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Scott Rheinhold Learned to Make Himself Indispensable

Rheinhold co-hosts Morning Xtra with Tug Cowart on Atlanta’s only Conservative News and Talk Station XTRA 106.3 FM.  

Jim Cryns

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There are tons of nicknames out there. You’ve got Stan’ The Man’ Musial, Ed’ Too Tall’ Jones, and Earvin’ Magic’ Johnson. We can add Scott ‘Rhino’ Rheinhold into that mix. Scott Rheinhold is also known as The Terminator, but more on that later.

When he was eight years old, Rheinhold’s father gave him a Care Bear microphone, which they attached to an FM radio.

“My first guest was probably my little brother,” Rheinhold said. “I was doing play-by-play for a Jets and Giants football game. I didn’t have many friends, just kind of kept to myself. I had one best friend, and we hung out at the radio station all the time.”

Rheinhold said Rhino is a nickname he used throughout his time in sports but admits it’s a horrible conservative talk show name.

“RINO means something totally different in politics,” he said. “But I’ve kept it because I really am a Republican in name only because I am a conservative.”

Rheinhold has been in the Atlanta radio market for over 25 years. He started his radio career in New York at 95.5 WPLJ as an intern.

“When I was interning at WPLJ, I knew radio was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

An admitted Family Ties Alex P. Keaton devotee since he was 13, Rheinhold said it was politics first and sports second. Probably a good call as he was 5’4” and quickly recognized any thoughts about playing hockey at a higher level weren’t in the cards. 

“I wanted to do play-by-play for the New York Rangers.” 

He was all set to join the Army and go to Fort Benning, Georgia, to train. A week before his ship date, they discontinued the program he had intended to pursue.

“My family had already moved down to the Atlanta area. I went to community college and was looking for some way to get back into radio. Some kind of shortcut. I ended up at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting.”

He grew tired of the left-leaning ideology in New York and yearned for what he perceived was a different attitude in the south. 

Rheinhold moved to Atlanta in 1994 and finished school, and accepted a job in 1996 as a producer and production director at 790 The Zone in Atlanta. Two years later, he became the promotions director at WSTR Star 94 in Atlanta. 

It was Rheinhold’s goal to learn everything he could about radio, making him indispensable to the station and perhaps avoid being in the sights when it was time for firings. 

“I’ve never been fired from a station,” he said proudly. “If I could do everything, somebody before me would probably get the ax.”

Rheinhold said that was his figurative blackmail. Did you need someone to do production? Look no further. Do you say you need someone to host a show? I’m your guy.

“They called me the terminator. (Told you.) When I left a station, then came back, other employees somewhat jokingly said, ‘Whose job are you going to take?’ I didn’t particularly like that.”

Rheinhold wasn’t about to apologize for being valuable. He said he’s very loyal and did what was asked of him. 

Next up, a job with Dickey Broadcasting as they launched 680 The Fan. He was a producer, reporter, sports update guy, and personality working on The Buck and Kincade Show.

“Throughout my career, David Dickey has helped guide me,” Rheinhold explained. “I wanted to be the best at what I do, and he felt the same way.”

Rheinhold said program director Matt Edgar is also someone who has had his back. 

“Matt always told me to keep going, do what I had been doing. When the pandemic hit, he would call me and say he knew things were difficult and the station needed me back. He’s the kind of guy I always looked up to.”

Yet another influence on Rheinhold was Mike Thompson. He was someone that pushed him to the next level and someone he respected. 

“I was lucky to meet him. He encouraged me to make things funny, weird. Mike knew I understood radio. I was doing a sports update. I attempted a Mike Tyson impersonation. I could barely get through the rest of the segment because I was laughing so hard.”

Rheinhold said Thompson not only understood what he was doing, Thompson told him to do more. He said Thompson knew what was entertaining. The audience would forget whether the Braves won a game, but they wouldn’t forget the Tyson impression.

When he was a kid, Rheinhold had the chance to meet an idol. 

“I just had to get Donald Trump to sign my copy of The Art of the Deal. I was a big fan of his back then. So, I saved my lunch money to go to a benefit dinner. I was wearing a pink tie to stand out, and he noticed and commented on the tie. 

He said he wants to run into Trump again and might wear his pink tie. 

“I’ve covered Trump at a lot of events. He has a different dynamic. I think he was a fantastic president but not a great orator. He’s also clearly a narcissist. He is always jumping off the page. I think that’s unfortunate because his policies were sound.”

Rheinhold said he thinks the January 6th Commission is distracting us from things that are really going on, kitchen table topics. 

“It’s purely done to keep people away from voting for Trump again. They tried to get Marjorie Taylor Greene and failed.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican. Rheinhold said if your goal is to shut anyone down, you will push the political agenda. 

“It goes both ways. If Republicans win the midterms, I promise they’ll hold special committees to call out Dr. Fauci, both Bidens, Afghanistan, Chuck Schumer and blame them for the ills of the world. It’s just how it’s done.”

Rheinhold co-hosts Morning Xtra with Tug Cowart on Atlanta’s only Conservative News and Talk Station XTRA 106.3 FM.  

“Tug is an amazing guy. Very faithful friend. I consider him one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. Exemplary as a father, and it’s great to have him in my corner. Sometimes on the radio, hosts will seem friendly and appear to get along. They’re laughing and seem like best friends. Off the air, it’s different. With Tug, we really do laugh, talk, and share ideas.”

Rheinhold said it’s the same way with David Dickey, and that’s why he won’t leave. 

“We flipped to conservative talk last year,” he said. “While working in sports, Carlos Medina, Tug, and myself were in the corner of the lunchroom talking politics very quietly. We called it the bullpen. And this went on for a while. We didn’t want to do it in front of other people because an unwritten rule is you never talk politics in a public setting. You must have respect for others. We’d talk about taxes, Obama, whatever.”

At one point, they decided sports wasn’t working. David Dickey is a more conservative owner and felt the market needed a new voice. WSB was their biggest competitor and went after them.

Dickey knew he had a lot of the right people in place. During the pandemic, Rheinhold started a YouTube channel and always talked about politics. 

“On the air, I shared how the women in my house would go through the toilet paper. So, I collected the empty rolls and hot-glued them together to make a crown. I wasn’t Hannity; I was just having fun.”

All he’s wanted to do is live a happy life. At this point, he’s not overly concerned about what he says. 

“I still deliver my points in an honest and funny way. If it’s controversial or not, I don’t care.”

Influences outside of radio included George Bush for a while. “The family changed, so I dumped them.”

Reagan was number one for Rheinhold. “He’s my George Washington. Reagan changed everything, especially the way we look at the economy.”

According to Rheinhold, the Atlanta audience is predominantly conservative, not necessarily Trump conservatives. 

“I’m sure Trump thinks the establishment Republicans are taking over. The very thing he intended to stop. He’s attacked because he’s an outsider. Does he bring some of it on himself? Sure he does.”

He said Trump would go into a meeting with Kim Jong-un, shake his hand, but warn him he’d destroy him if need be.

“Some were afraid Trump was a warmonger. I don’t care if he rode a horse shirtless every day with Putin; he kept Russia at bay. Trump let it be known he would destroy them if he had to. Trump is a narcissist, but you almost needed him to be.” 

That he is.

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BNM Writers

Market Still Finding 2023 Footing

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

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While it’s hard to imagine 2023 being as painful for investors as 2022, experts still cannot say for certain we are destined for blue skies ahead. Many in the media are starting the year by sifting through the stock market tea leaves; trying to figure out what historical data can tell us about probabilities and expectations for the next twelve months.

Some think the United States is poised for a market rebound, while others remain quite bearish, feeling that negative policy implications have yet to be fully realized.

Peter Tuchman of Trademas Inc. joined Neil Cavuto on his Fox News program Friday, to offer his thoughts about where the American stock market might be headed in light of the newly-divided United States Congress.

“Markets have a sort of a gut of their own,” Cavuto opened. “Today’s a good example. We’re up 300 points, ended up down 112 points. What’s going on?”

“Markets don’t like unknowns, and markets need confidence. The investing community needs confidence,” Tuchman said. “And I think it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild that. And as we saw the other night with what went on in the House, it feels like people should get busy governing as opposed to all this posturing.”

Six months ago, Tuchman didn’t have a solid feel for the direction of the market. And just two trading weeks into the year, he still doesn’t believe any real trend has been established.

“The market has yet to find its ground. It’s yet to find its footing,” Tuchman told Cavuto. “And still, even coming into 2023, the first week of trading we have not found our footing. We have come in on a couple of economic notes that were a little bit positive. We opened up with a little bit of irrational enthusiasm. By the end of the days we were trading down.”

Meanwhile, some financial outlets, such as CNBC, have dug into the data showing what a market rise during the year’s first week – such as what we experienced this year – potentially means for the rest of 2023. They published a story last week with the headline, Simple ‘first five days’ stock market indicator is poised to send a good omen for 2023“.

On an episode of his popular YouTube program late last week, James from Invest Answers dug into 73 years of stock market data, to test that theory and see if the first five days of yearly stock market performance are an indicator of what the market might do over the full year.

“Some analysts pay attention to this, the first five trading day performance, can it be an indicator of a good year or a bad year,” James began last week, “I wanted to dig into all of that and get the answer for myself. Because some people think yes. Some people swear blind by it. Some people think it’s a myth or an old wive’s tale. Some people think it’s a great omen.”

After some rigorous data analysis, the thoughtful, numbers-based host was able to formulate some potential conclusions.

Based on James’ analysis…

If the gains from the first five market days of the year are negative, the market rises 86 percent of the time over the full year, with an average gain of 6%.

If the first five days are positive, the market increases 92% of the time, with an average yearly gain of 16%.

Most importantly, in this year’s scenario, where the first five days saw a jump of more than 1%, the market traditionally ends positive for the year 95 percent of the time. Those years see an average yearly gain of 18%.

“Is it a good omen, does it look bullish?” James asked. “Well, yes, based on history. But remember, there are factors like inflation, interest rates, geopolitical turmoil, supply chains, slowing economy. All that stuff is in play. But history also says that the market bounces bounces back before the market even realizes it’s in a recession. That’s an important thing to know.”

On his Your World program, Cavuto wondered if the recent House speaker voting drama has added to the uncertainty facing markets.

“Historically, Wall Street definitely is a bit more friendly to a Republican administration,” Tuchman said. “We’re in new ground, there’s no playbook, Neil. And I went over it with you the last time. There’s no playbook for coming out of a pandemic. No playbook for what’s gone on over the last two and a half years. Let’s think about it. March 2020, the market sold off so radically. We had a rally of 20 percent in 2020. 28 percent in 2021, in the eyes of a global economic shutdown due to the Federal Reserve’s posturing and whatnot.

“And now we’re trying to unwind that position. In tech, and in possible recession, and inflation and supply chain issues. So, there’s no way historically to make a judgment on what the future looks like in that realm, let alone what’s going on in the dis-functionality of what’s happening in Washington. I would like to disengage what’s going on in Washington and try and rebuild the confidence in the market coming into 2023.” 

So while the data might indicate a strong year ahead, the fact is that many analysts still won’t make that definitive call amidst such economic turmoil gripping the country. 

Along with U.S. markets, they remain steadfast in their search for solid footing.

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BNM Writers

Does Radio Need A Video Star?

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

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Last week numerous stories about using video with broadcasting or audio podcasting became a hot topic of discussion.

A Morning Consult poll found that 32% of Americans prefer podcasts with video, compared with 26% who like just audio better. Among podcast listeners, 46% said they favor them with video, compared with 42% who said they would rather listen without video. It’s worth noting that these are podcast listeners, not radio listeners.

Video has become the latest trend in audio. Almost everybody is trying to do some form of video. Many shows already stream online. A few others simulcast on a television or cable channel. It seems nobody believes in pure audio anymore. It’s a wonder everybody didn’t go into television instead of radio.

Before everybody else starts adding webcams in the studio, it’s worth weighing the reasons to move ahead versus slowing down.

The first person to realize they could use video of their show may have been Howard Stern. In June 1994, Stern started a daily half-hour show on E! network, featuring video highlights from his radio show. Stern added slick production values and faster pacing on the E! show.

Don Imus started simulcasting on cable during the same month. It’s possible others that I’m not aware of started earlier.

Stern’s E! show made sense. It answered the most common questions people asked about the show, in addition to what’s he really like; the first questions people usually asked were: 1) Are the women really as good-looking as he says? 2) Do they really take their clothes off? The E! show answered those questions. In addition, it gave a backstage glimpse of the show.

The same month Stern’s E! Show began, Imus began simulcasting his show on cable networks. I would have feared losing ratings. In fact, Imus’ program director did!

I spoke to my long-time friend and colleague Mark Chernoff (Current Managing Director of Mark Chernoff Talent and on-air talent 107.1 The Boss on the NJ Shore, Former Senior VP WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, VP Sports Programming CBS Radio) about the impact simulcasting Imus’ show had on WFAN. Chernoff may have the broadest range of experiences with simulcasting radio programs with video. 

Imus began on CSPAN but shortly afterward moved to MSNBC. Chernoff told me: “When we started simulcasting Imus, I suggested we’d lose about 15% of our radio audience to TV, which we did.” Chernoff added that there was a significant revenue contribution and that the company was content with the trade-off.

WFAN had a different experience simulcasting Mike and the Mad Dog on YES in 2002. “In this case, TV was helpful, and we increased listenership,” said Chernoff. WFAN also benefited financially from this simulcast.

Imus was on in morning drive while Mike & the Mad Dog were on in the afternoon. Keep the era in mind, too. Before smartphones and high-speed streaming, it was not uncommon for people to have televisions in the bed or bathrooms and have the tv on instead of the radio as they got ready for their day. In the afternoon, fewer people would have had video access in that era.

Ratings measurement moved to Portable People Meter (PPM) by the time WFAN started streaming middays on its website. Chernoff reported streaming had no ratings or revenue impact – positive or negative – on middays. However, the company did provide an additional dedicated person to produce the video stream.

The early forays into video by pioneers such as Stern, Imus, and Mike & the Mad Dog are instructive.

There are good reasons to video stream shows. Revenue is a good reason.

If there’s revenue attached, the debate is over. If there isn’t a deal on the table, and there aren’t already orders to monetize a video stream, it’s likely coming soon.

Another good reason is if the video can answer questions about the show, as the E! show did for Howard Stern.

On the other hand, audio companies are going to throw a lot of money at video, based on the notion that it’s what they “should” do because:

  • It’s the latest trend. Being late on this trend is different from missing the Internet or Podcasting. Industries already revolve around video; television and film come to mind.
  • Podcast listeners like it (by a slight plurality).

Before turning on webcams, see what viewers will see. The studios at many stations I’ve worked at were better not seen. Considerations include; the set, lighting, wardrobe, visuals, and a plan.

Too many video streams of studios feature the fire extinguisher prominently in the shot or the air personalities milling about during terminally long breaks.

Before going live, watch the video with no audio. Is it interesting? Compelling? Does the video draw you in, or is it dull?

With program directors now spread so thin handling multiple stations, a dedicated person to oversee streaming should be a requirement for stations streaming shows.

Other considerations:

  • How could this help us, and how could it hurt us?
  • How does the video enhance the show?
  • Will personalities do their radio show or perform for the cameras?
  • What production values are you able to add to the video?
  • What happens during those seven- eight-minute breaks if it’s a live radio show (vs. a podcast)? What will people streaming video see and hear? Does everybody on the show get along?

Do you have revenue attached? What do you expect will happen to the ratings?

WFAN earned significant revenue for two. Therefore, the company wasn’t concerned when the ratings took a hit for the first one and were surprised when they helped the second one. They didn’t see any impact on ratings or revenue the third time.

After all the budget cuts and workforce reductions over the past decade-plus, before audio companies invest in video, shouldn’t we get: people, marketing, promotion, or research monies back first?

Most of us decided to get into radio (or podcasting) instead of television or film. There’s a reason they said, “video killed the radio star.”

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BNM Writers

Streaming Platforms Cannot Be Forgotten By News/Talk Program Directors

BNM’s Pete Mundo writes that if you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations and what comes through the streaming platforms.

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If you’re a News/Talk program director, you run two radio stations. Didn’t you know that? Oh. Well, you do. 

I’m not just referring to our over-the-air broadcast but also what comes through our streaming platforms. Alexa, Google Home, apps, computers, etc., are all streaming platforms of our radio stations, which for most of us, are airing different commercial inventory than what is coming through the radio.

I understand none of us are unnecessarily looking to add to our plate, but our streaming platforms are the way we are getting more people to use our product. So neglecting, or forgetting about it, is a bad business decision, especially in the talk space. 

Across all clusters, talk radio is far more likely to have high streaming use when it comes to total listening hours. Listeners are more loyal to our personalities and often can’t get the AM dial in their office buildings during the day, or even if they can, they don’t want to hear our voices through static, so they pull up the stream. 

It’s never been easier to listen to talk radio stations, thanks to our station apps and websites (although welcoming some sites to the 21st century would be a good idea). So, given the challenges many of us face on the AM band, why not push our audience to the stream and make sure the stream sounds just as good as the over-the-air product?

The tricky part in putting together a quality stream sound is trying to balance what ads are programmatic, which ones are sold locally, where is the unfilled inventory and what is filling that gap?

And unlike your over-the-air product, where you can go into a studio, see what’s coming up, and move inventory around, that technology is not available in most cases. So yes, it’s a guessing game.

But as the talk climate continues to change, the best thing we can do to build our brand and trust with the next generation of talk radio listeners is to find them and engage them where they are, which may not always be next to a physical radio. That will be on a stream. How do I know that? Because if they have a smartphone, they have (access to) the stream.

Of course, the over-the-air product remains the massive revenue generator for our stations, as in most cases, the streaming revenue is not close to comparable. But then, if we look years down the road, that will likely start to change. 

To what degree? That’s unknown. But double-digit growth on an annual basis should not be out of the question when it comes to stream listening. It should be a very achievable goal, especially in our format. So our listeners who are P1’s, love the station and want to consume as much of the content as they can, can be on the AirPods in the gym, desk at work, or in their home office and listen to our radio stations. 

Heck, with Alexa and Google Home, they don’t even have to turn a dial! They just speak. So if they’re there, let’s keep them there.

There are simply too many media options today to lose our listeners due to sloppy streaming quality that makes us sound like a college radio station. Instead, listeners, who find us there should be rewarded with a listening experience that is just as high-quality as what they would get on the AM or FM band.

And if we play our cards right, it will be better, serving the industry incredibly well through a new generation of listeners.

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