The Matt Mittan Show

Cosmic Koolaid Series - Pt 1: Matt Mittan's Take on the Evolution of Broadcasting

October 30, 2023 Cory Short / Matt Mittan
The Matt Mittan Show
Cosmic Koolaid Series - Pt 1: Matt Mittan's Take on the Evolution of Broadcasting
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Host: Cory Short

Have you ever wondered how radio veterans navigate the shifting sands of media opinions and perspectives? Tune in for a dynamic conversation with broadcasting legend, Matt Mittan, as he shares his remarkable journey from a 15-year-old radio enthusiast to hosting the number one rated show, Take a Stand. We delve deep into his career, his transition from print to radio, and how his challenging life experiences have molded him into the purposeful individual he is today.

As we walk down memory lane, Matt and I reflect on our radio experiences and the evolution of the media landscape from traditional to digital. Our frank discussion uncovers our approach to dialogue, shedding light on the importance of functioning as facilitifiers and supporters rather than mere vocalizers of personal views. We express our excitement for the future of broadcasting, underscoring the benefits of maintaining political neutrality and direct audience engagement.

Wrapping up, we explore Matt's innovative approach to community engagement through owning his own show. Through our media lens, we scrutinize the differential metrics of success when being accountable to shareholders versus a local community. We conclude with insights on how media ownership has transformed over the years, the significance of managing diverse opinions and perspectives, and the critical role of community engagement in broadcasting triumph. Perfect for those curious about the inner workings of the radio industry and the rise of digital media, this episode is sure to pique your interest.

Be sure to visit BizRadio.US to discover hundreds more engaging conversations, local events and more.

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Cory Short:

And welcome to Cosmic Kool-Aid. I'm your host, corey Short, and in the booth with me today I got my mentor in this broadcast game, mr Matt Matan. Matt, how are you?

Matt Mittan:

sir, I am thrilled to be here and get some Kool-Aid.

Cory Short:

I gotta say, man, I'm a little bit intimidated to have you here, and if you all don't know I had Looking to see who's behind me. I've been a part of two radio shows in my career and they were both close to 15 to 20 years ago and both were because of this man here in the booth with me. We did the Weekend Report with Matt and Corey, which was a politically it was like community news-oriented yeah. And that was where I got my feet wet. I didn't really know a lot about a lot at the time and I didn't really have a lot to offer the show, and it ended up bowing out to do a sports show at 1350, which you managed at the time and had a lot of fun with that, but had to get back to work making money because that yeah, it was a little small market station there was not a lot of advertising potential out there at the time, or at least I didn't have time to commit to it. But anyway, thank you for giving me that experience. It was a lot of fun.

Matt Mittan:

Yeah Well, we've known each other a long time. I've known you since you first dipped your toes into entrepreneurship as a teenager. So going back a few years and what I saw on you then is the same thing I see in you now. That so many people in our community where you film this know is that your heart's there for the people that you come in contact with. And when it comes down to broadcasting, I've been doing broadcasting since I was 15. I'm in my 50s now, so I've done this a long time and being a servant to people around you and having an open heart, you have the attitude of a student but the spirit of a servant and there's certain people that have that and you have that. And so you know, over all these years and everything you've done and all the entrepreneurial things you've done and media stuff, it's very validating to know that who I saw when you were a teenager is exactly who I see today, with more life experience and more wisdom. But you know that core, that light inside you, is still the same light that I saw those years ago.

Cory Short:

Well, I appreciate those words and just being able to maintain your respect all these years. I'm proud of that. So you know, you've definitely seen many, many incarnations many chapters.

Matt Mittan:

Yeah, both of us. Yeah. The highs, the lows, the losses, the triumphs, all of that, that's the journey of life, yep.

Cory Short:

Absolutely so. So glad to have you here, man. Yeah, I'm glad to be here.

Matt Mittan:

You really do.

Cory Short:

You mean a lot to me. You've had a big impact on me and sure glad to have you here to celebrate this new venture and to talk about all things you got going on as well. So let's dive right in. Let's jump on this first segment. Let's focus on your your career in radio. So you said you were 15. Tell me about how that started for you at 15.

Matt Mittan:

All right. So growing up in the Boston area in the 80s and ESPN on Saturday mornings used to have like a. They had a host that would segue between all their outdoors programming and I've always grown up in outdoors many paddling, fishing, camping, you know all that kind of stuff and and I'd see these guys getting all this free gear and getting to travel all these great places to go fishing. And at like 14 years old I was like I want to do that, I want people to send me free gear, I want to get paid to go fishing. So by the time I was 15, I figured out what I had to do in order to be able to do that. And back then in that timeframe you had to have an FCC license to be a broadcaster, not just to own a station, but to get on a microphone for TV or radio. You had to have your little thing like a driver's license, but it was an FCC license. So I figured out that I could get that from a community college nearby. But my parents had to sign the paperwork to get me in early and I took all the required courses, took my test and and everything else, and then I just started going around shopping for places that would give me a camera and an editing booth, you know, basically, and just convince them of stuff. And we, we shot a pilot episode with me and my friends. It was kind of Wayne's world meets Roland Martin fishing show. It was horrible. It was ridiculously ahead of its time. I'll say that it was a big talk before there was tick talk because it was so stupid.

Cory Short:

Um, you know, but we had can you imagine if we had all these formats?

Matt Mittan:

Oh my gosh, I'm glad because I probably wouldn't have had the sustained career if it had been easily accessible my entire history, If people could have searched it you know either that or you'd be a billionaire, right, or I'd be a billionaire, maybe you know, but it was. It was something where we had the the big um, the quarter inch tapes, you know, not even VHS tapes, but we would run around and we use that to sell to different affiliates. And so at the time it was before there was cable access or anything like that and so there were these channels that every community had that they didn't really have anything to put on them, they were just they were doing bulletin board stuff, you know, or they do town hall meetings and things like that, and I was like I think they might ask me why I wanted to talk about that or whatever. Okay, so I didn't have a certain idea. There's where we can go. You know, they're not going to pay us, but I can get the visibility out there and then I can start building a brand where I can get people to send me free fishing gear. And that's really how it started. And so by the time I was 16, we were on the air and me and my friends had fun doing that until I left for the Air Force, and you know, I never looked back. You know, now looking back, it's like holy smoke. I mean, we had a syndicated TV show as teenagers and I had sponsors like Shimano and Rapala and stuff like that, and I didn't think anything of it because for me it was just I'm just trying to have fun, I just want to get free stuff. What kind of stuff do you guys talk about?

Cory Short:

Oh goodness.

Matt Mittan:

Um, well they were. They were goofy little segments, you know we would go fishing different places and talk about what we're doing, but really it was about it ended up being a really great document of me and my friends in our teen years, you know, um, and it's too bad that the technology isn't there, because the only thing that still exists to this day is the pilot episode, which was transferred onto a VHS just so I'd have it. But we we reuse the quarter inches. You know you'd have your runner that would run around to the different affiliates, pick up the quarter inch tapes from the week before, bring them back to the central studio, dub the new edited episodes on and run them back out. So you have like a three quarter inch tape rotation. And you know, again, we weren't thinking for posterity's sake, we were just a bunch of teenagers having a good time with cameras and microphones and going on location. But, like my favorite segment, though, is every week on the show, I would walk up next to some random person fishing on a bank somewhere. I take one cast as I stand right next to him, catch a fish and be like hey, throw it back in and walk away. Now I had to walk up next to like eight or 10 people a week in order to catch one situation. You know where I actually caught a fish, but that was like one of my favorite segments of every show was walking up next to random people. Of course you have to get them to sign a release afterwards, but I think a key moment for me in my media story was I was walking toward this one guy and he was fishing in a spot that I knew really well and I knew I could catch a fish first cast. I felt really confident about him, like, and I know how to catch a good fish, he's not casting where the fish park here, the bass and everything. And so you know, got one of my friends because I trained all my friends for sound and camera work and everything you can relate to that. You know you've always had your friends close and and so they're. They're off in the tree line getting the stuff. I've got my little wireless mic on. I'm walking down the bank toward the guy and he turns around and he's like, oh hell, no, you're not doing that to me and it was the first time I had ever been recognized as like because of a media thing and there was something in my DNA that went oh I like that, I like that, you know, I like that and you know. Then, after being in the Air Force, just fell right back into media again.

Cory Short:

So other than my years in the Air Force, I've been doing media since I was 14, 15 years old Matt, and Matt start shortly after the.

Matt Mittan:

Air Force Right afterwards. Yeah, that was. It was a M Ashville and then it became the Matt and Matt show. It was a M Ashville with Matt and Matt, but that was like. I think it was October 1996.

Cory Short:

And that was your first professional show.

Matt Mittan:

I don't know if I'd call that a professional show If you mean that eventually, before it, before it all blew up, I made a little bit of money, then yeah, I guess so, but I don't think I. I would say that I didn't have a professional show until I was able to support my family on radio, which wasn't until, you know, the mid 2000s, when I could sustain, you know, paying the mortgage on a nice house and you know, doing all the things we want to do from talking to a microphone.

Cory Short:

It's so funny you say that because we met in like 99 2000. I was on the air with you 2001 ish and at that time you were a radio God and you're saying you really didn't even, it wasn't even pro until 2005. That's just crazy to me because you were a radio god back then.

Matt Mittan:

Well, it's funny, somebody had found an old they were going through some old boxes and a storage unit and some of the newspaper that they had wrapped stuff in. They pulled it out and the local daily paper, front page top fold was a picture of me in a studio and it said long time radio veteran Matt would hand everything, and it was 1999 or 2000 or something like that and I was like whoa, I was young.

Cory Short:

Well, and also at the time you had some other business ventures going on, you were like I was.

Matt Mittan:

Tribune. Well, I was an executive editor for Tribune papers, which at that time was a little bit different than it is now. We had papers in North and South Carolina weekly papers, and so I was overseeing the editorial, executive, editorial function for like five newspapers. And then I left there to start my own newspaper, which was the Valley record, and publish that for, you know, quite a number of years. And so print was really where I made my money, you know, because I was before the Tribune. I was also a manager for the Asheville Citizen Times and I did that job right out of the Air Force. I walked in Virgil Smith was the publisher at the time and I got a temp job doing data entry at the Citizen Times, I mean right fresh out of the military. I didn't know Asheville you know, where I've lived for nearly 30 years now but I knew I loved it and I didn't want to go anywhere else. So I needed to find employment so I could pay rent, you know, and I walked in his office and I basically wouldn't let him, you know, I wouldn't leave until he gave me a job and that was working in management at the Citizen Times and in circulation and stuff. But yeah, so print was, you know, being an editor, a writer, publisher and all that. Radio was always there, but radio wasn't the breadwinner. It wasn't until, you know, I had what you would, you know, say what people perceived as being successful, having high ratings. You know, the content had having great impact, and everything that had to happen for several years consistently, before all of a sudden it translated to income. Yeah, you know and then, then when it when it started to take off it really took off, I mean it I ended up shutting down my other businesses.

Cory Short:

I got out of newsprint and and that's when you had the, so that's when, when things got real, it was with the. The five PM show the draft time after yeah.

Matt Mittan:

So three to six, it was three to seven for a while. There too, for about a year or so, four hours it was too much, five days a week, but yeah, so it was. It was when I did a show called Take a Stand and everything just clicked. Everything clicked and we had about a 10 year run of being the number one rated show in the region for like 10 years straight. I mean beating the big FM's and and all that kind of stuff, and that that was a really magical time, you know, in a lot of ways. But it also was a very difficult time too. There is, I think, the universe balances things out, and the more blessing there is, the more painful roots system there is to it and vice versa. You know, things may be painful and struggling on the public side where you're like, oh, it's really sort of, but at home, maybe so happy, things are going great, you know, and and I think things just kind of balance out that way. So you know it was an amazing ride, but there were also there were a lot of challenges that led to tough life consequences and learning lessons outside of the studio. So yeah, it's, it's a for me. I look back and I say now what an amazing ride. And even the tough stuff that happened, I can see now in hindsight how it really cleared the way for a purpose centered and balanced life that I'm living now, that I couldn't have gotten to if I hadn't gone through the stuff I did.

Cory Short:

Sure you know sure and I can, I can tell you that somebody that's watched your journey, I'll go along. It does seem like you're in a good place a peaceful place in life.

Matt Mittan:

Anybody that goes out with their hair like this. You know they got to be comfortable.

Cory Short:

Absolutely Well. My only looks like this because I keep Jill here in the studio when we came in looking rough myself.

Matt Mittan:

So everybody knows he's had that since he was 18.

Cory Short:

Yeah, my hairstyle hadn't changed my whole life since I was like five really, but yeah, so okay. Well, while we're on the subject of take a stand with Matt Matan, let's uh, let me take this opportunity to call you out on something, sir.

Matt Mittan:

All right.

Cory Short:

I told you it was coming and uh. So you used to be really well known for your, your uh neutral position on things of the last year. It seems you, you might be leaning heavily in a different direction over the last year I didn't think I was leaning in any directions on any four years, we'll say four years.

Matt Mittan:

Okay.

Cory Short:

You, you, you, you seem to have taken more of a liberal approach.

Matt Mittan:

I would say you know, when I was doing, take a stand. One of the things that was a trademark of the show is that everybody was welcome at the table and at one point or another, everybody was pissed off at me. And the way that I approached that and maybe it was the journalistic side, maybe it was the gaslighter in me, I don't know, maybe a mix of the two but if I saw that there was one area or one ideal that wasn't getting a seat at the table, I felt like it was good for dialogue to make sure it did, you know. And so if any one opinion or position or idea got a dominant place in a conversation, I would take on the role of inserting as strong an argument as I could in the other direction. And so it led to things where, you know, at times, you know, I'm being celebrated by people that would identify themselves as conservative and they're inviting me to their events and speak to them, other times threatening boycotts against the station, you know. And the same for people that identified as progressive but like, oh you know, he's a terrible person.

Cory Short:

And at other times you're like here's to you, don Yelton you know.

Matt Mittan:

So it's one of those things where I think I've always been motivated to have voices heard against the current, and I'm comfortable enough in my own skin to even take on arguments that I don't always necessarily agree with, and I looked at it as an opportunity to sharpen arguments.

Cory Short:

It's like yeah, so, and you know I'm not, I'm not judging you, I'm not political, you know I don't know.

Matt Mittan:

But it is funny, though, because when I stepped away from doing because you know now and you know this, I mean I'm running multiple businesses and multiple stations now, so I don't get on air as often, you know I still. I do a weekly countdown show on our music station and my partner, michelle and I have an outdoors travel show that we do that runs a. You know it has a season, you know April to October, and and then, you know, every once in a while I'll talk to a business person that I want to highlight, or or something like that, or if there's an issue where I'm like oh. I'm kind of curious about this and I take a very, very Switzerland approach now and it's because what had changed? I don't feel like I changed a whole lot, but what changed was the scope of tolerance toward different ideas or dialogue in the marketplace. And so whereas before I could swim and sway across different issues or ideological camps, and it was okay, you could swim back and forth, that's not so much the case anymore. You swim anywhere over here. I was like, oh, there's that person, he's this, and everything else gets shut off. And, and I remember, the eye opener for me was there was something that happened here locally, in town where we live, and I just thought I said something I didn't think was political, I thought it was just a really good common sense, human position to take. And all of a sudden I had people call in, advertisers demanding they boycott by station. I'm like, wait, what Are you serious? And I was like, you know, I don't need to get out there and do that anymore. You know, when I was doing that, when I was swimming through the different you know lanes and antagonizing or validating different people, that I may have agreed or disagreed with, it didn't matter, it was about the dialogue. You know you can't. You can't do that anymore, unfortunately, because I think it's important, I think it, I think it makes, makes for better solutions and stronger community when there's tolerance, even in frustration or agitation, to you know, to in one moment be like oh, I can't believe I ever told anybody to listen to this guy. Oh, what a creep. But then a few months later go. You know, actually he's kind of got a good point on this other thing. You know, and I think that's something that's important to society that we've kind of seen a diminished deep deep believe in editing yourself to satisfy your sponsors. I have definitely decided to exercise different skill sets I have and not exercise skill sets I have, because it's not just me that I'm providing for anymore. Sure, you know, there's a lot of people whose platforms and life plans and goals center around things that I'm responsible for, and so, in that sense, I don't know that it's editing my content or anything like that. So much as it is discerning the greater good, you know, there's not a need for me to get out there and make a point about something right. You know, like I saw somebody posted a meme and they said you know, I've reached that point in my life where you could tell me one plus one equals four, I'm going to be like you're absolutely correct and then walk on. You know, and I'm more in that position now because I find myself in a role now at this stage in my life where I'm more of a facilitator, supporter, mentor of other people's goals that I want to associate with. When I look at, like for Biz Radio from one of our stations amazing, amazing talent, the hosts we have like 17 people on the station and they're out there and they're really fighting for the things they believe in to make society and community and entrepreneurship and everything better, whether it's in mental health or if it's in investments into local economy or things like that and I want to do whatever I can to help them be able to have the impact that they're intended to have. So I'm more in a support role, whereas before I was the tip of the sword. Now I'm there, I'm holding the handle on, I'm making sure it's balanced right I forget what they call it when you get the right balance on the sword but I'm more in that position now and I'm fine with that. So I do get people. I still get people come up to me all the time, recognize me and stuff. And it's funny with media. I think there's a certain component of where people feel like they own you a little bit and they feel like they know you enough to, even if they've never met you in person, tell you exactly what they think about what you did or didn't do right. And so I've had people in the grocery store flat out saying man, you totally sold out. You used to be a real crusader out there for stuff and now you just go fishing and stuff. I'm like sorry to disappoint, you know, I mean, but you know they're not wrong. I mean I used to be a fighter on the front lines and now I'm more, you know, I'm more back in the planning room, I'm in the map room, you know. So I don't think it's calling me out, I mean it's. It's true that you know, when I saw that there was a dominant conversation thread in the community, my old muscle memory was to challenge that. Yeah, not so much anymore. These days there's not really room to sustain and exist.

Cory Short:

Do you still consider yourself independent politically? Oh, absolutely.

Matt Mittan:

Yeah, and just because I'm not talking about stuff on the air doesn't mean I'm not still engaged. Sure Doesn't mean that I'm not still calling different places and trying to do things behind the scenes to impact what I think is important. I still do that, are you?

Cory Short:

happy, elon bought Twitter.

Matt Mittan:

I don't care. Fair enough, you know. I mean, it's like it's one of those, you know, the thing you can tell me. One plus one is four. I, oh, you're absolutely right, it's a private company. Now, I think that's good. I think it being a private company is good because in media, whenever something's publicly owned, the audience or the community are not the end game. The investor is the end game, Wall Street's the end game, and that skews the priorities of content. You want to talk about editing content when you're trying to please shareholders rather than serve the calling and the opportunity that being a broadcaster provides for your community, whether a community be geographical, topical, viewpoint, whatever that community is. You know it could be around Minecraft, you know. But yeah, I think it going private is a good thing and let people belly ache all they want.

Cory Short:

It's a private company, so what point did you switch from traditional airwaves to digital? When did that happen?

Matt Mittan:

About two and a half years ago. Okay, yeah, yeah, about two and a half years ago.

Cory Short:

Tell me about that and what's the form? What is your company now? Where can they find? You to hear you today.

Matt Mittan:

So the easiest way to plug into everything that I'm doing today is matmattancom, and then all the stuff I'm touching is right there. Okay, so matmattancom, but bizradious is the station. We were on 10,000 watt AM station for years. Originally it was independent ash for radio. Then it kind of evolved to become bizradio and we made the switch during COVID. We had always had an eye and you know this, always had an eye on the digital Like that's where it's going, you know. And so when COVID hit, looking at the analytical data of the digital side of things, not only did the audience diversify and expand immensely, but they weren't just dipping in older generations, different device platforms, everything, they weren't just checking stuff out digitally, they were going on digital and staying on digital and migrating to other digital from within it. And so analytically, it was like it's the right time and so we made the flip in October of 2020.

Cory Short:

Not only that, but you get cold, hard facts to show potential advertisers. You get that.

Matt Mittan:

But even more important to me, even more important to me is the ability to directly engage with the audience.

Cory Short:

Yeah.

Matt Mittan:

You know, like on our music station, buzz Radio Ashville, which is only local artists, it's only local original music of all styles. Artists after artists tell us, once they're on Buzz radio they see an increase in their sales of downloaded music. They're, they're getting more gigs and it's because you, the audience, can directly buy from the artists right there on the live stream. And it doesn't. We don't keep any of that, you know. It connects right there. You're listening to me, oh, I love the song. Hit the buy button, boom, you download it and you make a transaction with the artist right there through the station while you're listening. You can't do that on an FM dial. You just can't do it, you know. So that was a big reason. The analytical data because I'm very analytical when it comes to that stuff it showed that it was the right time to make the move and I didn't want to end up like blockbuster or the yellow pages, right, you know. And so getting out in front of it being an independent, it's an easier ship to steer than if you're a chain of Stations across the country, and that's so true man.

Cory Short:

I worry so much for our friends, our friends. We both know so many in traditional radio. Still I hope they can find a similar path to the digital world, that that keeps their dreams afloat. You know, because I feel like the, the airwaves are just dying and and we're losing.

Matt Mittan:

You know what lasting voices they were that were really focused to community. Corporate radio has kind of washed a lot of them out because again, the stockholders, the margins, the, the you know the advertising revenue disbursements back to the corporate office and the spreadsheet ledgers. We know great people that had huge audiences, had full advertising support Engaged in the community, that get laid off because of spreadsheet analytics in Texas, yeah, or New York had nothing to do with what they're doing here locally. And then also through attrition of loss. You know, one of the one of the best here in Asheville, pat Ryan, passed away not too long ago and what a loss to our community. You know he was such a voice that was really committed. But behind the scenes, what a lot of people may not know is he owned his own show. You know he. Yes, he was on a national you know a national company's local radio station, but he owned his platform, yeah, and it was a unique situation and I think that's what allowed him to sustain that community Engagement. Not that people at that radio group aren't trying to do that, but it's just a different. It's a different measurement of success when you're reporting to shareholders versus If you're tied to your local community.

Cory Short:

Yeah, all right, I'm Corey short cosmic Kool-Aid. We'll see you next time.

Radio Career
Transition From Print to Radio Success
Media's Evolving Dialogue and Role
Media Ownership and Transition to Digital
Ownership and Community Engagement