By Heidi Simmons
The Coachella Valley Weekly asked Dax Davis, the Director of Sales, Programming and Continuity at Alpha Media a few question about being a new player in the CV.
CVW: Alpha Media has radio stations in 18 states and 28 cities across the country. With the purchase of Coachella Valley’s Morris Media and RR Broadcasting that makes a total of 135 stations. How would you describe the nature of Alpha Media?
AM: Upon the successful completion of all pending transactions, Alpha Media, which is headquartered in Portland, Oregon, will own 252 radio stations within 54 markets across the United States covering all formats including Top 40, Adult Contemporary, Spanish, Urban, News Talk, Sports, Rock, Country and more. This number [252 stations] includes the purchase of Coachella Valley’s Morris Media and RR Broadcasting.
Although those are some big numbers, Alpha Media is an independently owned company that operates as if the local market management owned the stations. Sure, we have corporate policies, just like any business does – HR systems, billing and invoicing procedures – but the crux of what we do here in the Coachella Valley is simple, and has two parts.
First, we “play the hits” for each station’s target audience and are interesting and fun! Now, “playing the hits” can mean exactly that – playing the right music, or in the case of our 94.3 K-NEWS or ESPN 103.9, that would mean our local hosts are talking about the news stories and sports teams that the people who live here really care about.
The second part of how Alpha operates is that we don’t have advertisers — we have partners. I would rather tell a potential radio partner that their advertising dollars would be better spent with another form of media, than to take their money knowing the results they are expecting aren’t going to be met.
I’ve worked in markets where radio station operators did that, and I don’t know how they sleep at night. Each time we meet with local businesses, although everyone’s specific business goals may be different, none of them will turn-away customers!
Our goal is to drive traffic to their location by using one, or a combination, of our eight local brands [stations] to do that. With our cutting edge creative and production department, we write and produce the perfect commercial message and then make sure it is scheduled when, either the most people are listening, or when a certain age group is tuned-in.
In many cases, our partners want to supplement their commercial broadcast messages – we can handle that, too! Alpha specializes in Social Media, Mobile and Online Campaigns, Cause Marketing, Venue Partnerships, Geographic, Demographic and Behavioral Targeting and most importantly, Community Involvement.
This isn’t a specific recipe for success in the Coachella Valley –- this is the company-wide “playbook” at Alpha Media. From Portland, Oregon, to Peoria, Illinois to Palm Springs—and anywhere in between—when we say “partner,” we mean it!
CVW: Since August, Alpha Media runs many of the valley’s favorite stations including U92.7, KCLB 93.7, K-NEWS 94.3, 98.5 The Bull, MIX 100.5, ESPN 103.9, 106.9 The Eagle and 107.3 MOD FM. What’s special about broadcast radio in the CV?
AM: There are several things that make this a great radio market. But the biggest and best – which most people don’t realize — is the Palm Springs Market and the Coachella Valley is a place where a ton of people come for half the year, and while that’s still the case, we just completed a very extensive, and expensive, research project and found that people are moving here and living here year round!
Ten years ago, this was the Palm Springs “resort” people traditionally visualized, but today, more and more people are “newcomers.” They haven’t bought a car here before, aren’t loyal to one grocery store over another, have no idea what restaurant to go to – the list goes on and on! Since radio is the last medium that people hear before making a purchase, there is no better time for businesses, new and established, to be on the air!
CVW: Getting his start in Portland, Oregon, Alpha Media Chairman Larry Wilson founded Alpha Broadcasting in 2009 with only six radio stations. In 2014, Alpha Broadcasting merged with two other companies to form Alpha Media. The company has grown quickly into a major industry player. What can you tell us about Mr. Wilson? Is it his goal as Chairman to be top dog in radio like the name suggests?
AM: Actually, I could spend this entire interview telling you story-after-story about our Chairman, Mr. Wilson! But in the interest of time, I’ll keep it to just a few.
Larry is a huge lover of animals. He has a ranch in Montana and has bred cutting horses for years — then his granddaughter became old enough to take up barrel racing. Now, as Larry puts it, he is in “the barrel racing horse” business.
On the note of being an animal lover, over the years, Larry has personally rescued several dogs that have become members of his family.
In fact, our Alpha logo features an image of a dog that appears to be winking. Actually, that is Larry’s latest rescue dog –- his name is Bear. But Bear isn’t winking. When Larry found Bear, he had been so abused and mistreated, veterinarians had to remove his eye.
Larry was in town last week and several of us grabbed dinner with him – and since Bear is our “adopted company mascot” – he was giving us an update on the latest member of the Wilson family. He said Bear, who is always upbeat and excited, has now learned that when he sees Larry with the suitcase, he knows “Dad” is leaving town for a couple of days and immediately changes into a somber mood. It just kills Larry –- you can just see it in his face when he tells that story.
I’ve worked in radio for almost 25 years and have been lucky enough to have met and to have broken bread with several radio operators in Mr. Wilson’s position over the years — none of whom have ever talked about ANY of their animals, or even their grandkids!
They say a company’s culture is created at the top and trickles-down — that is very true at Alpha! Bob Proffitt, our President and CEO, has an email signature that says “Work Hard. Love Your Job.”
Personally, I don’t know if Larry Wilson’s plan was to become the “Alpha Dog” in the world of radio, but with the leadership he has put in place throughout the company at the corporate, regional and local levels, he has positioned our company to do just that!
CVW: Does Alpha Media have a philosophy?
Yes. “Live and Local.” LIVE – meaning live on air, live on sight, live at events.
LOCAL – meaning our staff is comprised of people that live here! Sure, we have syndicated shows on some of our stations, but those shows are top-rated in their time-slots and station demographic. LOCAL also means we have the autonomy to make music decisions, programming decisions, and sales decisions at the market level.
There are several radio companies in existence today that can’t do that, because they have eliminated everyone in the building. These are clusters of four, five, and six stations, and all they have is a person at the front desk and a couple of people in the back doing what an entire staff of people should be doing. Trust me, I haven’t just seen that movie before, I starred in it.
Here at Alpha, we hire the best talent and let that talent do their job. I was telling a radio buddy of mine on the East Coast just a week or so ago, that Alpha’s hiring philosophy and my parents’ philosophy on my school report cards are right in line. We want all “A’s” & “B’s,” but no “C’s.”
Alpha want’s “A” level and “B” level talent. There are a lot of great and talented broadcasters and account executives who have been displaced by the corporations that answer to Wall Street.
CVW: How does Alpha Media choose its programming? How does it determine local tastes? How does the CV differ from other Alpha regions?
AM: On a macro level — station’s formats/major personalities & shows — Alpha isn’t afraid to invest in the costs for great station programming, and it isn’t afraid to invest in the expensive research to determine what that programming should or shouldn’t be on the air.
We just completed a market perceptual study and will continue with follow-up additional studies.
On the micro level — weekly music decisions, community events, local promotions — Alpha believes all of our Program Directors, Music Directors and Promotion Directors are in tune with the local market. It’s the local employees’ jobs to do those jobs! In other words, corporate doesn’t want to be doing the job that should be executed at the market level – which is what every radio station employee wants to hear!
CVW: People today have more listening choices like Sirius, Pandora and Apple radio. How does Alpha Media see the changing nature of music delivery? How will Alpha Media change the future?
AM: Edison Research recently published the “Share of Ear” study, which combines the radio’s time spent listening and it’s reach to generate the U.S. audience share.
That study has determined that AM/FM radio is nine times bigger than Pandora and 17 times bigger than Spotify! AM/FM radio reaches three-quarters of all Americans in a day. Pandora reaches 15%; Spotify only 5%.
Locally, our eight Alpha stations reach 169,000 people every week – that’s one of every two people you see around town! Alpha believes that having top–notch local talent who focus on content will continue to raise these national numbers and will most certainly increase these local numbers.
CVW: What do you want CV residents and visitors to know about Alpha Media?
AM: I want local Coachella Valley residents and visitors to know that Alpha Media is made up of Coachella Valley residents, too!
We are the same people you bump your grocery cart into, the same people who you go to church with, the same people who are in line trying to get their car smogged at lunch. We just happen to have eight radio brands that can make great things happen for local businesses when we are put to work! And we LOVE making GREAT things happen!