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Q & A

" We are making a bet that people want business news. As the market becomes
a bigger part of people's daily life, more and more people will become listeners."

Douglas Krizner,
Director of Bloomberg Radio

Conversation with Douglas Krizner, Director of Bloomberg Radio
by Leona Churchill

As I wait for Doug Krizner in the lobby of Bloomberg Radio--one of the most celebrated financial stations--there are scrolling news headlines between floors and between stairwells, televisions everywhere, clocks to remind you the exact time, and ON AIR signs blinking in red. The radio anchors sit in a glass booth in the middle of it all and appear not to be distracted.

He gives me a tour of the newsroom. To feed two anchors with information, there are producers, tape editors, and writers, as well as production assistants. Everything is digital. There are no bulky radio carts. Each shift--morning drive, afternoon, and evening--boasts a producer with three writers attached to him. At other stations, I've seen up to two writers per producer at most. Usually, it's just one. Doug's desk is at the very corner, slightly removed, yet still connected to all the news areas. Doug is a founding member of Bloomberg Radio (broadcasting since 1993), with a uniquely suited employment background ranging from working as a Wall Street stockbroker to narrating films and voice-overs. He also reports on financial markets for Bloomberg Television.

Last summer, Doug Krizner became the manager of WBBR 1130 AM, Bloomberg's flagship station in New York. His team consists of approximately 50 broadcasters with access to Bloomberg News' 75 news bureaus worldwide. Bloomberg Radio puts out a business news broadcast mixed with sports, traffic and weather. Bloomberg currently has more than 100 affiliates throughout the country, and also broadcasts its television and radio programs on the web and via satellite. They offer Data Checks every ten minutes and 24-hour coverage of the financial markets including live reports from London and Tokyo.

mb: Why do you think radio is becoming a less popular medium than it used to be?

Krizner: The biggest factor slowing things down in radio right now is consolidation of business. Just like with every business, radio has to show shareholders that it is making a profit. It really comes down to interested parties who have money in the business. As a result of that, cost of operation has to go down in order for stations to stay afloat.

mb: Does the product suffer?

Krizner: Of course, in many instances it does. When you delegate a lot of tasks to a small staff, you inevitably lose. As a result of that, content is compromised. Stories get shorter, and don't provide listeners with as much imagery and depth of information. The question is: what is the level of quality you maintain? It is up to news directors to decide what areas of the business need cost cutting, and therefore layoffs, and what areas can stay and grow. Because of that, the better writers, who charge more, can't find jobs. They're not needed.

mb: How do you deal with this situation?

Krizner: Well, we take a risk and keep hiring people instead of laying off staff. That's not what many other stations do.

mb: Now, you are broadcasting business news, something that wasn't around even a few years ago. Has this idea reached it peak, or does it still have a lot of room to grow?

Krizner: We are making a bet that people want business news. With the explosion of our economy in the past few years, more and more people became interested in the stock market and needed to be attuned to what's happening on the market daily. And as the market becomes a bigger part of people's daily life, more and more people will become listeners.

mb: Where do you think the future of radio lies?

Krizner: At this point nobody knows. Information is becoming more and more segmented between television, the Internet, radio and wireless devices; we have to see whether radio will become more of a utility or remain in the business of delivering information. More and more people want their traffic, weather, market numbers and general news headlines, and that's all they want. For them, radio is a utility. But for many more, traffic information will be delivered more accurately and more immediately through their wireless devices. Say I'm stuck in traffic--why would I sit through 10 minutes of news and headlines when I can ask my Palm Pilot to provide me not only with traffic info, but also with a map of the fastest detour?

mb: So what is going to happen then, if radio becomes more utility-directed?

Krizner: It may not. It may stay where it is and continue providing good storytelling and good imagery. We will just have to wait and see.

 

Conversation with Valerie Geller: Media Consultant and President, Geller Media International
by Leona Churchill

Valerie Geller is a well-known media consultant who travels the world advising and consulting clients. She is the author of Creating Powerful Radio, where she advises news managers on making a more effective product. (For example: did you notice that if anchors constantly repeat call letters, you stay tuned more?) Besides being a radio consultant, Geller has worked as an award-winning reporter, anchor, program and news director all around the country. She has programmed New York's WABC radio into the successful product it is today. I met Valerie Geller on a snowy Thursday evening at a Japanese restaurant near Times Square. I heard Geller speak once at a workshop for producers and hosts in San Francisco. She taught us one of the most invaluable rules of radio--when listening to radio, people are interested in two things: love and work. That's what it essentially comes down to.

mb: Valerie, what it is that keeps us tuned in to a station? Obviously, the content that we want to hear, but what else?

Geller: Talent is the most important thing in radio. The challenge of working in radio is not to report on current events--it's to make it interesting. Especially on the day when there is no news. Think about it: when there is news, your job comes to you. When there is none, that's where your talent comes in. The most challenging and fascinating task in radio is to make a mediocre story interesting.

mb: Would you agree that people are losing interest in radio?

Geller: I don't think people are inspired enough today. You get influenced to go into radio when you hear a good product. But if all you hear is mediocre, why would you want to go into it? For a long time radio was interesting and personality-driven. Today it's become more formulated and less creative.

mb: What caused this decline?

Geller: Consolidation has changed the face of radio business. But I have no doubt that radio will swing back into being the most interesting medium. Satellite radio will give radio listeners more variety. We will be able to access hundreds of channels on our radio dial.

mb: How do people get jobs in radio? How do you break into the business today?

Geller: One thing I always say is if you really want to be in radio, there's no way you won't get a job. The best people are in radio. The most creative people are in radio. Just like in every business, it's about who you know. But there are ways of starting from scratch, getting internships and production assistant jobs just to learn the ropes, and working your way up.

mb: What do you think radio can offer people that no other medium can?

Geller: With print, you can offer your readers details, intricacies, and nuances that radio can't. With television, you obviously have the visual aspect attached to stories. But in radio, you have the immediacy of information. It doesn't take long to put a story on the radio. Once news happens, it is immediately reported on the radio. It's brief, immediate, and yet, intimate. So if you are interested in focusing on the details of a story, radio is probably not for you.

mb: Why do you think so many programs fail? There are hundreds of people coming up with new ideas for radio formats but it seems to be harder and harder to implement.

Geller: I think the biggest mistake people make is not giving things enough of a chance. Things take a while to work. We need to give programs a chance to grow.

mb: Do you think radio will go through downsizing like a lot of the media industries nowadays, or will it stay at the same level?

Geller: You know, radio traditionally cuts jobs, regardless of the economy. But when crises happen, that's when managers start hiring people back. One piece of advice I could give managers, given that I have been one myself, is never to interview people on days when you're not feeling well or have other things on your mind. Once there was this man who I interviewed. His tape was great, he was fine, but I had such a headache I didn't feel his magic and dismissed him. He went to a competitor and received very high ratings there in a few months. I promised myself to never do that again. I receive thousands of tapes, and only listen to them when I can give them my full attention.

You can learn more about Valerie Geller and her company at www.gellermedia.com

 

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Conversations with Douglas Krizner, Director of Bloomberg Radio, and Valerie Geller, author of Creating Powerful Radio
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