Monday, July 17, 2023

Great People Made Great Ratings


The photo atop this post is what’s left of a building which once housed a powerful and successful pair of radio stations in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. From 1977 to 1984 I worked there, both as Operations Manager and morning news anchor. I was also a partner/shareholder in the corporation which owned the stations. My friend Jim Backus, who was one of my colleagues there, posted the photo. Jim is a historian of all things Oshkosh, and he’s keeping tabs on the demise of the building where we once worked.

My office there was on the first floor, in the front right corner of the building. I see it’s now overgrown with brush and weeds. There’s an analogy there somewhere.

The stations have long since changed names and owners and have moved to a different part of town. But during the time I worked there, that building was home to some of the most talented people who ever graced the airwaves of the Fox River Valley.

Jim’s photo of the unkempt remains of the building brought to mind a lesson I learned a long time ago: in the broadcasting business, it’s not the building or transmitter or equipment that brings success. It’s the people. To say that our AM station (WYTL-AM, later WOSH-AM) and our FM station (WOSH-FM, later WMGV-FM) were successful is a huge understatement, at least from a ratings standpoint.

The AM station was a weak thousand-watt signal on the high end (1490) of the AM dial and the FM was an average 3,000-watt signal (at 103.9 FM) that generated just enough power to cover the Fox Valley market, from Appleton on the north to Fond du Lac on the south – the state’s second-largest media market.

I saved many radio ratings reports from those days, but one in particular demonstrates that success. The one above, from 1984, shows just how dominant those two stations were. It shows that at any given time, 32.6% of adults 18 years or older were listening to our FM station, WMGV-FM, and 26.5% were listening to our AM station, WOSH-AM. That means that at any given time, nearly 60% of adults listening to radio were listening to one of our two stations.

That kind of ratings dominance just doesn’t exist any more.

It wasn’t a pair of powerful 50-thousand-watt signals that supported those ratings. It was the people who created the programming carried on those two average-powered radio stations. It was a fun crew of young, talented broadcasters who loved what they did. We worked hard, we played hard.

I’m happy to say that via social media, I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the people I worked with back then. A few stayed in broadcasting; others had successful post-broadcasting careers as managers, entrepreneurs, sales executives, and other professional occupations.

I’ve listed all 32 of them below, from my Facebook Friends list – in no particular order except the way Facebook displays my friends list. If I’ve missed someone, my apologies. Every one of you had a hand in creating the most successful AM-FM combination the market ever knew. I’m privileged to have worked with you and honored to remain friends!

Jim Backus, Sheree Olson Rogers (Sommers), Lori Schmitz Goldapske, Rick McCoy Trautschold, Robert Snyder, David (Campbell) Kappeler, Tim Probst, Mark Lewis Salzwedel, Mark Ostendorf, Bill Kiefer, Steve (LeRoy Stevens) Buss, Judy Steffes Reising, Don Berrens, Gretchen Grandl Brown, John (Carlson) Volkman, Bill Vancil, Dick Record, Gayle Olson, Bill Hammer, Jerry Bader, Brad (Stevens) Fuhr, Jim Oskola, Pat Moody, Steven Ward Erbach, the late Bill (Bulldog) Denkert, the late Charlie (Hart) Hartwig, Dave Murphy, Melanie Scott Pape, Joe Nadeau, Chuck Mefford, Becky (Brenner) Brose, and Paula Gilbeck Westphal.