Australians making it overseas – Colin Taylor

In a special series of articles David Rogerson will look into the lives and career paths of Australian radio and media people who are “making it good” overseas. He visits the overseas cities and towns where our chosen Australians have been creating a new direction and innovative success in their current roles and responsibilities.

Picture this. Snow peak mountains views outside the boss’s office; baby bald eagles roaming the wet lands outside the studio complex, and a station reception area featuring sponsors who buy banner credits on the reception back drop TV screens featuring a rolling slide deck of local features and events. Oh, and did I mention there are clients on waiting lists to be part of these reception credit features to reach a potential market population of over 30,000 people?

I’m in coastal Juneau, Alaska. This vibrant tourist town, where Cannabis is legal and freely on sale at specialist retail outlets is approximately half way between Anchorage and Vancouver, Canada with Colin Taylor with the second in the series of Australians Making it Overseas.

David Rogerson: We are here in your office and studio complex in Juneau, Canada. This is a long way from Hobart where you and I last worked together. How did this all come about?

Colin Taylor: I often ask myself the same question. I worked for Richard Burns maybe 25 years ago in Western Australia and we have always stayed in touch. He enticed me to take on the role of President of the Texarkana Media Centre 5 years ago and then during the transition of his retirement and sale to The Local First Media Group.

And your new role with LFMG – I believe that’s grown in the past few weeks?

Prior to the sale to LFMG, my role was Deputy CEO under Richard Burns, fortunately, the new owners offered me the role of President of the Group, which late last year morphed into The President/COO role I currently have.

How about the people working with you, are they all here in Juneau?

Local First Media Group are a bunch of like minded, passionate and enthusiastic media operators that have 19 stations in 5 markets including Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Texarkana Texas and Arkansas. We have plans to grow our group to 100+ stations, concentrating on small to medium sized markets.

There’s a family connection working with you here as well.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be in a position to give most of my kids and their friends a gig in this fantastic industry. My eldest daughter joined us as Receptionist / Promotions in Albany, Others have helped in a Street Team role over the years and my youngest daughter Stoya has followed in my footsteps. Stoya came to the USA with us 5 years ago and got her degree in Business Administration and Management from Texas A&M. She joined LFMG in the fulltime role of Sales, first in Texas and now in Juneau Alaska. I am incredibly proud of her achievements.

As a company, LFMG employs wives, partners, sons and daughters. We are truly a family values based organisation.

I am a firm believer in that you are only ever as good as the people you surround yourself with. Our leadership team around the group is very experienced and are all dynamic individuals that bring their unique talents and skillsets to the different tables as needed. Texas is being run by a truly great GM in April Jones. We recently re-recruited Brittany Rickard as GM to look after our Ketchikan stations and have a very senior operator looking after The Sitka Media Centre.

Many Radioinfo readers may not realise the only way into Juneau is by water. Why Juneau as the company base than say a USA based operation?

Having travelled back and forth from Texas to Alaska many times over the last few years, the decision to relocate and take a hands on role as GM in addition to my group role of President / COO was pretty easy. As you know David, it is beautiful here, one of the most picturesque locations on the planet in my opinion. We are searching for a GM to lead this operation but will take whatever time it requires to get that fit right. And in the meantime my family and I get to live in paradise.

What’s your first recollection of wanting to get into radio?  

I was around 8 or 9 and rigged up a couple of horn speakers to my parent’s carport and played my dad’s record collection consisting of Connie Francis and Dean Martin etc. I would back announce and drive the neighbours crazy. That’s the moment right there! I think you are an incredibly lucky individual if you get to do something you love, everyday (most days lol). 

From memory, it was Western Australia where it all began for you.

Correct -1980 and 6NW Port Hedland was my first station. The family was very supportive, particularly considering my dad was a part time announcer there. I would sometimes tag along and watch and listen. The Station Manager Steve Altham suggested I spend some time in the Production Studio practicing and, when I felt ready, let him know and he’d take a listen. Three months of weekend practicing later, true to his word, he gave me a shot and the rest is history.

What did your progress within radio look like as your career moved forward?

From the time I scored that first gig at 6NW at 14 years of age all I wanted to do was work in a bigger market, I was lucky enough to get a gig at 6KY Perth at age 17 floating, part time, filling all sorts of shifts. Driving the News car giving away product during the breakky show. What an intro to a major market radio. Here’s me a 17 year old playing Tom Jones, Perry Como and more to a 55+ demo.

A little different from Port Headland and I guess that changed you?

Well yes. This was the ‘fork in the road’ for me, it was where I changed direction. Prior to this I wanted to be the next John Laws but due to a difference of opinion between myself and our PD at that time, I quit and moved to Merredin WA to work in sales and on air. It was here under the direction of John Ventris and Bob Jerome that I developed my initial sales and management career.  I would work for and with John a number of times over the years, as did many of my colleagues, including WA radio legend Dean Clairs.

Where was the next move?

Fast forward a few years and as a GM of a number of stations in country WA, including Albany, Northam, Geraldton and Merredin, I felt the next mountain calling. That is where I worked with one of my favourite employers over the years. It was Grant Broadcasters, first in Murray Bridge then Launceston and Hobart – where you and I crossed paths.

These were great radio people led by Janet Cameron, a rare and enthusiastic radio chief that cared as deeply for her people as she did her family legacy. I learnt more working with this lady, and her company, than any other time I can recall.

And you had some successes as well in both Launceston and Hobart.

Dave, you were instrumental in assisting with the switch from AM to FM for Launceston heritage station 7LA to LAFM and then launching Chilli 90.1, both career highlights but nothing in comparison to the emotional roller coaster of bringing 7HOFM to number the 1 spot in Hobart.

What sticks in your mind about your time at 7HOFM?

One of my favourite memories is creating a ‘parents room’ for Sarah on our breakfast show. It really helped to entice her back to work sooner than she had anticipated after having her beautiful daughter. That little girl has now adorned the sides and backs of busses, appeared on vehicle wraps and in tv commercials. I’m positive we have created another personality of the future.

The ratings turned around significantly too with a very focused strategic plan.

I will always remember we had Ross Turner, the then PD, in my office, with the blinds drawn and everyone hovering outside the closed door waiting for the ratings day announcement. (We did it this way in case the result wasn’t what we wanted.) When the email came through, Rosco and I stared at each other then tears streamed as we realised the hard work of the entire team had paid off. I called you straight away and from memory I think you choked up a little as well. Another milestone and career achievement box ticked.

Incredible success for the entire team. And the station has remained solid in Hobart to this day.

7HOFM is a great radio station and is full of great radio people and is still kicking goals today. Shoutout to Allan Cameron, a brilliant PD, Sarah, Mick and Johnno, truly great local operators that deliver a compelling and entertaining breakky show every day. Sometimes that larrikin Mick tested the boundaries and I’m sure he still does, but that is what makes them so dynamic.

How does the sales processes here in Regional Canada differ or align to regional Australia?

Someone said to me when I first moved over to the States that everything was the same, but everything was a little different – perfect description! Solution Sales is universal. However, a notable difference is the propensity to over think and over complicate things. Maybe it’s the Aussie in me, but if there’s a quicker way of achieving the desired outcome, let’s go down that path. 

It is ferociously competitive here, our Texarkana market has a total of 18 commercial stations based there and, with a total of 48 signals heard in town, it makes it challenging. We focus on delivering a more compelling offer than our competitors. We employ more local people than any of competitors. Sales is about relationships and numbers, and we have both.

And how about programming and programming content – what’s different or aligns with Australia?

There are over 15000 radio licenses in North America, so standing out in a crowded environment is always going to give you an edge. That will be achieved by clever and disciplined programming and promotions and by being uber local and live where you can. With 19 stations we have a diverse group of formats, from conservative talk, sports, R&B, Hot Country, Classic Hits, classic country, Rock and beyond. The common thread is the aim to super serve our local communities.


Looking out the window of your office here, your stations’ transmitter locations and physical technical operations are different than those we’d typically see in Australia – why is that?

To serve the geographical areas of our listening audience requires translators and signals of much smaller output in some cases than you would find in Australia.

Alaska is extremely mountainous and to serve some of our remote communities, and give them a voice, requires different thinking. Some of our transmission sites are only accessible by helicopter and while on site you need to be particularly aware of your surrounds as Bears can be a real danger. If you take a close look the AM and FM tower both share that same site.

David Rogerson’s own bear encounter

What’s something else not many other people would know about you?

I am truly passionate about this industry and our responsibility to bring on young talent in all areas of the business, like the opportunity I was afforded all those years ago. It frustrates me that young people mostly seek part time employment at restaurants and grocery stores before considering a career path in Radio. This is our fault as an industry, and we need to correct it. We need to reintroduce the show biz to the show biz. Not just talk about doing it!

From entry level Street Teams, Trainee Announcers, Promotions etc there’s an exciting career path for our youth of today. Having said that, from an HR standpoint, the right person is the right person; the oldest employee in our group is 78 and the youngest is 18.

I can’t think of anything better than a young person making contact with us and seeking a start. (Well other than regularly making budget lol).

What does beyond 2024 look like for you then?

To work hard, play hard and continue to learn as much as possible for the remainder of my working life before retiring back home to Australia. Well that’s the personal plan at this point. That is still at least 9 years away.

A look inside and outside Colin Taylor’s Juneau office and studio building below:

With a background covering over 40 years in Media and Communications, David Rogerson is experienced in nearly every facet of the radio and media communications industries from Group Content Director, to National Marketing Manager and Company Director. He is currently a lecturer and mentor at the Australian Institute of Music in the Masters and Bachelor degrees.

In 1997 he founded media and communications consulting company “Strategic Media Solutions”. David’s professional consulting career has seen him sought-after for his insights and client solutions in more than 15 countries around the world.

As a published author of media related books and entertainment journal articles David has personally mentored a wide range of media company directors, industry managers and entertainment executives. In the music field David’s experience covers marketing and digital content development for a range of artists including INXS and is part of the judging panel for the Australian Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


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