we all have clients, and obviously, we live in our community. Sales may technically have the clients, but we are a revenue culture. Everybody in our building sells, and we sell our listeners as well. We’re not going to ask our programming department to give away something on the air that we know is not appealing to our listeners. That’s not a win-win for anybody.

Here’s a perfect example. We were asked to give away a jar of mayonnaise in Richmond. We had Hellman’s mayonnaise and they wanted us to give away jars of mayonnaise. I was like, “No one is going to drive to the radio station to pick up a jar of mayonnaise. We’re not going to ask programming to put it on the air, right? So what are we going to do?”

So, we tied it into a tailgate. NASCAR is very big in Richmond as it is in Charlotte. We tied it into a NASCAR campaign and gave away NASCAR tickets. So now all of a sudden, that became a prize around recipes, around the tailgate. That became something that people really wanted to get. It was much better for the client and much better for the listener.

We try to always work that way and our sales department and our programming department, in both markets, get along really, really well, because they all see the big vision. So yeah, I don’t think radio stations could operate like that anymore. It’s too tough out there.

DR: Explain that idea of being a revenue culture to me a little more. I’m guessing it is not as simple as “everything is for sale all the time”. There’s got to be a more detailed idea to it in your mind. 

ML: Yes. Everything is definitely not for sale. I guess where I’m going with that is that our program directors recognize that it’s not sales’ clients. They’re in meetings with us. They’re brainstorming marketing campaigns. They’re generating ideas to help our clients. It’s not just about sales. We all want to win, and we know that if we do the right things together, it happens and it can be very magical.               

Now, there are growing pains that go with that at times. Everything is not always for sale. And you know what? The sale is not always a good thing sometimes. I don’t want anyone to take money from a client that we don’t feel we can really help. 

DR: I want to talk about the program directors themselves. You took the reins in Charlotte and after the first year passed you had to find new program directors for WFNZ and The Mix. Terry Foxx handled a lot there. So, I’m guessing you went through that knowing it’s going to be almost impossible to find a one-for-one replacement when he left. So what qualities did you see in Jeff Rickard that made you say, “This guy gets us,  maybe not the one for one, but he gets us and where we want to go”?

ML: Jeff and I met in New York last March, actually, Jason and Terry introduced us at the BSM Summit. Also, Terry helped me find Neal Sharpe who is our new PD for Mix as well.

He was great as he knew my management style and the expectations I had for these positions. He helped in the transition with both Program Directors.

Anyway, Jeff and I sat down for an initial meeting and immediately clicked. He has a passion and knowledge for this format. He wants to win. He’s competitive. He’s a good leader. He cares about people, the product, and where he is. He meets with people. He goes out on sales calls. He just fits the philosophy.                              

I think when you meet people, you either know it or you don’t. So after that breakfast, we went to meetings and then we met for lunch and stayed for coffee. So he and I ended up spending a lot of time together.                      

It’s funny, I interview a lot of people for these positions in my history because it’s so important to have that chemistry between two people that really understand it, and he just did. It wasn’t something he faked. It genuinely is who he is and he has done a fantastic job for us and he’s hired great people.                

We have very similar management styles and we don’t settle for mediocrity. Excellence is really my only standard. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to take time to get there. We have to have patience, but I want someone who wants to win because I’m really competitive. 

DR: I don’t know that our industry has ever changed so much in as short a period of time as it has since, you have been in the role you are now, leading buildings. So, when you’re going through that process talking to potential sports program directors, are there things that now, or in 2022, that you needed to know that you never thought would be imperative to that job in the past?

ML: Well, no question the digital aspect. If we think that we’re just radio, we’re crazy, we’re audio and we have to be everywhere that our listeners are. I need someone that is just constantly learning and not set in their ways.                       

We’re different. It’s not just “Let me walk into a car dealership and talk to you about sports and you sign a contract”. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. We’re so much more evolved about being able to understand it’s not just what’s over the airwaves, but also what’s on our digital, mobile, everywhere. You have to be everywhere.

DR: You’ve been with Radio One for a long time. You have advanced through the company, so as you move from one position to another, eventually ending up as a regional vice president, what kind of management did you have to do with your personal relationships in the building to establish new normals with familiar people? 

ML: It’s about integrity and honesty, doing the right things, working, and caring about the people you work with, and challenging them. I didn’t really start in sales and become their manager. I have done that at a different company, and that was interesting as well.            

My belief is you always have to be the best you can be at the current role you are in and always looking and acting the role that you want. Take on more responsibilities, find a mentor, ask for advice, and shadow people. I was always very much a part of our budgeting process. And I include our manager in our budgeting process because I want them to learn how to do it. I want them to understand the big picture.                  

I love the company I work for. Cathy Hughes is our founder. The foundation of this company was built on community service. Alfred Liggins and David Kantor really make sure that we know the importance of that as well as being fiscally responsible as we’re doing it.                 

I guess I’ve been very lucky because I work my tail off. I really do. Running two markets is a challenge, but I have a really great team in those markets, and that’s the only way I can do it. So my goal is to train the next me, the person that can grow into my role so that we keep it going. 

DR: I do want to talk a little bit about the Panthers because play-by-play rights are more expensive than they’ve ever been before. Can you tell me a little bit about the factors that you were considering when you decided what the limit was that you were willing to pay for those rights to retain them and those factors that got you to that point of deciding “We’re just not in this business anymore”? 

ML: You know, with that I’m not going to release too much of the information just out of respect for them because we still work with them on Charlotte FC. Agreeing to the new terms of the Panthers’ rights deal was just not a sound business decision for WBT or our cluster at that time. We value our relationship with Tepper Sports Management and their team and not carrying the Panthers was purely a business decision.

DR: Obviously the economy is hard for anyone to get a handle on right now, and plenty has been written about what it means for ad dollars. What about for ad reps? What is it like trying to recruit sellers in 2023? 

ML: It is hard to recruit sellers in 2023. I think, first of all, I feel like I’m repeating myself. It’s really not just sellers. You’re in marketing and you have to have someone that understands marketing, not just sales. And that’s different than it was way back when.

DR: Let me interrupt, because I think that that’s a very interesting thing. Does that mean, then, that the pool of people that would be viable for you in 2023 is smaller or does it mean that you are still viable if you can sell, but you need to come in with an understanding that the job is much bigger now?

ML: Yes, you’re still viable if you can sell, but you absolutely have to understand that the job is much bigger. And I think different people have different philosophies on this. Some people feel like if you can sell, you can sell anything. I don’t believe that.                             

I think you have to understand marketing and be able to sell at the same time. We have a really seasoned sales team in both markets and they really understand marketing and getting results for our clients. I have a newer AE in Richmond and she’s a rock star, but she had an advertising and marketing degree and so she understands how to go in and really help a person grow their business. She’s just doing amazing. I’ve hired someone else who had sales experience, but not marketing experience. We thought they were going to be fantastic, but it was just too much for them.        

You go in thinking, “I have all these radio stations with all these different demographics, and then I have all these websites, and then we sell events, and then we do community service!” I mean, they can’t handle it. You have to get someone who moves fast, is really competitive, has a desire to keep growing, and is not afraid to pick up the phone and walk into a business and have a real business-to-business conversation. And that’s not everybody. 

DR: Is that in large part getting harder to find? 

ML: It’s getting much harder to find. Yes, it’s a challenge, I think, in our industry for sure. 

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