Rob Creighton: On Air and Online in Sedalia
Updated: May 31
This week, we've got another long-time radio industry veteran, Rob Creighton. You might not know his name up here in Canada, but down in the States, he's been running shows from Lubbock, Texas to Chicago, Illinois for the last few decades.
Nowadays, Rob has moved away from the stations and back to his home state of Missouri to work with Townsquare Media. They're a name you might recognize if you've followed the show for a while- we've had a few guests who worked with them, like Melz on the Mic, and that's partially because I just really like how Townsquare does things. Companies that make radio ads are dime-a-dozen, but Townsquare tailors to the digital side too. If you've listened to the show at all before today, you'll know exactly how important that is to me and why, and if you're curious about how they do it, you can check out some of their service offerings here.
Rob and I dive into his history on the radio and in the program director's chair, as well as what prompted his move off the airwaves and into Townsquare's office in Sedalia, Missouri. As I said earlier, Missouri is his home state, and Rob couldn't be happier to be back, especially working for a company that lets him find a balance he's always craved.
The same day we released this episode, Fred Jacobs from Jacobs Media wrote a piece on his daily blog It takes a lot about Townsquare Media's digital initiatives which are significant. Please read.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Soundoff Podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10
This week we're going to be joined by Rob Creighton, who works as a content lead for Townsquare Media in Sedalia, Missouri. There are three stations there, including Awesome 92.3, KSIS- that's Sedalia's newstalk leader- and Kicks 105.7- country radio. Rob was born and raised in Missouri, not too far from Sedalia, and after a number of years of progressing his way through states, stations, and formats, we think Rob has found his sweet spot between radio, local and social. So here we go. Rob Creighton joins me from the Townsquare studios in Sedalia, Missouri. I believe we met at Conclave at one point, is that right?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:00:49
We may have said hello, but to be honest, and I may have gone to one of your sessions, but a lot of the years I went to Conclave, I really was not that much into podcasts. So if I went to digital stuff, I would go to stuff that I thought would be more practical for me, because I've never had, even here, people doing podcasts and that whole kind of thing. So I tend to go where- okay, what's going to help me build a better Facebook post or whatever? And all of that was probably pre-Townsquare, where now that I'm working for Townsquare, it's a lot more digital focused. And I've gotten to a different place with podcasts where I'll even listen to the people that you have talking about podcasts on your podcast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:30
I'm thinking we don't need to have any more sessions at radio conferences about podcasting. You can just listen to this one and learn everything.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:01:37
I think that would be work. That works for me.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:40
I love that. Am I right in saying that you've only worked in one US time zone?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:01:46
No, I've worked in two. I've worked in central and Eastern. Lafayette, Indiana, believe it or not, is eastern time zone. It should be central, but it's eastern. Lansing, Michigan is eastern time zone as well. It should also probably be central. I mean, I was up in Lansing for my job interview. Middle of the summer, right around the longest day of the year. I come out of my interview, it's like 10:00 and the sun hasn't set yet. I mean, it's like, wow.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:17
How could you have a team like the Detroit Red Wings who played in the Western Conference of the NHL, yet are in the eastern time zone?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:02:24
You know, it's the city fathers, and I think it all has to do with banking. When I was in Lafayette, that's what they told me. They said, well, we want to make sure that everything is aligned with the Eastern bankers. And I'm like, oh, okay, whatever.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:35
Born and raised in Missouri.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:02:37
I was actually going to say I was born in Missouri, raised in Chicago for the most part.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:42
And a graduate of Loyola University. The only thing I know about the school is that they sometimes do well at college basketball.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:02:51
Yes, it's a Jesuit Catholic institution, and it's right on the lake shore in Chicago. They have a campus downtown off the Magnificent Mile called the Water Tower Campus because it's right by Water Tower, and then they have a campus up towards Evanston on the border of the city that's right on the lakefront. They have a big school of nursing, they have a great medical school, they have a pretty good law school, and these days they have a school of communications as well. When I went, it was just the Department of Communication, but it was a pretty nice environment to go to school. And I met a lot of my friends there and that's what kind of got me into radio, was doing radio there, because at the time they had a really great radio station that was very commercially modeled, had jingles, played CHR dance music. When I got there, we had Mark Driscoll doing the sweepers for us, and MJ Kelly was doing some of the production on it. I mean, it was pretty wild.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:51
That is cool, especially in that 19- late 80s, early 90s era. And Mark Driscoll calling out your station ID. Was it WLUW?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:04:02
Yes. Although we called ourselves Energy 88.7, it had always been commercially modeled, and at times it was called Hit Line. And then one of the general managers went out to LA, heard what Kiss FM and them was playing, and the rhythmic stuff, brought it back and said, hey, we should do this here. So then it became High Energy 88.7, and by the time I got there, they had dropped the high, and it was just Energy 88.7, and it was a dance CHR station at the time.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:30
And you wanted to take on BBM FM and you just told everybody, just twist the dial straight to the left.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:04:37
Pretty much. Pretty much. That's what we did. And there may be imaging out there that if you backmask it, says B96 sucks, and Q101 blows if you pay attention.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:04:47
I can't believe I got that right.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:04:51
At the time, it was- and I tell you, Dave Shakes and everyone at B96 who was programming at the time were just great, you know, because they would tolerate us and let us do different things. And he would just take people that work there, make 'em interns, make 'em morning show producers, never let anything bother him. I mean, I remember he even once came into the station to do something or other, and we had studios in an old three flat right off the Magnificent Mile, and he's just like, awesome. Nice real estate here. It really felt like guys like him in the Chicago radio business were really interested in helping us, and even though we were competition, they knew we weren't really a threat to them, even if we had a lot of listeners and were pretty popular with the kids. So it was great.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:38
Chicago radio back then was just- it was my favorite. I could go there. And there was Steve Dahl and Gary Meyer and there was Loop. I was there in 1991, and I think the news station, was it BBM Am? That somebody said, I want to see a big billboard that says Soviet updates splashed on this brick wall, and this is the time when the Soviet Union is coming apart. I just thought, wow, it was a wild time.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:06:04
Yeah. Chicago radio at that time was just fantastic. I mean, start with the Loop and go from there.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:11
What's the one that's high atop the Burger King?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:06:13
That was WLS.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:14
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:06:16
That was John Records Landecker, I think, made that famous.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:19
How do I remember all this stuff?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:06:21
It just pops out there. I had a professor at Loyola who was a big history buff. So I learned a lot about radio and Chicago radio at various times.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:32
And then eventually you moved on from Chicago, you graduate, and then you got to find a radio job. And where did you go? Did you go to Champagne Urbana Radio Group?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:06:41
Yes, I went to Champagne Urbana. Two guys by the name of Tim Hilsing and John McKeegan hired me. And they did not hire me because I was a good DJ. They hired me because they liked my management potential, and they needed an adult in the room to run their promotions department. So they hired me and I got to build that department from the ground up, and come up with promotional ideas. One of my jobs was to go out. We had a sales manager. His name was Bruce Andre, and he was a great guy, but he had a very Herb Tarlock like personality. So it was my job to go out there and he would go out and propose some sales promotion that there was no way programming would like. And it was my job to sit there and go, what Bruce really means to say is and come up with a way to adjust that promo so the program directors wouldn't scream bloody murder when we got back to the studios.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:36
Was it possible for you to give up the on air part of that? Obviously, you were itching to get back on.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:07:41
Well, I was still on the air while I was there. That was part of every job I've had. I've always had a part where it's on air and I've thought about that a lot at times, like, could I just go and be a program director or just be a director of content or an operations manager? And I'd like to think and say, yes, I probably could. And I'd like to say I could also do the other way around where I could go and just be a talent, too, for a while because it's hard to juggle both.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:12
But it also makes you more hirable.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:08:14
Well, doing both does make you more hirable. And I did get to a point where I was fair to good on the radio and it made getting jobs significantly easier.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:25
Yeah, I mean, most of the jobs that you've had when you've been on the air, there's been some mornings maybe, but some afternoons, I think you were predominantly doing afternoons at a lot of the stations. If you did have to go on the air, it just was convenient and worked out time wise.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:08:38
Yeah, afternoons are good. I like mornings. But the problem with mornings is you're in there at 4:30 or five, you're getting up at three in the morning, and by 02:00 you're out of gas and you can't always leave at 02:00. If you're a program director here in Sedalia, I'm the only person here after two in the afternoon. So if I went and did mornings, then my entire staff is going home at two in the afternoon, and that's just not a workable solution.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:08
And then after you went to work for Next Media Group, in what market was that?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:09:12
That was Joliette, Illinois, which is the suburbs of Chicago. So I was working in the suburbs there and had three, four, five years, got to change the station and launch one while I was there. It was a lot of fun.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:24
And Lansing, Michigan program Director yet again. So clearly it's great that you're on the air, but you're constantly being hired for your programming skills.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:09:33
Yeah, I would think so. In some cases or most of the cases, it was and that's kind of what I wanted to do. Because when I got to Loyola and we had the Jam jingles and the Mark Driscoll sweepers and I got to see we were scheduling music in Selector. They had worked out a deal where Selector gave us a free copy of it because they thought, hey, people are going to go on to work and program radio stations. They'll buy our product. And I wanted to sit there and I wanted to use the computer to schedule the music and I wanted to be the guy to write the silly lines to have Mark Driscoll say I wanted to be able to go out and pick the next jingle package we're going to get. That sort of motivated me to want to go down the programming end of things. And who doesn't like sitting there and going, I like this song, we're going to play it. No, this song is going to be a stiff. I'm not going to play it. So once I stepped into there and I kind of got myself in the point where at Loyola I went from a guy doing news on Tuesday afternoons to doing weekend shifts, to eventually being the promotion director for a year and then getting in and being the program director. And then after I graduated, I stuck around for a couple of years and was one of the adults running the joint as the assistant station manager before I went to Champagne and kicked that off.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:51
Yeah, shout out RCS and the V Twelve DOS software with linker that would allow you to go in and schedule all that stuff. Isn't that fun?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:11:00
Oh yeah, it was a blast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:02
I loved that program because you could do it so quickly.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:11:05
It was just very easy. I think it takes me a little bit longer when I'm going through and trying to figure stuff out to use the selector windows.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:15
What do you use now, by the way?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:11:17
We use the GSelector with the windows. I don't do a lot of scheduling for these specific stations, but we still have to schedule the imaging and build the clocks and that kind of stuff. So I've never used it as much as I did the DOS when I was programming music every single day. But it's nice to go in there and make your clock changes. It's a little bit easier than DOS to do that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:11:39
You ever go to a station and it's music master and you have to move it along because you're so attached to your RCS?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:11:46
No, I used Power Gold in Lubbock and did not have a choice. And I like Power Gold. I mean Power Gold, it's very similar to G selector, but I did not have a bad experience with Power Gold. Some of that may have been and I don't know if he was involved in this, but big country guys. Matt Warren, does that name sound familiar to you? He was a big country consultant. He actually came up with a music scheduling software called Music One.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:14
I remember that.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:12:17
I had an internet station for a while and was using that Music One the program. So when I got to Lubbock and we were using Power Gold, I just kind of thought, oh, this is pretty much the same software. And it was the same way to set it up. So I didn't have a problem with that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:12:29
I can't tell you anything about Lansing, Michigan, but you can. There's like a TV station there. You were program director, but I don't know anything about it.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:12:38
I was working in Joliette. Joliette is embedded in Chicago. So you're not really working in Chicago, you're not really working in your own market. And at that point I wanted the experience to go and have a real ratings experience and really be in my own market. And if I'm number one, number two, number three, number ten, I really am. I'm not always station 28 with a one share and that's actually pretty good out in the suburbs. That was kind of my bugaboo. So that's why I moved on over to Lansing. And GM had an assembly plant there. It's very blue collar. I did not have a great experience there. I sort of let myself be intimidated by a general manager who was, I would say, somewhat abusive towards people. And I lasted about a year before I said, no, I'm leaving. And I went and sold cars after that for a year. That's how bad it was.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:33
You were selling Saturns.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:13:34
Yes, and it was a great experience.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:37
Because I was going to say, what was that experience like? Because in radio, we so often work with car dealers. Car dealers are very particular with details. They're quite specific on their ad buys, whether it's at a remote or it's the copy that you work with. And now here you are on the other side and you're selling them. What did you learn from that experience and what did radio people need to know about the car dealer business?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:14:01
Well, sometimes you're not going to get car dealers to buy radio. The guy I worked for, and we had a couple of discussions about this during off time. He just was not going to put his money into radio, especially not in Chicago. It was way too expensive for him. Web. And this is this is back 2005, 2006. Even back then, the web and digital was huge for car dealers. You know, there'd be someone there taking photos of every new car that came in, of every used car that came in. What I found beneficial is Saturn actually taught me how to sell. And they said, here's what people care about. They're going to care about comfort and convenience, or they're going to care about performance, or they're going to care about the color of the car. So they taught you to go in and kind of do the customer needs analysis and all that stuff that we hear sales managers and radio even talk about today. It was kind of the same thing, except instead of talking to a business owner, you're talking to a consumer that's there to spend anywhere from $12,000 to 30 or $35,000 on a vehicle. And it's your job to sit there and convince them that your vehicle is the best one to buy.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:11
So you learn a boatload about sales.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:15:14
Yes. And training was great, and the owner of the shop and his managers were just patient with me. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:22
I'm not sure that if you're selling a Saturn and you have to buy Chicago radio, I don't think in 30 or even 60 seconds I would be able to explain why somebody would want a Saturn. I think you'd do a better job of doing it. And I can see how the web would really play into that and be, be a positive experience, especially for something like Saturn. Who'll- who says they have a Saturn? And what is a Saturn? And is that like a Nissan or a Toyota? Where does that fit in the scale of what I want to buy? It's not a Subaru.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:15:50
Yeah. The big thing was it was the anti-GM GM car for many years. They took the best of the foreign kind of tactics. And what got people interested in buying the foreign vehicles, tried to make it an anti-GM product. So it was different. There was no hassle, no haggle, none of that kind of stuff. It was sort of, you had to navigate that stuff while you were selling as well. And I came to it because I worked with car dealers in radio. And there was a guy named Tom Greenway that owned a Pontiac dealer in the town I was living at. And I used to do his remotes, and I'd see his guy selling, and it became something that was like, why I at least want to try this and learn- and learn more. Doing it right around the time there was the big crash, economic crash, 2005 2006 2007, wasn't the smartest, and I knew I was in trouble when the veteran sales guy looked at me, I think it was over a Memorial Day and said, we should have more customers and we don't. We're in trouble.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:45
Then Lafayette, Indiana, came calling. Home of the Purdue Boilermakers.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:16:50
Yes, boiler up. One of my favorite experiences programming radio was there in Lafayette.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:16:57
You did a lot of tailgate stuff, lots of touch in the university.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:17:01
Yeah, we did do a lot of touch in the university. The tailgate stuff I did in Champagne. We did a lot of that there for the aligni. Purdue we didn't do a lot of that, but we were the home of Purdue basketball. We were the home of Purdue football, home of Purdue women's basketball. In fact, I was the studio producer for the Purdue football tailgate shows for a couple of years, and that was a lot of fun. I would either, if it was an early game, set up the other college football matchups. If it was a late game, I'd give scores. And it was just kind of neat to direct the whole thing and then kind of wrap it up and then just hit the network right at the top of the hour when Learfield would take over and then do their two hour tailcade show.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:44
So you're working six days a week, because that's a Saturday that just got eaten up, and I don't think you're taking Mondays off.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:17:50
No, not there. We didn't have a big staff there, and there were a lot of six, seven days a week there. But it was also fun, and I had a great staff, and for like those days, I'd bring in a board op for the actual network stuff after me so I could get out and go do something else.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:06
Did you cross the street and go to WKOA?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:18:09
Yes. An interesting thing, I got budget cutted when I was there, and I was doing the Purdue stuff, and I was running the classic rock station that was artistic media partners, and they have or had a little bit of a reputation. And I know people that worked there ten years before me that still had the owner's face on a dartboard by the time I got hired. And I remember calling my friend, I was selling cars, called my buddy Craig Freeman up Craig Carson in the Milwaukee market. And I said, I'm selling cars, and I got this job offer, and a company doesn't have a great reputation. And I said, our buddy Chip worked for them ten years ago. He can't stand him. He still has photo of the owner on it. And he just looks at me and he goes, robbie, do you want to sell cars or do you want to go do radio? And if you want to do radio, take the job, and don't worry about what's going to happen down the road, because it might or it might not, but it could also happen wherever you go. So why don't you just get back into radio and take the job? Which is what I did, and I met a lot of great people, and I get to the end there, and they come to me about three months before they let me go, and they said, well, we're having some money problems. We're going to have to make some cuts. We're giving you 30 days notice that we're going to probably let you go unless things turn around. 30 days come and go, doesn't say anything. Another 30 days comes back, they come to me and they go, well, if things don't get better in 30 days, we're going to let you go. And then 30 days came and went, didn't get better. And they did let me go. And I hadn't read my contract or anything, and I sat there for six months and was applying for other jobs, trying to get out of the market. Hadn't had much luck. Six months is up. I send something over to Seamus, who was running what was then the Shurrs stations across the street, and he was interested, and he's like, hey, yeah, I got this part time night sting. You want to come in and do it? And I go and I start doing that, and he's like, yeah, we need a copy of your contract to make sure that you're not out of violation of your non compete or something. So call the business manager back at the old place and I can have a copy of my contract. Sure, come on over. Go over there. I'm reading it and I'm like, oh, no, this non competes for a year. And I think I said it in front of her. And she goes, Let me see that for a minute. She looks at it and she goes, well, by the way, I think it's written, they can't stop you from working because we didn't fire you for cause you got budget cut it and it doesn't say you can't go work if we budget cut you. Okay? So I take it back, I show the sures people, and they're like, yeah, we know that's a technicality, but really you need to talk to the owner and get yourself out of this, and if you don't, we can get our lawyers involved, which you knew they wouldn't. I mean, it's a part time job. It's not that important. But I appreciated that the GM said that he would do that for me. I ended up calling Arthur, the general manager, and I said, Look, I know the non compete was a year. I thought it was six months. Come on, I'm trying to get out of the market. At the time, artistic didn't have a country station. I was on a country station. I was on at night. I was just like, Dude, let me out of it. It'll be easier for me to get a job if you do. And I convinced him to let me out of it, and he was like, okay, fine, because I think I also had said, if you want me to come back and work part time for you, I will. But I've tried that, and you've said, no, so let me go. And he agreed, and he did, and I got out of the deal, and I went and did nights over at Koa, which was great for probably maybe two months at most before I went to Lubbock.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:21:33
Those non competes, I mean, we look back at them about, like, 15 years ago, and they seem okay. Well, that's just sort of what they are, and by today's standards, they seem really weird to be able to just say, we're going to give you two weeks and let you go. Oh, you can't work in the market for six months. I don't know too many judges that would allow that. You can't really stop someone from working.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:21:57
The question is, how many radio people are willing to take it to that level where they go out and they get a lawyer? It's already a profession that doesn't pay very well. If you find yourself unemployed, you're probably not going to go get the lawyer and fight it. You're probably going to go. It's just easier for me to find a job somewhere else and move. And I got some advice once from I think it was either John or Tim back in Champagne because I had to sign one of these non competes, and I was just kind of like, Come on. I'm sitting there arguing a little bit, and I think John went to me and goes, if you really like the market you're working in, or you think you could stay here after the job ends, then you might want to talk to a lawyer, or you might want to try to negotiate something with that noncompete that makes it more competitive for you. But if you're going to be leaving town right when the job ends or you're not really interested in staying, he's like, does it really matter if you sign the non compete? And well, it might, because you can't always just quit your job or get fired and walk out of town anyway, so why not have the option to go work for the guys across the street? But it's frustrating.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:23:07
I'm sorry, are you talking about radio or the Old West?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:23:12
Well, could be a little bit of both. The Biden administration- Now, I don't know if you've heard this. They're looking at trying to just get rid of them all. And in Chicago, I believe they outlawed them. And they outlawed them because of the traffic services. What would happen is every station in Chicago did traffic, and they did it with either Metro Traffic, Shadow Traffic, or whatever the successor names are of those groups. And all the major radio groups would change who is providing their traffic, but they'd have all these traffic reporters that couldn't stay with their stations or couldn't jump to the new company. So eventually they just got rid of all the non competes in Chicago. So if you're doing traffic on BBM, but you're employed by the traffic company and they change traffic companies, you jump to the new traffic company that's doing the reports.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:00
In just a moment, more with Rob as we talk about the shift to digital. Now, I don't think we're going to be divulging too many secrets, but if you look at the Townsquare web pages, it's clear their stations are more than radio. And Rob's got some stories from his time in Texas. What about those isolated places that make radio so creative? Rob's going to tell you how he fails, but then he's going to immediately tell you how he succeeds. There's more, including a transcript of this episode at soundoffpodcast.com.
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:06
And you find your way to Lubbock, Texas, home of I'm not sure if they're there now, but the Lubbock Cotton Kings hockey team.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:25:13
They were gone by the time I got there. It is home of the Red Raiders, and I was there during Patrick Mahomes, which was great.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:20
Did you get to see him play?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:25:22
No, I did. I never went to a football game while I was there. I'm not a huge sports fan, although I did go to a Texas Tech baseball game. Baseball is kind of my sport if I'm into sports.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:33
Tell me about Lubbock.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:25:35
It's hot, it's dusty, it's desert-like, and it's 5 hours from everywhere. And there's one interstate in and out, and that goes to Amarillo. And you don't want to go to Amarillo.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:49
Sounds like Winnipeg, only warmer.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:25:54
The weather was a lot of fun. I like the weather because you get all four seasons. It's up. On a mesa, which is kind of desert like, but you get cold nights. You get all four seasons. But winter is very short and winter is more like thirties and forties and low 50s than tens and 20s. And you might get a snowfall or two every year. But most of the time, unless you're there when they have one of those snowstorms that comes through and drops a foot, which I was there when they had a blizzard that left a foot of snow. But most of the time the snow is gone within a day or two. I really liked the climate. I thought it was nice. The people are really, really friendly. And there's some great music that's come out of Lubbock.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:54
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:25:54
Joe Eely, to name someone. Natalie Maine's father Lloyd Maines. He played in Joe Eely's band. So Natalie Mains came out of there. That's where they got the song Lubbock or Leave It? Which Lubbockites still argue over whether she's ripping on the city or whether it's a very honest portrayal of the town. Buddy Holly, obviously, he's the- he's the obvious one. They got the great Buddy Holly Museum where you can go and you can see his glasses and they got an eight minute reel of him and Richie Valens. They got the video of all of that. It's a great town with a lot of music history. And the people really, though, are the friendliest. And the sunsets are beautiful.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:21
So when you have a place that is a little bit isolated, where it's 2 hours from nowhere, you get a lot of great musicians because what do people do? They get together and they play music. You know what else is really good in places like that? The radio.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:27:36
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:37
What was it like, or what is it like?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:27:40
Well, you know, I worked for a company there called Raymar Communications and they owned, I think we had five radio stations. We also at the time owned the Fox 34 television affiliate, the CW affiliate, a whole bunch of other affiliates. And for us, we had the chief revenue officer of the company, the owner of the company focused on the television. The chief revenue officer, a guy by the name of Chris Fleming was the radio guy. And I was one of the first people he brought in from that wasn't Lubbock Centric to come in and help him run the radio stations. I got hired, and then he brought another guy in and then I hired someone else in to help me out. So while I was there, we really tried to sort of accentuate the general market stations. And we put another general market station on that. And I say general market stations because we also had a sports station and a Tajano station. And both of those stations were really the big dogs of the radio end of that business. Sports because of Texas Tech tejano because that market has a high Mexican population. And that station went on the air like, 20 years prior, and it sort of became the voice of the Mexican community in that Lubbock area. And they just commanded everything in that community. It was sort of like if they said it, it had to be true. And they had loyal listeners, and it's a really unique Texas form of music, too. So that's a very small from an artist and a talent standpoint, that's a very small community there. That's very great to work with. I had a lot of fun doing that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:15
How did you find your way back to Sedalia?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:29:17
I had been working in Lubbock. I liked it. I wanted to stay for years, and I liked working for Raymar. It was a small family company. That company was started by Ray and Mary Moran. His son had been running the station. And I sat there every year, and you go to the Christmas parties and you'd see the people that worked for them for 30 years or 20 years or ten years. The guy I replaced in Lubbock doing the morning show was a guy named Lou D. And he and his wife Diana D, had been big morning show hosts for years, since like the 70s or early eighty s. And Lou is also the guy that was on one of the TV stations hosting the monster program. So I kind of liked it. I liked the history, and I liked where I was and I liked how I was treated, and I liked working for Chris. He was one of my favorite managers. Chris ends up leaving, moving on. Owner goes in to look at the books, comes back about two, three weeks after Chris goes and goes, yeah, I'm looking at the books. The numbers aren't great. I need to make some cuts. Well, and he does this the day before I'm supposed to go on vacation. He's like, we were going to do this a couple of weeks from now, but I hear you're going on vacation, and I think it's better if we do this now. So he fired me. Two weeks before, I had been at Conclave, and a friend of mine introduced me to Kurt Johnson, who's the senior vice president of programming here at Town Square. And Kurt and I shook hands and had a nice conversation, and he said, well, if you're ever looking at moving on, here's my card, give me a call. We're always looking for good people at Town Square. And I thought, okay, thanks. But I said, yeah, I like who I'm working for and this, that, and the other thing. And three weeks later, I'm giving Kurt a call, and I'm like, yeah, my situation has changed. Kurt, I just got let go, and I'm looking for something new. I'd love to talk to you. So we started having a conversation. Town Square also owns stations in Lubbock, so Kurt gave me a little bit of a project and said, well, listen to our stations in Lubbock. Write me your thoughts down. We may have an opening there. I'm sitting there thinking back to the non compete. Again, I have a non compete, and I know Raymar was enforcing those. So I thought, well, it's probably not going to work, but okay. I'll give my opinions of the Town Square operation in Lubbock. And I listened to everyone and submitted it. And he goes, oh, yeah, Rob, we really liked your stuff. And he's like, I want you to come out to Dallas and meet with me and Lubbock to Dallas is a 45 minutes plane ride. So we set it up, and they put me on a southwest flight out of Lubbock and got me into Dallas. I went to lunch with him and another vice president, Todd Lawley. And they told me about Town Square and everything, that the company was sort of similar to others and different and asked a lot of questions. And then eventually I got the job. They put me in the Quad Cities. I stayed there for a year. It was a significant challenge. It was a very difficult job for me. There were a lot of people in that building that weren't doing their job when I came in and needed to not be working there anymore. And in addition, when you come work for Town Square Media, it's a very different company now. They'll probably go out and say, oh, it's digital first, and digital is very important. When I got hired, it was stressed that digital was important, but it didn't seem half as important as it is here and more germane to my story in the Quad Cities. I thought there was going to be a little more help. I thought, oh, I'm going to go Quad Cities. There's going to be DMEs. There's going to be program directors under me, and I'm going to be this director, a content guy. And what happened was I really didn't ask those questions. I didn't say, do you have program directors? Is there a digital managing editor that can help me with this? So I get there, and I'm out to dinner the first night with the general manager, and I start saying something. Well, I'll get with my program directors tomorrow and bye bye. And she just gets this wide eyes and looks at me and goes, program directors? Yeah, you're it. We don't have anybody else. And I joined sort of in an interim position to see if I liked it. And it was just difficult from day one. And I probably on day two, should have called Kurt and said, yeah, this isn't going to work for me right off the bat. You need to ease me into something like this. But I like the money. The money was there. It was a prestige job 2 hours away from Chicago. So I thought, well, I'm going to give it a try. And it turned out to be very difficult, and ultimately I wound up failing and leaving. And then three weeks later, I got a call from one of the people I worked with at town square and said, yeah, you know, rob, we got this really small market. It's not really something we think you'd want to do, but we know you're interviewing in different places in missouri. And I was I was interviewing for a job in springfield. I was interviewing for a job in columbia. I had always had kansas city on my bucket list of places to go work. So when they said, would you go down here and at least do this interim lee and whatever, I said, sure, it's more money than unemployment anyway. And I wasn't happy with how things ended with town square. I thought I was a better manager than I had showed there. So there was part of me that was motivated to prove myself. And the interesting thing was the day I walked in here, pretty much the same situation as there, but a smaller staff. I knew what I was doing. So having worked for town square the previous year and having had that experience allowed me to walk in and not make the same mistakes I'd made in the quad cities and just go, no, here's how we're going to do it. You're going to come with me on this journey. And it turned out I fell in love with the staff. I really like the town. My parents have a slight connection to the town. 50 years ago, they lived right when I was a baby. We lived up the road in glasgow and fayette, which is real close, not real close, but closer to Columbia. Their best friends that they had in Missouri were both from Sedalia. They were Sedalia native. So when I mentioned to my mom I was going to Sedalia, she's like, oh, you're from Sedalia, Larry, or, you're going to Sedalia? Larry and Marie are from Sedalia. Remember Larry and Marie? And yes, I do. They had dragged me to meet with them and go to dinner with them a couple of times as a kid, and so it kind of became this, okay, I'm going to go back home and sort of do it, because we vacationed in Kansas City as a kid several times. The Royals are one of the baseball teams I naturally follow. It just seemed like a good fit, and I got here, and I love my staff. They work very hard. They're good people, and it's nice to have a very small market radio experience, too, because that's one of the things that I've never had until now. Sedalia is about 20,000 people. Warrensburg, which is one of the other towns that we hit, is 17, 18,000 people. And there's a little university there called University of Central Missouri. In between the two, there's a smaller town called Nobnoster. That's home to Whiteman air force base, which is where the B2 stealth bombers are housed and where they fly out of. So it's a great little community, and it's been a different experience, but great.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:36:38
So tell me a little bit about Townsquare, because I think it was 20- I'm going to guess it was 2018 when you had the meeting with Kurt at Conclave, because I remember I was there, too. And the feeling that I got from Kurt and Townsquare was the approach to digital, which, as you mentioned, was coming. But today there's a lot of digital that that shows up when you interact with a Townsquare property. I mean, I just looked right at the front page of, you know, your group. Cume is 13,700, digital audience of a quarter million, social followers 17,472. Hey, we do digital. And I think recently I saw a stat that Townsquare's revenue was- I don't know what the percentage was. It was very high, and it was a lot of digital money, and I want to say 50%, but I don't want to misquote myself.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:37:26
Yeah, it's high and it's up there. And what really led Townsquare to just pretty much finally go, we're all in, was the pandemic, because they realized that when the pandemic hit and all of radio lost a lot of advertisers, our digital didn't suffer. It took a hit. There were some people that were- that obviously got nervous and canceled contracts or whatever, but digital really helped keep the station afloat. Digital really helped them keep their radio properties, allowed them to not have to lay as many people off, allowed Bill Wilson to kind of strategically put the stations where he needed to to get them through the pandemic and then come out the other side. And during that process, when they found out that that digital became that important, the company pretty much went all in after that on digital and sort of upped it and said, hey, here's how everyone that works for us, whether you're on the radio side or you actually work for our digital side, here's what we need to do. Here's where our priorities is. There's a big value put on making sure that each talent is creating digital and is hitting a certain number of page views every single month. That becomes very important to the overall job. But if you're doing it right, you're creating content. You're not creating a blog post over here and a radio break over there. The idea is, hopefully you have this idea and you maybe have a written part of it that you've done written. You maybe have a radio part of it that's radio, and then there's a social component that goes up on social media as well. So hopefully whatever you're writing digitally is just part of your show prep that's then going to be in your show. And it's a great way to look at content. And I enjoy writing, so I've never really had a problem. One of the things that made me want to come work for Townsquare was I wanted to learn how to do digital. No one really teaches anyone in the industry how to actually do it. It's just sort of you're expected to do it, and then you go to a conclave kind of thing and you see some of these digital experts out there talking to you doing it, but nobody ever says, here's the plan. And if you come work for Town Square, there's a certain amount of people that have been there that will say, here's my hand, here's the plan. Follow it, and here's why we're doing it. And you can have a lot of success. And here in Sedalia, where we don't get rated, I was looking at our digital numbers, really, to see how we were doing as a radio station because the digital numbers are there, and that's what I had. And we're not getting Nielsen numbers here. So I was looking at that and sharing that with my staff before they pretty much started going, okay, everybody's in. And this is this important.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:21
And the attribution is quite nice as well, because then you don't have to fiddle around with the Nielsen numbers. You know exactly what you're dealing with with the digital numbers, right?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:40:29
Yeah. And Townsquare, I don't want to give away any of the secret sauce, but they've really invested in digital too, more so than a lot of other radio companies. And I think that helps the company generate more money, be more successful from a sales standpoint. And it's great for everyone involved as long as you are open to that process. If you're not open to the process of it and you think radio should be done how it was 30 years ago, you could have a problem working for Town Square.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:01
So back when I was a programmer, I set a few social goals for people to hit, and then one staff member was smart enough to just put up one cat video that hit all the goals for the month. But I'm like, the cat video doesn't do anything for the Rock station. It's kind of like, yeah, you hit your goal. But branding wise, this is off brand for the radio station. That's got to be tough when you're asking people to hit a goal. But you might be off brand.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:41:28
Yeah, but a lot of what Townsquare is doing is it's local and it's regional stuff. And we're lucky that we have classic hits, we have country and we have newstalk. So classic hits in country. Yeah. The demos are a little bit different, but there's some shared attitudes there, I think. And when you're writing about stuff that's local and regional in nature, it becomes stuff that both those audiences and even our news talk audience is going to be in. And you can't forget that. There's also the people that come to our websites and read our stuff that may not listen to us. So it opens our stuff up to a whole nother audience that the radio stations won't because we may talk about, is it illegal to park your car on the lawn in Missouri or Illinois? Well, you may not be in the sound of my voice, but that might be a question that you want to ask yourself. And so you might go do a search. And my article is going to be one of the first that pops up that may give you the answer to that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:42:36
You know, one of the reasons why I think a lot of radio companies struggle with the digital side is that they all get around the table. We've been in those management meetings, and we'll see that the station has a lot of reach in the digital sphere. But somebody, either a general manager, perhaps a salesperson, will say, yeah, but we're not monetizing that the way we can with the 30's and the 60's. So is the mentality, when you all get together, that you become agnostic to wherever the listener comes from, it doesn't matter.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:43:08
Oh, yes, that's preached by our corporate leadership all the time, and yeah, it's content agnostic. It doesn't matter where it starts. It's how many different places can you get it. And I think from a sales standpoint, it's the same thing. Yeah, okay. If someone's best way for us to help them and help them market their business is radio advertising. Give them the radio advertising. If they're having a big event and they're having a circus in their parking lot, then yes, sell them a remote. If it's someone that has no online presence and they're a business that will do well from having a big online presence, then go out and sell them a website. Go out and sell them the stalker ads that follow people around online. And while we're at it, let's go sell them some stuff on our own websites because we have a lot of people reading them. I think there is a lot more of the approach. It's what people need and it's not one against another. And that's one of the things a couple of years ago, out of the pandemic, that the company really put an exclamation point on with all their managers. It's you're not just managing radio or you're not just the digital manager for the group. Everybody is somewhat managing everything. It's all important.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:29
And I'm going to guess that Facebook plays a big part. If you've got country, if you've got some talk, and you've got classic hits, and you're in smaller market where Facebook gets a lot of usage, facebook must be your number one social priority.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:44:44
Yes, Facebook is our number one social priority for two reasons. One, it's mostly where our audience lives and where they're going to get a lot of engagement from. Number two, with our limited resources, you can't be everywhere for everyone all the time. So you sort of have to say, where can we go and what can we do and have the most impact? And for us, that's Facebook. There's three of us that work in this building, me and Becca and Randy. Randy is our news guy. Becca is our morning show host on awesome. So Becca handles the awesome Facebook page. Randy handles our newstalk Facebook page. And then I handle the Kicks Facebook page at this point and pretty much also app pushes and a lot of the other things that we're going to do digitally. And those guys, I can't speak highly enough of them because they play above their level every single day. And they are some of the best employees I have, or ever have worked with.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:43
Yeah, and having listened to the station, Randy seems like a very sensible person. He's not yelling and screaming on the talk radio on the AM and banging the table.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:45:52
He's mostly our news guy, but he's probably our most visible guy in the building. He's the guy that's out in the community and the public face of these stations the most. And since his newscasts appear on all three stations, people will go out and talk to him. If Randy Kirby calls you about a news story, you're going to talk to him about it. If he shows up at your event to take some pictures, you're going to sit there and pose with him. And he's very important to our operation because we're in a news desert. That's one of the things. Nobody is spending a lot of time covering Sedalia in the news. Unless there's a murder, the Columbia TV stations aren't going to do it. The Kansas City TV stations aren't going to do it. And if there's one thing about small town America, it's they like their news because it's small town enough that everyone wants to know what are their neighbors up to, what are their friends up to who got drunk and popped for drunk driving over the night? So, yeah, our news content is one of some of our highest looked at posts every day. And I know people listen to our news talk for the newscasts that are local. It's a great way to kind of keep our pulse on the community and our competition just can't do it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:05
I think you recognize that you're not going to have a problem in the community unless Dateline shows up or somebody is coming here to do a true crime podcast.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:47:14
Yeah. No, you're not. And if someone comes to town and wants to do that crime podcast, come see me because Townsquare might want to talk to you about that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:47:23
The one other thing that I am curious about, and that's the AM signal. Do you see less people accessing the radio station terrestrially, and more people sort of accessing it maybe through a smart speaker or online? Have you seen that change over the last few years?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:47:40
I think there's more people that are listening online and through a smart speaker. But you got to remember, we're in the Midwest, and KSIS has a pretty good signal. So if you're in the IS, in the Midwest and you grew up with those big AM stations, I think there's been less erosion of that listenership in places than maybe other parts of America has seen. There's still a, oh yeah, I grew up listening to AM radio, or that's where the news is or that's where the talk station is. So I don't think that whole, "this is old technology" is necessarily caught up at least here yet. But, yeah, you do see more people looking at our app or going to our Facebook page or streaming the station than maybe you would have ten or twelve years ago. I just think overall, listening to AM stations- and I don't know if you've noticed this where you're at, but it used to be you could go far and away and you'd hear those 50,000 watt Clear Channel stations, and it may be the different cars I've had over the years or whatever, but it seems to me like it's a lot harder to hear those stations now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:48:53
Yes, so I will agree with you. It used to be that I could pick up a couple of radio stations from Fargo, which is about 3 hours south of here, quite easily during the daytime, and now I can't hear them as well as I used to. I think that's probably a sign of just more electronics in the car.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:49:10
Yeah. But you got to think that creates perceptions with people as well. When I was in Champagne, I could listen to WLS or WGN any time I wanted to, and I could always get it. When I was in Lafayette it was a little bit fuzzy, and then when I wound up in the Quad Cities- and I've heard from other people, so it very well may be what the electronics are in your car, that said, oh, I didn't have that problem, but just was very hard to listen to them if it was middle of the day. And that's been disappointing to me. And I know there's a lot more interference out there with the AM, too, that's been causing problems.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:46
If anybody wants to listen to that station, what do they need to ask their device to do?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:49:50
Alexa play KSIS. At least I believe that's what it is.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:55
And I like the fact that Townsquare doesn't geo block, so I can listen to all the Townsquare radio stations on my device in the kitchen around the house, unlike those other radio companies who geo block me. What's wrong with Canada anyway?
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:49:55
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:49:55
Except the weather today.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:50:11
Bundle up, wear your long underwear.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:50:14
Rob, thank you so much for taking the time to be with me and to talk about this. And this is the conversation we didn't have at Conclave, but that was good. You're talking to Kurt, and now look, you've got something going for you at Townsquare in Missouri.
Rob Creighton (Guest) 00:50:25
Yes, Matt. Thank you for having me on the show. It was an honor that you asked me to do it. And also, I love listening to the cast and I love- I love, just, everyone that comes on and hearing their perspectives and everyone that shares their story. It's always a very cool listen.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:50:40
The Sound Off podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the Soundoff Media Company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.