Yesterday's blog post got the week off to a good start…sort of.
We highlighted a USA Today/CareerCast ranker of “The Worst Jobs In America.” This infamous list of 25 undesirable professions included three radio-ish jobs in the “top 10.”
Or should I saw “bottom 10.”
Advertising sales rep, broadcaster, and radio DJ all showed up on this gnarly list of jobs associated with low demand, even lower pay, high stress, and other undesirable conditions that make you wonder why there's anyone left working in radio anymore.
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To suggest that being on the air is a fun, fulfilling job, I quoted some of our best data from last year's AQ study. But as we know, great storytelling trumps a bunch of PowerPoint pie charts every time.
And the good news – we got some great stories in our “comments” section, two of which I'm republishing here.
First, Lazlo, PD and on-air personality at Entercom's Buzz in Kansas City:
I’ve hung drywall. I’ve been a cook. A bartender and myriad other jobs. Radio is the world's best kept secret. Sure there are stresses and frustrations about ratings which at times you can’t control. But I’ll stay right here laughing and having fun as long as they will have me and try to wear out my welcome if I haven’t already. I'm well aware how lucky I am to have made a career of entertaining people.
And then on the radio industry spectrum, I heard from Family Radio (Oakland, CA) host, David Manzi. He's combining his two biggest loves – family and radio – into his career choice. Here was his comment yesterday to the USA Today list:
I don’t see the researchers taking job satisfaction into account.” The fact of the matter is “fun,” “entertaining” and “fulfilling” offset a LOT of negatives–negatives that to one extent or another are in virtually every industry.
I don’t know one person doing full-time radio that doesn’t love it despite the challenges–or one person who even got into it to begin with because they DIDN’T love it.
It’s not for everyone, but for most who are in it, we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
And this tweet from morning driver Tom Mailey (aka Cashews O'Brien) from KNCI/Sacramento:
We love what we get to do. Yes it's a tough business, probably tougher than ever, but it is fun and rewarding, and every once in awhile you actually get to have a positive impact and make a genuine difference. That's pretty cool
— Tom Mailey (aka “Cashews O'Brien”) (@kncitom) April 22, 2019
I also heard from some people who question the work ethic of the Millennials in the business today, a common refrain from legacy radio pros. I was a twentysomething in radio when it was a profession that was all upside. Some even called radio an “easy business,” which is hard to believe through today's lens. And it's true – back in the ”70s and '80s, you often couldn't get out of the way of the money.
That's not at all what the picture looks like today. And yet, there are legions of young people striving for radio careers. So, I dug a little deeper to determine if the USA Today “worst list” truly resonates with today's radio professionals. And rather than speak with fellow “seniors” like myself who have had truly nice career runs, I wanted to talk to a few “freshmen” and “sophomores” – the next generation of radio's workforce – to take the industry's temperature.
And it turned out to be a wonderful rebuttal of the USA Today story which I will pass along to them, along with your comments.
Let's start with PD/morning show host Trevor Morgan of Zimmer's KCMQ/Columbia, Missouri. Trevor graduated from Southeast Missouri State University, and is a self-described “old man in a young man's body.”
Here's his story:
I’ve always loved making people feel better about their day.
As a kid, I’d wander around school, cracking jokes, get updates, and have fun with as many people as possible to help start their day on the best foot possible. And in turn, it helped me start my day on the best foot possible. I thrived on it.
That’s WHY I got into radio. To continue to do what I’ve always done, but on a mass scale.
As a Program Director and morning show co-host (The Morning Shag with Shags & Trevor). our driving force is FUN!
Fun also happens to be one of Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group’s Core Values.
This job requires a lot of hard work. Tedious music scheduling, creative problem solving, early mornings, long days, late nights. All to entertain, inform, and serve our listeners. But when someone tells me that listening to our station/ show turned their crappy day around, it reminds me WHY I got into this industry in the first place.
Articles like (the USA Today story) can distract from our WHY. To help with this, I’ve turned my “To Do List” into a “Get To Do List”. This (albeit: corny) change, reminds me how fortunate I am. I GET to work with a passionate team to come up with exciting promotions, craft compelling shows, help local businesses grow, and serve my community.
The challenges are real. The work is hard. But remember your WHY. Mine is fun.
If you've ever wondered what it is about broadcast radio that attracts young digital stars, look no further than WDRV's Emma Rimsa, Social Media Jock for Hubbard's WDRV.
Emma's a creative Millennial working the digital path with a bunch of Boomer DJs and Classic Rock listeners. She could be plying her skills for a techie start-up, but instead her jobs – in her own words – is “posting on social media, making videos, and acting as a nuisance to the people around me.”
Here's her radio WHY:
The data determining this (USA Today) list was based on median wages, projected job growth rate, environment and stress level. Knowing that, I think using the description of “worst” job is taking some major liberties, and passing judgments on what people value in a position.
Objectively, these jobs could be referred to as the riskiest, or most uncertain, or even the most challenging – but many people would never equate those characteristics to “worst.” Suggesting that potentially low pay and high stress means that it’s “bad” just discounts the various ways in which people find fulfillment in their career.
Speaking specifically about jobs in radio, I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb to suggest the average person does not go into radio for the money. Hardworking and talented people do end up making a lot of it, but the initial desire is usually deeper than that. Something to do with expression and creativity and art.
It’s also safe to say the average person understands that participating in a lifestyle with deadlines and ratings and mass feedback can produce stress. So maybe this list could have been called “difficult jobs, not for the faint of heart,” but speaking as somebody starting out in the radio field, the exact characteristics that were used to label it as the “worst job” are why I think it’s one of the best.
I actually like knowing that my career isn’t on a fixed path, and that I really need to push myself everyday. I like that I have to always be learning and evolving to keep up – and it may feel risky, but that’s why it’s rewarding at the end of every day. To me, that’s a great job.
That bring us to “Irish Dave” O'Connor, morning guy on Artistic Media Partner's CHR in South Bend, U93. A native of Dublin, Dave has only been in the States since 2014. (It's appropriate he's on the air in a market that's the Home of the Fighting Irish). Here's why Dave has chosen one of the “worst jobs” in America:
Local radio has an amazing way of connecting with the community. When you tap into and become part of that, it’s one of the best jobs in the world. If your primary drive is money, your base radio salary will rarely make you happy, but if you’re creative, successful and active in the community, you will discover lots of fun ways to supplement that.
Recently on our morning show, we were launching a promotion called “Half a Grand in your Hand” and we asked people what they would do with the money if they won. The first caller said, “I’d buy my neighbor a washing machine because she doesn’t have one.”
We were taken aback by this answer and immediately started a search on air to find this person a washing machine. Within 10 minutes, five people were willing to donate one and we were able to connect them.
The power of great radio will fill your heart more than it will ever fill your pockets.
And finally, our Gen Xer, Ben Ponzio, a radio account exec for Hubbard in Chicago. Ben got his start at WPGU in Champaign, and has also worked with Emmis and CBS. Here's why he's a happy camper in the cubicles of his stations' offices in the Prudential Plaza:
“Why would you get into radio ad sales? There’s no future. It’ll be dead in five years.” I remember hearing those words shortly after I started my first radio job in Champaign, Illinois in 1993. Twenty-six years later, that five year timeline continues to be thrown in my face. After 26 years in radio, mostly on the sales side, I couldn’t imagine a job that I would enjoy more.
As in any industry, efficiencies and economies of scale mean that there are less of us selling advertising than there were when I started in radio. On the same note, the reps who are working in radio love that we have more things we can sell – multiple radio stations, promotions, digital platforms, etc – and therefore more opportunities to make money.
When I started in radio, most reps thought it was a stepping stone to TV, which is where you can really make money. Now, most good sellers would never make the jump because there aren’t as many opportunities to find new business as we have in radio. In fact, I stepped away from management and returned to selling because I think it’s a better job, a better opportunity, and a better lifestyle.
While all jobs have new challenges, and ours is no different, selling radio advertising is still a very fun and lucrative career. It will continue to change. There will continue to be new things to learn. I am very confident that in five years, if you ask me this same question again, I will still be loving my job in radio ad sales…and someone else will be proclaiming that radio will be dead in five years.
So, there you go USA Today and CareerCast – a totally unscientific, statistically useless study of why radio professionals who are on the air, online, and selling on the streets wouldn't trade their profession for anything.
People like Trevor, Emma, Dave, and Ben are likely wandering around the halls, studios, and cubicles at your radio station. Take a moment to talk with them, find out what moves them, and why they took the leap into radio at a time when everyone is screaming at them to look elsewhere.
They all think they have the best job in the world.
They are the future of the business.
You can reach this group of radio “job lovers” on Twitter:
Emma Rimsa @rimsicle
Trevor Morgan @nerdontheradio
“Irish” Dave O'Connor @iamirishdave
Ben Ponzio @BenPonzio
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
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