Category Archives: Education

Fin d’une Époque (End of an Era)

Notre Dame on fireOn this Easter Sunday morning, I’m still processing the pictures etched into my brain of Notre Dame Cathedral, in flames. This 856 year old church, is the most visited structure in Paris, eclipsing the Eiffel Tower.

Like many people around the world, I sat in front of a video screen watching the efforts of 400 French firefighters trying to contain the inferno.

In a world that seems out-of-control, the raging flames destroying this icon seemed like a metaphor for our lives.

“Built in the Gothic era, destroyed in the social-media era.”

-Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic

This quote by Rachel resonated with me because it made me think of some similarities between the radio industry and the history of this great cathedral.

A Short History of Notre Dame

Notre Dame was a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture. It was built in the middle ages with the structure largely completed in 100-years. It would take another 100-years to see the cathedral take on more of the shape we had most recently known.

Over the centuries, Notre Dame would be badly damaged, first by the Huguenots, and then again during the French Revolution. Napoleon would order the church’s restoration and hold his coronation there as Emperor in 1804.

By the 19th Century, Notre Dame was again half-ruined inside and badly battered. It was even used as a warehouse, and there was talk of just tearing it down. A novel by Victor Hugo titled “Notre-Dame de Paris” (published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”) would bring the cathedral new attention, and in 1844 King Louis Phillippe ordered the church’s restoration.

Notre Dame would survive two world wars, but during the 20th Century the cathedral would be battling air pollution and a lack of interest in funding the maintenance of this aging structure.

In late 2010s, it was estimated that $113 million in renovations was needed to preserve the cathedral. Only late last year had work begun on the spire.

A Short History of Radio

Radio was a communications masterpiece. The spoken word and musical art forms of radio broadcasting would spread knowledge, culture and entertainment like the world had never seen.

Commercial radio born in 1920, would quickly become the must have device in every American household. It was the “Golden Age of Radio.”

Radio was first challenged by the birth of television in the 1950s and the migration of its talent and programs over to TV. Like Notre Dame, there were many who thought radio had come to an end and that television had replaced it. But radio broadcasters with vision, renovated radio broadcasting from its block programming and national broadcast networks into a variety of formats that would be curated by the radio personality, known as the Disc Jockey or more simply the “DJ.”

Radio was now in what would be called its second “Golden Age.”

Like the great cathedral of Notre Dame, radio would be challenged by its own particular battles over its life. Things like the 8-track tape, cassette tape, compact discs and the ubiquitous CB radios of the 1970s, all these challenged radio in a place it had long enjoyed dominance, the automobile.

As Rachel Donadio so prophetically observed, radio and Notre Dame were seeing their own type of destruction in a social-media 21st Century world.

Money for Disasters but Not for Maintenance

One of the things we have learned from the fire at Notre Dame is that while it was near impossible to find donors to fund needed maintenance and restoration of the cathedral, the disaster of April 15th has secured hundreds of millions of dollars for the full restoration of this great iconic church.

I’m sure that Notre Dame will be restored to a glory even greater than before the fire.

Radio & Cooking Frogs

On the other hand, radio isn’t going up in flames. There will be no live, continuous television coverage of radio’s destruction. Most people don’t even realize there’s a problem. 9 in 10 people still are counted as weekly radio listeners.

Radio’s situation is more akin to the way you cook a frog. Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will immediately jump out, but put the frog in a pot of water and slowly raise the temperature and the frog will be cooked without realizing it.

Radio’s Restoration

My heart sinks as I read how important the radio personality is to the future success of the radio industry, and at the same time read about how decades long radio people are being eliminated with job reductions on almost a weekly basis.

If all radio stopped tomorrow, people would spring into action to save it, just like they are doing for Notre Dame.

Radio, like all local, independent media, plays a vital role in our lives, our democracy, and our future.

Can you feel the water getting hotter?

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Seniors & Technology Adoption

old hands using high techTraditional habit patterns used to be that as people grew older, they grew into the same habit patterns as their parents. Things like reading a newspaper, watching the evening television news, becoming involved in their children’s schools, the community and listening to radio. But new research says, those patterns have been upended by what else but, the internet.

Connected Seniors

Perhaps the fastest growing segment of new users on Facebook are seniors. Over half of the people aged 50 to 64 use Facebook, but people over 65 have almost doubled their use of Facebook with now over 32% of them on the social media juggernaut.

It may be why younger generations are moving to other social media platforms, to get away from us oldsters.

You Can’t Turn Back the Hands of Time

Pew Research says seniors who become engaged in social media say they would find it very hard to give up. I’m one of those seniors and yes, I would find it hard to give up. How about you?

Social Media, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) helps seniors to remain independent. Adoption of new technology by seniors goes against the conventional wisdom that only the young want the latest new thing, but these shiny, new, high tech devices attract kids of all ages; even us “big kids.”

Us Baby Boomers were the biggest market segment for all of my life. Only recently have Millennials outnumbered us, but expect Boomers to change the concept of retirement and technology use. Broadcasters take note: Once people discover new technology, it’s unlikely they will return to the days of old.

Social Media Addiction

I don’t remember anyone ever sending out alerts about radio or television addiction, but with social media the world is seeing addictive properties akin to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Consider that the average adult now spends nearly 2 hours a day on social media. We can access it on our home computers or away from home on our smartphones. Of the 3.1 billion social media users globally, it’s estimated that almost 7% have a social media addiction problem. This form of addiction is defined as “a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other forms of digital media overuse.”

71% of us now sleep with or next to our mobile phone. I know I do and it also is my alarm clock. Worse are those people who check their social media before going to sleep or wake-up during the night to check their social media, estimated to be about 45% of us, making getting a good night’s sleep challenging.

Maybe even more alarming is the fact that 90% of drivers say they use their smartphones while driving. Half to check social media while behind the wheel. (I DO NOT) And according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 9-people are killed and more than a thousand are injured daily by people using their smartphones while driving.

I can’t think of any reports of people suffering the same amount of death or injury listening to their car radio. Can you?

Apple even now tells me how much my weekly screen time is on each of my Apple devices in an effort to make me more aware of how much time I spend with them. I can even set-up my devices to force me to limit my time with them. That’s how different these platforms are from the traditional media of the 20th Century.

If you’d like to do a deep dive into “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech Saturated World,” here’s a link to a long report on all of this by the Pew Research Center.  Click HERE

Reader Question

I share all of this for radio broadcasters, the first social media, to consider the challenge of today’s new communications media. It’s addictive. Broadcast not so much.

A reader wrote to me asking this question: ‘Was radio the dominant media because it truly was a companion or because it was pre-internet, consumers had a lot fewer choices for basic full service information and music?’

Reaching Our Time Limit

Back in the early 90s I was living in New Jersey and AT&T did a presentation for my Rotary Club on a future of infinite capacity in communications. Just to be clear, these scientists defined “infinite” as having more transmission capacity through their wires than they could conceive of what to transmit over them.

I remember asking the question if the future was going to make available so much media product, how would a viewer or listener know what to consume? The answer they gave me was, ‘the media would pay the listener or viewer to listen or watch their program.’

It feels to me like we’re approaching that point in time now.

What are your thoughts?

 

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You’re Not Talking to Me

DAKRSkVkQwumvq7Zd9aTUwI sat on a webinar the other day and when it ended the first thought that crossed my mind was, they’re not talking to me. Their demographics in the study capped at 55-years of age. Really? No one over 55 matters to radio or to radio advertisers?

65+ People

Then I read this World Economic Forum article that was headlined, “For the first time ever there are more people over 65 than under 5.” Think about that for a moment. Economists point out there’s widespread consequences for productivity, inflation and global growth by this demographics shift, to which I would add, consider the impact on ad supported media.

65+ People are Renters

While millennials are buying homes – if they aren’t weighed down with student loan debt and minimum wage level jobs – seniors are becoming renters. People 65+ are empty nesters and find they simply don’t need a McMansion and all the work/expense that goes into living in one. I know that’s certainly been the case for me when I sold my home in 2003. I have been a renter since. Renting is much more economical than owning.

Market Watch reports that Americans will find they will need to spend nearly $9,400 in “hidden costs” to own and care for a median-priced home, based on the latest analysis from Zillow.

Millennials Abandon Brick & Mortar Stores

Tethered to their smartphones and comfortable with buying online, those millennials aren’t necessarily the best customers for their advertisers that radio might have thought.

Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and their shopping habits are worlds away from those of their parents. Thanks to the rapid pace of digitalization and new shopper-friendly tools, like browser extensions and voice assistants, retailers must be ready to embrace significant change.

PR Newswire, March 19, 2019

Only 18-months ago, research indicated that millennials were still going to brick & mortar stores, but that’s changed dramatically, and in a very short time. You can download the full report HERE.

$164.55 a Day

Jessica Dickler reporting on CNBC writes, “Between housing, food, cellphone bills and other expenses, Americans shell out $164.55, on average, in a given day.” Punching that number into my calculator, I quickly saw that’s over $60,000/year, but averages are funny things and you can be sure ‘your mileage may vary.’

Putting that number aside for a moment, we find that the bulk of that money is spent on housing. That fabled ‘American Dream’ can be a boat anchor on the pocketbook.

While seniors are moving from being home owners to renters, you might be surprised to learn how similar the senior household expenses are to the average household according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Item

Food
Furniture
Major Appliances
Small Appliances
Household Textiles
Apparel
Transportation
New Vehicles
Old Vehicles
Health Care
Drugs
Entertainment
Insurance
Other ExpensesTotal
Senior Household

$13,432
​$401
​$196
​$88
​$113
​$1,640
​$7,781
​$2,052
​$1,611
​$2,416
​$467
​$2,060
​$4,055
​$4,093$40,817
Avg.  Household

$14,403
$460
​$200
​$81
​$108
​$1,870
$8,354​
​$2,055
​$1,904
​$1,758
​$266
​$2,142
​$4,505
​$3,956​$42,631

Source: Advertising Age’s American Demographics, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure survey. (1) Includes social security contribution (excludes health insurance, which is classified as health-care expense).

Not all that different, is it.

And far from that other analysis of the average adult spending over $60,000 a year. So why aren’t more radio companies focusing at least one of their radio signals on seniors?

Retirement Epiphany

All my life, the focus was on planning for and saving for retirement. I’d like to say I did everything right, but the reality is far from that.

The great wealth destroyers are divorce, moving and changing jobs.

In my personal life, I’ve gone through two divorces. As the radio industry was dramatically changed by the Telcom Act of 1996, I would spend a decade moving around the country about every two years. That communications act also found me changing companies with just about every move too.

The final chapter of my working life, as a university professor of broadcasting, gave me seven years of stability and an opportunity to save as much as I could for retirement.

Now I’m retired. The goal is no longer to save for retirement, but to spend in retirement. My wife and I are in good health and taking zero medications, which affords us the opportunity to spend on our new found passion of traveling. Spoiling the grandkids, eating out, and redecorating are also high on our list of things to do. I’m sure we’re not alone.

The irony is, the radio media seem to ignore us. And they do so at their peril.

We’re retired, not dead.

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Thinning the Herd

Thinning the HerdGordon Borrell recently hosted a webinar that hit on the highlights of his #LOAC2019 (Local Advertising Conference) held in New York City. The shocker, for me and many others came when Gordon said the future for media expenditures would be a process of “thinning the herd.”

Media Overpopulation

To put things in perspective, Gordon shared how an over-populated media landscape is impacting local advertisers.

  • 1,300 daily newspapers, 6,500 weeklies
  • 4,700 printed directory books
  • 4,665 AM radio stations, 6,757 commercial FM radio stations
  • 1,760 Class A TV stations
  • More than 1,000 cable systems with local sales staffs
  • 660,000 podcasts were actively produced in 2018
  • 495 NEW TV shows were introduced last year in addition to what’s already on
  • PLUS, local ad sales are taking place on Facebook, Google and Amazon

Another way of looking at this media explosion, is that a TV market now has an average of 126 local media entities. To view a recording of the webinar, contact Corey Elliott HERE

Action – Reaction

So, how are the people who buy advertising responding to this media abundance?

Gordon identified three trends:

  • They are increasing buying for types of media, from 5.5 to 8 different ones
  • They are decreasing the number of companies from which they buy advertising, from 5 to 3.5 companies
  • 90% of their media buys are being made with companies who can bundle traditional and digital advertising

Facebook – Google – Amazon

When a new Ollie’s store opened in Winchester, Virginia, my Facebook newsfeed was peppered with announcements. During the fall elections, politicians also used lots of Facebook ads to try and get elected.

I can’t go on Google or Amazon looking for something without being followed around the internet with ads for that very thing.

eMarketer says that in 2018, Google and Facebook took 60% of the total digital ad spend. Amazon was third with 6.8% but is predicted to grow it’s share by more than 50% in 2019.

Think about that, these three companies will rake in over 68% of the digital advertising dollars spent this year.

eMarketer also says that by 2023, they expect digital advertising to account for 66% of total media spend.

Post-Capitalist Society

About ten years ago, my good friend John Parikhal recommended I read Peter Drucker’s book “Post -Capitalist Society.” Wikipedia summarizes Drucker’s thesis this way:

“The book states that the “First World Nations” and in particular the United States have entered a Post-capitalism system of production where the capital is no longer present because it doesn’t belong to one person or family but to a series of organizations such as insurance companies, banks, etc. Because of this, normal citizens become virtually owners of the great American enterprises, being owners of the capital, therefore, not destroying but overcoming the capitalism. The book foresees that the post-capitalist society will become a society of organizations where every organization will be highly specialized in its particular field.”

Sound like what we are witnessing in today’s world?

Accountable Capitalism Act

Recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill in Congress called the “Accountable Capitalism Act.” It targets what Warren says is the root of the country’s “fundamental economic problems.” You can read the Boston Globe story on the bill HERE

In essence, we have moved from a time when corporations cared about where they lived to one where only increasing shareholder value matter.

I remember a time when the insurance companies of Hartford, Connecticut were once heavily invested in the good of Hartford. I grew up in a GE city. General Electric made a positive impact on things and participated in growth and prosperity of the area.

In the 1980s, things changed. Corporations shifted from caring about both employees and investors, to only investors. The record profits went all to investors, and the people who worked hard to produce those profits didn’t get a share of them.

Increasing Shareholder Value

I first wrote about how the concept of “increasing shareholder value” was a dumb idea three years ago. You can read that article HERE

Real American capitalism was when both company and worker did well together.

Senator Warren has also raised many eyebrows with another plan that proposes to break up some of the largest US tech companies, like Amazon, Google and Facebook. Based on the trends in digital advertising, those of us in broadcasting would probably agree with Warren.

In essence, Warren says that high tech has created an unfair playing field. They control the platform, have full access to all the data, and then can either unfairly compete with companies, buy them out entirely or run them out of business. It reminds me of the type of things people said as Walmart covered America with their form of brick & mortar retailing.

Get Bigger or Get Out

Cox Media has recently begun liquidating its radio, television, newspaper and other media properties. The company’s leadership has determined that scale will be a determining factor in the future, and they either need to get bigger or get out. Cox has chosen the latter.

Current Trends

It would appear that in reading the tea leaves for ad supported media, that everything is currently headed in the direction of fewer entities owning all the media outlets, and advertisers buying their media on those platforms that can bundle it all together.

“Monopolies are a corruption of the marketplace. Breaking them up — allow[s] entrepreneurs to enter the market, giving consumers more choices, and giv[es] workers more jobs…”

-Adam Green, cofounder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee

I know there are many radio folks who saw the Telcom Act of 1996 as the beginning of the end of commercial radio as we knew it. That act is what caused Wall Street to enter the broadcasting business and apply their dumb idea of “increasing shareholder value” to another industry. It was the beginning of the consolidation of radio and we all know how that’s turned out.

 

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What Will Be Radio’s Icon

vintage_objects_collection_television_telephone_clock_radio_icons_6833099Growing up in the 20th Century, things looked like what they were. Telephones were easily identified as telephones. Television sets were easily identified as televisions. And radios were easily identified as radios.

I’m a member of many social media radio groups, I even host a couple of my own, and we all use classic radios to brand Crosley AM FM Radioour social media pages. In my case, it’s a cathedral style radio made popular back in the 1930s. A style of radio I never owned until I received a retro transistorized version at a company manager’s meeting back in the late 1980s.

Smartphone

When the smartphone became ubiquitous and people began to listen to radio broadcasts first iPhone introducedon their phones, I wondered if the new icon for radio might be just that, a smartphone device. But then, this same device could also represent a TV, a camera, a movie camera, a book, a newspaper, a magazine…well you get the idea, a lot of media was instantly replaced by this singular device.

Smartspeaker

Then, a year ago, Santa brought me an Amazon Echo and Alexa became the servant I echonever had. She’s always there, waiting for me to call her name and fetch for me whatever I need, be it the latest news, weather, wind chill, traffic conditions, music, and more.

I then thought that maybe the 21st Century radio icon would look like this device.

An App

Radio APPThese days, radio still dominates in the car, and the vehicles being produced today feature entertainment systems. These dashboard entertainment centers are loaded with unprecedented engagement capabilities and each one is accessed by an identifying App. Companies like Pandora and Spotify are providing a content rich environment to take full advantage these entertainment systems.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone will be able to keep their eyes on the road as song titles, logos, biographical information about the artists, concert dates and so much more accompanies the music that is playing.

By comparison, a broadcast radio station’s programming to these devices seems rather anemic.

And things aren’t likely to change anytime soon, as broadcasters see the costs of these opportunities to be prohibitive on many levels. For one thing there are all the new licensing fees that could be attached to broadcasting this media rich environment. For another, the few people working in today’s radio clusters barely have enough time to get things done now without the addition of coordinating all of these other items. And if you add more people to handle the work, then the costs will really rise. So, Return On Investment (ROI) issues rear their ugly head and everything comes to a standstill.

Not Right Now

Over the years, I’ve been involved in these types of discussions and the phrase most often heard by those who hold power over the purse is “not right now.”

Discussions usually degenerate into the drawbacks of moving forward, or how these new innovations will be paid for, and end with no progress being made.

Think AM Stereo. Think FM Quad. Think HD Radio (before broadcasters learned they could use HD’s subchannels to feed multiple FM analog translators).

Yes, Right Now

The reality is that these changes are taking place as we speak. Is the radio industry focused on the needs, wants and desires of future listeners or a 20th Century radio spectrum grab strategy?

“Sometimes I feel like a creature in the wilds,

whose natural habitat is gradually being destroyed.”

-Lord Grantham, Downton Abby

Radio’s last beachhead is in the automobile.

If it doesn’t wish to see its dominance vanish, it will need to focus on all that the vehicle entertainment systems are capable of delivering, and provide the unique content that is a “must have” for the media consumer.

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Are We the Solution or the Problem?

albert-einsteinAlbert Einstein said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

I have noticed that when I publish a new article about radio, people seem to fall into a couple of different camps. There are those who say radio’s days are numbered, or over. There are those who think going back to the way it was will solve everything. And there are those who believe “radio” is a concept and not a specific transmission platform, such as the AM or FM bands.

WABC Becomes Talk Radio

In May of 1982 Music Radio 77 – WABC in New York City became a talk radio station. Music sounded better on FM and in stereo than on static filled, mono AM radio. This happened 37-years ago and yet many of us tune in to Rewound Radio every Memorial Day Weekend to listen to WABC, the way it was when we were growing up in the 60s & 70s.

WPLJ is Sold

WABC-FM became WPLJ on February 14, 1971 and by September of that same year it would become one of America’s first AOR (Album Oriented Rock) radio stations.

“Watching All the President’s Men on TCM…thought it might be timely. Loved the reference when Bernstein asked Woodward “if you’re listening to the radio and you don’t hear any commercials for 10 minutes, is it AM or FM?” Kinda sums up the demise of music radio on AM back in the 70s and strongly underlines what’s happening to FM now compared to satellite radio, Pandora, Spotify, etc.” 
–John Sebastian

Now WPLJ has been sold and like a divorce, WABC and WPLJ will no longer be together. Frank D’Elia writes a wonderful personal history of WPLJ on his blog which you can read HERE.

Sadly, he ends his blog article with the following: “I loved the radio business, and it was my home for over 44 years, but today, radio sucks!”

The World Wide Web Turned 30 This Past Week

While it was 37 years ago that the music died on WABC, it was 30 years ago this past Wednesday, that Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed a global linked information management system that included hypertext. Even more interesting is the fact that Sir Berners-Lee feels a little bit like Frank D’Elia and the current state of his creation. In an article published on the World Economic Forum website titled “The web is 30 years old. What better time to fight for its future?” Sir Tim shares his frustrations and recommendations for fixing things. He writes: “To tackle any problem, we must clearly outline and understand it. I broadly see three sources of dysfunction affecting today’s web:

  1. Deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour, and online harassment.

  2. System design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.

  3. Unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.”

Lots of Change

When I think back to those days when AM radio rocked my world, to today where Alexa serves up whatever my mood desires, things have changed a lot.

Berners-Lee also notes how much the web has changed in the past 30 years and that it would be “defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web, as we know it, can’t be changed for the better in the next 30.”

Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, wrote recently that “The key to failure is to hang on to the belief that things have to be ‘the way they ought to be.’ The key to success is to be able to deal with things as they really are.”

Which brings me back to the title of this week’s blog article, are we the solution or the problem when it comes to the future of radio?

What are Radio’s Big 3 Areas of Dysfunction?

I’m sure you have your own thoughts on this, but the sense I have from reading articles about today’s radio industry from all over the world, along with reader comments, are that these three things are very important to the future of radio:

  1. Commercials. Radio’s commercial spot loads are too big. The 60 and 30-second ad lengths are over. Radio needs to re-think the way it monetizes itself OTA (over the air) and the creation of radio ads needs to be a specialty in every radio station. Jerry Lee understands this better than anyone in our industry.

  2. Companionship. Alexa is convenient and we even chat with one another, but I don’t consider “her” a companion. Radio needs to fulfill that social need for the listener. I believe NPR has done a spectacular job of fulfilling this companionship role through its variety of informational programs. Companionship is built by live personalities that broadcast from the area being served or focused on like-interests of the target audience.

  3. Quality vs. Quantity. The radio industry is focused on putting more signals on the air, and controlling more existing radio signals by fewer entities, than it is on the content that should be sent over those signals. The original benchmarks or staples of radio are often much more efficiently handled by other platforms. Radio needs to re-think what it can do that others can’t, and then do it. Radio needs to compliment today’s other communications media, as it no longer is the sole source of information for things like weather, traffic, school closings etc.

I would love to hear your thoughts, but even more important, I would love to hear the thoughts of people who don’t listen to radio and what would entice them to return.

The future of radio will be based on attracting the next generations.

We won’t know what they want if we don’t ask them.

“Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit

is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety.”

-Tim Berners-Lee

 

 

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Is Radio Prepared for The Future

Radio & CobwebsIn a lot of ways, the future is here, now.

All of the things we knew were coming back at the turn of the century have become reality.

But the radio industry continues to try to adapt.

Great Companies Don’t Adapt, They Prepare

When I saw that headline on a blog article by Greg Satell two years ago, it resonated with me because it made me realize that the radio industry wasn’t prepared for the 21st Century. It was trying to adapt the past to the present and hoping that it would sustain them going into the future.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to create the future by focusing on the present.

“The truth is,” writes Satell, “that companies rarely succeed by adapting to market events.”

“Firms prevail by shaping the future…but it takes years of preparation to achieve.

Once you find yourself in a position where you need to adapt, it’s usually too late.”

-Greg Satell

Marconi & Sarnoff

Each generation has its great innovators, so It’s always a challenge to say who makes a greater contribution to changing the world.

Marconi gave us the wireless, a one-to-one form of communications that transformed the world.

Sarnoff innovated the radio as a form of mass communication, giving us a one-to-many instant communication service of news, entertainment and advertising supported radio.

What we can be certain of, each person who creates the future is one who overflows with boundless curiosity.

Investing in Research

All of the Big 5 Tech companies (Amazon, Facebook Microsoft, Google and Apple) invest heavily in research. Each of them, in their own way, has made themselves indispensable from our daily lives.

Recently, a daily newsletter I read called “While You Were Working,” asked its readers which of the Big 5 Tech Companies they could survive without. Here are the results of that survey:

Which Big 5 tech company do you think it would be easiest to live without?

Facebook  70.71%
Apple  14.14%
Amazon  7.35%
Microsoft  5.74%
Google  2.06%

Probably not surprising that Facebook was the choice folks said they could live without by a wide margin.

For five weeks, Kashmir Hill, a writer for Gizmodo, decided to see how she would deal with giving up today’s technology by blocking one of the Big 5 from her world. In her sixth and final week, she decided to go cold turkey and blocked them all. How did that go? Well I think the title of her article said it all, “I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell.”

Hill compared her experience to that of an alcoholic trying to give us booze. And that life without them makes life very difficult as we are so dependent on them.

I’m not sure any of us really understands how married we are to these Big 5 Tech Companies or how hard it would be for us to give up even one of them, let alone to give them all up.

Listening to Radio

One of the interesting side-bars of the article Hill wrote was that by not having Alexa, Spotify audio books, podcasts or other such services on her Nokia feature phone, what she could receive, unlike with her iPhone, were radio broadcasts and that allowed her to listen to NPR while doing her daily run.

But how sad that listening to radio only seems to be an option when all other options are eliminated.

Investing in the Core Product

Some of the differences between the Big 5 Tech companies are what non-core areas they invest their research money into, like self-driving cars. The one thing they all take very seriously, however, is plowing the lion’s share of their research budget into their core competencies.

In my sales class, I used to tell my students that people don’t buy half-inch drill bits because they want them, they buy them because what they want are half-inch holes. In other words, you will be successful when you invest your time solving your customers’ problems.

Radio Research

Most radio research dollars are spent on one thing, audience measurement. Unfortunately, that’s research that studies the past performance of a radio station, not the present moment. Virtually no radio research money is spent on preparing the ground for the future.

We all know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big thing. Alexa, in your Amazon Echo, is the perfect example.

How is the radio industry preparing its employees to acquire the skills they will need to excel in an AI world? Artificial Intelligence is a force that will impact the communications industry in the years to come.

Broadcasting has been living off of its seed corn for too many years, while the technology industries have been focused on solving our customer’s problems by investing in them for years, even decades.

Broadcasters can’t create the future by continuing to focus on the present.

Innovation, will require investment in research that, imagines new possibilities.

 

 

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