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Smokey Rivers featured with Q & A's

November 5, 2003

NAME: Smokey Rivers
TITLE: VP/AC Programming, Infinity Broadcasting & PD, Blink FM/WNEW, NY, OM KYKY & KEZK, St. Louis
MARKET: NY and St. Louis
COMPANY: Infinity
BORN: Philadelphia, PA 1952
RAISED: Philly
Jock career: WFEC, Harrisburg; WTRY, Albany; KRKE, Albuquerque; WLAC, Nashville
PD career: WKXX, Birmingham; WKDF, Nashville; WAVA, Washington; KIOI, SF; WMJJ, Birmingham; VP/Programming, Stoner Broadcasting; WMC, Memphis; KEZK & KYKY, St. Louis; WNEW, NY

1) What are the biggest changes that you have made to the station since your arrival?
Changing the format from entertainment news to AC.

2) What have been the biggest challenges of your job so far? Rewards?
Biggest challenge would have to be changing the format in two weeks, and seeing a lot of good people displaced. Rewards? Hearing great feedback from the street about the new format.

3) What is your favorite thing about living in your market?
New York is so 24/7. The richness of detail is evident in everything that happens here.

4) What is the market competition like there? And, what are you doing to make sure you stay on top of the game?
Some of the biggest radio brands are here. We are co-located with the most listened to station in America (WINS). No matter what format you choose, it's here and it's good. As a programmer that's new to the market, it's listen…listen…listen. Because the station is new to the format, building an airstaff and doing the much-needed blocking and tackling is what is important now. The answer to that question will change as we build.

5) With summer underway what kind of events/promotions does the station have going on?
Blink was the home station for Dave Matthews' Concert for Schools with AOL in Central Park. That was a traffic-stopping, news-topping event. Other that that, we are on TV with a marketing campaign for the format launch. On the air, we're lean and clean.

6) What is your morning show like? How outlandish are they? More family oriented? How well do they do in the market place?
Rick Stacy and Lisa Chase anchor mornings. We're family friendly, providing information services, an entertainment report, and lots of music.

7) Will the advent of Satellite Radio affect our biz? Explain.
Satellite radio is perfect for boutique formats that cannot reach critical mass in local markets. Early cable TV's the model. If the providers can find an economical way to stay alive for a few more years, it's here for a while.

8) Any advice you could give to any less experienced up-and-coming PD/APD/MD's out there?
Become sales-savvy. Pre-90's it was enough to be music savvy. In the 90's, marketing savvy was added to the job requirements. In 2000, we added sales-savvy. Hang out with your sales people and believe half of what you see/hear. That's about how much of your stuff they believe.

9) Where do you see the Industry in five years? Where do you see yourself in five?
For music radio: More entertainment, less non-stop music. For talk radio: Innovation at the limits of regulation. (That's gotta be somebody's slogan soon.) Kids and young adults live in I-Pod land, so we have to break new ground to generate interest in the medium.

10) How is the relationship between programmer and record label changing? Is it for better or for worse?
Label priorities have changed. There are still relationships in major and medium markets. The small market stations don't get near the attention they once did. Again, economy of scale and scale of economy. The record industry is hurting. If everyone stole milk from the grocery stores, they would be hurting, too.

Bonus Question!

A) If you are wearing more hats today, than say last year, what area is suffering and what are you doing about it?
I am wearing so many hats that my hairline is suffering.

B) What do you think of the national contesting? Is it effective?
National contesting gets a bad rap from most programmers. Come clean with your listeners. They understand. Because of sheer economy of scale and ascending listener expectations, it may be the only form of contesting that really turns heads in medium and small markets.

C) Do you think that cyberjocks can beat strong local talent in the long run? Explain!
Local radio is, essentially, local. Howard Stern deserves a venue in your market. He's fantastic. So does great local talent. They're fantastic in a different way. An imported "this is, that was" jock may be mistake-free, but an engaging local jock that says "uh" every few breaks but knows how to emote is a quantum leap above.