I’ve had the good fortune to work with many insightful, talented people in my career. Having Don kelley as my PD when I did mornings on Boston’s Magic 106.7 is a prime example. He was a great boss then and he’s a great friend still.”

-Tom Bergeron, Host, “Dancing with the Stars.”  


“Don Kelley is a dedicated and smart broadcaster who programmed our radio station in Boston to incredible ratings year in and year out.  He knows how to win and would be an asset to anyone looking for improvement in their facility.”

-Matt Mills, former VP/GM, Greater Media Boston 


“Congratulations on your 20th Anniversary at WMJX. One of the best choices we ever made.”

-Frank Kabela, former President, Greater Media, Inc.


“Don is the most knowledgable, intuitive and well-researched broadcaster I have ever met. He’s a wonderful manager and the success of Magic 106.7 is all due to his attention to detail and dedication to the product.”

-Amanda Giles, “Morning Magic” Talent, Magic 106.7 Boston

About Don Kelley

Don Kelley is a veteran of over 40 years in radio as a Programmer and Consultant, specializing in helping stations win the coveted 25-54 demo.  As a programmer, Don has hit #1 25-54 in fifty-five Arbitron Books, in both PPM and Diary methodology.

Don has programmed numerous markets including Boston (22 years at Magic 106.7-a market record), Baltimore (the original PD of Mix 106.5, the very first Mix station, Philadelphia (Mix 95.7), Syracuse (Y94 FM, with the largest share of any AC in the country), and West Palm Beach, and consulted in Washington DC, Detroit, Philadelphia and several other markets.  He was won a Grammy Award, a “Station of the Year” Marconi Award, been named to the Radio Ink  “Top 10 Best Programmers in America” and was twice chosen as Billboard’s “PD of the Week.”   He also won a CBS Boston “Most Valuable Blogger” award.

He has worked for Greater Media, Capitol Broadcasting Co., NewCity Communications, Katz Broadcasting, Sconnix Broadcasting and Westinghouse Broacasting, and worked with many prominent research companies including Coleman Insights, The Research Group, Jacobs Media, Joint Communications, SBR Creative, Bob Harper’s Company, Cornerstone Research, Research Director, Inc., Critical Mass Media, Broadcast Architecture, Mark Ramsey Mercury Media, Janis Kaye and Custom Audience Consultants.

How to Sort a Music Test

This should be simple.  Just play the songs in the order in which they tested, right?

That theory might work well in a format like Classic Rock or Classic Hits where you play one type of music from a finite era.  Your top ten testing songs should also be your ten most played.  Maybe.

Not so fast with AC.  An AC station that has market tenure and a strong brand may very well be playing songs from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and whatever this decade is called.  Everyone from Louis Armstrong to Demi Lovato with Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi and Hootie in between.  When listeners vote for songs in an auditorium test they’re not asked whether they want to hear a particular song on their favorite AC station, they’re just asked whether they like it a lot, a little or not that much. And if they’ve ever heard it before.

The next step is where science meets art.  The successful interpretation of these numbers.  Some researchers and consultants use a formula in which you add up the “Like a Lot” and “Like Some” votes and call that “Total Positives.” Then subtract the negative and unfamiliar votes and rank the songs. That’s the science part.  Easy.

How often, though, is the easy way the best way?  Let’s look at the art part.  If you take the process a few steps further and think about what the votes really mean to a listener, you see that the difference between “Like Some” (“Yeah, I guess it’s okay”) and “Dislike Some” (“Meh, not all that much”) is like the difference between 2 and 3 on a scale of 1 to 4.  Not a passionate difference.  If instead, you ignore the non-passionate votes and just look at the 4’s and 1’s…the “I Love it” and “I hate it” votes…you get a much clearer picture of audience reaction in the PPM era of split-second button pushing. Look at the spread on each song between the 4 votes and the 1 votes.  That’s the percentage of listeners who would crank the station compared to the number who would blow it off if that song played.

Then there’s another step.  The fit.  Tastes change from year to year, and artists and songs that you would never have dreamed of playing on an AC four years ago can have some of the top-testing songs today.  The most important factor in the “fit” test is that the person who is making the final decision on what gets played and what doesn’t is not the out-of-town corporate person or consultant, but the person in the market, on site, who has the sound of the station in his or her brain.  That would be the Program Director.

How to Maximize Ratings in a Diary Market

A traditional Arbitron Diary

In Diary markets Arbitron selects panelists to keep a Diary for one week (Thursday through Wednesday), and make notations as to which stations they hear, where they are listening (home, work, car, some other place) and the time they started and stopped listening to each station. The panel is zero-based every week and respondents are paid on average two dollars for their participation.  Studies have shown that panelists overwhelmingly do not carry the Diary with them all day, but fill it out when they get home in the evening.  This actually makes it a recall survey, and panelists can be inaccurate when it comes to station name, correct frequency, etc.  There is no penalty or forfeiture of the two dollars for incorrect entries.

The job of the Programmer is not simply to get people to listen, but to listen multiple times within a week, to remember that they listened, to write down their listening in the Diary, and to write it down correctly.

The best way to do that is to realize that listeners don’t actually matter.  Only Diarykeepers matter.  Obviously you don’t know which listeners are Diarykeepers, but you can develop a better understanding of the types of listeners who are most likely to say, “Yes” when contacted by Arbitron.  What motivates them?  Where are they when they listen to you?  How do they write you down?  Is there any pattern of a consistent entry mistake that costs you ratings?  Are you their P-1 station?  When your listeners have the radio on but are listening to some other station, which one is it?  Any pattern to this by daypart?  What do they write on the Comment page?

The more you know, the better equipped you are to Maximize your ratings.  Ratings Results can provide you with a full Diary Review that can answer many of these questions and put you on the right track.

The Two Hour Interview

The best way to smoke out a real winner when you’re interviewing someone for a job? Make it a two-hour interview.

Three hours is even better, and it’s worth the investment of time.  Let’s presume you’re only interviewing your short list.  Almost any reasonable candidate can ace a fifteen-minute interview filled with “What would friends say is your biggest flaw?” or “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” or “Who is on your personal Mount Rushmore?” questions.

You can tell within a couple of minutes if a person is wrong for you or your radio station, but drawing out the interview for a couple of hours is a great way to find out whether you actually like the person enough to work with them for the next ten or twenty years.  After the first 15 minutes I get into chat time.  Exchange experiences, stories about high school and college, earlier jobs, whatever.  Get the person off their Career Center rehearsed responses and find out what they’re really like.

Here’s a great example: This past February, a woman named Gay Vernon, who was my News Director of over 20 years resigned.  At her going-away party she announced to all present that back in 1991 I had interviewed her for at least two hours and all we did is talk about baseball, and at the end I said, “So, do you want the job?”  Big laughs from everyone.  And I got up and said, “That’s true, but look at the results.” She was an excellent News Director, morning show Talent and co-host of our award-winning program “Exceptional Women” for over two decades.  The interview wasn’t quite the way she described it, but she had the gist.  Why did we spend that time discussing baseball?  Because I’m a big baseball fan and she mentioned that her Dad, Mickey Vernon, was a four-decade Major League ballplayer. Two-time American League batting champion who played for the Washington Senators for many years and spent a couple of seasons playing 1st base for the Red Sox.  I remember seeing him play when I was a kid.  What came out of the long baseball discussion?  It was very clear that Gay Vernon was talented, professional, spoke well of past employers – even those who had not treated her well – and was an interesting and enjoyable person to be around.  So I hired her.  And it was a great call.

Had I only spent 15 minute asking her rote questions, I might have hired her anyway, but I might not have.  Had I not, I would have in effect taken a called third strike.  But I did.  She was a great hire, and I wound up hitting one out of the park.  Those two hours were time well spent.