Radio is Rebounding: My Experience at a Sports & News Radio Station

The radio industry is not doing as badly as you might have heard. And my experience interning at Cedar Valley Broadcasting in Cedar Falls bore that out. I quickly learned that radio in general is still thriving in the commercial sector. Companies know that their ads will reach a customer base, and that radio is an effective avenue to deliver their message.

In recent history, radio giants in New York and California have filed for bankruptcy, or posted horrid profits. But this is not because radio is dying, but because those giants tried to change the way they market and how radio works. While moving towards a mobile market, like iHeartRadio did, is one of the obvious trends in radio, it is not the only way to make money in the market. My radio station met and exceeded their sales goals in the three months that I interned there.

Many people cite the trend towards online media and that radio is losing out to apps like Pandora or Spotify, but these companies are nothing new. People have been listening to alternative forms of audio over radio for decades. Since the inception of the vinyl record the radio market has been finding new alternative ways to reach people and deal with new forms of audio technology.

So, I will say it now, in my own opinion – and the opinion of the rest of the radio world–RADIO IS NOT DEAD, IT’S JUST CHANGING.

Radio InternshipI spent my summer as the primary News Intern and during that time I learned a lot about sound editing, news writing, and broadcasting on a large spectrum network. Though most of my work was in news, I also offered my voice to several commercials and ad spots on all three of our stations. The main station I was broadcast on was AM 1650 The Fan, a sports station that carries national sports talk radio shows, with local and national news at the top and bottom of the hour. Though I wasn’t working as a hard hitting journalist, it was a good station for me to learn from my mistakes and understand what it means to tell a story.

When you are given strict guidelines for your stories you are forced to discover the meat of a story, and distill what people actually need to hear to understand a news event. I also learned just how little people respect or trust reporters. I was repeatedly sidelined by secretaries that promised to “pass my message along,” but then I would never hear from the person I wished to interview.

It is widely believed by public officials that reporters are only out to find the dirt and to spin stories against businesses and people. Even when there was no possible way to spin a story in a negative light, such as reporting on the cross-state bike race, RAGBRAI, I met with opposition in certain towns. I would only receive carefully written statements, that danced around definitive answers, and never truly answered my questions.

Radio Internship All in all I believe that radio will provide a great deal of news and entertainment for many decades to come not matter how “terrible” radio seems to be doing.

Thomas Winkelman

My Busy Summer in the Media Biz: Internships in Radio + Television

This summer, I worked two internship positions at both iHeartMedia (a Des Moines radio group) and KDSM (a local Des Moines TV station), and I gained a wealth of experience at both companies and will benefit from my time there for years to come.

IHeartMedia BlogAt iHeartMedia I was able to spend some time in almost every department, but the bulk of my work was within the promotions and marketing department. I, along with the other interns, worked at a number of promotional events, concerts, and festivals. Our goal was to connect with the public and get them excited about the many different radio stations owned by iHeartMedia serving the Des Moines area.

In addition to this, I contributed to event organization and execution as well as data and demographic analytics. Working with the program directors for various stations was a great opportunity to learn how the radio industry really works and what they do on a day-to-day basis. During my internship I got to sit in on sales meetings and live broadcasts, attend concerts, and talk to professionals from all areas of the radio and music industries.

I Heart Media Blog 2At KDSM I was the TV Production Intern and worked mostly with creative services. I helped to produce many commercials for local businesses as well as weekly segments of the “Des Moines Buzz”, a one-minute video with themed episodes airing up to five times a week.

I also had the privilege of working on thirteen videos featuring the winners of the 2015 Iowa Character Association Awards, primarily as an editor and camera operator. I had the wonderful experience of meeting with the director of the Iowa Character Association, several Des Moines business leaders, and an Olympic Gold Medal winner over the course of filming these interviews. The finished videos were shown at the Iowa Character Awards Banquet and subsequently broadcast on a local TV station.

Our other big project at KDSM was the broadcast of the annual Iowa State Fair Parade. The fair is recorded in advance of broadcast but is presented as live. I ran the handheld street camera as a tag team effort with another production assistant. To help prepare for the event, I helped construct graphics for the broadcast.

Olivia Guns

A Media Empire in the Middle of Iowa – Interning with iHeartMedia

The Des Moines metro area is home to more than two dozen radio stations. Seven of them are located under one roof. The iHeartMedia building sends out radio waves that appeal to almost any listener, whether it’s pop, country, alternative, news or sports.

iHeartMediaDes Moines’ iHeart group is just a small sliver of the company on a national scale. iHeartMedia fits approximately 850 stations under its massive umbrella, as well as iHeartRadio, an online radio service that users can tweak to listen to virtually anything they want.

The recurring theme I have noticed during my time at iHeart has been “spread out.” The internship process at this specific iHeart location has not been repetitive or focused on one aspect of radio. Rather, I have had the privilege of experiencing multiple aspects, including marketing, promotions, on-air and social media. No shift during the week is the same. Outside of the office, there have been several events in the area that draw thousands of attendees, including the 80/35 Music Festival and Des Moines Arts Festival. Our biggest task of the Summer, however, is yet to come. The Iowa State Fair, a mammoth attraction for the Midwest, will have employees and interns keeping very busy during its 10 day stretch.

As a student who managed and participated in the University of Northern Iowa’s college radio station, interning in the professional environment of iHeart has given me loads of perspective. Everything on social media is so precise, daily shows are almost always pre-recorded, and sales are what keep the company moving. It is fairly common knowledge that a station depends on all of these elements, but to see it all in motion is is still so new and unfamiliar. Any student who suddenly takes part in this world of professional radio has to realize that new, fresh ideas are vital every day of the week. Popular music has to be sought out ahead of the competitors. News on the shows and Facebook pages has to be not only recent, but unique. Listeners may love hearing their same favorite songs for a while, but the idea-machine under iHeart’s roof has to keep cranking.

iheatmedia internshipNow, that may sound stressful. But in this building, the confidence and composure of some of Des Moines’ most popular DJs and industry professionals is equally important. Everyone has a great idea of what they want to see from their specific station, or all of the stations in general. And from what I have seen so far, there isn’t too much friction. Ideas flow seamlessly from employee to employee, and the freedom allowed for each station coordinator or host makes for a better work and listening experience. All of the elements I’ve seen from iHeart can be plugged into the UNI station, or any amateur/college station for that matter. It’s been a real pleasure witnessing the organic ideas and precise, appreciated work put into the radio group.

iheartmedia internshipMost of my tasks at iHeart have been things that my bosses could work on themselves. That’s how I know what I am doing every week is important. Whether it’s generating posts on Facebook (some posts that will go until the end of the year) or organizing marketing information that the rest of the team depends on, it all keeps Des Moines’ biggest radio machine moving forward.

But before I sign-off, I have one last request: Take a listen to my favorite Summer station: ALT 1063, Iowa’s Alternative. After all, there’s a wide spectrum of radio out there!

– Brendan Wood

Radio is Alive and Booming in the Cedar Valley

Radio broadcasting has been rumored to be dying due to the emergence of satellite and Internet radio that can be personalized to listeners’ musical preferences. I thought this was true as well, but then I saw the statistics: radio reaches 90 percent of people each week, and 66 percent each day. There are 13,500 radio stations sprinkled throughout the U.S. that cover over 40 different formats. The top formats in radio today are country, news/talk, and pop/contemporary hit radio. At Cedar Valley Broadcasting we cover all of those formats and more.

Ali 1I am an intern at Cedar Valley Broadcasting in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It is a family owned radio company, with eleven stations in Iowa. Three of the eleven stations are produced in Cedar Falls: KCVM 93.5 The Mix, KCNZ 1650 The Fan, and Cruisin’ KCFI 1250 and 105.1.

The first station I mentioned, 93.5 The Mix, is an adult contemporary station with a primary audience of women ages 25-54 years. 93.5 The Mix has also been recognized for multiple prestigious accolades. The station was presented with the Crystal Award four times and was also recognized as a small market finalist for the Marconi Award in 2013. The next station, 1650 The Fan is a male-skewing station, reaching out to men, ages 25-54. The Fan is our sports station and generally reaches out to those with higher incomes. The third station is Cruisin’ KCFI, a unique station that is the only station that plays a true oldies format in the market. A really neat program our station has to offer is the non-profit organization Magical Mix Kids, which was created to send chronically and terminally ill children and their families on a worry-free vacation to Walt Disney World. Between the three stations, there is something for everyone to enjoy, as Cedar Valley Broadcasting really has a wide variety of content to offer to its listeners.

Ali 2As an intern at Cedar Valley Broadcasting, I have been given to opportunity to see behind a lot of the doors in the building. From observing the sales and promotions team to copywriting commercials to learning how to record radio shows, I have been exposed to many of the departments that allow these radio stations to run so smoothly. I was given the opportunity to help out the sales and promotions team by researching prospects that could be potential clients, and then going out into the field to speak with some of the business owners to try and set up a more formal appointment with them. I also learned to use the Radio Advertising Bureau website for other information when working on advertising pieces. I have also done some copywriting as well as voicing some of those commercials. I worked on designing the visual layout of packages for sponsors of “Teacher of the Month” and “The Magical Mix Kids Snowflake Express”.

In addition to all of the in-station activities that I have done, I also was able to hang out at the My Waterloo Days and Sturgis Falls festivals at the station booth, handing out freebies to the passers-by. At the end of August, I will work the Summer Jam event, which I am especially excited for! I really enjoy the broad variety of activities I have experienced in order to help myself obtain an idea of what I may want to do as a future career.

All in all, working at a radio station is not what I pictured myself doing this summer, but after being involved in the internship and being able to work with all of the great staff at the station, I can honestly say it was a spontaneous choice I am very happy to have made. I am learning more and more every day, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my time at Cedar Valley Broadcasting has in store for me.

Ali Holtz

My Cool Internship with Cumulus Media in Des Moines

The radio industry is changing and continues to grow. Radio is a great form of mass media because it is easily accessible and free (so long as you have a device for listening to the radio). A large percentage of Americans commute for many reasons, and that is a popular time when they listen to radio. Because of its ability to reach large audiences—including younger audiences—radio is a great medium for marketing goods and services. The largest American broadcast company is iHeartMedia, while the second largest is Cumulus Media who owns around 460 stations in 89 markets. I have had the opportunity to intern at a Cumulus Media location in Urbandale, Iowa.

Radio internship - iheart mediaThe Cumulus Media location I am interning with has 5 stations; two country stations (92.5 Nash Icon and 97.3 Nash FM), one classic rock station (95 KGGO), one talk station (98.3 The Torch), and one sports station (1700 The Champ). Cumulus Media is Des Moines’ leader in country and classic rock music, so they place most of their focus on planning promotions for those three stations. In fact, every one of the activities or jobs I do at Cumulus Media was centered on those three stations.

At Cumulus Media I am a marketing and promotions intern with many responsibilities. When I first started my internship I thought that I would mainly be organizing promotions and brainstorming marketing ideas, but my responsibilities actually took a different path after I talked to my supervisor, Liz, about my passion for digital media production. After she learned this, she set me up to work with Tony, one of Cumulus Media’s DJs and lead producer, for a day. I started learning how to use Adobe Audition, which was their choice of audio editing software, to produce the commercials that I would write scripts for. I even voiced around half of the commercials that I wrote scripts for, so I was pretty busy with both the production and marketing side of digital media. After producing these commercials, we would go to the clients and show them what their commercial could sound like and then they would tell us what they liked and did not like so that we could revise the commercial.

Kyle 1Along with being a producer for Cumulus Media, I am also a videographer and photographer who takes videos/pictures of the different events we have a presence at. When I am not at the station producing content for clients, I am out setting up for different events and interacting with the public. One of my favorite events that I attended was the drawing of a promotion that Cumulus Media came up with early in the summer called “Free Gas For Me.” One lucky person won free gas for a year from Kum & Go, and it was a blast setting up for that event and interacting with our listeners at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines.

Kyle 3

My internship at Cumulus Media has been truly an amazing experience. From working with and learning from intelligent people, to taking on challenging tasks by myself, it has all helped me learn more about the industry that I plan on starting a career in.

Kyle Stoutenberg


Drones were definitely one of the most awe inspiring and emerging devices at the 2015 National Association of Broadcasters Show. This is not only due to their hi-tech robotics, but also because of the way they are already impacting broadcasting and many other sectors of the media industry.

Just a few months ago we observed the impact drones can have on live television. This past winter during X-Games 2015, the United States witnessed the first live aerial drone broadcast in sports history. It provided a never-before-seen perspective into the world of action sports.

Camera DroneWe interviewed Sergei Lupashin, founder and CEO of Perspective Robotics, at the 2015 NAB Show about the groundbreaking impact that drones will have on the media industry within the next few years.

“To me it is always interesting…the new and exciting ways that people are able to use this technology to capture new perspectives. You really don’t know where it’s going, so you can really be a part of that story of shaping the future.”

From tethered hybrid drones to 4K capable GPS enabled drones, these high-flying devices are reshaping the ways video is captured and distributed!

Spencer Hemann

FCC’s Wheeler Pitches Spectrum Auction to Broadcasters: But Should They Cash In?

Chairman Tom Wheeler opened his keynote address to the 2015 National Association of Broadcasters with nothing but praise and admiration for their profession, stating that they (broadcasters) offer their audiences a unique product that no other current emerging platform can give: local news and information.

Tom WheelerWheeler went on to describe his recent experience with various media outlets during the storms that rocked the north east this winter. “I used my weather channel app on my phone regularly,” Wheeler admitted. “But when I wanted information that really matters, when I wanted to find out what the real skinny was that was going to affect my life, I went to my local broadcasters.” He then closed his opening remarks of praise by pointing how the broadcasters “put themselves in danger” to service their community in the midst of the storm.

This was a lead in to his quick pitch at the NAB Show for the upcoming spectrum auction. In this spectrum auction, the FCC would sell licenses to transmit signals over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to wireless providers, and then share the profits with broadcasters who are the current holders of the spectrum.

But new details regarding the forthcoming spectrum auction were surprisingly thin. Wheeler mentioned it will take place in early 2016, with the FCC accepting applications as early as this fall, and that they want to make it “more accommodating” for broadcasters.

SmartphoneWhat struck me as both odd and alarming was the absence of constructive criticism directed towards the traditional methods of broadcasting (both in Wheeler’s speech and throughout the entire show). Now, this isn’t to say there weren’t talks regarding the changing media landscape, but the topic of the potential industry-saving innovation from broadcasters (particularly television) were sparse. And, whatever discussion there was regarding the issues presented an array of underwhelming, short-term solutions.

There is no denying the truth that, as Chairman Wheeler pointed out, OTT services are beating out cable, and that consumers are pursuing alternatives to broadcast TV. But the question constantly on my mind is: how can broadcasters remain relevant well into the 21st century? And perhaps more important for broadcasters to explore, what role, if any, could this currently owned spectrum play in their reinvention?

Trends in media consumption changed radically last year, with digital viewing increasing at an impressive rate. According to a 2014 Nielsen report,  growth for digital viewing rose 53% for individuals ages 18 to 43 over the past year. In fact, this high growth of digital viewing is even more pronounced for older demographics with an 85.7% rise in 35 to 49 year olds and a 72.7% rise in 50 to 60 year olds. TV, on the other hand, saw a 4.2% average drop in adult screen use during the past year.

It is true this buyout of spectrum will potentially serve as a life preserver for a struggling broadcast station. But it also could, in my opinion, prematurely rule out any further advancement that may have otherwise utilized that spectrum (potential 4k and 3D capabilities being one).

As Wheeler described it, the spectrum auction is “a once in a lifetime, risk free opportunity to expand your business model on someone else’s dime.” But what if that business model requires that same spectrum to advance forward? To prematurely classify the auction as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that would leave our wireless future in the fate of one obscure auction with a commodity is so abstract and unpredictable, should come across as frightening to broadcasters. It’s just too early to call.

TV wastelandIt is true this is not for me to decide. It’s for the each owner of spectrum to decide, given their unique circumstances. As a consumer and an academic observer I am highly interested in seeing potential expansion of broadcasting well beyond its conventional boundaries. I just hope that broadcasters retain an open mind in regards to the possibilities of “broadcasting” in the future, whatever that may look like. They need to find the courage to innovate, or they may perish.

Aaron Sprengeler

Low Budget, Pro Look: How to make your Media Look Professional

How can I spend a little, but get a lot?

That is the question for thousands of filmmakers at the 2015 National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas. And it is an ongoing question for college students and young filmmakers across the country.

While we saw plenty of professional grade cameras and equipment from companies like RED and ARRI, we took a deeper look into what “prosumer” technology has to offer.

CameraBrand new equipment at the Show this year included Canon’s XC10, a small professional grade camera that is similar to the Panasonic Lumix GH4 and the Sony A7s. All of these cameras are under $2500 and will shoot in stunning 4K resolution.

By creating simpler, less expensive cameras these businesses open their target audience up to a new and younger market. These cameras also work with professional editing software such as Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Avid.

Another big topic in the film and videography world this year was the proliferation of drones. Aerial technology is sweeping the country, making it easy and relatively cheap to attach a lightweight camera, such as a GoPro, and send it into the sky for a perfect high-in-the-sky shot.

So how do you make a low budget movie look professional?

With affordable equipment and creativity, anything is possible. By going the extra mile, by putting in the time, and by obtaining the necessary resources, you can slowly gain experience and work your way up the ladder.

-Austin Hansen