Tony Florentino, PD, WNCI/Columbus
John Stewart, PD, WDJQ/Canton

Tony: Q92 is locally owned and managed. What are the advantages and disadvantages?
John: Being owned by the same family since 1947 is advantageous because you get an immediate answer directly from the owner on questions of music, promotion, budget, personnel, benefits…without having to run it through a plethora of managers, OM’s and VP’s. On the other hand being a very small company we don’t have the same opportunities to market the way Clear Channel and CBS do since they own billboard companies. And when it comes to being able to pull off something like the iHeart Radio concert in Vegas, we’re miles behind.

Tony: As a two book market, how do you handle big ratings swings in either direction?

John: Little tweaks is key, no knee jerk reactions to what could just be diary placement. We’ve built up a loyal base of P1’s that we see at every event, remote, concert and parade so we know firsthand that they love the product. You’ve just got to believe you’re on the right track and continue to deliver what the audience expects from your station.

Tony: What are some of your main criteria when looking at new music for Q92?

John: Does it blow me away? I’m pretty picky about the songs that get the “official” nod, but I’ll also search out Rock leaning songs that a typical CHR wouldn’t touch but are smashes at Alternative or Rock. Balance is essential in the Midwest, so I make certain that in a three song set we consistently deliver Pop, Rock and Rhythm, repeat. When it comes to the weekly music meeting, we look over the playlist and make sure we’re not overloaded with one category or the other before we add a song.

Tony: What kind of syndicated shows do you think are working well for the format right now?

John: We’re 100% local right now, but if there was one show I’d pick up, it’d be Romeo’s Saturday Night Online show. He makes the connection with the audience and the music is on target.

Tony: When we worked together in Tampa, I remember taking Disney and Universal for granted because they were so close. Is it like that for you with the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

John: Absolutely! Every visitor we’ve had to Canton, whether it’s family or an artist stopping in, has had to go to the Football and Rock Hall in Cleveland, just like Disney, Busch Gardens and the Pier was in Tampa.

Tony: What song that hasn’t charted as of right now do you think will be a top five hit?

John: Jessie J “Domino” is a format smash that’ll get its day by 2012, but as for Q92 we’re all over the new Red Hot Chili Peppers, Simple Plan, Theory Of A Deadman and Blink 182, which have done well at other formats and are familiar with our P1’s.

Tony: How are you using social media to engage listeners with your station?

John: For the Spring 2011 book, we ran all our contests via Facebook. You had to “like” the station’s page and then to be included in our drawing for a flyaway or Apple IPad2, you had to comment on the jock post. We built our Facebook friend database from eight to nearly 20,000 friends in thirteen weeks.

Tony: You’ve met a lot of famous artists over the years. Who stands out?

John: Halloween in Detroit smoking a stogie with Kid Rock at his warehouse was amazing. About 100 radio peeps were invited to watch Kid and his full band play his latest CD live for us and then we got to hang in costumes. I went as Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights and Kid Rock told me it was the best costume there. Since I look like Will Ferrell, he said I should dress like different characters from all his movies as a Halloween series.
          Another one of my favorite artists is the Dave Matthews Band, and hanging with Dave has always stood out to me. When we first met Dave in Seattle, he sat down at our table, bummed a smoke from my brother and told us a story about chasing a bat out of his house with a tennis racket. Last year in Cleveland, I had a chance to apologize to him for burning 100 copies of The Lilywhite Sessions to CD and giving them away over a weekend at STAR 95.7 in Tampa. The CD eventually became Busted Stuff. Dave summed it up by saying, once the music’s out there, you can’t get it back. It’s out there for good.

Tony: When did you know for sure that you were going to have a career in radio?

John: I made the commitment to radio when I was 16 and interned for the morning guy Mike Flynn at WCSR in Hillsdale Michigan. Beyond that, I knew it was my career when I didn’t have to hold down a second job cleaning carpets or working at a restaurant. It was when I got hired full-time at 102.5 The Wave in Tampa.

Tony: Your nickname is J-Stew. What exactly are the ingredients in J-Stew?

John: Lots of meat, garlic, fennel seeds and oregano!


John: How did it feel crossing the street from WSNY to WNCI in Columbus, knowing their entire playbook?
Tony: In a few industries, including radio, psychological warfare is as great a tool as there is. It was cool knowing that they knew I knew what they knew, you know?

John: You’ve worked with some big morning shows in the past, and are currently coaching Dave and Jimmy who are an institution there. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with talented teams?

Tony: It helps if you’re a genuine fan of the show, and I’m happy to say that’s been the case with all of the big shows I’ve managed. You’ve also got to really know your talent. What motivates them on a personal level? What are they afraid of? Who or what is most important to them? Why do they do what they do? I’m a player’s coach, no question. I’m tough, demanding, and direct, but I don’t yell and I don’t make threats. Sales Managers can be the screaming football coaches who get in their players’ faces. PDs should be more like baseball managers. Guy comes back to the dugout after striking out with the bases loaded? Pat him on the back and tell him he’ll get them next time. It’s been my experience that morning shows react well to that approach.

John: Everybody is motivated by different things. Some people want more money, some want more time off. Some just want praise. How do you motivate you staff?

Tony: Everyone, no matter what the industry, wants to feel appreciated and acknowledged. We all want more money, but day today? Let your team know they’re appreciated, and always, always, always have their backs.

John: You’re a social network fanatic, which of them is your favorite and why?

Tony: Facebook, simply because that’s where the most people are. Our Twitter account is fed by Facebook, so every FB post automatically gets tweeted, but we still use Twitter quite a bit on its own. We’ll jump on Google+ when the time is right, but right now we focus all of our social media efforts on the big two.

John: WNCI has always been incredibly promotionally active. In the two years you’ve been PD, was there one stand out that was a win for everybody on your team?

Tony: We gave away a trip to see Lady Gaga in
Paris last year. She was nice enough to cut a custom promo for us, and the methodology involved one of the characters from the Dave & Jimmy show. It was fun to listen to, easy to enter, and as sexy a prize as there is.

John: In Canton, we’re a two book market so we fly blind for half the year. With your transition into PPM, how different is it to get weekly vs. monthly trends, and is there any knee jerk reaction to those numbers?

Tony: PPM weeklies are much more accurate than diary trends in terms of making up the final number, but we don’t ever react to any given week. There’s an enormous amount of data flow in PPM, and if you tried to react to it on a weekly basis, you’d drive your station right into a ditch. Whether it’s ratings, M-Score data, or tracking individual features, we need to see a lot of data over a good length of time before we can make an intelligent decision to change.

John: You guys own a huge market share that spans all demographics young and old. In your opinion is it the balance of hit music mixed with engaging personalities that is the winning combination here in the Midwest?

Tony: Heritage is a big factor, and with that, we’re expected to be consistent from a product perspective while continually shifting with the tastes of our listeners. The tenure of our amazing morning show – Dave & Jimmy – helps pave the way for us to succeed throughout the day. Chris Davis, who is our afternoon guy, has been here for more than 20 years and is extremely engaged with our audience. Finally, we’re kind of expected to have larger-than-life promotions on a regular basis. Erin Rafferty, my APD and Promotions Director, is the best I’ve ever worked with and deserves all the credit for keeping WNCI electrically charged.

John: Do any other stations’ playlists factor into your decision when choosing new music for WNCI?

Tony: Absolutely. We have a peer panel of stations that include G105/Raleigh, The River/Nashville, and Kiss 108 in Boston. Those stations, and others we look at, are winning in competitive situations that are similar to ours.

From our time together in the Clear Channel building in Tampa, I know you’re an avid reader. What book are you reading now.
Tony: I just finished “The Silent Land” by Graham Joyce. It was so haunting that I literally lost sleep over it.

John: You’re a goal oriented kinda guy, what are your goals for the next five years?

Tony: I have two goals: to watch the Yankees win their 28th World Series title, and to not die.

[FMQB ORIGINAL CONTENT, published September 2011, please do not republish or reprint without the express consent of FMQB. Make sure you visit us on the Web at]


Nicki Farag,
SVP of Promotion,
Def Jam Recordings


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