Ken Mills has “low vision” due, in part, to an injury during eye surgery.
He is active in advocacy groups for people with vision disabilities.
CONSULTANT & BLOGGER
P.O. Box 27511
Minneapolis, MN 55427
Hello, I am Ken Mills. I am a media consultant and blogger based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have operated my consulting business – Ken Mills Agency, LLC (“KMA”) – since 1997. KMA specializes in noncommercial radio programming syndication. We do feasibility studies, project tune-ups and program representation.
My current professional interests are radio/audio distribution and online journalism. My blog – Spark News [link] – covers news, trends and opinions about public media, particularly public radio. Spark News is published daily and is read by the stakeholders of public media, including funding organizations, station managers, programmers and news managers.
SYNDICATED RADIO PROGRAMMING
I have worked in radio programming syndication since 1987, the year I went to work at Transtar Radio Network as an Affiliate Sales Manager. Transtar was based in Colorado Springs and Los Angeles.
At Transtar I learned the fundamentals of syndication – affiliate sales, clearances, market strategies, etc. – from Gary Fries, Bill Moyes and others. This was at the time when Transtar’s Format 41 was replacing “beautiful music” on big FM stations across the country. Between 1987 and 1989 I added over 100 new affiliates and 500,000 new average-quarter-hour listeners for the company.
In the summer of 1989, I decided to take my knowledge about programming and syndication to noncommercial public radio. Around this time Transtar was sold to United Stations and major changes were happening. Public radio offered more stable employment and I loved the programming offered by NPR.
I became General Manager of KCSN-FM, located at Cal State Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. At KCSN, I switched the station’s format to Classical music. I saw that the Classical genre did not have a weekly countdown program. I acted on this opportunity by creating Classical Countdown.
Classical Countdown was based on Billboard’s Classical Music chart. I hired Rich Capparella to host and produce the program. Classical Countdown made its national debut in May 1991. The show was self-distributed via the Public Radio Satellite System to stations across the country.
Classical Countdown was an instant hit on public radio stations.
In the first year of syndication the program was being carried on over 200 stations, including affiliates in all of the top ten markets.
Classical Countdown secured an underwriter – Quarterdeck software – and eventually was aired on over 300 stations.
The success of Classical Countdown got the attention of American Public Radio (“APR”), a new public radio network designed to compete with NPR. APR was based in Minneapolis. I was hired in 1992 to represent programs in APR’s Classical music portfolio.
Later that year I became the Director of News at APR, which was in the process of changing its name to Public Radio International (“PRI”).
I was in charge of marketing PRI’s news programs, including BBC World Service, Marketplace, Christian Science Monitor Radio and several programs produced by CBC Radio.
I was part of the team that created PRI’s The World, a co-production of BBC, WGBH and PRI. By 1997, I was responsible for marketing programs fore than 30 producers.
In September 1997, I left PRI and established an independent consultancy to serve fewer clients in greater depth.
Since 1997 KMA has provided consulting services to almost every public radio organization including CPB, NPR, PRI, APM and PRX.
Other KMA major clients include NPR’s Justice Talking, PBS Newshour, the Public Radio Programmers Association (“PRPD”), APM's Weekend America and WBEZ’s Sound Opinions.
KMA is the exclusive affiliate representative for American Routes, hosted by Nick Spitzer [link].
It is a weekly two-hour about American music, culture and history produced at Tulane University in New Orleans. American Routes is distributed by PRX. It airs on 330 public radio stations.
EDUCATION & PUBLICATIONS
• Masters Degree, Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Arizona State University, Tempe, December 1986
• Bachelors Degree, Social Psychology, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, May 1971
• Publisher and Editor, Public & Noncommercial Radio Station Directory (2007) and Public Radio Talk & Interview Program Directory (2008)
• Editor, Independence and Integrity: A Guidebook for Public Radio Journalism published by NPR in 1995
EARLY COMMERCIAL RADIO CAREER
Ken at KISD in 1969
Ken Mills began his radio career in 1967 as a rock DJ at KISD, a Top 40 station in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
He worked on-air at progressive rock KRSI-FM in Minneapolis. In September 1973 he was part of the first air-staff at WCCO-FM, an “eclectic oriented rock” station in the Twin Cities.
In 1982 Mills founded and built KSQY-FM – “K-SKY” – an AOR station in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. He also managed stations in Fort Collins, Colorado and Sioux Falls, SD