By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Wednesday, March 9, 2016
I’ve been covering radio in this market for nearly 15 years, enough time to see dozens of radio personalities come and go. I was digging through a drawer today packed with “American Idol”-related magazine covers and found an Atlanta magazine cover story from 11 years ago about the radio scene here.
Amusingly, the cover story is about the Bert Show on Q100. They had been on air for four years at that point but were gaining listeners and buzz. The headline says it all: “True Confessions! Love Triangles! First Sex Fridays! The Bert Show: Yep, it’s tacky. But we can’t stop listening.”
I recall the show laughing on air about being called tacky. The writer Candace Dyer (who still writes for Atlanta magazine) wrote that “if Oprah, Survivor and The Bachelor ever held an orgy, someone might give birth to Bert.”
Contextually, 11 years is a looong time in radio land. And Bert Weiss built one of the most successful morning shows in Atlanta radio history over that time. His show was the upstart that stole the thunder of Steve & Vikki on Star 94.
Now in 2016, roles have reversed. Bert is now the standard bearer on Q100, the equivalent of what Steve & Vikki was in the early 2000s with the ratings to show for it. He’s typically top 1 or 2 among 18 to 34 year olds and 25 to 54 year olds. What’s different now is Bert is being challenged not by newcomers from outside the market but his old buddies on this magazine cover.
Melissa Carter now steals away some of his listeners on B98.5 while Jeff Dauler and Jenn Hobby began last week on Star 94.1. (Yes, it’s now Star 94.1. All new!)
The story opens with Candice eavesdropping on the show.
Jeff in a text recalls saying in the first few paragraphs that producer Tracey Peluso would never marry Scott Kinney. He mused that he was dead wrong. Tracey and Scott now have two kids.
He is described by the writer (in an alliterative mood) as “the crass but cuddly curmudgeon.” That hasn’t changed though he seems a little cuddlier on Star.
Jenn Hobby, in a text, recalls hating the shirt she wore. (“What was I thinking?” she typed.)
Over the past 11 years, the Bert Show has changed not just personnel but content to a degree. No more crank calls. No more War of the Roses. A lot fewer celebrity interviews. But still a laser focus on relationship talk.
In the 2005 story, Weiss said, “I made it clear from the beginning that this would be an open forum involving very private aspects of our lives.” Over the years, he has talked about his drinking issues, his issues with his father and last year’s divorce – thought he doesn’t dwell on his relationship with Stacey since the initial announcement to protect his kids. Even he has his limits.
The intimacy he fostered with his team made them each mini-stars in their own right in town. They built brand name value that allowed them to move on from Bert and find homes elsewhere on the dial.
Ironically, in the 2005 story, Hobby said, “Maybe we should all say the things we’d say to each other if we were quitting and this really were our last day on the radio.”
She got the chance to do so seven years later voluntarily leaving the Bert Show before moving to sister station Kicks 101.5. A year earlier, Carter (called the “voice of reason”) got to say goodbye on air as well with no real intention of going back to radio (but she did anyway.)
Dauler’s departure in November was a bit more abrupt, hastened a bit by me checking on a rumor of him leaving. That meant he didn’t get to say goodbye on the air.
The radio environment has shifted since 2005. Listeners are increasingly going to streaming music and podcasting instead of AM/FM radio. What’s left for many radio stations are personalities and their ability to provide unique angles that can’t be heard anywhere else. The best radio personalities feel like family members.
All four on that Atlanta magazine cover have that type of value.
So give kudos to Weiss. It is a bit odd that he is now competing with people he helped make successful. But he can take that both as an honor and a challenge. And don’t expect Weiss to cede a single listener. He’s also a fierce competitor.