media update’s Adam Wakefield sat down with Kellman to find out how he got his start, why he loves radio, what we can expect from Touch HD, and his advice to anyone looking to make their own way in today’s media industry.

Getting his start in media

The most surprising aspect of Kellman’s career is, at 27, he has been involved in the media industry for almost a decade. He’s worked in TV, radio, and digital; and what started it all was a trip to Clearwater Mall, Roodepoort, in 2009.

“It is the most random of things. The first thing I did was as a presenter on Qbase28 and that was at Clearwater Mall with a friend,” Kellman says.

“The SABC had a bus there and they said, ‘You’ve got 30 seconds to sell yourself on a bus’. I was 18-years-old. I did it and, a few months later, they phoned us up and they said, ‘Cool. There are four presenters. The show is live every single day from the SABC’. I did that for three years and it was great. They really threw us into live TV.”

While at the SABC, Kellman also worked in production for VUZU, and, after departing the broadcaster, he worked as producer and programming manager at 101.9 Chai FM, among other roles, before returning to the SABC in 2013.

Having started his career in TV, Kellman says he gravitated towards radio because it is not about the bells and whistles, but rather who is behind the microphone.

“Television is about how much money there is. It is about the set, lighting, how good you look or don’t look. It’s very visual based which is cool, but radio, everyone in the world is on the same level,” Kellman says.

“There is a microphone and you – and how you connect those two to create a great piece of audio that’s engaging. The barriers to entry are a lot less in terms of audio production. Now, it is easier with phones and all that. It is literally how you craft it, which I love. You are more reliant on yourself.”

Kellman joins CliffCentral

A key moment in his career came following Kellman’s return to the SABC, where he was multimedia producer at 5FM. While there, he launched 5FM’s YouTube channel, but, critically, he got to know Rina Broomberg and, to a lesser extent, Gareth Cliff.

It was Cliff and Broomberg who took South African radio into a new direction by launching CliffCentral. Kellman was asked if he wanted to get on board at the very beginning.

“I had sort of known and met with Rina a couple of times. I knew Gareth from the work I had done at 5FM. I had just finished reading Reg Lascaris’s book, Lessons from the boot of my car. All he spoke about was Rina Broomberg being responsible for shaping the whole of TBWA. That’s really dope,” Kellman says.

He knew Cliff was leaving 5FM, and was in touch with Broomberg leading up to Cliff’s departure. One day, Kellman met with Cliff and Broomberg, with the pair offering Kellman the chance to join them, even though they were not sure what he would do. Even though details were yet to be fleshed out, Kellman decided to join the new venture on the spot.

His contract at 5FM expired shortly afterwards, and following a month-long trip to the United States, he returned to the empty building CliffCentral now calls home.

“I asked, ‘What can I do?’ and they said, ‘You can assemble chairs’. I still have the picture of us assembling chairs and starting. There was nothing here,” Kellman recalls.

Cliff’s show then went live to much hype, with the operation growing “very organically” from there. Apart from hosting a show on CliffCentral, Kellman was later appointed creative director, a role that required a fair amount of on-the-job learning.

“The role originated in CliffCentral. I remember we had to do something for Nokia and it was asked, ‘What are we going to do?’ I said, ‘Let me take a bash at it’,” Kellman says.

Given the unexplored territory CliffCentral were in, the position had its growing pains.

“We had zero knowledge and what do you sell on? How do you cost it? How do you build a rate card? How do you figure out what anything is going to be?” Kellman says.

“The responsibilities are essentially engaging with the sales team, finding the clients and building branded content propositions like we’ve done with Nando's and other different brands.”

Kellman then switched from CliffCentral to what was then TouchCentral, now Touch HD, where he holds similar roles as he did at CliffCentral.

Touch HD and just ‘do’

Now at Touch HD, which changed its brand identity mid-March, Kellman says Tbo Touch has always had Africa in his sights. While much of the content will be South African, Kellman says there will be a very strong African influence at the station, with a greater focus on multimedia.

Touch HD has lots of different variations. Stronger video focus, stronger multimedia focus, and a stronger lifestyle focus. It is a lifestyle brand,” Kellman says.

The ideal audience experience from Touch HD’s point of view would be going to an event powered by the station, listening to them, and watching or listening to content they produce. In whatever they do, the focus will be on lifestyle.

For those looking to get involved in digital media, Kellman believes the best way is to simply “do”.

“You just have to do. I don’t know what’s got more value: Making a movie on your iPad or studying for three years at AFDA.

Kellman has learned by doing, and admits that he personally feels, at present, that going your own route, instead of studying, has more value. Much depends on how much of a risk you want to take.

“Media is story telling. If you just naturally start making stories and telling stories, you’ll finesse it and you will get more professional. The fundamentals of storytelling remain the same whether one person is involved or 100. It’s about refining your skills,” he says.

“Do you think you should study something for five years that is going to change by the end of those five years? How much of a risk do you want to take?”

For more information, connect with Touch HD on Twitter.

CliffCentral has become an institution in South Africa, though no one knew it would succeed when it first started. Read more in our story, CliffCentral: From ahead of the curve, to looming mainstream