R.A.P. Interview: Ronn Lipkin

R.A.P.: Can you recall anyone as big as this guy? Is he compared to anyone you know of?
Ronn: Well, I don't think anyone's really done a national morning show before. I think the last time that was done was by Arthur Godfreid. I don't think anyone's really done anything quite like this. Howard is also a master of self promotion, and let's face it, that's how he got to be big. He's a genius at it. I think he is the biggest one yet.

R.A.P.: And he keeps getting bigger!
Ronn: Yes, and you know what's interesting is that he is really a very nice guy. You just don't get the impression from talking to him that he's got a big ego or anything like that. He is genuinely appreciative of the things that everybody does for him and all the work we do for him. He's our distant co worker really. It's not like he's just some star who drops into town every couple of years. He really appreciates the fact that we're on the team. He's really a very decent guy.

R.A.P.: How do you get Howard Stern to flow promotionally into the other dayparts of the station?
Ronn: There's always the worry that you really fragment the station by being "Howard Stern All Morning" and "Classic Rock All Day," and in a way, it is almost like two stations. It definitely was a challenge to integrate Howard into the rest of the station and the rest of the station into Howard. One way we do it is to use Howard IDs, and mix them into promos with the rest of the jocks. "Hey, this is Howard Stern. Hey, this is Shauna. How ya doing, this is Damien..." and so on. Shauna and Damien are the mid day and afternoon jocks.

I did another thing that illustrates both the "Howard Stern All Morning" and "Classic Rock All Day" positions in one sweeper. I pulled a line out of Howard's show where he says, "Hello Los Angeles, look at this!" Then I did a montage of guitar licks -- famous classic licks -- in rapid fire succession, and I made it sound as though we were in a big concert hall with a huge applause. The kicker was. "97.1 KLSX. Howard Stern All Morning, Classic Rock All Day." I've used various Howard drop-ins on station IDs that run throughout the course of the day, and the research has shown that people perceive us as one big station rather than something fragmented.

R.A.P.: Howard is across the country when he does his show. What are his hours on KLSX? How does all that work out?
Ronn: Howard is on in New York starting at 6 a.m.. We pick him up live at 3 a.m. here, and we carry him live from 3 to 6. We're taping all the while. We leave the show generally untouched, except for time checks and weather. We edit out time checks because they'll never match up, and it would be totally random chance if they did. And, of course, the weather is irrelevant -- not that he does a whole lot of weather.

R.A.P.: So you guys begin editing at four o'clock in the morning after the first hour is done.
Ronn: Yeah. Then at six o'clock, we start rebroadcasting the first hour of the show, and in the meantime, we're taping his last hour. And sometimes Howard runs late. In New York he might be on until eleven or so. Sometimes the show is four and a half hours, sometimes longer.

R.A.P.: Does KLSX run a lot of promos inside Howard's show for other station events?
Ronn: Yes. Since Howard is the highest rated portion of the day, the highest cume, highest average quarter hour, we do a tremendous amount of recycling in Howard. When he breaks, we always run a promo first, whether it is for one of our events or the next jock, or even for Jim Ladd our night jock, or the afternoon show. We use Howard's show as our biggest area of recycling for the rest of the day.

R.A.P.: How are commercials handled in the show? Are there some spots that air "nationally," some "network" Stern spots?
Ronn: Yes, there are some network Stern spots. TDK has been running a great deal. We're having this TDK Challenge we just run as part of the show where he challenges people to determine the difference between CD and TDK -- is it CD, or is it TDK? That's a network spot. I think Snapple Natural Beverages is sort of a network spot. Other things are localized, and they run in our local spot breaks.

R.A.P.: Does Howard voice spots for local clients?
Ronn: Oh, yes. Quite a few, in fact. Let me tell you something very interesting about Stern's spots. Howard does a number of spots for local clients here. We fax him the copy, and we get it back usually within a few days. What's interesting about Howard's spots is that sometimes they'll run two minutes long, and usually, they're screamingly funny. Howard just takes the copy and does one take on it. He may involve somebody there in the studio, and he might belch on it. He'll just go off into dimensions that I've never heard, and even Howard's straight spots are very entertaining. I would say the average Howard Stern spot runs about a minute twenty five, and I don't touch them because I think they're gems.

R.A.P.: I suppose after Howard started broadcasting in Philadelphia, he started formatting the show in New York with a bit more of the format of a network show, complete with local and national spot breaks.
Ronn: Yes, kind of. However, there were times in Philly when Howard would go an hour without breaks, and then he'd do two or three breaks in a row. The person running the board would just have to fly by the seat of his pants and listen for Howard to come back on. It was difficult. But here, we're running it on tape, so we have complete control. It's as clean as can be!

R.A.P.: When the show gets edited at four in the morning, do you actually drop your local spots and promos in at that time, or is that done live during playback?
Ronn: It's done live. We just run the tape, and then we'll actually stop tape. The first thing out of Stern's outcue is the station promo, and then we'll come on with a very brief news and a traffic update. Then we'll go into our spot break which is played live. We don't record the spots onto the reel.

R.A.P.: Are portions of Howard's show edited out to make room for more commercials?
Ronn: We really don't edit anything out of Howard. The only things that get edited out are time and temperature.

R.A.P.: You have probably worked with Howard longer than any other Production Director when you combine your time in Philadelphia with your time there at KLSX. You probably know what it's like to have him as the morning man at your station better than any other production guy.
Ronn: Yeah, now that you say that, I think so. It has been a long and very rewarding relationship. I started listening to Stern back in 1982 when he was on WNBC doing afternoons in New York, and I just thought he was the wildest thing I'd ever heard. I just never imagined I'd end up working with him, albeit distantly. Howard has brought these fantastic ratings to both YSP and now KLSX, and he's really been a very integral part of my career. If nothing else, he makes me laugh hysterically. He has extremely sharp and fast wit. Basically, he can say just about anything, he can just start talking and I'm already laughing. I'm an addict.

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