Does Your Radio Station Have Schwerpunkt?

Many people have often wondered what the radio industry might have been like today, if it had had a Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs had Schwerpunkt.

What is “Schwerpunkt”?

The term is attributed to Carl von Clausewitz and is now considered the heart of any sound plan.

“An operation without Schwerpunkt

is like a man without character.”

-Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg

Schwerpunkt means “focus of effort.”

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he stunned his employees not by creating anything, but instead destroying many of the products Apple was making; like the Newton personal digital assistant and the many Macintosh clones.

Jobs quickly made it clear that Apple would no longer try to be all things to all people, and that the key to Apple’s future success would be winning where it mattered and focusing Apple’s resources on just a few meaningful products.


In December of 1996, under the leadership of then CEO Gil Amelio, Apple suffered its worst financial quarter in the company’s history. Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, when asked what he’d do to fix Apple if he were made the new CEO said, “I’d shut the company down and give the money back to shareholders.”

Steve Jobs knew that he couldn’t compete against Microsoft and Dell when he returned to Apple, so he focused the company’s resources in an area he saw as fragmented and that made products that as Jobs put it, “sucked.” He decided that Apple would produce a digital music player that would allow him to have a thousand songs in his pocket. The result was the iPod.

Focus On Your Strengths

The iPod took advantage of Apple’s strengths in simplicity of design and an ability to build easy-to-use interfaces. Jobs learned everything he needed to know about negotiating intellectual property rights from his ownership of Pixar. This knowledge was perfect for the creation of the iTunes store.

When you identify weakness in a market, and then apply a good strategy to exploit that weakness for your business success, that application is a key part of Schwerpunkt.

Steve Jobs was confident he knew where Apple’s strengths were, and how to apply them for the best opportunities that could leverage those strengths.

iPod = Apple’s Schwerpunkt

The iPod was an immediate game changing hit which changed the basis of competition in the music business.

While Dell was playing catchup, developing its Digital Jukebox, and Microsoft was creating its Zune, neither of which saw much success, Apple was preparing to launch the iPhone.


When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was near death, while Microsoft and Dell were giants. It was by employing Schwerpunkt that Apple went from worst to first. Today, Apple is the richest company in the world with a market cap of $2.294 Trillion.

While his competitors were still reacting to his latest innovation, Jobs was already hard at work on his next big thing.

Radio & Schwerpunkt

When I read the radio trades or sit in on a webinar, what strikes me most is how the radio industry’s leaders are talking about working to develop areas that are already owned by others. Areas, that don’t align with radio’s strengths.

When I worked for Clear Channel, I also remember management meetings that spoke of how we needed to focus, and then rolled out an agenda of 20 to 50 things we needed to focus on.

In 1952 Rosser Reeves, the ad man who developed the television ads for President Dwight Eisenhower was confronted with Ike’s multiple talking points. Reeves told the President that he needed to focus on just one thing, but relented to allow Ike to have three. Reeves understood the concept of Schwerpunkt, though he may never have heard of it.

Radio’s strength has always been about serving its community of license with live local personalities that provide companionship for the listener.

The very people the radio industry continues to eliminate.

When hurricane Ian bore down on Florida this past week, I’m sure I’m not alone in turning to The Weather Channel to see Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams tell us what was happening.

Jim Cantore joined The Weather Channel upon graduating from college in 1986 (36 years) and Stephanie Abrams has been with the network since 2003 (19 years). Cantore and Abrams along with the rest of the team of meteorological professionals have earned our respect and trust. Trust that has been earned over many years of excellent broadcasting.

Good luck to anyone who thinks they can beat them.

The Weather Channel has Schwerpunkt.

Until the radio industry truly focuses on its strengths, and leverages them for both its own financial benefit as well as that of their advertisers and listeners, its future will remain cloudy.

Radio = Schwerpunkt-less


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

14 responses to “Does Your Radio Station Have Schwerpunkt?

  1. Look at any successful radio station, and you will see it is being run by people who understand radio, and have experience doing it. Radio will never have Schwerpunkt as long as it is populated by mega radio companies, who do nothing but chase Wall Street’s approval. My Dad used to say that sometimes you’ve gotta spend a buck to make a buck, but that kind of philosophy is death for a company always looking to increase the bottom line to increase their stock price!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim Farley

    “When I worked for Clear Channel, I also remember management meetings that spoke of how we needed to focus, and then rolled out an agenda of 20 to 50 things we needed to focus on.” Dick, that is HILARIOUS! Joel Oxley summed up Schwerpunkt for Hubbard DC wit5h one sentencer: We are an information provider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love it Jim. Who can argue with the success — both financial as well as audience — of WTOP. Joel Oxley has done an outstanding job as the leader of WTOP.

      Thank YOU for sharing that story and being a part of the success and legacy of WTOP.


  3. I always appreciate your superb insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As I said in my acceptance speech at the Dayton Area Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve never believed in this concept of making radio a “national platform”. Why? It ignores history. Radio WAS a national platform in the 1940’s. All it took to supplant it was a newfangled “toy” called “television”. Being local and having local personalities playing recorded music is what saved it. Please radio owners – re-invest in your talent and in local broadcasting. We’ve proven we don’t have to all be live 24/7 anymore. But we have to be local. ” Until I stop breathing, I will continue to press this point to the industry. At least I’ll die knowing I tried.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Walter Luffman

    Dick, the iPod was a brilliant idea that helped Apple move beyond “just computers” while further establishing the Apple brand. Its descendants — iPhones and other smartphones — are everywhere. Like transistor radios in the 1960s, only more so.

    The big living room console radio made way for the smaller table radio in the kitchen and bedroom, which in turn has given way to the smart speaker. (I even have one in my bathroom!) High fidelity, fade-free signal quality of stations worldwide makes the smart speaker the preferred home “radio” for many. It’s past time for the product itself to catch up; far too few stations deliver what listeners don’t even realize they’re missing — and what, ironically, they often had more of in past decades.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Scherpunkt is a mouthful. Local-Live is not and covers the concept simply and in totality. Time to break free of the corporate greedbeads who have destroyed our medium on all fronts and bring back the community-involved local broadcaster where there’s still room for major unbiased network news on the hour or whenever. 50+ years in radio here – despite a non-radio title: Registered Municipal Clerk in the State of New Jersey, I continue in charge of the town’s 10-watt AM emergency station that saved lives with pinpoint local information during Hurricane Sandy while higher powered AMs & FMs we t off the air or ignored our community. That’s local-live radio – where we dispensed MREs, bottled water, charging stations, re-opened filling stations and food markets – all on a constantly updated local loop. Power? Commercial failed. We borrowed Recreation’s portable Honda generator to stay on air with our booming 10 watts. Now, that’s radio.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Over and over, radio (commercial, in particular) chases the newest shiny object – “digital” ads, social media, podcasts – instead of focusing on and improving the strongest, unqiue asset they own. I fail to see why radio broadcasters should spend any effort to create content for anyone else but themselves or make it available anywhere else but on their owned platforms – FM/HD/Streams.

    Liked by 1 person

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