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The leader finds his station in the heat of competition

Michael Doyle says he can’t judge the radio industry by what people tell him at cocktail parties.

Doyle, who was named regional president of Entercom Communications Corp. this month, has heard it all over the years. When the iPod came out in 2001, Doyle’s fellow partygoers proclaimed it the death of the radio industry. When satellite radio and Internet radio began to take off, he heard the same thing.

Still, traditional radio, which is the centerpiece of a company like Entercom, has persevered. And Doyle has played a major part in that.

Doyle, 54, has spent 27 years in the radio industry. Prior to being named regional president, he was the Northeast region’s vice president. Prior to that, he was vice president and market manager of Entercom Rochester.

In his new role, Doyle will continue to oversee a Northeast market that has more than 40 stations in markets including Rochester, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Memphis, Gainesville, Fla., Wichita, Kan., and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He also will help oversee Entercom’s corporate initiatives in training, marketing and social media.

Doyle could be just the man for the job. Since joining Entercom in 2000, he has made Entercom’s Northeast region into one of the company’s best-performing markets.

Much of that growth has been in Rochester, where Doyle says Entercom has some 65 full-time employees. Over the past two years, Rochester has been Entercom’s best-performing market in year-over-year revenue growth, he says. Rochester is responsible for more than 40 percent of the Northeast region’s overall revenue.

Entercom owns five stations in Rochester, including WPXY-FM 97.9, WBEE-FM 92.5 and WCMF-FM 96.5.

Susan Munn, vice president and general manager for Entercom Rochester, says it is Doyle’s leadership that has set the tone for success in the market.

"Michael is a truly inspiring boss and leader," she says. "He is fully engaged in all that he does and has a quick wit that leaves most people smiling while agreeing with his point of view.

"He knows what a well-run organization looks like, and his mission is to get every Entercom market to live up to the standards of his vision."

Career start

For all his success in the industry, Doyle’s first try at radio did not pan out.

A native of Saratoga Springs, Doyle says he was drawn to the entertainment industry when he was growing up. He attended the SUNY College at Brockport with the hopes of becoming a radio DJ.

While in college, Doyle worked as a DJ at the campus radio station and did some on-air work for local stations. However, things stalled there.

"It just didn’t click for me," recalls Doyle. "I found myself amusing, but I’m not sure any listeners saw me as amusing."

After graduating in 1980, Doyle took a job as a manager in a Kmart shoe department. From there, he went on to work in marketing and advertising at New York City-based Globe Communications LLC.

Doyle spent two and a half years at Globe Communications before deciding he wanted to try radio again.

"I’ve always loved the ability to reach out and communicate to people," Doyle says. "I love what we do in the radio business. I realized that I could get back into it, this time through sales."

Doyle got his first full-time job in radio doing marketing and sales at WGY-AM 810 in Schenectady. From there he worked in general and sales management for a few other companies, including Heritage Media and New City Communications Inc.

In 1997, Doyle became general manager for Pilot Communications, which owned a cluster of radio stations in Syracuse. In 2000, Las Vegas-based Citadel Broadcasting Corp. acquired Pilot’s radio stations and Doyle was presented with two options.

At the time, he had been offered a job as vice president and general manager with Entercom Rochester. Doyle says Citadel also offered him a promotion. He chose Rochester.

Entercom had just moved into the Rochester market in 1998, acquiring WBEE-FM, WQRV-FM, WBBF-FM and WEZO-AM from Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.

While WBEE had a strong market presence, the other three stations were lagging, Still, Doyle saw potential.

"I thought the stations in Rochester were great and that there was room to grow," he says. "I had an opportunity to re-energize the place and show the employees what Entercom as a company was capable of."

The plan for Doyle and Entercom was to build on the success of WBEE. In late 2000, the company launched WBZA-FM 98.9, "The Buzz."

Entercom continued to build in Rochester over the next several years. In August 2006, the company agreed to buy 15 radio stations from CBS Corp., including four in Rochester. The deal included WCMF-FM 96.5, WPXY-FM 97.9, WRMM-FM 101.3 and WZNE-FM 94.1.

Before the deal, Entercom already had a lineup of four stations: WBEE and WBZA, along with WFKL-FM 93.3 and WROC-AM 950. Entercom went on to sell WZNE, WRMM and WFKL to Stephens Media Group to meet FCC requirements for the number of stations it could have.

"It’s been quite an evolution," Doyle says. "Over time we’ve broadened our approach to expand our reach in this market. The goal has been to create great media for people to listen to and a brand to build a culture around."

 According to Arbitron Quarterly Reports, Entercom is the only radio company to have two stations-WBEE and WPXY-routinely rank in the top-five overall radio stations in the market during the past two years. The rankings are based on the number of people above age 11 who listen during an average quarter-hour.

Competition grows

However, Doyle says, the days when Entercom had to worry only about other traditional radio competitors such as Clear Channel Radio and Stephens Media are gone.

"This is a much harder business than it was 25 years ago," he says. "Now, in order for us to win, our brands must not be able to be replaced by what a listener can do on their iPod or mobile phone. You also have to figure out what makes them choose you over Pandora and a thousand other radio stations you can stream on the Internet."

Doyle says the increased competition only drives him more. When satellite radio hit the scene in 2002, Doyle was proud that Entercom’s revenues continued to grow in Rochester.

"There’s always a new shiny object," he says. "The new shiny object back then was satellite radio. Anybody who’s smart about what they do recognizes new challenges. The time people spend with radio is down a little bit over the last decade, but it still reaches more than 90 percent of the people in America each week."

In late 2011, Clear Channel Radio announced plans to scale back its local talent at radio stations around the country in favor of syndicated shows and a heavier focus on its Internet radio platform, called iHeartRadio. The move has led to high-profile layoffs at Clear Channel Radio stations in Rochester.

However, while Entercom also has cut costs, the company has held onto most of its on-air talent, especially in Rochester.

"The brands we have in Rochester, which are driven by local personalities, continue to engage local listeners, who then engage our advertisers," Doyle says.

Upon completion of recently announced acquisitions, the publicly traded Entercom will be the fourth-largest radio company in the United States. It will own or operate 96 stations in 17 markets.

Doyle says he is more excited now about the radio industry than he has ever been. That excitement keeps him glued to his work, no matter where he is. He says he travels 30 weeks a year, visiting stations both in and outside the Northeast region, speaking with employees.

"Michael has the unique ability to challenge his people to greatness and at the same time make them feel special achieving it," says Greg Ried, vice president and general manager for Entercom Buffalo. "He leads by example, in the trenches side by side with his employees."

Doyle, who lives in Penfield, says he still makes time for his family. He enjoys downtime with his wife of 30 years, Victoria, his son, Patrick, who lives and works in Rochester, and his daughter, Bridget, a senior in high school.

Doyle’s passion for radio comes second only to his family. He says after more than 25 years, he is still driven by the industry’s competitive nature.

"I love a competitive environment," he says. "In a world where there are a lot of competitors, I want to prove that we can continue to win and get the best results for our advertisers."

Michael Doyle
Position: Regional president, Entercom Communications Corp.
Age: 54
Education: B.S., communications and media studies, SUNY College at Brockport, 1980
Family: Wife Victoria; son Patrick, 24; daughter Bridget, 17
Residence: Penfield
Activities: Spending time with family, golf
Quote: "As long as we give people a reason to come back to our product, there’s not going to be a problem. It’s all about the engagement level and how your content stands out."

rbj@rbj.net / 585-546-8303

9/28/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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