The station just about smack dab in the middle of the FM dial in Myrtle Beach has earned national acclaim.
WRNN-FM “Hot Talk” 99.5 is one of five finalists in the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Radio Awards’ category of “Small Market Station of the Year.” The category is shared with an AM station in New Ulm, Minn., with a farm programming format, and three other FM outlets: in Missoula, Mont. (classic rock), and two with country music, in Topeka, Kan.; and Cadiz, Ky.
Announcement of all 21 Marconi award winners – in such categories as “Country Station of the Year,” for which WKML-FM 95.7 “Today’s Country,” with a booming signal into the Grand Strand from Fayetteville, N.C., is nominated – comes Thursday at a dinner and show in Nashville, Tenn.
Josh Gertzog, the local market manager for Alpha Media – owner since February of WRNN-FM, as well as WMYB-FM “Energy” (formerly “Star”) 92.1, WKZQ-FM 96.1 “New Rock,” WYAV-FM “Wave” 104.1, and WRNN-AM 1450 “ESPN Radio” – talked about the honor of the Marconi recognition. Alpha, based in Portland, Ore., boasts 251 stations, coast to coast.
Question | How was news of this Marconi award nomination broached with station personnel?
Answer | I found out, and the first thing I did was tell Dave Priest and Liz Callaway, our morning show hosts, then I told our group operations manager, B.J. Kinard, ... and I sent out a big internal email to let everybody know. It’s pretty exciting. ... Nobody who has been here in Myrtle Beach can remember anybody here ever being nominated for a Marconi award. ... We would love to win, but just the face we got nominated really says something about the station.
Q. | Liz Callaway just marked three years teamed up with Dave Priest on weekday mornings, giving such a tandem that has radiated with chemistry and well-rounded coverage of happenings across our area. Was the “Hot Talk Morning Show” the clincher in WRNN garnering the Marconi nomination?
A. | The process worked out like this, and it’s kind of amazing. Usually, when you have awards, you submit things, such as airchecks ... and all kinds of things you have done. The Marconi awards, for all categories, was based on a 200-word essay, for what each station has done in the period, for 2015. I wrote a 200-word essay, and ... within that, you cover the things done, which for us, included coverage of the floods last October – That’s a big one, and the coverage of the election – That was a big thing. The fact that WRNN was there for such major events is important.
Q. | On the Wednesday after Labor Day, Dave and Liz packed the 7 a.m. hour with two segments with special guests: Andy Milovich, vice president and general manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, ahead of this Chicago Cubs farm team’s sixth straight playoff season – which soon culminated with a second Mills Cup Championship win in a row – and two representatives from the Georgetown County School District for an update on the new school year. How has the trust and reciprocity from so many regular local sources made the morning show such a hub for all the major happenings in this area?
A. | To have a dialogue that is listened to regularly, there’s nothing like what Dave and Liz do, for four hours, five days a week. ... It’s become a radio station that’s not just tuned into by the average listener. People want to know what is going on in the community. Myrtle Beach is not that big, but there’s a lot going on, whether you talk about the city of Myrtle Beach, county issues, and local governments.
Q. | How fortunate is the Grand Strand to have an FM talk station with local programming for more than two decades now?
A. | Very fortunate. ... I once worked for Arbitron, ... and at one point, ... based in Chicago, I had a 26-state territory. In that entire territory, I had counted maybe four or five stations on FM that were news-talk. It was a format for the AM, and FM was for the music. ...
We found a way to make it work here, especially in the local community with Dave and Liz.
Q. | Are FM talk stations a growing segment of the radio landscape nationwide, or maybe in certain size markets?
A. | It’s not decreasing. ...It’s a very viable format these days.
Q. | Briefly: What advertising demographics for commercial talk stations remain the optimum to reach? Ages 35-54? Or 35-64?
A. | More importantly, it’s not so much the age that is perceived, ... but the dynamics of listenership, what is called qualitative information. We have the business community listening; whether people are 30 or 70 years old, they’re listening. We also have a lot of people who are transplants and retirees who live here. It’s a perfect mix ... and that shows up in the ratings. In the latest ratings book, we’re in the top five stations for ages 25-54 and in the top three for people older than 45.
Q. | A couple of months ago, I heard a police officer from Conway call in to Mark Levin’s nightly program. Of all the syndicated talk-radio titans carried regularly on WRNN, is there one host that draws the strongest – or more consistent audience numbers locally?
A. | Outside of Dave and Liz, it’s Rush Limbaugh (noon-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays), who is almost always No. 1 in the ratings in the ages 35-64 category in all of Myrtle Beach. ... We really focus on 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays – That’s really our prime time. Most of my focus is on the shows with Dave and Liz, Laura Ingraham (10 a.m.-noon), Rush, and Sean Hannity (3-6 p.m.).
Q. | Talk radio is a staple in so many people’s lives. What direction might the industry continue, especially as a station serves its local market, over the air in traditional, terrestrial means and in this digital/online age?
A. | One big thing about radio is that it can be listened to as a multitasking thing, maybe when driving to work, in the office, working out for exercise, and at home while doing some other things.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you listen
WHO: “Hot Talk Morning Show” with Dave Priest and Liz Callaway
WHEN: 6-10 a.m. Mondays-Fridays
WHERE: WRNN-FM “Hot Talk” 99.5
ALSO: All North Myrtle Beach Chiefs high school football games carried live, with kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays through October (except Oct. 7), with Tyler Watkins and Wayne White, hosts.
▪ WRNN – 843-839-9950 for studio, 843-448-1041 office, and www.wrnn.net
▪ Alpha Media, based in Portland, Ore. – 503-517-6200 or www.alphamediausa.com
▪ National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Radio Awards – www.nab.org/sites/2016Marconis/2016Finalists.asp
SISTER STATIONS LOCALLY: WMYB-FM “Energy” (formerly “Star”) 92.1, WKZQ-FM 96.1 “New Rock,” WYAV-FM “Wave” 104.1, and WRNN-AM 1450 “ESPN Radio.”