Connect with us
BNM Summit

BNM Writers

Julia Ziegler Is Guiding One of Radio’s Crown Jewels, WTOP

Ziegler began her radio career at WTOP in 2003 and has held many roles within the company during that time.

Avatar photo

Published

on

Julia Ziegler could charm a charging Jaguar to stop in its tracks. Or in her case, a Nittany Lion.

As a former student at Penn State and a current season ticket holder, Ziegler said it’s an all-day affair. “I have to wake up early. I have a friend who has a house near the stadium,” Ziegler said. “We get up at 4 or 5, then drive up on game day, stay the night after the game. I’m a big fan of 3:30 kicks.” 

Ziegler said her obsession with football was in full swing in college. “When I was in school, I was one of those people camping out and waiting in line to get good seats.” 

Apparently, each year in school, you progressed to better seating. The freshman got the tunnel, and upperclassmen got the 50-yard line, the first couple of rows. “I spent many nights out in the freezing cold with my friends to get good seats. It was a lot of fun. Great memories of Penn State moments.” 

Ziegler recalls a Nittany Lion experience that has stayed with her all these years. On September 23, 2000, while playing in only the fifth game of his college career, Adam Taliaferro sustained a career-ending spinal cord injury while tackling tailback Jerry Westbrooks during Penn State’s game versus Ohio State. The game was being held in Columbus. It was parents’ weekend at Penn State, so Ziegler and her friends had gathered to watch the game. 

“Even though it was on television, we watched him get carted off the field,” Ziegler said. “It was his sophomore year, and I was a freshman.” Taliaferro would beat the odds. A year later, he walked back on the field at Beaver Stadium for Penn State’s game against Miami. 

“We were sitting in the tunnel for that game. It was so emotional.”

She grew up in a Penn State family. 

“I had a lot of relatives who went to Penn State, including my grandparents. My mom really wanted me to go to Penn State. It was a great school, and it also meant cheaper in-state tuition.” As a defiant teen, she says she didn’t want to go for those reasons. She had also been accepted to NYU, Boston University, and Syracuse.

It was an official tour to Penn State that sold her. “It was that visit that made me want to come here. I remember telling my mom it wasn’t because she told me to, but because I really wanted to go. I’m so glad I did. It made me who I am today.”

“Penn State is a huge football school, so that was icing on the cake when I decided to go there,” Ziegler explained. “Just the feeling of being in that stadium. The most we’ve ever had is 111,000 people. I have been there for some of the loudest games. Everything reverberates.”

Ziegler had one of those cutouts they used to fill the seats at games during Covid. A big photo of herself. “They allowed you to buy it after the season. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get that.’ We decided to hang it up in my office and face it toward the newsroom. With our glass office walls, you can see it when you walk by my office. Cracks me up all the time.” 

She began her radio career at WTOP in 2003 and has held many roles within the company during that time, including managing editor of WTOP.com’s sister station, FederalNewsRadio.com, for seven years. 

In 2019, Ziegler was named WTOP’s Director of News and Programming. From 2015 to 2019, she served as WTOP’s Digital News Director. Ziegler was also part of the WTOP team that created and produced the award-winning true-crime podcast, 22 Hours: An American Nightmare. 

“A few years back, two of my reporters were covering the trial of a man accused of killing a family and their housekeeper in the family’s home. The story had many twists and turns – not all of which could fit into our headline news format on the radio. The reporters asked if they could do more with the story. So, I told them to start recording every conversation they were having about the trial. After the trial, we decided a podcast would allow us to tell the story of this tragedy in the most complete way it had ever been told. That was important to us. We didn’t want to retell it and potentially open wounds for the family if we couldn’t offer new information. When the podcast launched, it took off like crazy. Ended up hitting number 2 on the Apple charts. Number 1 among their crime podcasts.” 

Ziegler said you just don’t know what is going to take off when it comes to podcasts. A viral tweet can send it to a higher trajectory. There are podcasts that land somewhere in the middle. It can take years for one of them to grow. You’ve also got to determine the revenue side if you can sell ads. 

In 2022, WTOP launched its latest podcast venture, DMV Download. Think the local, D.C. version of The Daily from the New York Times or Up First from NPR. Two WTOP staffers now host that show.

“We like the idea of having two hosts on our podcasts for a couple of reasons,” Ziegler said. “We have that built-in backup if one goes on vacation or gets sick. The other aspect of two hosts is there is more of an on-air dynamic. Conversations. You want to have that camaraderie. We’re in that startup phase right now. Seeing where it will all go.”

As a kid, Ziegler said she was ‘normal.’ She was on the cheerleading squad and also played Lacrosse. “I took school seriously; I was always a busy kid. I also had a job in high school.” Ziegler said she worked her way through high school and college under the Golden Arches. 

“There is some statistic that talks about the large number of successful people who have worked at McDonald’s,” Ziegler said. “I think every person in the world should be forced to work for a while in a restaurant or service industry. The number one thing I learned there is customer service. Good customer service is so important. I learned a lot about how I operate from my time at McDonald’s. How to multitask, how to think ahead.”

Ziegler doesn’t appear to put on heirs. “You roll the way you roll. I just try to be me and be authentic,” she said. “I am genuinely happy. I feel lucky. I love my job. The people I work with. This is not an easy business and I think it helps if you love what you do. But Covid has been rough for everyone. Doesn’t matter if you’ve worked here for 50 years or a few weeks, it has been hard.”

Ziegler said she’s always enjoyed working at WTOP, and I believe her. “From the top down, it’s a great place to work. Mission driven work. All after the same goal. We enjoy each other’s company. Cool place to work. Top down. Not blowing smoke.”

She credits Penn State Professor John Sanchez for a lot of her success. Sanchez still teaches at Penn State. When he worked at American University, just down the block from WTOP, he would send interns to work at the station. 

“My internship was the summer before my senior year,” Ziegler said. “I kept in touch with the managers in the newsroom and as graduation was approaching, I asked if they needed any help.”

They told Ziegler they had some freelance work available. It wouldn’t pay much, and there were crazy hours involved. “I said, ‘when can I start?” She knew the power of a station like WTOP. “I got my foot in the door and worked my ass off. I trusted the process, and I loved what I was doing.”

“Jim Farley came to me and asked if I wanted to help start a new station,” Ziegler said. 

Ziegler answered in a manner consistent with her nature. “Sure! Why not?”

Washington Post Radio was a short-lived attempt by Bonneville Broadcasting and The Washington Post to create a commercial long-form all-news radio network in the style of National Public Radio.

“It lasted about two years,” Ziegler said. “I was producing. When the partnership ended with the Post, we kept it a talk station for another year. When that ended, Jim Farley told me since I’d gone on that journey with him, I’d always have a place at WTOP.”

But, for multiple reasons, Ziegler’s journey next took her to Federal News Radio, where she produced and oversaw the website for the next seven years. 

With Washington Post Radio, Ziegler said it was fascinating to be just 24-years-old, and on the ground floor of a startup. It was an expensive venture. “Ultimately, we didn’t get the ratings we’d hoped for. I appreciate that Bonneville was willing to try something different. Hubbard is that way too. They’re not afraid to try new things.” 

Even early in her career, Ziegler was never really on-air. “I’ve never been an anchor,” Ziegler said. “As a reporter, I dabbled here and there. It’s funny; almost every journalist out of school wants to do on-air work. After I started at WTOP and realized what went on behind the scenes, I was hooked.” 

Ziegler said if you asked her mother, she’d tell you she always knew her daughter was going to be a journalist or a writer in some way. “I loved the English classes much more than math and science. I worked on the high school newspaper, the college newspaper. Oddly, I didn’t work for our radio station in college.”

The Ziegler family was always interested in news. “My parents, for as long as I can remember, read the newspaper every single day. It was part of their morning routine. A few years back, they told me they had canceled their subscription to their local paper. I was so upset when they decided to do that. I couldn’t stand it. I told them they had to have a newspaper in their house. I got them a subscription to the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Because of the number of years she’s worked at WTOP, Ziegler knows the place inside and out, which she says helped when the pandemic hit just three months into her tenure as Director of News and Programming in 2020. 

“I’ve worked for this organization; I’ve seen how everything works operationally. I know where the bodies are buried. Going into the pandemic was obviously uncharted territory, but I felt like my operational strengths really helped during that time. We had to train some of the anchors to work from home, get them equipment. Thank god for our technical team.”

During Covid, she recalls thinking, ‘how do we operate a newsroom when we don’t have a newsroom? To facilitate internal communications, they set up an open conference line. Everyone working from home called into the line each day. In the newsroom, another conference phone sat on the producer’s desk. 

The producer dialed into this every day as well, which allowed those working from home to hear the conversations going on in the newsroom just as if they were there. In a way, it was a newsroom. Anybody could chime in at any time with a question or answer. 

“I was proud of the product we put out,” Ziegler said. 

From covering Covid to the racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and January 6, Ziegler says it’s been a tough few years. 

“It was like running a marathon within a marathon every day. You passed off the baton every few hours to sleep. I couldn’t be prouder of the team. What we were able to accomplish.” 

While reporters and the web team were asked to work from home during the pandemic, that was not an option for everyone in the newsroom. Producers and associate producers had to work from the office. 

“Some of our anchors worked from home too, but others never left the building,” Ziegler said. “The thought of working from home and trying to produce a great broadcast. There was a lot of anxiety with that. Everybody’s journey has been unique. We respect that, and we have tried to meet them where they are.”

“When I go back and listen to some of those broadcasts, I tell my staff how incredible our coverage actually was. I’d say, “Damn, that was good.’ We got the news out quickly, succinctly. We helped people. That’s our mission every day; to help people.”

While most employees have returned to the WTOP offices, Ziegler said the pandemic has taught WTOP some good lessons about working from home. In the past, if someone had a contractor or delivery coming to the house, they might have to take off work for the entire day. But that’s not the case anymore. Most employees are now set up to work from home if and when the need arises.  

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

BNM Writers

How WTOP Consistently Became Radio’s Top Revenue Generator

“You can’t just go in there and present. You have to go in and have a good conversation … and uncover what their needs and where you can help.”

Garrett Searight

Published

on

Last week, BIA Advisory Services revealed the top 10 radio revenue-generating stations for 2023. In what has become as expected as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West, Hubbard Radio’s WTOP was once again the top earning station for the year.

The projections claim WTOP earned $66.3 million in revenue for the year, which is nearly $25 million more than second-place KIIS-FM in Los Angeles. It was the ninth consecutive year the Hubbard Radio all-news brand took home the top spot, and the 13th time in the last 14 years it held first place.

It would be easy to question just what the secret formula is that leads the brand to the mountain top each and every year, but WTOP Senior Vice President and General Manager Joel Oxley believes it’s a relatively simple formula.

“We’re out there trying to work out marketing solutions and find marketing solutions for clients. We do everything we can to make sure to get things that work for them,” said Oxley.
“And whether that be WTOP just on the radio, or digital, or any number of different types of events, or more sponsorable things, we want to move the needle for them. So we’ve been concentrating on results for a very long time and working with clients to do that.”

That pure, unadulterated commitment to providing solutions for their advertising partners requires the brand to be early adopters of emerging platforms.

“We have to be extremely innovative to get in front of them. Most of the clients have heard it all,” continued Oxley. “You can’t just go in there and present. You have to go in and have a good conversation with them and try to uncover what their needs are and where you can help. Sometimes there’s not a good fit, but most of the time — with all the assets that we have, meaning digital, radio, and online, our websites — there’s a lot of different answers that we can come up with that will hopefully move the needle for somebody.”

A cynic could quickly dismiss the brand’s near-constant success as simply receiving millions in agency buys as a byproduct of being one of the top-rated stations in the eighth-largest media market in the country.

But that isn’t the case with WTOP.

“We’re now over 70% direct,” revealed Oxley. “While we always want to work with agencies and love working with agencies, that situation has just changed over the years. There’s not the amount of avails that there used to be, so we’ve had to go out and be very creative and work really hard and make sure to do the numbers.

“You got to prospect well, and then you’ve got to make a lot of outreaches. Then you’ve got to get a ton of appointments to hopefully get to the proposal stage to where you can close something. And then you’d have to make sure you deliver results because we’re dealing with people or CMOs and marketing directors and business owners who need to make sure that they’re getting results. That’s what we’ve concentrated on for decades here. We just keep after it.”

Despite being mostly focused on direct sales, WTOP — and sister station Federal News Network — also benefit from being in the nation’s capital, especially from federal contract advertisers interested in reaching employees of the federal government.

“That is something that we’ve worked really hard at,” Oxley said of the company’s relationships with the different advertising audience that many stations don’t have. “The combination of WTOP and the Federal News Network is a real good one.”

Oxley was quick to praise the station’s Director of Sales, Matt Mills, for his role in leading the station to be radio’s top-billing station year after year. He credited the consistency of working together for nearly 25 years as a driving factor in the continued revenue success.

And while the brand is focused on serving advertisers, that doesn’t mean that Oxley or Director of News and Programming Julia Ziegler lose sight of the fact that they also need to remain focused on serving Washington D.C. news consumers, too.

“It’s definitely a fine line to walk and we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure that out,” admitted Oxley. “But one of the things we’ve realized over time is that we’ve actually had to go and do fewer minutes of advertising over time. We’ve just had to because, when you look at the broader landscape well beyond radio, you got to understand that there’s an awful lot of media out there that has a lot less advertising. And we’ve got to make sure that we’re at least somewhat competitive with the other media out there.”

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Bill O’Reilly Hasn’t Stopped Calling Out Media Deception

Whether on the cable television airwaves or in his current form, Bill O’Reilly continues to fight back against the spin that has persisted since the dawn of the media.

Rick Schultz

Published

on

A photo of Bill O'Reilly

Bill O’Reilly has never had much use for the typical liberal spin put forth by much of the media. And just because he now podcasts independently, rather than on Fox News, doesn’t mean he has changed his approach.

Late last week on his YouTube channel, O’Reilly illuminated viewers about some of the latest media dishonesty. 

“The late-night comedians, the three of them, are a good example of this, of what’s happening,” O’Reilly said. “So most Americans are catching on. The news industry and the entertainment industry, on television, is corrupt. Not honest.”

Bill O’Reilly began with pop culture comedians and how they don’t seem to have as much influence in popular culture as they used to. 

“So The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the week of April 29th, averaged 1.4 million people. More people watch me,” O’Reilly pointed out. “Late Show, Colbert, 2.3 million. Kimmel 1.6 million. Those are minuscule numbers when you think about Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman, those people. So nobody watches them. In fact, Fallon is down 33 percent in five years. Colbert is down 23 percent. Kimmel is down 2 percent, because Kimmel never had any audience anyway.”

During his heyday while ruling cable news at Fox, Bill O’Reilly would regularly appear on television programs from both sides, especially when promoting a new book from his Killing series. These days, he says, Americans care far less about what late-night jokesters think about issues of the day.

“Now, why this is happening is because the late-night guys will only do Progressive, liberal comedy and guests. They won’t book…I can’t get on any of those shows. Even though I was on Leno and Letterman all the time.  And on Kimmel too. But not now. It’s all left-wing,” O’Reilly explained. “Here’s what happened last night on Colbert.”

The program then cut to a clip of liberal commentator and former Biden spokeswoman, Jen Psaki. 

“I think what we’re looking at now is some significant stakes for the country about the future of our democracy,” Psaki told Colbert. “I don’t think that anyone should be hiding from that, or talking around that. So, I don’t try to be anyone other than who I am and I don’t try to do anything other than present what my point of view is in an informed way. I do it with facts.”

“I have dubbed her the Queen of Disinformation,” O’Reilly countered. “But in Jen Psaki’s mind, everything she says is fact-based. Everything. Because that’s what she wants to believe. Now, would Jen Psaki report that Biden misled the entire world by saying that inflation was nine percent when he took office? No. No, wouldn’t mention it. So when she says I base everything on fact, no you don’t. You don’t report what you don’t want to report.”

With the media, choosing what not to report plays a big part in manipulating an audience. And when they do cover a story, they can tailor an angle that supports their liberal worldview. 

For example, last week an NFL player made “news” with an uplifting, traditional, pro-God commencement speech at a Catholic university. The media headlines read, “Americans voice protesting opinions on NFL player’s controversial speech.” 

From reading that headline alone, one would automatically have a default view that there was something wrong with the content of the speech. 

In fact, counter to the media narrative, much of the country – if not most  – agreed with the content of the speech. Why not run the headline, “Americans celebrate NFL players’ courageous, uplifting and truthful speech.”

As O’Reilly has pointed out for decades, the media consistently tilts their material, in addition to picking and choosing which stories to present that help them make their case. He continued to criticize Biden’s former spokeswoman.

“Anything that would make Biden look bad, you’re going to ignore it totally. And she’s on MSNBC, if you don’t know. I don’t know how anybody would know because nobody watches MSNBC,” O’Reilly said. “When you add it all up, you see what’s happening with late-night, morning programming, the news agencies that run the nightly news broadcasts. When you see it all, it’s gone. And so Americans are adrift. They don’t have anywhere to get the information.”

Before concluding the segment, O’Reilly shared another example from last week, where the media told a story that fit their narrative without providing proper context and truthfulness. 

“So on Tuesday, Indiana had a primary. Inside the primary, Trump got 78 percent of the vote. Nikki Haley 22%. So that’s a pretty big number for Nikki Haley because she’s out of the race, right?” O’Reilly asked, facetiously. “Well here’s what the left-wing press said.”

He then played three clips.

“Nikki Haley, who’s been out of the race for two months, got 125,000 votes and 21 percent of the vote,” MSNBC’s Willie Geist reported. 

“Nikki Haley, someone who’s no longer actually running, taking a substantial share of the votes. But still, what you’re seeing in Indiana is a large number. 22 percent,” NBC’s Sr. National Political Correspondent, Jon Allen, said. 

“Haley actually delivering a warning sign for the former president in last night’s Republican primary in Indiana. While Trump did win, former candidate Nikki Haley grabbed 22 percent of the vote, even though she dropped out of the race in March,” the anchor said on ABC News.

“All of those people are lying to you. All of them,” O’Reilly said. “So that was MSNBC and ABC News. They’re all lying. Why were they lying? How are they lying? It was an open primary. Anybody could vote for anybody. Nikki Haley got 22 percent of the vote because Democrats crossed over to vote for her, just like New Hampshire. Remember New Hampshire?”

In other words, the media was lending a helping hand to liberals intent on shaping a narrative by manipulating their audience.

“Democrats wanted to embarrass Trump so they voted for Nikki Haley. Because Biden was a lock and they were instructed to do that. Why didn’t NBC News report that? And how about ABC News? Why didn’t you report that? No, no, it looks bad for Trump. Nikki Haley got 22 percent, sends a message. Totally bogus,” O’Reilly concluded.

Whether on the cable television airwaves or in his current form, Bill O’Reilly continues to fight back against the spin that has persisted since the dawn of the media.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading

BNM Writers

Are The Days of Longform News Content a Thing of the Past?

It’s never been more important to get it right the first time in content, delivery and expediency.

Bill Zito

Published

on

A photo of a newspaper printing press

As usually is the case at any given time, there are several significant news stories that move along, often progressing day by day as the outlets work to keep up and turn them around for their audiences.

If you think about it, real-life events are presented almost like our current or past streaming series, The Crown, Bridgerton, Breaking Bad, or maybe The Sopranos, etc. The only real difference is we, the followers, are not allowed to binge-watch at our own desired speed. Chapters and episodes come only daily, even when what’s happening is changing minute by minute.

At present, tops on the watch lists include the Trump trial, the death of Iran’s President, and for some of you whose priorities are severely out of whack, Diddy’s apology. No matter what the community finds important, chances are they feel they are not getting enough information from their chosen news platforms on their specific stories of interest.

Radio and social media follow similar pathways, as they both lead their respective audiences to the information. The common key here is brevity. Leads and introductions are minimized and content overall shrinks to its smallest discernible size and time constraints.

Why?

The likely answer is simple. The content length is dwindling because the attention span of the current and future, targeted gallery member has as well. This is not a surprise, at least it shouldn’t be for anyone charged with tracking these things. That is not to say that that the target audiences are any less engaged or comprehend any less than the other members of society, not at all.

If anything, the targeted news consumer of the future, who are largely younger, tend to be a bit quicker, a little sharper on the uptake, and, most importantly, they know what they like and they are not going to wait around for the product to get better or to lead them where they want to go.

In other words, it’s never been more important to get it right the first time in content, delivery and expediency. That’s why more news events find themselves on Tik Tok, Instagram, or any one of the other social media go-to spots with which I possibly am unfamiliar.

Not everyone in radio gets this but some seem to be getting the message.

Okay, that’s a look at radio’s efforts but what are the other broadcast players doing to bring enough to the story table?

One brief live shot from Gaza, The Capitol, or New York followed by the overgrown panel of Cable Analysts does not qualify as extended TV coverage or storytelling. As I’ve more than inferred over time, these overblown panel presentations read more and look more like an episode of The Real Housewives of Who Cares, after one of them sits down to brunch with the others after having some work done.

But that’s mostly cable’s problem as they have hour-long shows to fill so they need unscripted time killers because like everybody else in the business, money is tight and spending resources on longer story segments, freelance crews in far away places and the overall cost of digging deeper into a story doesn’t seem to be a sensible use of the budget.

So where does the audience go for the longer form coverage? The network website? The print outlet’s paywall? How about the local TV station and their eight hours of news each day?

Nope.

You’re waiting for the answer, right? Well, I don’t know, either.

Actually, I’m guessing those who really care and who are genuinely interested in what’s going on are going everywhere. It may begin with the morning shows as they get ready for work, followed by news in the car or the paper on the train (Yes, a few still do that), leading to their phones and laptops during the day and reversing it all on the way home. Maybe that’s what’s happening.

If that is the case, they are taking a good chunk of their own time each day to do it. And while that might be good as they are technically spreading that wealth that is they, the audience around, it’s also not good for the news platforms because somebody always comes up short and winds up without a chair when the music stops.

Solution?

Everybody has to do a better job because nobody is answering polls, surveys, or focus groups saying “I get enough news from Platform A or Outlet B.”

Filling time with a diluted product gets the news station, network or tabloid to only one certain location:

Nowhere.

We just don’t know how long it will take to get there.

Subscribe To The BNM Rundown

The Top 8 News Media Stories of the Day, sent directly to your inbox every afternoon!

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Advertisement Will Cain
Advertisement

Upcoming Events

BNM Writers

Copyright © 2024 Barrett Media.