Radio’s Fear of Failure

1Reggie Jackson once said “The only way I’m going to get a Gold Glove is with a can of spray paint.” Reggie, a Hall of Famer, is also the strikeout king. Reggie struck out (failed) at bat 2,597 times.

Steve Jobs, while revered for his successes, was also not short on failures. The Apple integrated business model, combining software and hardware, was not the success that Microsoft enjoyed with a modular approach. NeXT wasn’t “next” either.

Think about your own life. When did you really learn the most? When you were successful or when you failed? I think you will agree with me that failure is a great teacher.

No matter how carefully we plan and execute our business plan, the nature of business is constant change. Business models come and business models go.

Radio went through this once before when TV was taking off in the 1950s. Radio saw its content leave for TV. Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, among so many more, all left radio for television. The prediction at that time was that radio would be dead in a couple of years. And there was good reason to think like that, because those very talented individuals were all the stars of Vaudeville. When they moved to radio, Vaudeville did indeed pass into the land of memories.

However, radio had people like Todd Storz and Gordon McLendon; innovators. Where once network radio ruled, the independent owned and operated radio stations would begin to break new ground. Top40 and talk radio among so many other innovations would come into existence. They would capture the imagination of a new generation of listeners. One of those they would inspire to dream of a radio career was me.

After over 42 years in commercial radio, today I teach a new generation about broadcasting. My goal is to light a flame of innovation in their minds to create the future of radio when they graduate. I believe they can do it too. What gives me pause is if they will be given the chance.

Today’s big radio operators are so busy minding their debt, they are afraid to innovate. I’m not just talking about the content that radio programs, but the business model that has allowed radio to support itself and the Internet technology that it uses as if it were just another transmitter to broadcast on.

This is not the radio world that attracted me back in the 60s and I’m not for a moment suggesting that we return to those days. The plate spinner of Vaudeville was good entertainment for its time, but it would not hold the attention of today’s audience.

My concern is radio got stuck in a time warp and it can’t get out.

People, like Steve Jobs, that drive great companies have the ability to never stop innovating and adapting their ideas until the world wakes up and sees them as being visionary.   They also aren’t afraid of competing against themselves. The iPhone and iPad did away with the need for an iPod. But that didn’t stop Apple from building and sell both of them. (The iPod quietly was sun-set with the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6+, but only after four hundred million had been sold.)

Radio needs its new generation of dreamers to be sure. I just hope that they are given the chance to fail until they one day are called “radio’s visionaries.”

2 Comments

Filed under Radio

2 responses to “Radio’s Fear of Failure

  1. spotmagicsolis

    Apple’s mistake was to not let their code out to developers. That is that. I like the way you cushion the statement “minding their debt” did you say? Romney’s Bain / Lee and company are corporate raiders, not radio or even media people. Their job from the start was to build it up and then siphon as much money out of the company into their offshore banks as they can. They are not interested in running a radio business at all. I doubt they will ever pay that debt, they are just busy hiding $$$ and will more than likely default on the loans but somehow they will get a pardon–they have put away just enough money to buy one.

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  2. spotmagicsolis

    Oh, there will be lots of Jobs for good content creators and creative people and just like the regular jobs now, the kids already know that they can’t depend on some company to keep them employed until they retire. Now there’s a word that will be leaving the lexicon.

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