Perspective: Tim Dukes, Recovering Programmer

Posted on December 15, 2010


It’s fascinating how much my radio consumption changed now that I’m not working at a station. For example, as I began writing this post I was actually working in silence; the radio wasn’t even turned on. That never happened when I was working at a station. 

It also feels like my perspective on what really matters when it comes to programming and talent has changed. To see if the same holds true for other former radio people I reached out to Tim Dukes who is both a longtime program director (WLUP/Chicago, WEBN/Cincinnati, KIOZ/San Diego and others) and a true radio junkie. Since leaving The Loop he’s worked outside of radio including several years at Tribune in their interactive division.

TM: Now that you are not programming, how has your radio listening and usage changed?

TD: I’m coming up on my 4th anniversary of becoming a “recovering programmer”. Since that transition, I quickly noticed I never listened to the radio unless I was in the car. And even then, unless I was driving alone, I was more likely to listen to what my wife wanted to hear vs. what I wanted, since I wasn’t monitoring a station of mine or a competitor anymore.

TM: Do you hear talent differently now? What sticks out to your ears that didn’t before?

TD: So much jock content to me now is little more than ear candy for radio-types and meaningless to “civilians”. Maybe that’s because so many rock jocks seem like they’re talking to people who spend all their extra income on music and concert tickets, some country jocks seem like they’re only talking to people who drive an F-150 or Silverado and so many AC jocks only talk to women, etc. I heard those things before, but it sticks out now more than ever

TM: Is there anything specific you hear talent doing that now, as a ‘civillian’ that make you shake your head?

TD: I definitely hear things that don’t register on the “Listener Noticability Scale”, so to speak. Like a morning or afternoon talent saying “here’s (traffic person) with our first check/last check on the roads today“. It also drives me nuts when a part-time jock says they’re filling in for someone during a weekend shift. No one cares, so why say it? Focus on what really matters to listeners, not you.

TM: Any other thoughts about radio that you’ve noticed since leaving day-to-day station work?

TD: Air Talent have largely stopped doing things that draw real attention to themselves. I’m not talking about putting the morning show producer at a major intersection in a diaper playing a kazoo; that’s passe’. I’m talking about things that will make people talk to each other about you. Capitalize on something topical. Come to the rescue of someone who needs it. Have a goal to do something meaningful for various segments of your audience as often as you can so they are more likely to say to a friend or family member, “did you hear about”, “did you see that”, “it made me laugh”, “that made me mad”, “I’m glad someone finally did that” etc. Never before has it been so important to be more than someone who knows a lot about music or sounds great talking up an intro.

TM: Having spent time in the interactive world, any thoughts to share?

TD: I would suggest every air talent treat their pages on the station website as something that needs to be nourished, nurtured, and promoted on and off the air, constantly. Facebook pages and blogs are fine, but they’re a given to the audience now. I’d suggest talent be waist deep into video, not just with stuff they found on YouTube or Vimeo, but material they shot themselves. And they have to treat that content with the same care they treat their radio show with; it might actually have a larger audience.