William Ryan, III Interview
William Ryan, III
20 The Countdown Magazine
Career Capsule: William was born and raised in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and currently lives in Roanoke, TX with his wife, Christy and their teenage twins, Bailey and Morgan. William’s radio experience includes almost 10 years at KLTY-FM in Dallas where he worked in several roles such as their Morning Show Producer, Assistant Program Director, Music Director, and an On-Air Personality. After leaving radio around 2005, but not his love for music, William started a wedding entertainment/production company that provides DJ & MC’s for events, live music, décor lighting, and creative photo booth rentals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. William began hosting 20 The Countdown Magazine in the fall of 2019 after Jon Rivers announced his retirement.
About the Show 20 The Countdown Magazine is a 2-hour magazine-style show that counts down the top 20 Christian songs each week. It’s the longest-running Christian music countdown show in the World! The show features behind-the-scenes Christian music news, artist interviews, the Top 20 songs of the week, and features such as the ‘Future Fan Favorite’ where you get to vote on new music! The show is online as well as on over 1,100 radio stations worldwide! Some of the places you’ll find the show include the U.K., Canada, Kenya, Australia, and of course the U.S.A just to name a few! 20 The Countdown Magazine was originally launched by the legendary Jon Rivers in 1985. William began hosting the show in 2019 after Jon Rivers announced his retirement. Jon hired William to produce his morning show when William was fresh out of high school and taught him all about Christian music and radio programming. They remained close friends even after Jon left KLTY around 2001 to start a national morning show on K-Love, a Christian radio network.
William, tell us what’s new at “20 The Countdown Magazine”.. latest news, changes, & what’s new with YOU… etc?
There are so many new things happening at 20 The Countdown! I’ll just start by saying if you haven’t listened to the show in a while, you gotta check it out! The first thing you’ll notice is we’ve totally revamped the imaging with fresh sweepers, artist drops, new voices to switch things up, and we even remixed some of the jingles to keep the show sounding fresh yet familiar like what you’d expect from a legendary show like “20”! The other exciting things we’ve done, have been more about the listeners and affiliate radio stations getting involved each week to make the whole listening experience more interactive. Instead of just mentioning the incredible radio stations that air our show each week, we’re giving those stations some airtime by having them on to do a shout out and tell the World about their station, which is so remarkable for the listeners to hear from stations all over! Over the past few weeks we had a “radio presenter” from Kenya on, our affiliate in the Cayman Islands, and even the largest radio network in Australia so it’s been so much fun for the listeners to hear how the show is making an impact all around the globe! Our listeners have also been really responsive to the new features like the Future Fan Favorite, which is where we play a pair of new songs each week and ask them to vote on their favorite to play on the next week’s show. We’ve also amped up the stories behind the songs by having more artists on to share the heart behind their new music. Listeners absolutely love that peek behind the curtain!
Since filling the shoes of Jon Rivers as host of “20 The Countdown Magazine”, what have been the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for me has been trying to keep the show sounding as familiar as it was with Jon doing it but at the same time, making it “my own.” When you say “filling the shoes of Jon” there are always expectations that come with taking over and the pressure of that is a real challenge. The show is legendary so when I took it over, I didn’t want to make too many changes, too quickly. I obviously don’t have that big amazing voice like Jon, so I had to be okay with just being me and really focus on what I love to do which is to connect with a listener just like they’re in the room with me. That has helped me relieve the pressure of “filling those shoes” a little.
What is the #1 thing you learned from Jon Rivers, that sticks with you in your new role?
I’ve known Jon since I was fresh out of high school, so I had very little radio experience when we started working together. The cool thing about that for me is I didn’t have any bad radio habits to break so I could soak up what he taught me. Over the years I’ve learned a ton of really valuable things that have helped me in radio. He taught me everything from being a programmer, music director, and on-air talent but I think the thing that always sticks with me is what he’s taught me when connecting with a listener. I can hear him telling me (in that really deep voice), “Young William…talk to the listener like they’re right there with you.” That’s something I (now) think is the most important thing anyone in radio can do to be effective. I’d say it’s the #1 thing I learned from him that has stuck with me to this day.
Why do you think “20 The Countdown Magazine” has lasted so long?
I think everyone loves a good countdown of the top songs so that’s probably one of the big reasons why it’s been around so long, but I think more of it has to do with the things beyond the music. I think “20” has stuck around and become so legendary because of the artist interviews, new music, and the latest news in Christian music. That’s stuff that truly makes the show a “magazine format” so it tends to draw you in for those two hours and gives you something to look forward to the next week. We also hear from a lot of listeners that make the show part of their weekend routine and set an appointment with the radio at the same time each week to hear the latest.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your show/job?
This may be surprising to some but for me it’s the thing I tend to struggle with the most when recording the show…my attitude. I’d say a good attitude before recording is the one thing I must have! I think it’s easy for most of us in radio to get into “going through the motions” and not seeing what we’re doing as an opportunity or something we “get to do”. Before each show I honestly have to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give me the right attitude and not just see the show as something I have to knock out for the week or check off my list. I find that when my attitude is in the right place and I align with what God wants to do through me, really remarkable things happen. Sometimes it’s weeks later before I even know but too often, I’ll get a message from a listener and hear how God used me and the show to minister to them. This also makes me so grateful for the partnerships I have with radio stations that are including the show in their weekend programming.
In what area do you believe Christian Radio needs to improve most?
I feel like Christian radio has just gotten so good over the years and I know in some markets it’s just as good or even better than the secular stations. If I had to pick one area where we can all improve, myself and “20” included, it would be in staying hyper-focused on the listener. I know it’s easy to focus on a ton of different things when programming a station or even doing an air-shift, but we have to have really clear vision for our own station and market. Just because something works for a station in one market doesn’t mean it will work in another so really seek what your audience desires from you and stick to it! I’ve always had this visual of a dart board in my head when it comes to our listening audience. If we can keep aiming for the bullseye in everything we do (from the music we pick to the things we say to the things we promote) we’ll win more often than not. Sure, we’ll miss the bullseye on occasion but as long as those darts are hitting close to it every single time it will be so much better than if we were to just start throwing darts at a moving target based on what others are doing or what we feel is the new thing to try.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
I think radio in general (Christian or not) is facing a pretty big obstacle with getting the younger generations to tune in. One way I see this obstacle hit home, literally, is when my teenagers and I are in the car together. One of the first things they want to do when we start driving is to get a hold of that aux cord and get their phone plugged in to start a Spotify playlist. If I can tune to one of the awesome stations we have here in Dallas quick enough and they’re playing great music, I can get them hooked until they forget all about the aux cord.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
For me I tend to put some radio personalities I grew up listening to in that hero/influential category. Being from Dallas I grew up listening to Ron Chapman, Kidd Kraddick, and Terry Dorsey so I always tend to consider them some of my heroes. In the last several years I’ve considered Ryan Seacrest to be very influential to me as well. Of course, Jon Rivers is one of my biggest heroes in radio now but funny enough, I didn’t grow up listening to Christian radio. When I started working at KLTY out of high school and doing mornings with him, I had no idea who he was! I think it’s pretty funny looking back because after I started working there, I don’t think I ever met someone that came to the station that didn’t already know of him. Being clueless, from not listening to the station prior to working there, really helped me get to know Jon for who he really is and not have some sort of assumption about him. It was sort of a clean slate if that makes sense and we became so close from working together that we were (and still are) like family.