| Fourth Quarter 2012 | photos by STEVEN HERTZOG |
LBM: What is great plains media’s most important commodity or service?
JW: Great Plains Media is a radio broadcasting conglomerate that serves to inform, entertain and educate
the listeners in its core service area. For 1320 KLWN, that core area is Lawrence and Douglas County. For 92.9 The Bull and 105.9 Kiss FM, that area encompasses a much larger territory which includes Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City and the areas in between.
LBM: Other than monetary, what is Great Plains Media’s most important priority?
JW: At Great Plains Media, they believe that when it is good in the community, it is good for you and me. That is a philosophy that requires a lot of action and very little posturing. Th ey support locally-owned businesses in Lawrence and Douglas County by off ering competitive advertising opportunities, and free on-air businesinterviews, and developing partnerships among our clients that enable success with minimal risk. It also means supporting local charities and non-profi t organizations with interviews, public service announcements, news bulletins and event support.
LBM: What have been some of the most important aspects of your success?
JW: If you surround yourself with successful people and you listen to their opinions and ideas with an open mind, you might learn a thing or two. Hank Booth has been instrumental in helping me develop a relationship with Lawrence and understand its core values. Th rough Hank and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, I have met many other business leaders and decision makers who have become trusted advisors and friends. I was honored to be selected as a member of the Class of 2013 for Leadership Lawrence and from the moment the program began, I inherited a very large extended family of individuals who have a vested
interest in my success and happiness.
LBM: How do you manage the day-to-day stress of business?
JW: Lots of daily laughter. Sometimes at the executive level, we tend to take ourselves and our position too seriously and we get lost in the title. I make it my business to try to enjoy every portion of my day and allow others to see me in that moment.
LBM: How do you reward excellent work performance?
JW: At Great Plains Media we had an employee of the month and a sales person of the month plaque system and a financial reward. In addition, we custom tailored personal incentive programs to our employees based on their individual needs, wants and desires.
LBM: How do you manage poor performance?
JW: I have always believed in managing by individual need and skill set rather than attempting to apply a generic set of policies to a group of people. To that end, when performance is not up to
expectation; work with the individual to take personal corrective action. Th e problem needs to be diagnosed and a remedy off ered that must be taken and adhered to by the employee. If the employee follows the prescribed path, the outcome is almost always positive. Some take it more seriously than others. But discipline means improve, not remove and I believe you should only remove in situations where there has been a serious breech of company policy or the circumstances are no longer favorable to either party to continue the employment.
LBM: What is the biggest challenge you feel the radio industry faces?
JW: The economy has been very difficult for everyone in media since the economic collapse of 2008. For any business to succeed, the community must stand behind its businesses. Economic
development in Lawrence and Douglas County will allow the radio stations to thrive and allow it to do more for the community in return. Having the support of local business makes the difference
and this is not a problem that is unique to Great Plains Media. It is faced by the newspaper and cable television outlet as well. The bottom line is that if you are a Lawrence business, you should advertise with the mediums that serve Lawrence.
LBM: How many people Great Plains Media employ?
LBM: How many of those live in Lawrence?
LBM: Does Great Plains Media encourage people to live in Lawrence?
JW: Yes and Great Plains Media offers relocation assistance on a limited basis to our department heads who wish to live in Lawrence.
LBM: What is or is there a benefit?
JW: There is most definitely a benefit for both the employee and the company. I believe Lawrence is the best place to live and raise a family in Kansas. It provides cultural diversity, access to the
arts, great restaurants and two amazing universities that serve the totality of our population. We have good medical care and you can get anywhere in Lawrence in under 15 minutes. That being said, the ease of the commute, the savings for automotive fuel and repair and the ability to get to and from work in a short time make a critical difference in employee productivity.
LBM: What is the biggest misconception about the radio business?
JW: That it’s a dying medium that saw its hey-day pre-internet and pre-satellite radio. The truth is radio is at its strongest posture than at any other time in my 27-year career. Over the last two years,
radio usage among adults has increased 1% nationally from 93% to 94%. While the 1% might not seems like a large percentage, the raw population number is in the millions. The internet has enhanced radio station’s abilities to reach people. In addition to the listener bases in Lawrence and Topeka Kansas, there are listeners all over the world who listen to the streaming service online. As for satellite radio, it has actually driven more listener traffic to the local stations. There is no local content on Sirius-XM. When you want to know the news, the weather, the traffic, the scores of the games or the outcome of your local political race, the only radio station that provides that information is local radio.
LBM: What would you change about doing business in Lawrence?
JW: Great Plains Media has been successful with our business model in Lawrence and are pleased to report a 91% retention rate in our client base. That means that what we are doing is working for our clients because they keep coming back. When radio is done right (the right message repeated enough times over a consistent time frame) it NEVER fails. If we took that model and applied it to how business is done in Lawrence, we would see greater success as a community.
LBM: How does your business make a positive impact on the Lawrence community?
JW: Providing local news, weather and sports on 1320 KLWN fulfills a civic duty to our listeners. Supporting the arts, local nonprofits and charities makes the community a better place to live. Covering events put on by the Chamber like Eggs and Issues has allowed the community to take part in events that their schedules may not allow. Broadcasting the band concerts from South Park this past summer allowed shut-ins to enjoy a local event.
LBM: What do you see as the community’s role in the media and radio business? Its responsibility?
JW: The station provides a service for the members of our community. Give feedback: what do you like, what you do not like. The community’s support of what the station does is of paramount importance to survival. The station belongs to the community. When listeners of 1320 KLWN said they wanted more live, local content the response was to give them their radio station back. In 2012, the station went from 3 hours of live and local programming daily to 10 hours.
LBM: You operate in a very competitive industry. How have you managed to remain relevant and
JW: KLWN is having the best year in its 62-year history both in terms of ratings and revenue. The secret to that success has been listening to the needs of the community and responding. Radio has the advantage of being the only mobile medium. You can listen at home, at work and in the car. Being a source for severe weather, news, sports and information that is specific to, and germane, to Lawrence Kansas has made the difference.
LBM: Over the course of your career, what has been the single largest change in the radio or media business environment?
JW: When I started in 1985, I worked for a single station that had a single owner. We had local control of our programming, operations and budget. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed and deregulation of the industry occurred, large corporations bought up as many radio stations as their lenders would allow. To maximize profits, these companies streamlined programming decisions so that what you heard in one market was what you heard in all markets. The localism was eliminated. The live personalities were eliminated and the connection to the community was severed. I experienced that disconnect at Clear Channel, Radio One and Cumulus first hand. It is the reason why I went to work for Great Plains Media, which is a small private company that allows for local control of content and encourages community involvement. There are no two communities in this country that are exactly the same. The lack of recognition of that critical key fact is the greatest threat to media today.
LBM: What do you foresee as being the biggest challenge to the radio/communications business?
JW: The ability to adapt to new technologies and content dissemination mechanisms is our industry’s biggest challenge. When I started, we had a radio station. Now, we are content
providers with multiple avenues to share that content with our listeners. Traditional terrestrial radio will always be at the forefront, but proper use of streaming broadcasts, pod-casting, social media, websites and blogging are all important components. For those that are stuck in the ways of the past and unwilling to accept change or development, becoming irrelevant is perhaps the only kindness they will know.
Jay Wachs was formerly the General Manager of Great Plains Media which owns 1320 KLWN, 92.9 The Bull and 105.9 Kiss FM. Jay is on the board of Theater Lawrence, Independence Inc. and a member of the Class of 2013 of Leadership Lawrence. He has been a Rotarian since 2007 and is the proud father of two daughters: Melanie, 17 and Rachel, 12 and three cats, one of which was adopted this past July from the Lawrence Humane Society. In his spare time, Jay enjoys reading, cooking, theater, music, movies and exploring historically and culturally significant destinations.