Our first #thenextradio installment is a question and answer session with John Gorman.
Both in Cleveland and beyond, he is best known for his stint programming iconic rock station WMMS/100.7, which is today the iHeart-owned blend of talk, rock and sports.
Here’s a snippet of his bio, in case you’re one of a handful of readers at a Northeast Ohio media blog who doesn’t know his past:
Gorman programmed and served as Operations Manager at WMMS from 1973 to 1986, the station’s glory years, while independently consulting radio stations in New York, Boston and Cleveland as Gorman Media He returned to Cleveland radio as Program Director of WNCX until being tapped as Director of Operations at WMJI and Director of Programming at Legacy Broadcasting, rebranding WMMS as “The Next Generation” for a second success. John relaunched Gorman Media in 1999 where he continued to consult radio stations, political campaigns and added advertising and on line consulting to his company.
His current project is Internet-only “oWOW”, and it launched Friday.
That part of the bio doesn’t mention his most recent taste of local radio, as a consultant for then-Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting then-AAA formatted WNWV/107.3 in its run as “V107.3”.
The first oWOW stream is indeed AAA, but, well, we’ll let John answer questions about comparing the two. And yes, we said, “the first”.
The new venture features an air staff including some interesting names. Steve Pappas has been at CBS Radio’s WQAL/104.1 “Q104” and at Metro Networks/Westwood One and will be heard in afternoons. Susie Frazier is, quoting the oWOW site, “known for her earthy, yet sophisticated aesthetic as tastemaker in Northeast Ohio’s art and music scene, will host Sunday morning’s Naked Brunch, stripped, down acoustic rock and roll to ease into the day”. She is the only one of the four on-air voices with no previous radio experience.
And of course, Cleveland radio veteran Ravenna Miceli (most known for her stint at WMJI/105.7 and most recently at the aforementioned “V107.3”) is Gorman’s wife…and takes a natural time slot for her, middays.
Also aboard for weekends is Charlotte DiFranco, who knows a bit about this Internet-radio-post-broadcast thing. She and former D.A. Peterson top 40 WDJQ/92.5 “Q92” co-host Pat DeLuca in the Canton market fought and won a non-compete battle with the station, regarding their Internet venture post-employment. As noted in the intro, DeLuca is now co-hosting mornings with Kathy Vogel, at Digity AC WHBC-FM/94.1 “Mix 94.1”.
OK, so here’s John. The questions and answers are unedited. We felt it was important to get as much information as possible, as “oWOW” has been covered elsewhere both locally and in national radio trade media.
1) Why? Why this project, and why now?
oWOW is a business decision. The time is right. There is a need and a salable market for oWOW. The audience for and the content they want from oWOW is readily available. What we are doing isn’t unusual. The platform has changed. That’s all. What used to be FM or satellite is now on line. The horse was the primary mean of ground transport for millenniums until the combustible engine was invented. Put another way, take House of Cards. It’s a well-written and acted series. It is on the Netflix platform, which didn’t exist five years ago in its current form. Would House of Cards have worked on another platform? Of course. It’s the content. Provide a product that serves a purpose and it will be found and become successful regardless of platform. So what if we are presenting oWOW on an online platform? It’s where the audience is. Who carries with a transistor radio? Who carries a smartphone or a tablet or both? We chose the latter. It takes a talented team to make oWOW a reality. We are quite proud of our airstaff and support staff. Most importantly, oWOW is about serving our listeners. What is heard on oWOW today is just scratching the surface. Being online, we have the ability to be more interactive and fully in touch with the communities we serve. We will have video blogs serving the arts in Greater Cleveland.
The music industry machine is broken. Music radio formats were soundtracks to popular culture. Extensive influence peddling changed that. Much of the best new music is no longer exposed on the radio. Today’s system makes it nearly unworkable for a new artist to achieve deserved exposure for their talent. Instead, the new artists that receive the most attention and airplay can afford or are willing to part with a substantial share of their royalties, which instead of going in their pockets, will go to buying exposure on various platforms, including terrestrial radio. Musically, the majority of the new music we are playing is from indie labels and artists.
2) You have an extensive commercial radio background, in Cleveland and in other markets. What are you doing differently?
Nothing. Jim Marchyshyn and I are doing what we believe is right based on our radio and music industry knowledge, research, and gut. It’s always been our deciding factor. That, and hiring the best talent to execute the format.
Jim wrote the book, literally. He authored a book on promotion and marketing for the Radio Advertising Bureau a few years back. Ravenna Miceli is well known in this market. Charlotte DeFranco was co-host of the top morning show on WDJQ in Canton before being part of a landmark radio case that differentiated terrestrial radio from online broadcasting when a former employer attempted to block her from doing an Internet radio broadcast with her former morning show partner. The court ruled in their favor. Steve Pappas has been both on-air and behind the scenes as a producer, a reporter, and an account executive at a number of stations in Cleveland. Susie Fraiser is well known in the Ohio arts community, is a retailer, an artist, a label owner, and had no on-air radio experience prior to oWOW. Ravenna was impressed when she heard her speak at a music business function and said to me, “She has it,” meaning unique communication skills. And their collective musical knowledge is exceptional. I must also add our third partner, Jeff Baldassari. Without his expertise oWOW would not have happened. And we have a top notch CFO with Janet Parker, who held the same position at Jeff’s former company.
3) What are commercial broadcasters in Cleveland and beyond doing wrong, and what are they doing right?
Broadcasters in Cleveland are doing what they have to do given their circumstance. We will not pass judgment. The local station managers didn’t put their companies into considerable debt. Their corporate owners did. There are a lot of creative, innovative people in Cleveland radio who are prevented from executing their talents because of corporate dictates. We ought to know. We’ve hired some of them. To some, the terrestrial AM-FM radio is a dated appliance. Today, in an emergency situation, you go online for immediate information. Up until a decade ago seizing a region’s radio station was an advantage in war. Today, propaganda is spread online. Technology has changed.
4) What are current online sites doing wrong,, and what are they doing right?
Most radio station web sites look alike. Whether it’s right or wrong depends on definition. Apparently, the chains feel they are doing it right or else they would change.
5) How do you intend to connect to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio listeners on what is a worldwide platform?
By oWOW programming to Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and surrounding areas. We are serving the Northeast Ohio audience. oWOW is heard world wide but our concentration is on a specific region, which happens to be the 15th to 18th largest market in America depending on whose research one references. oWOW also has a strong secondary audience with Greater Cleveland, Akron, and Canton expatriates. Our air talent knows and relates to this market well. Most identify with the music they listened to and the sports teams they followed while growing up. If per chance one moves to a different part of the country, they take that with them. I grew up in Boston. I still follow the Boston sports teams. I support the Cleveland teams but I never lost my attachment to the teams I grew up with. The same applies to the music I personally like. The reason Internet radio stations have failed in the past is because they chose America or the world as their market. How does one effectively sell that to advertisers? I have three people listening in Des Moines; two in Milwaukee, six in Detroit, four in Rhode Island? Advertising and marketing doesn’t work that way.
6) Do you feel like a pioneer? We’ve talked to others who feel they are on the edge of a coming sea change in “radio”.
No. Pandora and Spotify and their many imitators are the pioneers. They got the arrows, so to speak. Pandora and Spotify served an important purpose. They turned the Internet into a self contained content delivery system. Prior to Pandora and Spotify, the Internet was a destination for downloading content to other platforms, such as music and movies to an iPod, laptop, or an external hard drive. Pandora and Spotify attracted the critical mass audience to on line for entertainment. Pandora and Spotify made listening to streaming on line acceptable and mass appeal. Does anyone really care if one has 60 million songs in their library? You can only listen to one at a time. Who cares if Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio or CBS Radio’s Radio.com has hundreds of station streams from all over the country. They all sound alike. They are all programmed from the same homogenized sources. You’ve heard the saying “fish stink from the head?” Where is the element of surprise? Where is their entertainment factor? We have real people presenting music – not some new math algorithm.
7) Do you have any formats in the works after AAA? (And compare the current stream to V107.3, which you consulted…)
If you mean for other streams from our parent company, Wow Media? Yes. One is ready, others are being developed. That’s for the future. We are focused on establishing oWOW first. There is a difference between being a consultant, which I was to V107.3 and a chief content operator, which is my position at oWOW. A consultant will make suggestions but cannot effect decisions. And that is where V107.3 fell short. A consultant must know who is in charge. That was a very gray area there. Let’s just say V107.3’s potential was not realized. Neither fully nor partly.
8) Commmercial success…you already have two name sponsors. How important is it to the long-term survival of oWOW?
It is how we make our living. It’s our primary source of revenue. We have an obligation to our lenders and investors. And Jim and I have our own skin in the game. oWOW’s goal is to present quality programming to our listeners and provide a successful platform for our clients. oWOW’s measure of success is determined by results. Results are what a client expects from advertising. Jim and I have a long history of over achieving and over delivering. That will remain the same.