The BLC Interview
In September of 2010, John
Landsberg of Kansas City website bottomlinecom.com, which features a lot
of information on KC media and media people, published an interview with
George Woods to talk about his radio career and how he carved out a niche
of his own in an industry that it seems is shrinking more and more. Here's
the text of that interview.
GEORGE WOODS: RADIO SUCCESS,
INTERNET RADIO SUCCESS
You may not recognize him if
you met him in person, but without a doubt Kansas Citians would recognize
the familiar voice of
former radio talker George Woods if they heard it again.
After years as a
successful radio host in Omaha and several other cities, Woods came to KCMO in 2002 and was the
station's morning talk show host for three years. He moved on to St.
Louis, but soon realized he was in a no-win situation
and realized he was tired of moving at the whim of station managers.
After analyzing the radio
business and where it was headed, Woods created Radio George in 2008, where
listeners can go to
his Internet site and listen to their favorite music. Within five months
his venture was profitable and today is growing by leaps and
We sat down and talked to him
about his career and the success of Radio George.
YOU INITIALLY WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR?
I went to a state university in New York planning on becoming the world’s
next greatest actor. But I wandered into the college
radio station one day and “sort of never left.” My decision to turn from
the stage to the mike was finalized in my sophomore year,
when I landed my first professional radio job, at WDOS, the local
1000-watt AM daytimer in the upstate mountain town of Oneonta, NY.
AND THAT STARTED YOUR RADIO CAREER?
Yes. That first job in radio then took me to Charleston, SC, Charlotte,
NC, Erie, PA, Omaha, NE, KC and St. Louis, MO. In the
70’s and 80’s, it seemed that if you were in Top 40, you stayed in Top 40;
if you worked at a country station, you would only seek
work in the same format. I was either very talented or very lucky, since I
was able to move between formats with ease, without being branded as a
particular single format personality.
YOU SPENT CONSIDERABLE TIME IN OMAHA
I went to WOW-AM in Omaha, where I was hired as the morning host when
Wichita-based Great Empire Broadcasting bought
the station and changed formats from AC to country. My previous station
was an oldies-formatted one.
Eight years later, I was lured away to crosstown rival KFAB-AM to become
the station’s first full-time talk show host as its new
owner Henry Broadcasting phased out the MOR programming that had been on
the air there for decades.
I later joined KKAR-AM, Omaha’s second news-talk station, where I became a
“fill-in guy” who was on the air almost full time. It
was one of the strangest and most fun times I’ve had in radio.
TALK ABOUT YOUR TIME IN KANSAS CITY
I came to Kansas City in early 2002 when I was hired to do mornings on
KCMO. Shortly after a top-level management change
there in 2005, I found myself “on the beach” for awhile.
In 2006, I went to KTRS in St. Louis to host yet another morning talk
DID YOU JUMP INTO A BAD SITUATION IN ST. LOUIS?
Yes, but I took the job realizing that the station’s track record for
personnel both on and off the air was not very good, and had no
illusions about it. I was the 19th of 20 new hires made by Program
Director Al Brady Law. When he was canned 7 months after I
started, I knew that my days were numbered. I was also the 19th of Al’s 20
hires to be fired in February of 2007—4 days before my mother died. Not a
YOU THEN RETURNED TO KC?
I moved back to my house in Lenexa (which I had rented out “just in case”)
and realized that I had grown a little tired of moving
around the country to accommodate my profession. After pondering how I
could stay active in broadcasting without having to
move—no small proposition—I decided to do an analysis of Kansas City
WHAT DID YOU FIND?
I very quickly saw two format holes in the market, smooth jazz and “real”
oldies (“real oldies” being defined as oldies from
1955-1975). With ten years of Internet website experience, I decided to
launch Radio George, a collection of online stations
specializing primarily in those formats.
WAS RADIO GEORGE AN INSTANT SUCCESS?
Not really. To make the Internet stations especially attractive, I put
together a business plan relying on display advertising and
newsletter sponsorship and wanted to bypass traditional radio commercials.
The music was provided by three services, who
provided the music at no charge in return for the privilege of selling CDs
or downloads on Radio George.
WERE YOU SUCCESSFUL?
I would say I had a "less-than-enthusiastic" response locally. I then
bought a series of Google ads keying on “smooth jazz” and
“oldies” and geo-targeted to Missouri, Kansas, and the KC Metro area. The
results were the same.
SO, YOUR KC FOCUS FAILED?
Yes, but then something totally unexpected happened: fans online in the
world outside Kansas City found out about Radio
George. To my astonishment, at the end of the month-long ad campaign, the
stats for Radio George showed listeners in over 2,500 cities in more than
TALK ABOUT RADIO GEORGE TODAY
Radio George launched officially in February of 2008, became profitable 5
months later, and continues to grow today. In July of
this year, Radio George became a licensee of ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and Sound
Exchange, enabling me to assume total control
over all music on all channels, as well as making it available for
purchase through Amazon.com as downloads, CDs and in many
cases, even vinyl LPs—with Radio George getting the revenue instead of a
WHAT AUDIENCE ARE YOU TARGETING WITH RADIO
I'm not afraid to admit my primary audience is baby boomers. They are the
fastest-growing and largest consumer group in the
county that no other stations really want to target.
TALK ABOUT TRADITIONAL RADIO VS. INTERNET RADIO
One of my favorite things about Radio George is that across 30 channels of
smooth jazz and 37 channels of Real Oldies, no
songs are repeated across channels. This is by design, utilizing over
2,600 different pieces of music.
In traditional radio, this would be impossible. But on the Internet, it’s
a whole different game.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF RADIO GEORGE?
People can listen to exactly what they want when they want it on Radio
George, without having to download anything, anywhere.
BE HONEST, DO YOU MISS TALK RADIO?
Not really. Understand that I’m a RADIO guy first and foremost. I love the
business and maybe that’s why I’ve been successful in
multiple formats. Now I get to call all the shots without having to
contend with an office staff, a sales department, or outside
ownership/management. I must confess that after more than 30 years of
getting up between 2:30-3:00 a.m. to start my day, I enjoy sleeping until
8 or even 9 nowadays.”
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER GOING BACK ON THE AIR?
For some reason, I’ve been asked that a lot lately, and the answer is
"maybe," leaning toward "yes." Thanks to my broad
background, I'm pretty sure I could determine quickly whether or not a
station and I would be well-suited for one another. That's the key to a
great-sounding, comfortable, and profitable show for both parties.
Because I can perform all necessary functions for Radio George anywhere via the Internet, I've
had the chance to travel extensively with my wife—something I never
had the chance to do more than a few days at a time for most of my life.
That has been great.
WHAT WAS YOUR BEST MOMENT ON THE AIR?
Although the KTRS experience in St. Louis was a big loser overall, the
station arranged for me to broadcast my show on the fifth
commemoration of 9/11 live from New York, in a location overlooking Ground
Zero. My guests included policemen, firemen, and
other first responders. I was very pleased to be able to talk with these
guests and honor that day with a live broadcast from there.
It was compelling and unique.
YOUR WORST ON-AIR MOMENT?
Interviewing ABC's Ted Koppel one morning, who seemed very uncomfortable
to the point that I asked him if something was bothering him. He said that
he really didn’t want to be doing the interview because he felt it wasn’t
a good use of his time, and that the only reason he was doing it was
because ABC News was making him do it! I was caught very off guard, did
not have much talk experience at the time, and sort of stumbled through
another 3 or 4 minutes to fill up the segment, feeling like a real fool.
WHAT'S YOUR FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF RADIO
I’ll keep on doing this until it stops being fun, or until whatever future
developments in technology render it (and me) obsolete. I’m
planning to introduce a bunch of specialty stations, including the ‘Class
Of…’ series—like the Class of 1969---with the top 50 songs of that year,
suitable for use by any graduating class in the country for reunion
get-togethers or whatever. I also have some others in mind, but you’ll
have to tune in to find out about them.