Radio Is Filled With Sharks and Dinosaurs
He's been the GM at KVON/KVYN in Napa, CA for the last decade. And on Friday Jeff Schechtman (pictured) announced he'd be stepping down on January 1. "10 years is a long time in any one job," he says, "and with the possible potential sale of the station, it seemed an ideal time to move on to pursue some projects. There is always a tendency to get stale after too long in one job, and in one place." We caught up with Schechtman to get his views on managing and the radio industry in general.
Tell us about your career. How did you become a GM?
I spent 25 years in Los Angeles, in the motion picture business, as a producer, as head of production for New Line Cinema and New World Pictures, and as the founder of a international sales, financing, and distribution company. I left all of that behind in 1995 and began a new career in radio. I had enough of what was then the beginnings of consolidation in Hollywood. I believed strongly in the independent film ethos of the time, and the opportunities then were shrinking dramatically. I moved to Napa and through a serendipitous series of events wound up on the air doing two talk shows a day, and later became GM of the stations. That was in 2003. Radio, media, politics had always been my youthful passions, beginning as a political science major at Yale in the '70s.
What's the key these days to being a successful general manager?
Today, small market or large, the job is far more than just managing people and programming and schmoozing at the local Rotary. Radio is a business that requires not just entrepreneurial skills, but the ability to constantly see the big picture of the changing media landscape. As the economy changes, as markets change, as radio changes, and as tastes change at an ever-increasing pace, the ability to manage all of the moving parts is a far more complex enterprise. No mater how small the market, it's not your father's radio station.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a general manager?
Act locally, but think globally. There is no longer any room for provincialism in radio. Knowledge of the local car dealers is important, but so is knowledge of legislation, technology, apps, and talent.
Do you think smaller markets are the way to go these days?
Consolidation and debt have had an adverse impact on large-market radio, as we are seeing today. However, the audience needs are the same. Quality programming, enough elements to connect with the community, and constant vigilance as to how the market and its needs are changing. This is as true in Nashua as it is in Napa or New York. Local alone is not the Holy Grail. Entertainment is. People enjoy movies and music and television and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. They don't need to be local. Quality and connection are what matters.
What are your thoughts on the radio industry today?
That it's a business filled with too many sharks and dinosaurs. What it needs are more showmen.
Why are you stepping down?
These stations in Napa are legacy stations. They are about to be sold for the third time in my career here. Given how radio has changed, how the Napa market has changed almost 180 degrees since I've been here, it appears they may be going in a direction not to my liking. Besides, 10 years at the helm is good run. I've learned a lot about radio and journalism and entertainment. I have some things I still need to do to make good radio.
Jeff's Late Morning show will be continued online at www.jeffschechtman.com and on CRN digital talk radio, as well as other outlets to be announced shortly. Reach out to Jeff here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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