Mike Rossi, Associate PD/MD, WSTW

Mike: My understanding is that northeastern Pennsylvania has become a hot address for daily commuters into New York City. Do you find that to be true? If so, how does it alter your market?
Kelly: Not so much Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but in Stroudsburg (where they hear KRZ on 107.9FM) there are a lot of NYC commuters. There’s a daily bus. Also there are a WHOLE lot of ex-pats from New York and New Jersey not commuting but MOVING to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a less expensive existence and a safer place to raise a family. (The smartest thing I ever did personally was invest in some apartment buildings to rent to this growing population!)
          I think the influx of city people is definitely changing the musical tastes of the region. Ten years ago when I first got here KRZ leaned a lot more toward Hot AC and Rock. Now records by Pitbull and Lupe Fiasco are testing as powers, and we’re not as quick to add a Goo Goo Dolls record as we used to be. That said, we are still very much a Rock market. Maybe not so much Goo Goo Dolls or Rob Thomas, more like Theory Of A Deadman and Hinder.

Mike: WKRZ is a heritage CHR known for its stability. What is the best element of the station that hasn’t changed?

Kelly: The commitment to talent! We are blessed with two long-term personality dayparts: Rocky & Sue in the morning and Jumpin’ Jeff Walker in the afternoon. Legends in the market! Thus far, Entercom has seen the value in keeping these assets, and they have continually reinvented themselves to be relevant to today’s CHR audience. There have been additions to each show. Lissa is the new producer for Rocky & Sue and contributes as a third talent. Amanda is Jeff’s producer and afternoon co-host. Both of these young women are shining in their roles and are destined for lengthy media careers!

Mike: What’s the best change your station has made that may have surprised you?

Kelly: In 2004 we made a decision to be true to the format and opened our playlist to Rhythmic music as never before. (Then-PD) Tias Schuster somehow convinced upper management to let this happen, and I don’t know how he did it. It was a time of identity crisis for KRZ and we had to go one way or another, and before Tias stepped in they were hell-bent on going Hot AC. This was the better decision. We reinvented ourselves as relevant to the CHR audience without losing our identity. We didn’t blow it up, go Hot Hits and put a bunch of young kids on the air. We simply tweaked the music and the imaging, keeping our existing airstaff. And we had a monster book! And another…and another…

Mike: Dayparting of songs help shape a station’s identity. What goals do you have in mind when considering dayparting?

Kelly: We are very research-driven, and we’ve found it takes our adults (25-31) quite awhile to catch up with “new” music. That’s why it takes “forever” by record label standards for a song to get to power on KRZ and once it’s there it’s usually there for a long time, long after Mediabase has labeled it a recurrent. SO most of the new music starts at night. Tias created a nighttime power category labeled “O” in Selector for “Off The Chain.” There are only two records in this category, and they are the hottest new records burning up the charts.
          We’ve also been known to split powers. If a record is scoring high with 18-24s and testing like a B with 25-31s, we’ll make it a B during the day and then at 5pm it’ll bump up to A. We use the alt-category function on Selector, and the record (usually a great-testing recurrent) that’s a power during the day will trade off and play as a B after 5pm. Sometimes we make that split at 7pm, sometimes 3pm. It depends on the call-out scores, how hot the song is on the chart, our phones, and how it fits the station sonically.

Mike: Give us the most current examples of which and how songs are dayparted on ‘KRZ.

Kelly: Our two “O” records are Britney Spears and Bad Meets Evil. During the day they spin as C’s – new music, and not in Morning Drive (not till I see some call-out!) After 7pm, 2pm on the weekends, they spin every other hour as powers.
          An example of a split-power would be Lupe Fiasco “The Show Goes On” as a power till 5pm, switching off with Nicki Minaj “Super Bass” 5p to 5a. Our 18-24s can’t get enough of Nicki, but she’s testing only like a B with our 25-31s, who are still grooving to Lupe. Lupe has cooled off with our 18-24s, but still tests well enough with them to be a B.

Mike: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is near resort areas loaded with great music venues. What’s been the best place to showcase ‘KRZ artists?

Kelly: Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain is a great place to see a show, a nice open-air venue. Unfortunately they’ve been booking mostly Oldies acts such as Motley Crue and the big Country tours. The only CHR show we had this year was Lil Wayne. We do a lot with Mohegan Sun Arena. They’re bringing American Idols in this weekend. But there have really been no big shows for our audience. That’s why we did concert fly-aways for our summer promotion. There is a little club in the wilds west of Scranton called Eleanor Rigby’s that recently hosted Sick Puppies and Gavin Degraw. We’re trying to support them any way we can.

Mike: Entercom has a great cluster of stations in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, including Froggy101/WGGY. How does their presence impact your approach to potential Country crossovers?

Kelly: For one thing we have access to Froggy’s call out! It’s helpful that our OM Mike O’Donnell is PD of both stations. That’s how we knew The Band Perry had a hit, and Lady Antebellum before that.

Mike: To what extent do Entercom CHR and Hot AC associates across the country share information regarding music?

Kelly: There’s a conference call on Thursdays, call-out and phone stories are shared. Plus the record reps will always bring up success with another Entercom station, which we always fact check.

Mike: The Office has placed Scranton, PA in the national consciousness. How has the show impacted the market?

Kelly: It’s just a cool thing. Whenever there’s an Office convention or “prop drop” people come out in droves for it. Our sister station Froggy 101 gets their bumper sticker in just about every shot! There are tourists who come to Scranton because of the show, which locals find amusing. I think someone’s doing a bus tour around town of sites. And here’s a piece of trivia: the Dunder-Mifflin building in the opening shot is an office building on Adams Avenue. When I was going for my prenatal visits, my OB’s office was in that building. That’s a story I can tell my daughter – it’s where I first heard your heartbeat, honey!

Mike: We are both privileged to work with one of the record industry’s legends, Interscope’s Bobbi Silver. Can you share your best Bobbi story?

Kelly: I am gonna MISS her when she retires at the end of the year! We really need to throw her a party. My favorite Bobbi story: December of ’09 we went to Camden to see Lady Gaga and the radio meet ‘n greet was supposed to be pre-show. But something happened and they had to push it to after the show. So we’re waiting in the lobby with all these people from the fan club for 90 minutes before Gaga even came out. There were easily 100 people waiting past midnight, 12:30am, finally she comes out and they break us up into three groups with the radio people going last. Bobbi swoops in, grabs me with one hand and OD with the other, and pulls us up front saying “Hey these people traveled a long way to meet Lady Gaga and they have to drive back so they get to go first!” Totally unnecessary, but I will be forever grateful as I was five months pregnant with swollen ankles!



Kelly: You’ve been the Music Director at WSTW for as long as I can remember. What were the decisions that led you to build your career in one place as opposed to the “town to town up and down the dial” approach?

Mike: I did the ‘town-to-town’ radio bit briefly, but found it not to be a good track for my young family. We came back to Wilmington, my hometown, and I took a ‘real job’ while picking up weekend shifts at WSTW. The plunge back into full-time came as mid-days opened here in 1992.

Kelly: Wilmington geographically could be a suburb of Philadelphia. In fact, your signal booms in pretty well in Philly, but you are most decidedly a Wilmington station. What is the vibe that makes Wilmington its own place?

Mike: The editor of the Gannett-owned Wilmington News Journal recently revealed that their company has never measured a higher ‘sense of place’ than in people of the Wilmington area. Residents of the area can live in any one of four states (DE, MD, NJ & PA) and settle in the place that best suits their immediate needs while still having easy access to the benefits offered by our neighbors. There is a lot of freedom, pride and comfort in that.

Kelly: Are the Philly stations booming into your market a factor in your programming?

Mike: Absolutely! When someone in our cume tunes away from us, it is to one of America’s great broadcasts. Both Philadelphia AND Baltimore stations are heard in our metro, so we have to be on our game. The out-of-town factor is primarily in-car, where our strength is focusing on local traffic issues. At-work listening is still mostly to in-metro stations, but streaming is leveling that playing field.

Kelly: Music comes in cycles, and you’ve been through a lot of them at WSTW! What was the best music cycle of your career there, and the worst?

Mike: In terms of what has historically worked here, the best available music may have been in the mid-to-late 90’s. It was a time of great variety with a rich lode of Alternative-leaning hits.
          In pegging the worst, I’d have to say a few of my part-time years, ’89-’91, was a period of extremes. It seemed that Rock and Rhythmic was too intense, AC too soft and pure Pop sparse and too young to allow for a large enough consensus pool of hits.

Kelly: We’re in a cycle now with a heavy Dance beat and hardly any Rock being released to Mainstream Top 40, yet I’m listening to your stream and hearing the new Three Days Grace record. With no road map provided by the rest of the panel, how do you decide which records to take a chance on?

Mike: Our audience feedback generally gravitates toward guitar-based Pop-ready Rock and Alternative. We have recently had success with the Three Days Grace, along with My Chemical Romance, Neon Trees, Parachute and Train. Green Day and Muse tunes have gotten second life as recurrents. We’ll scout the Rock, Alternative and Hot AC fields for songs that we feel will fit and research with our audience. So, it’s a mix of gut and some label assurance that they’ll try to cross a targeted song to Pop.

Kelly: Give me a one-paragraph description of the average WSTW listener.

Mike: Our listener is a 34-year old who is facing the balancing act of work, home and, now, a school-aged child. She faces time and economic pressures like never before. She relies on 93-7 WSTW as a musical and social escape as well as a trusted source of information to get her through each day.

Kelly: Where do you see radio fitting in this new Social Media universe?

Mike: At Delmarva Broadcasting Company, our guiding vision is that all our products will be readily available on new generation portable devices. For the near future, terrestrial radio will be a popular choice for economic and ease-of-use reasons. Locally oriented audio streams will always be a welcome, no matter how delivered.

Kelly: How has your station handled the increased workload required to keep up with all the new multi-media platforms?

Mike: I am proud of how our staff has embraced the use of the new platforms. Morning co-host Spencer Graves directs our Social Media work and sets the tone early every day with Facebook and Twitter postings. The reminder of the day will see postings that provide a deeper engagement with our staff and our brand. We are bringing more contesting to Facebook as well. Our news/talk sister station 1150 WDEL is renown for their website video production. We continue to tap into those assets to improve our online video presence.

Kelly: I always laugh when record promo people start reciting their “alphabet soup.” Are there any call letters that you really do pay attention to?

Mike: Naturally, the major market players all have my respect and are noted. I place special emphasis on the nearby markets; so, yes, I watch ‘KRZ like a hawk!

Kelly: I’ve never ever been to Wilmington and I come to visit for a day. How would you have me spend the day in your market so I go home thinking “that was pretty awesome”?

Mike: I would start you with a little history: a visit to Old New Castle or one of the many DuPont mansions that are open to the public (Longwood Gardens is a family favorite). Then some time on or near the water: the northern reaches of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays are in our metro. You would have to take advantage of some tax-free Delaware shopping, then hit one of many great restaurants on the Wilmington Riverfront and take in a concert at the Grand Opera House or World Café Life at the Queen. Then it’s your choice: stay at the stately Hotel DuPont or drive or train to your next destination. Wilmington is an easy trip (with apologies for our tollgates) from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton!

[FMQB ORIGINAL CONTENT, published August 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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