(By Editor-in-Chief Ed Ryan) It wasn’t an overnight success, not by a long shot. And in a time when most companies look for instant ratings, it’s rare you see a broadcaster stick with a format for so long, giving it time — and money — to find its footing. That’s exactly what Hubbard Radio did with KTMY (myTalk 107.1) in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But that’s the kind of company Hubbard is under the leadership of CEO Ginny Morris.
Fifteen years ago, Morris had a vision for a Talk radio station targeted to women. Up until that point, all of the Talk formats were focused on news, politics, and sports — and were primarily aimed at men. The Hubbards had just purchased a move-in signal at 107.1, and Morris wanted to do something unique with it. And that’s when she came up with “FM 107.1 — Real. Life. Conversation.”
The early format was a cross between Oprah and Vanity Fair. In 2011, according to Hubbard Market Manager Dan Seeman, the station evolved into “myTalk 107.1,” which is much more entertainment- and pop-culture focused.
“Today myTalk 107.1 is ‘Everything Entertainment,’” he says. “We are live and local from 5:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every weekday, and have a lot of lifestyle and specialty live programming on the weekends. The one constant over the past 15 years has been the afternoon drive show of Lori & Julia, with producer Donny Love. Lori & Julia has been one of the top-rated shows with Women 25-54 for 10 years and is currently number four with Women 25-54 and number two with Women 35-54 (April 2017).” Every host on the station lives in the Twin Cities, and most of them grew up in Minnesota, so they know that community.
As the station turns 15 this year, and is experiencing a ton of ratings and revenue success, Seeman credits the company he works for. “There is no other radio company in America that would have had the vision and the patience for myTalk 107.1,” he says. “Today, myTalk 107.1 is woven into the lives of women in the Twin Cities. The myTalk 107.1 listeners are some of the most passionate radio listeners in the market. They love myTalk 107.1.”
Ginny Morris tells Radio Ink why she was so patient with the format: “Making the decision to stick with myTalk was easy when we saw the powerful connection between the station and its personalities and our listeners. The loyalty to our advertising partners has been amazing since the beginning.”
MyTalk 107.1 is all about entertainment and pop culture, and with the country in such a divided state right now and the political chatter so nasty, this type of format makes a nice escape for listeners. It’s the station that talks about Brad and Angelina’s breakup, the new season of Game of Thrones, and all things Kardashian. Where traditional News/Talk radio stations brag about “breaking news,” Seeman says myTalk 107.1 is the radio station for “breakup news.”
He goes on, “It’s light and fun and often funny. But it’s also a station with tremendous heart. MyTalk has received two NAB Crystal Awards and 10 AWM Gracie Awards for our commitment to the community. MyTalk 107.1 deals with issues that are important to women, including breast cancer awareness, violence, children’s health, and senior care. Listeners tune in to escape and have fun, but they also know that if there is an issue that’s important to the community, myTalk 107.1 will take it on.
“Recently the station hosted a two-hour roundtable discussion about bullying and teen suicide, a topic that crossed over to pop culture with the success of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. Other roundtable topics have included the opioid epidemic and transgender issues. Every single day, morning show host Jason Matheson ends his program with a message of hope to kids who are being bullied.”
At myTalk, the airstaff and the producers are primarily women — counting Program Director Amy Daniels, there are 12 full-time people in the programming department, and nine are women. There is a four-person leadership team involved in all major decisions: Seeman, Daniels, GSM Sonia Ungerman, and Marketing Director Brook O’Rourke. There are no walls around the programming, sales, and marketing departments; everyone shares a unified passion and vision for the success of myTalk 107.1. Meetings can get spirited at times, but the singular focus is always to grow ratings and revenue.
Daniels has been PD at the station for 10 years now, after serving as the creative director and executive producer for The Lori & Julia Show for a couple of years. She says the reason the station works is because it’s different. “It’s really hard to explain in words,” says Daniels. “The passion, belief, and dedication the entire staff commits to making this radio station special and unique — from digital to social media to sales — blows my mind. Everyone here loves what they do for a living and loves this radio station.
“It’s really unlike anything I have experienced in my 33 years in radio. It is highly collaborative and literally includes every skill, talent, and idea of every single member of the staff — both on air and off. We have members from every department in our Wednesday creative meetings, and everyone plays a critical part in everything we do. And because they were part of the decision-making process, they are invested in the plan walking out the door and we make amazing things happen.”
Daniels says all the hosts on myTalk 107.1 are adored by listeners, and that’s because they’re real. “They don’t act like lovable, kind, generous, and compassionate, funny people — they are those people. They are greeted like best friends and partners by our listeners, clients, and their co-workers because they are invested in myTalk’s success and they put themselves on the line every day to entertain and give back. They connect on the air, in person, and on social media.
“These are not talent who sit at the back table at an appearance and eat appetizers — they are shaking hands, hugging and talking to hundreds of people at every appearance and event. There are never-ending lines at the State Fair, or any other event with people waiting to get a picture taken with them.”
MyTalk 107.1 has carved out a very meaningful place in the Twin Cities. The station often breaks away from regular programming to do, for example, 48 straight hours on the death of Prince or, as mentioned above, two hours in the middle of the day to discuss 13 Reasons Why. Daniels says listeners expect myTalk 107.1 to take those chances: “Radio is such an intimate, relationship-based medium, and the industry is uniquely positioned in 2017 to provide something that’s real and local and entertaining — and human. We also want to return the investment of enormous patience, support, and belief from Ginny Morris and the Hubbard family.”
So what’s it like to sell a unique station like this? GSM Sonia Ungerman says, “Make no mistake, it requires a significant investment, especially when it comes to endorsement radio with us. Dan Seeman and I built the sales model for this station with endorsement, and the formula has proven, over the last decade, to work. We have beat the market and grown our shares and our rank with that model, and it’s incredibly gratifying, again, not just for us, but for our clients who have been with us, many for years and years.
“I will say it is easier to sell myTalk 107.1 than any format I have experienced through my years, and trust me, there have been some amazing stations with heritage that I loved selling. I would say it is more fun selling this format than any other I have, and all of my sellers feel the same. I do not have turnover on my sales team for this reason.We sell creative solutions, and with a spoken word format, there are so many ways to get creative versus selling commercials between the music.”
Another big highlight for GM Dan Seeman is the results advertisers are seeing. He says, “We sell results. MyTalk 107.1 is very successful selling direct advertising. We have annual advertising relationships that are over 10 years old because the radio station works. Ratings come and go. We are not measured by our ratings, we are measured by the number of couches we sell for Furniture Manor, or the number of designer glasses we sell for InVision Optical, or the number of home mortgages written up by First Equity Mortgage. Our sales staff doesn’t talk much about ratings. We are much more interested in how we can measure results for our customers.”
Seeman credits his sales team for concentrating on results. “Sonia Ungerman leads a passionate and focused sales staff that is focused on the needs of our customers,” he says. “We get results because we first understand what our advertisers are trying to accomplish. We can meet those needs with myTalk 107.1’s many platforms, including endorsements, spot advertising, digital and social media, and experiential marketing. MyTalk 107.1 listeners go out of their way to make sure they support myTalk 107.1 sponsors. I’ve been doing this a long time — I’ve never seen listeners in a programming focus group talk about supporting advertisers, unprompted, like they do on myTalk 107.1.”
Ungerman agrees. “I have countless examples of businesses who have started out with one person, and now employ dozens,” she says, “and a number of one-location businesses who have added multiple locations. In addition, listeners will drive out of their way to purchase products or services that our talent endorse!
“Many of our clients put their entire marketing budget on myTalk 107.1 because we work, and together have built our businesses. It’s incredibly rewarding for our clients and our reps and a win/win that I haven’t experienced at any other radio station, to this extent, through all of my years of selling and managing.”
Seeman says the station works so well because of Ginny Morris’s vision 15 years ago: Target 25-54 Women (where all the money and consumer clout is) with an engaging Talk format. “MyTalk 107.1 is a ‘lean forward’ radio station,” he says. “You have to be engaged to listen; there is no incidental or accidental listening to myTalk 107.1. There is only engaged listening, and that works great for our advertising partners.”
Daniels says myTalk is succeeding because it’s an awesome product created by really talented hosts and outstanding people in every department. “We were willing to hire fascinating, lovable people, and teach them how to do radio,” she says. “That’s number one. Dan Seeman also showed us early on how to use the power of a radio signal to give back to the Twin Cities. The creative energy and the goodwill that those decisions produced created a very nontraditional radio product.”
Another reason the station works? It is heavily marketed. Remember those days? The station has a big outdoor presence and does a ton of social media marketing aimed at women. A great example: When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie split, the station purchased digital billboards all over the market reminding people to listen to myTalk 107.1 for complete
What does the CEO say this year about the station she envisioned 15 years ago? “MyTalk is on the air today because of the passion and commitment of Dan Seeman, Sonia Ungerman, Amy Daniels, and their dedicated teams. Failure has not been an option to them — they have done everything possible, and a few things that we would consider ‘impossible,’ for each other and for the success of the brand. They are terrific.”