Jeremiah Beck Interview 1-7-19
Vice President and General Manager
Career capsule: I’ve loved radio since I was a child. I had an Imperial Party-Time Solid State record player and my mom’s Monkees albums, and would practice being a ramp jock. I graduated to calling in to 97ZOK in Rockford to request songs, and then calling 101.5 IBA in Madison to argue with their morning show host. In 1998 I got my first job in radio at WBEL in Beloit, WI and flipped it to all Sports a year later, taking over as PD and hosting a daily morning talk show. I entered Christian radio in 2005 as Station Manager and Morning Host at WIBI in Carlinville, and then moved to KBMQ in Monroe, LA in 2011 as General Manager and Morning Show Host. In 2014 we launched KBYO, a Christian Hip Hop and R&B station. I became VP and GM of ShareMedia Services in 2017.
Jeremiah tell us what’s new at ShareMedia Services.. news, changes, & with YOU… etc?
2017 and 2018 were incredible years for ShareMedia. Our founder, Todd Isberner, has moved into the position of President Emeritus, and Jason Parker has become President. I became VP and GM under Jason at that point. Todd Chatman joined the team as Director of Cause and Ministry Development, and Dan Young has recently come on board as Manager of Production Services. The merger with Dunham and Company has proven to be an amazing season, giving radio partners access to research and new media strategy experts, and putting cause clients together in more effective ways with radio and TV partners. Rick and Trent Dunham have a remarkably customized, personal model that is brilliantly effective at increasing reach and revenue.
Fundraising is a big part of Christian Radio… what do you do to help a station stand out from the crowd?
LONG ANSWER ALERT… The same challenges that exist for a regular radio show – distractions and competition – are the main obstacles to overcome with fundraising, but they are then coupled with a poor value proposition and a failure to effectively communicate the support model throughout the year.
I think we need to be realistic about the level of access, engagement, and exclusive content we provide our monthly donors. For $8 a month, I have access to the Netflix entertainment library. For $100 a year I have Amazon Prime, giving me their audio and video inventory, as well as the actual Prime benefits. Despite the value, I still debate renewing each of these because I have a family budget. However, we are asking listeners to give $30 or $40/mo and they have no enhanced experience in any way, despite their sacrifice. It is costing them much more, for far less, and then we wonder why our cancellation rates are as high as they are? I am aware that we are a ministry, and the others are businesses, yet fewer and fewer consumers of media are drawing a distinction between us and them. They expect more (right or wrong. I’m not drawing a moral distinction, just sharing what the research tells us) and we have access and technology to provide them with more … and we don’t. The idea that “you’ll simply feel good knowing you gave” isn’t going to sustain the donor, especially if you’re telling them “when you hear a story of a changed life, you can know God used you to do that” and then never playing stories of changed lives outside of a fundraiser. If the model fails, that’s on us as an industry.
Finally, if you want to reach your audience, and give yourself the best chance to reach your financial needs, then you should be creatively crediting them for the on-air ministry and community impact that is happening throughout the year. It’s still incredibly surprising to me how many stations fail to share their appreciation in an ongoing way, fail to explain to their new cume how their ministry, and fail to provide consistent, tangible proof of ministry outside of their Sharathons. Therefore, I ask the question: are stations struggling to get funding because the marketplace is changing or they have a poor fundraising strategy, or is it because they are actually not doing ministry in the community and giving their audience what they actually want and expect on the air every day? That question isn’t asked by management nearly enough.
What is the best fundraising advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best fundraising advice: don’t be afraid to fail, repeatedly. You can do everything right and it still may not work. Then you get a new quarter hour, and can start over. Treat your brain and heart like a white board, and have a short memory. “Swing for the fences.” – Bill Scott.
Worst fundraising advice: it’s only about the story. If that were the case, all we’d have to do is play listener testimonies on the air and the phones would explode. It’s the combination of elements (set up, stories, incentives, ministry partnerships, value proposition, price point, etc) but in reality … you could actually get much of it wrong, but still have a great close to a break, and the phones will still ring. The close is way more important than anything else, but for a while the conventional wisdom became “the story is sacrosanct.” The story matters – big time – but it is not ONLY about the story.
Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?
I agree that, within reason, more Christian stations in a market are a good thing. I’m all for competition. It drives us to be better. I don’t care for adversarial relationships between Christian stations. We are all members of the Kingdom, so while I think it is great that we can offer unique programming and community service differentiators to build our audience, I think we need to do away with the (at times, extremely) negative talk about the brothers and sisters we are competing against, but with whom we still share the ultimate objective: sharing the Gospel and encouraging the Body.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job/show?
Creative inspiration. I’ve never been a prep service person. I prefer to take things that happen in my life, or try to find my own perspective on the events of the day, and create a conversation with my co-host and the listener in a way that offers something that the audience cannot get in any other place. Music and promotions are duplicable. The mixture of what the on-air talent and their interaction with the audience brings to the table cannot be duplicated.
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
They already exist, all around. There are still people who love the idea of getting into radio despite the new technology opportunities. We need to do a better job of recruiting them, encouraging them, giving them freedom to try new things their own way, training them, and frankly … paying them better.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
We are our own worst enemy at times. As I mentioned earlier, I view competition as a good thing. All of the options that people now have to get content, and create their own, is great for the consumer. The Christian radio industry’s unwillingness to evolve, or focus time, creativity and resources on the wrong things, will be their undoing. If we are giving the consumer (thus shifting from viewing them only as a “listener”) what they want from us, instead of what we want to give them, or worse yet, what we think they should want from us, then funding will dry up. But if we are consistently and creatively giving them what they are telling us they want, on all platforms, with a Christ-centered strategy of putting their needs above our tastes and preconceived notions, then I believe funding for Christian media will not only grow, but has the potential to explode.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I have so many heroes, mainly because I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in this business without people (foolishly) giving me chances (Bob Ace, Matt Williams, Barry Copeland.) I decide I wanted to be on the radio because of local DJs like Liz Wylder on WZOK in Rockford, IL and Sly in The Morning on WIBA in Madison, WI, and national hosts like Rick Dees. Hearing Rush Limbaugh for the first time sparked my interest in talk radio. Art Bell solidified it. Roe Conn and Gary Meyer at WLS helped me understand what a team show could be. Mancow, Jim Rome and Howard Stern taught me that being your audacious self was a winning strategy. Listening to Mike Schlote and his team at WQFL in Rockford made me appreciate what Christian radio could be. Scott Valentine was an early Christian radio influence, and John Frost, Alan Mason, John Brock, Todd Isberner and Dick Jenkins all had HUGE impacts on how I viewed myself, and how to bring the best out of me as a talent or fundraiser.
As far as my current heroes … Joe Buchanan is the best Music Director in the world, Lucy and Kel at Light FM in Melbourne are amazing as Brekky hosts, along with Josh and Bjorn at Life FM in Auckland, NZ, Mandy at Air1 rocks, Mike Couchman is doing killer things at Boost, my boss Jason Parker is an amazing fundraising and marketing strategist, Dan Young has got the prod world on lockdown, Chuck Finney has become a dear friend and mentor, and Brant Hansen because he’s Frank Sinatra with Asperger’s (doing radio his way, in a weird way, and it’s working, which makes me a bit jealous at times.)