My email inbox contains thousands of Special Bulletins that I have received from All Access over the years. Every time somebody gets hired, gets promoted, or launches a new station, there's a Special Bulletin. With each bulletin that lands in my inbox, I chuckle to myself, thinking, “I receive so many of these, there's no way they can all be special!” It's the type of thought that always puts a bemused smirk on my face, but is not funny enough to be worth saying out loud. I always figured that one day, I would wordsmith that thought into a joke that could get a laugh, but I haven't yet.
On Friday, we all received a bulletin that is nothing to joke about: Citing “Severe Financial Headwinds,” All Access announced that it will discontinue operations on August 15th. It's always sobering when you learn that a company in your industry is going to close up shop, but somehow this one feels heavier than usual. It's hard not to read this as a reflection on the entire radio industry.
All Access has been a great partner for Jacobs Media for decades, especially with regards to our annual Techsurvey. But All Access, and in particular, its founder, Joel Denver, also played a pivotal role in my personal career. I would not be here without the generous support of Joel and the folks at All Access.
I left radio in 2006. I had been a Program Director for 95.5 WBRU, a stand-alone alternative station in Providence, Rhode Island. All I ever wanted to do was run one radio station and make it sound amazing, but I could see the writing on the wall with consolidation: My next career move was to oversee six stations and play Nickelback on all of them. This did not interest me, so I got out.
I worked in digital marketing for several years. I returned to Silicon Valley, where I grew up, and developed a host of new skills that I never would have gained in radio. I honestly never expected to return to this industry.
Then, one day over a decade ago, I was in a serious car accident. The kind of accident where you wake up in an emergency room covered from head to toe in road rash and one of your arms is paralyzed. I was injured so badly that I was unable to return to full-time work for a year and a half. In the early months of my recovery, I had no idea how I would return to work, or even what kind of work I would return to.
Two people played pivotal roles in my return to radio: Dana Jang and Joel Denver.
Being physically incapable of a 40-hour work week, I started with the one thing I knew I could do part-time: an airshift. I blindly emailed Dana Jang, who was the Program Director of Mix 106.5 (KEZR-FM) in my hometown of San José. He graciously agreed to allow me to pull some weekend airshfts. At that point, I hadn't set foot inside a radio station in years, but it all came rushing back to me. I slowly got back onto my feet by getting back on the air.
As my health improved enough for me to return to work full time, I contemplated my next move. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do. My friend, Jacent Jackson, had just been hired as the Program Director of Live 105 in San Francisco. He and I went out to lunch when he arrived in the Bay Area. Afterwards, we wandered around the Stanford campus, and Jacent told me that he was looking for a new morning show host.
I said, “If I were developing a new morning show, here's what I would do…” But instead of talking about the bits I would produce or the guests I would interview or the stunts I would pull, I talked about how I would use email and social media and podcasts and video to support the show. I explained how I would adapt the digital tactics that I had learned outside of the industry. Jacent turned to me and said, “You know nobody in radio knows what you're talking about, right?”
I didn't know that. I had been involved in digital marketing for so long at that point, that I took these ideas for granted. Jacent suggested that I reach out to Joel Denver at All Access and ask him if I could write a column explaining how radio stations could use these digital tactics.
I hardly knew Joel. I had been a reader of All Access for as long as I could remember — the site launched the same year that my radio career began — but our paths had rarely crossed. I sent him a blind email asking him if I could write a column. To my surprise, Joel could not have been more welcoming. We spoke on the phone, and I told him my story. I will never forget how supportive he was, and my Next Steps column for All Access was born.
Every Spring, All Access hosted the Worldwide Radio Summit in conjunction with A&R Worldwide. After writing for Joel for several months, I asked him if I could come to the summit, interview some of his speakers, and publish it as a podcast. I'm not convinced that Joel knew what a podcast was, let alone saw any value in it, but he welcomed the idea with open arms. I lined up interviews with a number of industry players, including Jeff Smulyan of Emmis, Norm Pattiz of PodcastOne, and syndicated morning show host Bubba the Love Sponge.
I also interviewed Fred Jacobs, the founder of Jacobs Media, who presented the latest findings of Techsurvey at the conference every year. I had been a Jacobs Media client twice during my time in radio — once at 105.7 The Point in St. Louis and once at 107.7 The End in Seattle — but I had never met Fred or his brother, Paul, who quietly sat at the table while Fred and I recorded our conversation. While Jacent may have been right, that many people in radio at the time did not know what was going on in the digital world, it was immediately apparent that Fred did. I still look back on our conversation very fondly.
A few weeks later, Lori Lewis, my predecessor here at Jacobs Media, announced that she was departing to work at Cumulus. Fred asked Joel who he knew that could help his radio clients with their digital strategies. Joel recommended me. That's how I came to Jacobs Media eight years ago.
I would not be here without the support Joel Denver and everyone at All Access, and I will always be grateful to them for that.
But All Access did not just support me. The organization went out of its way to support everyone who worked in the radio industry: by bringing them together at its annual conference, or highlighting them in a “10 Questions” interview, or by celebrating their accomplishments with a “Special Bulletin” email. It was a big deal when you saw your name in an All Access news story, something to be remembered. So maybe I'm wrong, and maybe there is no joke to be made: Every one of those bulletins was special to somebody.
Thank you to Shawn Alexander, who called on me when I was an Alternative Rock Program Director. Thank you to Matt Shapo who helped make that podcast possible. Thank you to Perry Simon, whose snarky sense of humor matches my own and whose unvarnished insights I highly value. And thank you to everyone whose hard work built All Access into a truly impressive organization over the course of 28 years. It's hard to imagine this industry without All Access.
So long, and thanks for all the mousepads!
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