More Q-and-A with Big Joe


From today’s media column (linked here), and following up a previous blog entry (linked here), Joe McDonnell — a six-time No. 1 host in the annual poll we started nearly 20 years ago, and our “host of the decade” for the 1990s –has his takes on:

Q: What’s the trick, as a programmer, to making a local sports-talk lineup work?

McDonnell: “My philosophy when I was programming the early days of KSPN was to make it almost like a soap opera, make people want to come back the next day to see what’s going on. We had good things going there, and why changes were made still boggles my mind to this day. We were going in the right direction. When my contract ran out at KSPN (in 2005), our ratings were going up. They had to pay me two ratings bonuses going out the door. If you leave it alone and let the people work, it will happen.”

Q: So what works these days in L.A. local radio?

McDonnell: “Look, I’ve been doing this 33 years, and here I am almost five months without a job. Maybe I don’t know, but then you have a situation at KLAA that’s exactly what no one wants to see. They have a chance to be a real player but they have have no with no clue what they’re doing. They have non-radio people running it. It’s one guy doing two shows a day. That’s just minor-league radio.”

Q: How do sports-talk show hosts make themselves relevant in today’s media market? Can the medium of radio still be the intimate relationship between host and listener, or is it challenged by the relationship now between listener and computer?

McDonnell: “Radio is at a crossroad, but it’s not a dying medium and it can remain viable. The only problem radio may face is the content going more away from local and adding more syndication. If they do that, it’s the end of the radio audience. You can say you’re doing a show from L.A., but if it’s not about L.A., what does it matter? You can just go to the Internet and get what you want.

“Opportunities have narrowed, and I think it says something with someone of my pedigree isn’t on the air. I know I’m not done, and I won’t be one of those people stuck in another decade who refuse to change. I was one of the first to start using the Internet over 10 years ago. There’s a way today to do an Internet show and be successful, and people will listen not just on their computer, but cellphone, iPod, even wristwatches. Without a doubt, the Internet is the future, as more cars are made with broadband connections. I’m not walking away from AM or FM radio. I still love it and expect to have a job soon. There are many options.”

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