Tony Coles To Lead iHeart’s New Black Information Network

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Tony Coles, a veteran radio programmer who serves as Division President of the iHeartMedia Markets Group,  has been selected to launch “BIN: Black Information Network” — an all-new 24/7 all-news audio service “dedicated to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news coverage with a Black voice and perspective.”

The move from iHeartMedia is in response to “Black Lives Matter” protests and a call from across the marketing and media landscape for greater recognition of African American political, cultural and lifestyle issues and perspectives.​​  


Hints of an effort to capitalize on increased calls for reaching Black consumers via media arose on Monday, when RadioInsight.com noted domain registration for a host of stations that suggested a new network of sorts was ready for launch.

On Tuesday, those rumors came true, with such heavy-duty advertisers as Bank of America, CVS Health, GEICO, Lowe’s, McDonald’s USA, Sony, 23andMe and Verizon on board as inaugural advertising clients.

According to iHeartMedia, BIN is focused on service to the Black community “and providing an information window for those outside the community to help foster communication, accountability and a deeper understanding.”

“McDonald’s and our franchisees are proud to be a founding partner of the Black Information Network as another step in our journey to support our customers and communities,” says Vicki Chancellor, an Atlanta-based McDonald’s owner/operator and chair of the McDonald’s national franchisee brand committee and Joe Erlinger, President of McDonald’s USA. “Our roots run deep in the many neighborhoods we serve, and through the Black Information Network, we are helping to amplify information and diverse perspectives to establish new opportunities for meaningful dialogue and deeper understanding needed to motivate change and progress across the country.”

While advertisers since the murder of African American George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers have expressed a greater willingness to support cultural institutions and media targeting Blacks, the long-term prospects of a spoken word network devoted to Black consumers is highly risky. Until now, ethnically focused Talk programming has been limited, historically, to communities on a local level. And, since the advent of the Portable People Meter (PPM) by Arbitron, used today by Nielsen Audio, such “niche” formats have faded.

Among the few remaining spoken word stations serving African Americans is WOL-AM, which uses an FM translator to reach Washington, D.C. It is considered the flagship station of Urban One — a company with a high-flying stock fueled largely by day traders who believe their media properties are ripe for a surge in advertising activity.

That said, the iHeart launch of BIN under Coles is a tad different, revenue-speaking: “Instead of traditional ad supported media, BIN is enabled by the support of National Founding Partners who share and support the mission of BIN: Black Information Network,” iHeart said, referring to the aforementioned brands.

Furthermore, BIN will be a standalone business unit within iHeartMedia; “its executives and talent will reflect the community they serve,” the company notes, putting Coles in a position that is perhaps even greater than that of iHeartLatino head Enrique Santos. T”he business will be enabled and supported by the full resources of iHeartMedia, including shared use of technology; data and insights; marketing; digital services; monetization; and corporate resources, including Legal, HR and Finance,” iHeartMedia says.

Additionally, Black Information Network will have an Advisory Board consisting of leaders of the community from both inside the company and externally “who will bring their unique and important perspectives as an ongoing resource to the business.”

While BIN will be available to anyone across the U.S. who downloads the iHeartRadio App, it will also be heard on broadcast radio stations in markets including Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus and Macon, Ga.; Charlotte; Cleveland; Detroit; Greenville, S.C.; Minneapolis; Nashville; New Orleans; Norfolk; Riverside-San Bernardino; San Francisco; and Seattle.

Additional local markets will be added over the next 60 days, iHeart notes.

Clear Channel Outdoor Americas (CCOA) will help spread the word about BIN, as a national marketing partner.

BIN will also provide the news heard on iHeartMedia’s 91 Hip-Hop, R&B and Gospel stations across the country. These stations include WWPR-FM “Power 105.1” in New York, WDAS-FM & WUSL-FM “Power 99” in Philadelphia, KRRL-FM “Real 92.3” in Los Angeles, WGCI-FM & WVAZ-FM “V-103” in Chicago, WMIB-FM 103.5 “The Beat” in Miami, and WJLB-FM 98 in Detroit, among other properties.

As the No. 1 audio media company by radio station count in the U.S., iHeartMedia has a strong imprint in reaching African Americans and Blacks of Caribbean and/or African descent, which RBR+TVBR collectively refers to as Blacks. At present, iHeartMedia’s broadcast assets alone currently reach 93% of Black Americans, something the company claims is “more than any other media outlet, including local and national TV.” As such, it says, “BIN’s news service will gain immediate brand awareness and audience credibility through respected and successful Black audience-targeted music stations.”  BIN will also be amplified through iHeartMedia’s 200 million-plus social footprint.

The leadership role for Coles comes as the radio industry veteran celebrates 16 1/2 years at the company formerly known as Clear Channel Communications. Based in Chicago, Coles relocated there in 2008 to serve as Operations Manager and Hot Adult Contemporary Brand Manager, following nearly five years for Clear Channel in Portland, Ore.

Coles began his career as an air personality at former Top 40 WXGT “92X” in Columbus, Ohio, in 1988. In 1991, he became OM of WCOL-AM & FM/Columbus, and in June 1994 made it all the way to New York, becoming Asst. PD for WLTW-FM “106.7 Lite FM.” In early 1996, he shifted coasts to help launch pioneering “Jammin’ Oldies” KIBB-FM “B100.3” in Los Angeles. In August 1999, after a stint at KBIG-FM 104.3, he moved to Seattle, taking his first Program Director role at KLSY-FM & KRWM-FM.


BIN REACHES TO MYERS FOR KEY NEWS ROLE

Serving as Director of News Operations for BIN: Black Information Network is Tanita Myers.

Myers was formerly Director of Operations for The Tom Joyner Morning Show; Executive Producer of the Rickey Smiley Morning Show; and a reporter in News, Traffic and Weather for various major market stations.

Myers is regarded as “a seasoned network and local Producer, Broadcaster and News Anchor” with 15 years’ experience at Reach Media, before her most recent role as Executive Producer for the Westwood One-syndicated Rick and Sasha.

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