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Focal Press Updates “Keith’s Radio Station”

Classic textbook’s ninth edition carries on a rich tradition

Thirty years ago, Michael C. Keith entered a small New England college to start a new career. Keith had spent the past 10 years as a professional broadcaster and was now transitioning into the world of teaching.

The first thing that he would learn was that the textbooks available on the subject at that time were woefully out of date. Radio was now format-driven and there were no textbooks available in 1986 teaching the kind of radio Keith had just left.

So he decided to write his own. He called it simply “The Radio Station” and he pitched his manuscript to Focal Press.

Focal Press immediately embraced Keith’s work and rushed the manuscript into print. “The Radio Station” became the most widely adopted textbook on the subject in its first year. Keith would go on to author seven more editions over three decades, keeping the material fresh and relevant — covering radio’s programming, management, sales and engineering.

In that time, Keith would interview hundreds of radio professionals, from the all-night disk jockey in western Nebraska to the president of ABC Radio, integrating their knowledge and experience into a how-to book about the radio industry. The book has been translated into multiple languages and is used around the world.

Three years ago, Focal Press realized that the textbook again needed updating, given the many changes that had occurred in the radio industry, including the advent of streaming, websites and the Internet.

When the company contacted Michael Keith to author a ninth edition, he felt he was no longer up to speed on the digital influences that had dramatically transformed the medium of radio. With his blessing, Focal Press advertised in the world of academy for new blood to author the next edition. It also decided to rename the ninth edition “Keith’s Radio Station” to keep Keith’s name and legacy part of the next installment of the textbook. It was published in June.

Of the many educators who threw their hat into the ring to be part of authoring the ninth edition, the publisher selected Dr. John Allen Hendricks, professor at Stephen F. Austin University, and Dr. Bruce Mims, professor at Southeast Missouri State University. Hendricks has authored and/or edited eight books. Mims has published in multiple academic and profession publications. Both have worked in public and commercial radio.

However, maybe their most important qualification was their use of Keith’s “The Radio Station” in their classes. Mims has been using “The Radio Station” in his classes for over 25 years. Hendricks said he was 16 when he was exposed to Michael C. Keith’s “The Radio Station” and subsequently adopted the textbook in his radio classes when he became a college professor.

Before entering the world of collegiate education four years ago, I was a professional radio broadcaster for over 40 years. I started as a DJ on weekends and worked my way up to the general manager’s office.

The Telcom Act of 1996 would see dramatic change to the radio ownership landscape as the ownership caps were lifted and a single company could own hundreds of radio stations; Clear Channel would amass more than 1,200 at its largest. Radio clusters would be formed and general managers turned into market managers. I was one of those market managers for Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia), the largest radio company in the United States. I tell you this because the radio people you’ll meet in “Keith’s Radio Station” are ones I know personally; each are the best in their area of expertise.

Inside “Keith’s Radio Station”

Topics listed after each chapter are a sampling of the contents, not a complete list.

Chapter 1: State of the Fifth Estate — includes the HD Radio Revolution, Satellite Radio, Internet Radio and Online Music Services, etc.

Chapter 2: Station Management — includes Managing the Cluster, Manager and the Profit Motive

Chapter 3: Programming — includes Programming a Cluster Operation, Station Websites, Podcasts and Blogs

Chapter 4: Sales — includes Selling With and Without Numbers, Website, HD Radio, New Media Selling

Chapter 5: News — includes The Electronic Newsroom, News Ethics

Chapter 6: Research — includes Qualitative and Quantitative Data, From Paper to Electronic Measurement: The Portable People Meter, the Future of Radio Research

Chapter 7: Promotion — includes Promotions in a Digital Era, Budgeting Promotions, Promotions and the FCC

Chapter 8: Traffic and Billing — includes Traffic in Clusters, the FCC and Traffic

Chapter 9: Production — includes Digital Editing, Voice-Tracking, Computers and Software

Chapter 10: Engineering — includes Satellite and Internet Radio, Digital Audio Broadcasting (HD Radio Technology), The Emergency Alert System, Automation

Chapter 11: Consultants and Syndicators — includes Consultant Services, Consultants Pros and Cons, Program Suppliers, Syndicator Services, Hardware Requirements and Quality

The list of contributors and those quoted in the book includes Mike Dougherty, Gary Berkowitz, Paul McLane, Wayne Pecena, Larry Keene, Dave Scott, Ed Shane, Glenn Halbrooks, Lori Lewis, Warren Kurtzman, Ted Bolton, Ed Cohen, Tim Scheld, Jeff Magram, Andy Ludlum, Holland Cooke, Weezie Kramer, Jason Insalaco, Wolf Korgyn, David Gleason, Rick Ducey, Frank Bell, Peter Stewart, Lorna Ozmon, Mike Janssen, Erica Farber, Paul Fiddick, Dick Oppenheimer, Norman Feuer, Eric Rhoads, Dr. Rob Quicke, Paul Goldstein, Glenda Shrader and Valerie Geller.

Life is full of irony.

One story Michael Keith shared with me was about Lynn Christian, former Century Broadcasting president, senior vice president at both the National Association of Broadcasters and Radio Advertising Bureau, who once employed Keith many years ago in Miami and fired him.

Twenty years later, Keith received a phone call from Christian. He said he wanted Keith to know that he insists that every single person in his organization reads “The Radio Station” when they are hired. Christian said that after 45 years in radio, it was the first time he’d ever seen a book that really embraced what radio is all about.

“There’s never been a college textbook before that truly prepared students to become professional radio broadcasters,” Keith reported that Christian told him. Keith said for him that was “frosting on the cake”— to have created a book as meaningful for the industry as it was for college students studying it.

Over the years, people like top 40 innovator Rick Sklar and AOR/satellite radio pioneer Lee Abrams have written forwards for the “The Radio Station.” Jay Williams Jr. and Ed Shane also made huge contributions to the ninth edition, the authors acknowledged.

Hendricks and Mims maintained the high standard that Michael Keith set by including biographical information on the radio professionals who contributed important sections covered by the textbook.

Focal Press has created a companion website in addition to the textbook. The historical data that used to be included in the previous editions of the textbook has been migrated over to the website so that it can be kept fresh and up to date. Additional professionals have been asked to contribute material for the website; I am one of those professionals sharing my experience in the area of radio sales.

“Keith’s Radio Station” maintains the rich tradition of being a book that both college students as well as radio professionals will keep within close reach as a handy reference.

The ninth edition is 536 pages and retails for $59.95.

Dick Taylor is a Certified Radio & Digital Marketing Consultant and assistant professor of broadcasting at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. He joined the faculty of its School of Journalism and Broadcasting after a 42-year career in radio. He is director of the KBA WKU Radio Talent Institute and remains on the board of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association.