The first commercial broadcast was on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, PA, on November 2, 1920 – that’s 102 years of traffic logs! National Broadcast Traffic Professional’s Day was created to mark this important milestone in broadcast history and to acknowledge the enormous impact broadcast traffic professionals continue to have on the success of our industry.
Traffic professionals go by many different job titles and wear many different hats, working diligently to ensure audiences can count on their favorite programs, as well as that advertisers’ spots air when they should.
Many members of the WideOrbit team started their careers as traffic professionals, in both radio and TV broadcasting. To mark this year’s National Broadcast Traffic Professionals Day, we thought we’d celebrate their expertise and hard work by asking them to share a few of their stories.
Senior Business Analyst – WO Traffic
“I worked in radio traffic in Austin, TX, for about 10 years before joining WideOrbit, including stints at KUT Public Radio from 2004-2011, 107.7 FM (Univision Radio, Hispanic Broadcasting, Simmons Media) in 2003, and LBJS Broadcasting (currently Waterloo Media) from 2000-2002.
I worked with all departments to ensure that all commercial (or underwriting) activity was operating smoothly, including reconciling logs, processing/maintaining/entering orders, building and maintaining formats (clocks), building and maintaining copy/continuity and tracking down anything missing, coordinating production, balancing and maximizing spot placement on logs, finalizing a daily log, verifying automation, supporting all other departments, and solving mysteries.
I always loved the puzzle aspects of maximizing inventory, working a log until everything fits perfectly. And if you have a good team, even herding cats to get everything you need on time and accurate to make that perfect log is rewarding. If a traffic manager is really good at their job, then their work is almost invisible, which is why it’s always great to give them some recognition.”
VP, Product Management
“I worked at WBZ-TV/AM (CBS) in Boston for six years, the I spent another six years in San Francisco, working at KPIX-TV/AM (CBS), KSFO-AM (ABC), and KZQZ-FM (Bonneville).
I found the work stressful, with lots of last-minute changes/requests, and repetitive, with finalizing logs over and over and over. It is very Groundhog Day – same tasks, different day.
For type A personalities, it’s an ideal job because you’re tasked with making “order” out of “chaos”. It also allows you to feel accomplished at the end of the day because you had to produce a log or set of logs, giving you (and others) very tangible evidence of your hard work.
One thing that might surprise people about traffic professionals is that bribery works. Salespeople are very good at offering bribes (sometimes covertly, sometimes overtly) for better spot placements, better makegood offers, etc., and it’s effective. If I had two spots vying for the same premium position, how could I not give it to the salesperson who took me to lunch?”
Director of Product Support – Retired
“I started my broadcast career in radio while still in college, working the switchboard evenings at a local San Francisco radio station. I went on to become Continuity Director then Traffic Manager at KSFO Radio, Sales Service Coordinator in the Traffic Department at KRON TV-SF, Assistant Traffic Manager at ZDTV/Tech TV- SF, and Director of Standards and Practices Tech TV-SF. I joined WideOrbit Implementation and Support, ending my career as Director of Product Support.
There are many roles in a broadcast traffic department. The Traffic Manager is responsible for everyone completing the tasks assigned to their roles in the most efficient way and with a high degree of accuracy. The manager will typically start the day reviewing and resolving the previous day’s changes or discrepancies. Maximizing inventory, managing program changes, and order management are a large part of the remainder of the day. Others under the manager’s direction will prepare the daily logs, manage materials, and deliver program logs for air by close of business.
I enjoyed creating an accurate and high-revenue program log with no errors and seeing that log air correctly.
Traffic Professionals are fun! They enjoy detail, take pride in accuracy, and welcome the challenges of deadlines, but they do so while enjoying the social components that make teams supportive and successful.”
Sr. Manager, Product Management
“I started in radio in college and didn’t leave for 22 years. I did a bit of everything, including On Air, Production, Show Producer, Operations, and finally Traffic/Continuity. I have some great memories, especially from the early days when you did a bit of everything. Over my broadcasting career, I worked for Salem, iHeart Radio (when it was Clear Channel), and Audacy (when it was Entercom).
The day usually starts with reconciling the prior day to see what aired or didn’t. Then prep for the next day or few day’s logs and copy. In between all that there are always fires to be put out, last minute Orders and Copy changes to process and get on the Logs, future Orders and Copy to process and helping the Sales team with inventory management. In the early days it was more manual with a lot of paper. As software evolved, we spent more and more time at our PCs!
I loved the pace! Logs are kind of like trains or airplanes, they have to “leave” each day and they have to be as good as you can possibly make them. Yes, stressful at times with last minute changes, but that also was part of the fun.
When someone says they work in radio or TV Traffic, don’t ask them if they get to fly around in the helicopter :). It’s not that kind of traffic.”
Senior Technical Course Developer
“I worked for a group of six radio stations in Denver from 1997-2007. I started as the receptionist and moved into the Traffic Department after working with the group for a year. We went through many ownership changes and format flips, but surprisingly, the six stations stayed together during my tenure.
Our day would start with entering sales orders, printing contracts, and filing the hard copies. We had a giant dot matrix printer that ran all day pumping out contracts and logs. While we filed, the logs printed. We didn’t have the luxury of working with Windows-based traffic software, so we spent hours referencing paper spot lists, inventory reports, distribution charts, and hand-writing the spots on a paper log. We worked very closely with the Sales Team to move spots in an oversell situation or add bonus spots when we could. When we had a full log we entered it into the system by hand, using our 10-key pad. When I started in radio, we used Columbine/JDS, which was DOS based and required a lot of 10-key typing. I’m still almost as fast typing on the 10-key as an accountant. We worked closely with our Continuity Directors, of course, getting audio onto spots. We hand-wrote material instructions and delivered them to the Production Team, then consulted the Promotions and Programming Departments to get new promo spots and live-spots scheduled. Once everything was in place, we printed the paper log, loaded it onto a disk and walked that disk into the studio where it could be loaded into our broadcast software. At the end of the day, we filed more paperwork, helped the finance team file hard-copies of invoices with the contracts, and loaded the dot-matrix printer with more paper for the next day. Phew! As much as we had that was automated, just as much was still manual. We did a lot of walking from one end of the building to the other, filing, filing, and more filing – so much paper! – and phone calls. No one checked email, we had to talk on the phone!
I was lucky and worked with the same stations and colleagues for years. We were like a family, and it helped us work well together. When Production needed voices for commercials we were there. When Promotions needed help at a weekend event, we were there. We met bands when they came into the studio for a performance, we had a lot of happy hours with our Sales Team and received free tickets to many events. To this day I have close friends that I met 25 years ago in radio. It was often last-minute work, middle-of-the-night log changes if we went off-air or there was breaking news, prep for format flips, etc. But it was fun, and challenging, and I have a million great memories.
Once you work in a Traffic Department you never listen to the radio or watch television the same again. You listen to the commercials instead of changing the station, you catch spots running next to each that should not be, you know when the wrong content is airing, you panic when there is dead air for more than a few seconds. Because you know what is going on behind the scenes, some of the magic of broadcast is lost – but you also have a lot more respect for what the entire industry is accomplishing and know your competitors are in same boat as you.”
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating National Broadcast Traffic Professionals Day by showing the traffic professionals in your life the appreciation they so deserve. And if you’re one of them, thank you. When we turn on the radio or TV today, we’ll take a moment to think about all the pros like you working behind the scenes to make what we see and hear happen.