10 Questions: David Rymer

David Rymer is the Program Director of Hot Tomato on the Gold Coast.

He took time out to answer 10 questions for us.

We find out how Hot Tomato approaches the "David & Goliath" battle in the Gold Coast market, their unique multimedia platform and we start by finding out about his background…..

I have spent most of my radio career with Austereo (SCA) on the air and from 2001 through to 2008 as a Content Director working around the country in Brisbane (B105 and 4MMM), Perth (92.9) and Sydney (2DAY FM and 2MMM).

My first gig was on air in my hometown Hamilton at 3HA after convincing them they should hire me after doing some experience. I was supposed to go back to University but that plan vaporized and it’s been radio ever since.

Do you miss being on-air ? Do you sometimes fill in or do the odd voiceover ? and does your past as a jock help you with relating to your personalities ?

I don’t miss being on the air as I always found it pretty stressful and intense. The thought of not having material or a creative spin on a sell scared the heck out of me. So I would put everything into it. These days I am content to sit behind the scenes programming.

I do station voiceovers as I enjoy the process of making a great promo.

I draw on a lot of my on air experiences to relate better to the on air teams. The more effortless it sounds on air, the harder the talent is peddling to come up with a great show. Most people don’t get this. Having been on air, I know the tremendous effort that goes into doing great work.

Most importantly I understand, as most PD’s do whether they have worked on the air or not, that confidence is everything for talent and providing a secure environment and shielding them from any day to day dramas is imperative. A good PD also needs to be trusted and have real integrity with the talent. As I have learnt from bitter experience, if it’s not there, it’s not going to work out. I remember when I was on air, I did my best work when I felt supported by a good PD I respected. So this is something I take to the role and my talent everyday.

It’s an intense 3 way battle between Hot Tomato, Gold and SEA FM. Tell us how you approach that on a daily basis.

To be honest I try not to get to wound about how competitive the Gold Coast market has become. But you’re right, it’s a fierce battleground. I guess I continue to focus on the shows, in particular Breakfast because as we all know, get breakfast right and you are setting the station and the brand up nicely. But all parts of the programing machine have to function well.

The key for me is consistency with line up, content and execution. So I catch up with the on air teams and product guys everyday. Pretty standard stuff.

As a truly local station that runs no networking, focussing on being very Gold Coast is important. There are many things we do that could be seen as parochial but resonate strongly with the local community. We do as much community stuff as possible. Very important. This has always been a hallmark for Hot Tomato and continues to be so with me.

It seems to be a real tug of war with 40-54 in particular between Hot Tomato and Gold. What are the major challenges you face when trying to win that demo ?

It is no secret that we try to claim as much territory between SEA and GOLD as we can. But the gradual aging of the station over the last couple of years has certainly paid dividends from a ratings and revenue point of view. So the challenge is to keep growing in these demographics above the overall ranking.

We have been pleased to get ourselves to number 2 in the market and get ballast from our core demos. We are still a young station with exciting prospects for even more growth.

Gold FM has a strong Breakfast show which has heritage and consistency on it’s side. By comparison, Holmsey and Flan (pic right) have only been in breakfast a short while. So we have to work hard and smart to make an impression here. I think we are tracking well.

Drive seems to be your most competitive shift. Why do you think that is ?

That’s half correct. The true battle is in Breakfast. But having said that, The Mal and Luke Show (pic left) has done an outstanding job convincing all of us that a solid local proposition can be resilient in the face of good networked shows our competitors now have in the market.

Drive has also enjoyed a great evolution with the inclusion of Morya Major (ex SEA FM Breakfast) as a news reader and contributor. The Mal and Luke Show is a strong show. And we are over the moon that we have it.

With Hot Tomato being a locally run and locally owned station going up against the national power of SCA, does that make it easier or more difficult ?

I ask that question everyday and to be honest I don’t know. I feel it’s a bit of a “David and Goliath” battle now.

SCA is highly resourced with specialists in almost every facet of the business that can help out when required. They can pull in content offerings and promotions that we simply can not match pound for pound. So from that point of view, SCA has big advantage in this, or any market. But we have some great people on the air at Hot Tomato like Paul Holmes and Sean Flanagan in Breakfast and Luke Bradnam and Mal Lees in Drive that generate unique content offerings that can’t be replicated. The more unique, the better for us. So far so good.

There are times when I wish we had some network “ammo” to work with. But mostly it is very satisfying and less complicated working with a small but highly effective team of decision makers and talent without the burden of network considerations.

It’s critical for programmers today to think across multiple platforms. How do you approach this when programming Hot Tomato ?

This has become a very exciting realm for all Content Directors and PD’s. At Hot Tomato, we approach online a little differently as the business owns and drives a local portal: myGC.com.au. So it is into this that we proliferate our on air content.

As a small business we have the benefit of working with a dedicated digital team that we would not have if we were providing solely for the station’s website. So we are fortunate to have this site and the resources to execute great online content to support our on air offerings. We have an open contribution policy to our social media properties and encourage all our on air team to freely contribute. For us it is early days, but we are really starting to grow here.

You've talked about the on-air side of Hot Tomato but tell us about the team you have around you off air.

When it comes to the off air team, again it is a small group. I work closely with the MD and PMD to sort the daily programming requirements of the station.

As we only have one person in production, we have some terrific third party producers that do a lot of the station imaging when we are not in a position to get it done ourselves. This actually works well as we get different creative approaches to our station imaging.

To work through Sales integrations, we meet daily with the Sales Manager and GM to find solid solutions for our clients.

Again, there are less stakeholders in the mix than I have been used to which makes the process efficient and uncomplicated. The off air side works incredibly well at Hot Tomato I think.

What’s the next step for you ? GM ? Back to programming in a larger market ?

For now I am very content with the role, the station and even more so the market. But I do like to build things more than I like to maintain them. I think we are going through some great growth as a brand and I have got more than enough to keep me interested and my hands full.

How do you un-wind and escape the work pressure ?

The Gold Coast has great beaches and a great climate. So I still maintain my fitness by running and swimming in what is a great part of the world. I do wake up most mornings and kick myself that I am actually living and working here.

It was always a goal to work in Sydney and I have spent most of my career there. But I never imagined doing what I love in the place I holidayed in as a kid. So I take full advantage of the environment here on the Gold Coast when I need to switch off.

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