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New KOOL 105 owner Jeff Wilks on cuts, additions to station's staff

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Today's blog "Da Boogieman Turns Down Offer to Return to KOOL 105" tells the tale of the headlined DJ, who says a misunderstanding between him and executives at Georgia-based Wilks Broadcasting, the new owner of KXKL/105.1 FM, aka KOOL 105, led to rumors that he'd soon be returning to the station where he'd garnered the biggest audiences of his long radio career. In addition to responding to assorted comments made by Da Boogieman in that item, Wilks Broadcasting CEO Jeff Wilks provided facts about layoffs at his new Denver properties, revealed in the February 2 blog "Shakeup at KOOL 105, The Mix and the Wolf," and shared info about how he sees the stations developing down the line.

First, the bad news. As documented in posts such as "The Bloodletting Starts at Clear Channel Denver," "Clear Channel Doesn't Want You to Know About Local Layoffs" and "Jack-FM Lays Off Majority of Staff," radio-station employees are being hit hard by the building recession, and KOOL is no exception. Wilks confirms that seven positions were eliminated at KOOL and thirteen people were let go. However, in a much more positive development, eight new employees were hired, with most of them slated for on-air duties.

"We've got live DJs in all of our prime day parts pretty much everywhere," Wilks says. "We're committed to promoting and developing real radio stations, not just radio stations that are consumed as morning personalities and nothing else." For example, he goes on, "We didn't have any midday people or afternoon people on the radio station before -- and now we have a midday person and an afternoon person on all of our stations here, in addition to people in the mornings." Granted, these folks aren't being paid a king's ransom, or even a prince's: Da Boogieman says he turned down a fulltime salary of $25,000 a year -- a number Wilks won't confirm. But he does concede that jocks are receiving considerably less compensation than they did in the not-so-old days.

In Wilks' views, these changes were necessary due to what he sees as the illogical manner in which CBS Radio, previous owner of KOOL, The Mix and The Wolf, had structured the businesses. "It's never fun reorganizing a company," he allows. "But CBS never had the stations set up to be successful from a programming standpoint or a sales standpoint."

For instance, promotion and production at KOOL will now be streamlined in a major way. "One of the elements we do at all of our stations is, our on-air personalities produce commercials for local clients who can't afford to hire advertising agencies to do it," he reveals. "We'll do the commercials for you, and we won't charge you for it. That's a service we offer free of charge. We have a production director who quarterbacks that process. When a salesperson sells an order and needs a commercial, he turns it over to the production director, and he either produces it or farms it out to the jocks, and then it goes on the air." Another efficiency: Instead of putting together station promos and liners in-house, Wilks uses an outside firm based in Kansas City.

In addition, Wilks intends to focus more than ever on the terrestrial radio stations, as opposed to high-tech bells and whistles. For right now, he'll continue to utilize the HD-radio side channels created at great expense by CBS, but he won't stream them on the Web. Instead, streaming will be dedicated to the main signal. To him, this strategy is a way of returning to the verities of radio -- as is putting real people in front of the microphone, as opposed to having a small number of jocks voicetrack virtually every word the station broadcasts.

That doesn't mean Wilks plans to dial the programming back to KOOL's 1950s and early 1960s roots. As pointed out in the January 30 blog "Is KOOL 105's Loss Cruisin' Oldies Gain?," an upstart signal, KRWZ/950-AM, appears to have stolen a sizable chunk of KOOL's listenership due to the latter outlet's increasing focus on '70s and even some '80s fare. But Wilks says those decades will likely be represented on KOOL's airwaves down the line. "We're going to position the station for listeners who are 45-to-65 years old," he says. "So whatever music someone who's between 45 and 65 would like, that's what we'll be playing. You take what they grew up on and extrapolate back to when they were fifteen, sixteen, up to when they were about 21. That's where the focus of the station is going to be.

"I think what we're trying to do in this market has been positively received by everybody," he continues. "Whenever you have any kind of job loss, that's not good. But this had to be fixed -- and I'm not saying it's just because of the economy. We've made virtually no cuts at my company nationwide, and my competition has had to make a lot of cuts -- and I don't damn them for that. These are public companies, and a lot of them are trading at less than a dollar now. At some point, there has to be some fiscal responsibility -- and fiscal responsibility is something I've always believed in. That's the way I've done things since I got into this business in 1992, and that's the way I'm still doing them."

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