Category Archives: Sales

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

It’s always been my belief that unless you first build a positive culture in the workplace, nothing else you try to accomplish will ever come to fruition.

So, when I read this famous quote that business guru Peter Drucker was alleged to have coined, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” it came as no surprise that the foundation of any successful enterprise is built on its culture.

In fact, most people don’t quit companies or leaders, they quit organizational cultures.

“The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.”

-John Wooden

The Learning Never Stops

In my capstone classes, students learned that their time at the university should be considered a launch pad to a lifetime of learning. Leaders never stop learning.

“When I am through learning, I am through.”

-John Wooden

Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude

Your own personal culture is your attitude. Whether it is positive or negative, it’s yours to control.

As a hiring manager, I always hired people on their attitude; everything else can be trained.

In life, more than any other factor, your attitude pretty much determines where you will go –  and how far you will go.

Ron Lundy

One of my favorite radio personalities was Ron Lundy. I first heard Ron on Music Radio 77 – WABC and immediately fell in love with the contagious, upbeat, positive attitude he presented on his radio show.

When WABC switched formats from music to talk, Ron Lundy found himself out of work, but would eventually be hired by Joe McCoy at WCBS-FM.

Every air shift on CBS-FM was already filled, so in order to create a time period for Ron, Joe McCoy would need to shorten everyone’s air shift, and convince his general manager why this hire would be beneficial to the radio station.

As I heard the story, Joe’s pitch to his GM was that Ron wasn’t just a powerful personality that would attract more listeners to CBS-FM, but that Ron was the type of guy that provided a positive culture inside the radio station, inspiring everyone to do their jobs better.

Attitude in Managing

One of my radio mentors was Phil Weiner (WBEC/WQRB/WUHN/WUPE). When I departed for my first solo general manager position in Atlantic City, he shared with me the most important thing he learned as a general manager, “Whatever your attitude is, when you enter the radio station each day, that will become the attitude of your fellow employees. Keep your problems to yourself and always maintain a positive, upbeat, enthusiastic attitude.”

It may have been the most important advice of my forty-year radio management career.

In my second career as a college professor, knowing that one’s attitude is contagious, I brought that same positive attitude and energy into the classroom.

“Attitudes aren’t taught, they’re caught.”

-Margaret McFarland

Everyone You Meet Can Teach You Something

No matter how far in life you’ve gone, or how many degrees, medals or trophies you’ve earned, stay humble. Every person you meet carries knowledge about life that you can benefit from. Stay curious and be willing to soak up the wisdom from everyone you come in contact with.

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

-John Wooden

Radio is a People Business

All of my life, I’ve invested my energies in the development of people. Many of them today are owners and managers of their own broadcast operations. As a general manager, I was proud to work with some great and talented individuals.

“You handle things. You work with people.”

-John Wooden

When it comes to managing people, one size does not fit all. I treated each member of my team for the unique personality they were, valuing their talents, and skills, as well as understanding that we all come with our own issues, problems and demons.

Great radio stations, full of talented people, can be an exceptionally exciting workplace.

“The worst things you can do for those you love

is the things they could and should do for themselves.”

-Abraham Lincoln

It’s important to have a culture that allows people to fail. Often the greatest wisdom comes from things that go wrong. As long as you have given your best effort, you are never a failure.

Great managers and teachers are great coaches of people.

The Big Four

Consider these four things when creating culture in your organization:

  1. Culture is created by the behaviors you tolerate.
  2. Change starts with YOU. You can’t expect your people to change if you won’t.
  3. Leadership gives you a voice at the table, not the voice.
  4. Listen to everyone and take their opinions into account when you make the final decision for moving forward.

“Much can be accomplished by teamwork

when no one is concerned about who gets the credit.”

-John Wooden

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What is The Future of Radio?

Ten years ago, I was in Las Vegas presenting at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual international conference. My presentation was called “This Changes Everything.” It outlined things that would be changing in our world in the decade to come.

“Prediction is difficult…especially about the future.”

-Yogi Berra

Remembering 2011

2011 was the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, and already we were witnessing a world where mediated communication was social, global, ubiquitous and cheap. It was the beginning of the social media revolution.

Groupon, which came into existence only a couple of years earlier, grew its revenue to over $1.6 billion in 2011. And yet, the doomsayers were already forecasting its demise. As this chart shows, revenues for Groupon did drop below 2011, but not until 2020.

A contributing factor to this downward revenue trend for Groupon might be that it’s estimated that only about 1% of Groupon users ever became regular customers of the businesses whose coupons they used.

TWITTER

A decade ago, Twitter was the most popular social media platform with more Fortune 100 companies using Twitter than any other social media platform.

As we begin the third decade of the 21st century, we know that the previous decade will now be known most for the impact of Facebook, not Twitter, when it comes to social media dominance.

Media Adoption Rates

In 1920, the adoption rate for commercial AM radio was incredibly fast, only to be eclipsed by the introduction of TV. However, both of these two forms of communication would be dwarfed by the adoption rates of the internet followed by the use of mobile internet made possible by the smartphone.

These last two brought about revolutionary changes in how we communicate.

In fact, the famous Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, might be updated to look like this:

How the World is Connected to the Internet

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, 85% of the world’s population connected to the internet via wireless mobile devices.

To put that into perspective, only 80% of the world was connected to an electrical grid in 2011.

Today, 92.6% or 4.32 billion people connect to the internet wirelessly.

Top Three Gadgets of All Time

A decade ago, The History Channel came out with a list of the “Top Gadgets of All Time” and they were:

  1. Smartphone
  2. Radio
  3. Television

Hat Tip to Mary Meeker

None of these things were a secret, but it was Mary Meeker that tied all of these changes together in her presentation “Internet Trends 2011.” Her presentations are worth your time to view. The most recent one being 2019, before COVID19 disrupted everything. You can view that presentation HERE

What we do know is COVID19 took all of the changes that were slowly taking place and accelerated them dramatically. Think “warp speed.”

The big three takeaways from 2011 were:

  1. Every media consumer is now a media producer
  2. Smartphones are changing the world of mediated communications
  3. Media is now social, global, ubiquitous and cheap

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

What Technology Might a Baby Born Today, Never Use?

Let me throw out some thought starters for you to consider. Please feel free to add to this list.

  • Wired home internet
  • Dedicated cameras
  • Landline telephones
  • Slow-booting computers
  • Dialup Internet
  • Hard Drives
  • Electric typewriters
  • Movie Theaters
  • Computer Mouse
  • Remote Controls
  • Desktop computers
  • Phone numbers
  • Prime Time TV
  • Fax machines
  • Optical disks
  • Record player
  • Cassette player
  • CD Player
  • VCR or DVR
  • Radio
  • ?????

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that – was what allowed you to make great products – but the products, NOT THE PROFITS, were the motivation.”

-Steve Jobs

So, What’s the Future of Radio?

In 2011, one hundred college students were surveyed about what they believed the future of radio was, here were their top three positive comments and their top three negative comments:

POSITIVE COMMENTS

  1. Radio will re-invent itself. It is always evolving.
  2. Radio has a bright future as long as there are cars. It’s the first choice for drivers.
  3. Satellite Radio will expand as subscriptions become cheaper.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS

  1. Devices are coming out that will allow iPods and MP3 players to be played in cars.
  2. Smartphones will gradually take over radio entertainment.
  3. The only time people listen to radio is in their cars. Even then, they have CDs & MP3s.

Radio’s Car Radio Paranoia

Then Fred Jacobs came out with a blog this week about the seemingly bleak future for AM/FM radio in cars. You can read that HERE

At the annual CES (Consumer Electronic Show) Fred’s been asking about the future of car radio every year, and noticed that more recently auto manufacturers are reluctant to give a direct answer if there might come a day when AM/FM car radios won’t be standard equipment.

For Elon Musk and Tesla, that day is already here.

How to Build Brands

Ernest Dichter is known as the father of motivational research. Over 50 years ago he did a large study on word-of-mouth persuasion that revealed the secrets of how to build brands. Dichter said there are four motivations for a person to communicate about a brand:

  1. Product-Involvement: the experience had to be so novel and pleasurable that it must be shared with others.
  2. Self-Involvement: people want to share the knowledge or opinions, as a way to gain attention, have inside information, or assert superiority.
  3. Other-Involvement: a person wants to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring or friendship. They are often thought of a “brand evangelists.”
  4. Message-Involvement: the message is so humorous or informative that it deserves sharing.

“Win the hearts of the people, their minds will follow.”

-Roy H. Williams

So, if you are in the radio business, OR are a radio listener, the question you need to honestly ask yourself is:

How does your brand measure up?

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Oh, The Insanity

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) submission to the Federal Communications Commission for the FCC’s 2018 Quadrennial Regulatory Review is eye-opening.  You can read it for yourself HERE. It left me shaking my head.

The NAB told the commission that “’local radio stations’ Over-The-Air (OTA) ad revenues fell 44.9% in nominal terms ($17.6 billion to $9.7 billion) from 2005-2020.” Local 2020 digital advertising revenues by stations only increased the radio industry’s total ad revenues by $0.9 billion bringing them to $10.6 billion.

The NAB’s solution to the problem is for the radio industry to become more consolidated.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over

and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

Say What?

Back in the mid 90s, the radio industry was telling anyone who would listen that the problem with the state of radio broadcasting in America was that the industry was made up of little “ma and pa” radio stations/groups which could not scale and if the ownership caps weren’t lifted the radio industry would perish.

Excuse me, but I’ve already seen this movie and how it ends. So, why would doing more of what didn’t work, result in a different outcome.

The Media World Has Changed

I don’t think anyone would contest that the media world we live in has changed dramatically since 2005. Facebook, the world’s largest social media company with over 1.84 billion daily active users, opened its doors on February of 2004. YouTube began in 2005 and Twitter in 2006.

Google, the dominate search engine on the internet, began in 1998 and internet retailing behemoth, Amazon, began in 1994.

The new internet kids on the block that dominate our day are WhatsApp (2009), Pinterest (2009), Instagram (2010), Messenger (2011), SnapChat (2011) and TikTok (2016).

The Top 10 internet companies at the end of 2020 raked in 78.1% of the digital ad revenue ($109.2 billion).

All Ad Dollars Are Green

While we like to break money spent on advertising into distinct categories like digital media, traditional media etc. the reality is the total number of advertising dollars is a finite number and in the end you can’t tell a dollar from digital from a dollar from analog advertising.

“You can’t handle the truth!”

Colonel Jessup

(played by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film “A Few Good Men”)

Since 2005, many young entrepreneurs have created a better mousetrap to capture those advertising dollars. No one ever made a regulation or a law that prevented the radio industry from doing what any of those internet companies did. The passenger railroad industry never thought of themselves as being in the transportation business but only the railroad business. That’s why it found itself challenged by other means of people transportation, namely the airlines.

The radio advertising industry was born by entrepreneurs that learned how to create a product that attracted a large listening audience, which in turn enabled them to sell audio advertising to companies wishing to expose their product or service to these consumers.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves challenged by new media competition. Initially, it was television, but transistor portable radios, along with car radios, allowed our business to reinvent its programming and flourish once again.

With the advent of the internet, radio was caught flat-footed.

If that were its only problem.

Radio Stations (2005-2020)

In 2005, America had 18,420 radio signals on the air.

  • 13,660 AM/FM/FM Educational radio stations on the air
  • 3,995 FM translators & boosters
  • 675 Low Power FM stations.

By 2020, those numbers increased to 26,001 radio signals.

  • 15,445 AM/FM/FM Educational radio stations
  • 8,420 FM translators & boosters
  • 2,136 Lower Power FM stations

18,330 vs. 26,001

That’s a 41.8% increase in the number of radio stations.

While radio folks were busy trying to steal radio advertising from the station across the street or consolidating with their former competition, the internet folks were focused on selling more advertising. From 2005 to 2020, the sale of digital advertising grew from $12.5 billion to $139.8 billion. That’s an increase of 118.4%.

But during that same time, radio grew its digital advertising footprint by $0.9 billion.

Quantity vs. Quality

When radio regulation began in America under the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) the decision was made by that regulatory body to focus on the quality of radio programming versus the quantity of radio stations they allowed to broadcast. Only people or companies with the economic capital to operate a radio station in the “public interest, convenience and/or necessity” would be allowed to obtain a radio broadcast license.

I believe you could say that the radio industry’s downfall began when we ceased worrying about quality and went with the more signals we license, the better for radio listeners mantra.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney is a major city in the country of Australia with a population of 5.312 million people. There are 74 radio stations on the air in Sydney.

By comparison, Los Angeles (America’s second largest city) has a population of 3.984 million people and 158 radio stations serving its metro.

In July 2021, radio revenues in Sydney were up 11.3% year-on-year according to Milton Data.

The Benefits of Pruning

Gardeners know that pruning is the act of trimming leaves, branches and other dead matter from plants. It’s by pruning a plant that you improve its overall health.

A beautiful garden is one where the plants have been trained to grow properly, to improve in their health/quality, and even in some cases to restrict their growth. Pruning is a great preventative gardening and lawn care process that protects the environment and increases curb-appeal.

The irony of gardening is, the more fruit and flowers a plant produces, the smaller the yield becomes. Pruning encourages the production of larger fruits and blooms.

Why do I share this with you?

I believe that everything in the world is interconnected. You can’t for a moment think that what makes for a bountiful garden would not also make for a robust radio industry.

Today’s radio industry is so overgrown with signals and other air pollution, that it has impacted its health.

Doing more of the same, and expecting a different result is insane.

It’s time to get out the pruning shears.

Less Is More

I believe that the way to improve the radio industry in America, to have more advertising revenues to support quality local services including news, sports and emergency journalism, along with entertainment by talented live performers, is by reducing the number of radio signals.

AM radio is the logical first place to start.

Elsewhere in the world we are seeing that not only the AM band being sunset but the analog FM band as well. The world has gone digital.

American radio has one final chance to get it right by correcting for past decisions, hurtful to radio broadcasting, in creating a new and robust digital broadcasting service.

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Invest in the Future

In life we have three important choices: 1) accept things that can’t be changed, 2) muster up the courage to change the things that can be changed, and 3) be blessed with the wisdom to know the difference.

Radio’s WHY

In last week’s blog, I asked “What is Radio’s WHY Today?” In reviewing blog reader comments, I saw a common theme expressed, that radio should be LIVE & LOCAL. But does being “live” really make a difference in and of itself? If seasoned radio people are being honest with themselves, they would have to admit they had heard lots of bad “live radio” over the years. When it comes to being “local,” what is local today? We live in such a connected world, that in order to live the lives we’ve become accustomed to, requires a global supply chain. Any disruption, will negatively impact our happiness faster than a bee sting.

Radio’s guiding principle is relevance. People will gravitate to things that have relevance to them and their lives. Let me give you one example…

Fundraising

When it comes to raising money for a good cause, radio stations continue to turn in an outstanding performance, why? Because people feel these causes are very relevant, so they support these events.

Unfortunately, much like a retailer’s weekend sale, when the radio station’s fundraising ends the people depart for other activities that are higher on their relevancy scale.

The Amazon Lesson

In Seattle several decades agao, Jeff Bezos began Amazon in his garage. His guiding principle in building this company into the behemoth it is today was to invest in the future. Identify the constants of the people who use your product or service and build on them with relentless focus. In other words, be relevant to your customers.

For Amazon, it meant offering everything at the lowest possible price and delivering it to people’s homes faster and faster.

“When you have something that you know is true,

even over the long term,

you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

-Jeff Bezos

Great Radio

Great radio will always be about the listener, knowing what is relevant to them and delivering it 24/7.

Great radio provides community and companionship.

Great radio creates FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in the listener.

Great radio stations are highly focused on the audience they have set out to serve. They’re not trying to please everyone, but only to super-serve their target audience.

Less is More

The venture capitalists thought the way to riches was by putting more and more radio signals on the air,  quantity over quality and in so doing abandoned the very essence of what makes great radio.

“Successful businesses are those that continue to find ways

to best fulfill (their customer’s) core needs.”

-Jeff Bezos

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What Do Radio Broadcasters & Almond Farmers Have In Common?

Last week, an article in The Atlantic titled “The Well Fixer’s Warning: The lesson that California never learns,” was a terrifying read about the water supply used to irrigate the almond orchards on the farms of Madera County. So many of the farm’s wells were coming up dry and the farmers were puzzled as to why water flowing out of their wells had been reduced to a trickle and were mostly producing sand.

Matt Angell is not only an almond farmer himself, but owns Madera Pumps, a company that drills wells and repairs well pumps. He knows that droughts, like the California sunshine go hand-in-hand, and as John Steinbeck wrote: “no one (forgets) the last drought faster than the farmer.”

Since the middle 1970s, almond farmers have persevered through at least five droughts and their solution to the problem was always the same – BUILD MORE DAMS.

BUILD MORE DAMS

Those three words stopped me cold. Who else thinks like this? Radio people, that’s who.

Today in America, there are now 26,076 radio stations on the air, 2,500 of these stations are broadcasting in HD which adds another 2,100 multicast radio channels to the mix. That’s about a 93% increase in the number of radio signals from when I started in high school.

The radio industry and almond farmers, have both felt that the way to grow is by adding more and more and more. Almond farmers added more acreage of almond trees and radio owners added more signals.

Aquifers

The dam reality was the San Joaquin River already had a half-a-dozen dams diverting its water, so the next solution to obtaining more water for almond irrigation was to drill down to the aquifers beneath the farmlands. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the farmers of Madera County to pump out the easily available ground water and see their wells coming up dry. As they were drilling deeper and deeper into the earth, a hidden lake beneath the farmlands was discovered in 2014. It was shocking to see it pumped dry in only seven years.

Angell noted that the snow on the mountain had melted two months earlier than “normal,” and the water level of the San Joaquin river was so low, it was now nothing more than a series of unconnected ponds as well as the wells – residential, business and farming – all over the community were running dry.

The reality is, the Madera County underground water table is one of the most over-tapped aquifers in the West, and all those wells had depleted the underground water source, causing the aquifer to collapse.

The Advertising Pie

It was before the COVID19 pandemic gripped our world, Gordon Borrell hosted a webinar back in early 2019 and told of how the media pie (the radio industry’s aquifer, if you will) is over-tapped.

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

Same Old Answer

Despite the fact that the water from the aquifer and river was being depleted by droughts, climate change and being over-tapped, the almond farmers’ answer was always the same, said Mark Angell, “Plant more almonds and pistachios. Plant more housing tracts on farmland. But the river isn’t the same. The aquifer isn’t the same.”

Listen to radio owners, and they will tell you they too need more and more radio signals in order to stay viable, despite the fact that the advertising pie is finite and media supported by advertising continues to expand exponentially.

“I used to use the word unprecedented to describe what we’re doing to the land,” said Angell, but “now I use the word biblical.” Is it any different for radio broadcasters?

The Solution

For the nut farmers of Madera County, the solution is a hard pill to swallow, it’s “to figure out a way to retire one million acres of the six million farmed, “otherwise, we’re looking at a race to the bottom,” said Angell.

For radio broadcasters, Gordon Borrell said the solution to the future of media expenditures would be a process of “thinning the herd.”

The way advertising buyers are responding to a world of media abundance, Borrell says, is by:

  • Decreasing the number of companies from which they buy advertising from 5 to 3.5, and
  • 90% of their media buys are being made with companies who can bundle traditional and digital advertising.

Killing the Golden Goose

Do you remember the Aesop fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs? Let me refresh your memory of this tale. It’s about a farmer that was poor. One day he makes a startling discovery when he finds a golden egg in the nest of his pet goose. Skeptical at first, he has the egg tested and finds that it is indeed made of pure gold. Even more amazing, each day this farmer awakes to find that his goose has laid another golden egg. In very short order, this poor farmer becomes fabulously wealthy. But then his wealth brings greed and impatience. No longer satisfied with just one golden egg per day, the farmer cuts open his goose to harvest all of its golden eggs at once only to find the goose is empty inside. With a now dead goose, there will be no more golden eggs laid.

In remembering this fable, it sounded so familiar to the world of radio broadcasting and almond farmers. Both possessed a wonderful “goose” that laid daily “golden eggs.”

Unfortunately for almond farmers, in wanting more, they are killing their water supply, and for broadcasters not wishing to wait for each day’s golden egg, cut open their goose beginning with the Telcom Act of 1996, that allowed them to own as many radio stations as they basically wished.

The moral of Aesop’s fable is if you focus only on the golden eggs and neglect the goose that lays them, you will soon be without the very asset that produces the golden eggs.

The radio industry’s quest for short-term returns, or results, took their free FCC licenses and ruined them by not maintaining the balance between the production of desired results and the production capacity of the asset.

Aesop’s fable is the very principle of effectiveness. It’s a natural law. Like gravity, you don’t have to believe in it or understand its principles, but you can never escape its effects.

Radio broadcasters probably saw the moral of the fable being the more geese you own, the more spots you add to the hour, the more effective your R.O.I. (Return On Investment) will be.

Almond farmers saw the moral of the fable as planting more trees, install more powerful pumps to withdraw more water and watch your R.O.I. grow.

But ironically, it is the principle of “Less Is More” that in the end rules the day.

To be truly effective, you need to maintain the balance of what is produced (golden eggs/revenue) and the producing asset (your goose/radio station/almond trees).

Everything in excess

is opposed to nature.

-Hippocrates

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If It’s to Be, It’s Up to Me

The first time I ever heard those words, they came out of the mouth of Dick Vaughan.

Sadly, this lifelong radio/TV broadcaster left us on Monday, August 9th. He was one of those people you meet in life that you never forget; a larger-than-life personality.

Philadelphia

The first time I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Dick Vaughan was in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. We worked for the same radio company, but in different Massachusetts cities. I worked in Pittsfield and he worked in Ware.

Over a weeklong NAB Management Training Program at The Wharton School, we would each learn that we shared many of the same passions: a love of the radio business, love of family, a love of learning and a strong desire to make a difference in the world.

Our days were spent in classes and every evening we had dinner together. During one of those dinners, Dick mentioned that he was a member of Philadelphia’s Joseph A. Ferko String Band. Since they would be rehearsing at Ferko Hall that evening, he asked if I’d like to go over and hear them? I said, “YES!” and we departed for 2630 Bridge street in Philadelphia.

One of the earliest LP (long play) record albums I remember owning was of the Ferko String Band, so this was very exciting, but puzzling news. How did Dick Vaughan who lived and worked in Ware, Massachusetts become a member of the Ferko String Band?

Ferko String Band

Turns out that Dick became involved with the band in 1956, when he was on a committee planning an anniversary celebration for the Massachusetts city of Medford. Having played the Ferko String Band’s records on the radio and knowing the spectacular regalia the band wore in the annual New Year’s Day Mummers Parades, he figured they would be a huge attraction.

Dick picked up the phone and called Joseph Ferko. Mr. Ferko told Mr. Vaughan that the band had never performed outside of Philadelphia. Now, Dick Vaughan lived by the attitude that there was no such thing as can’t, leading to the Ferko String Band’s first out-of-state performance in Medford. This first road trip would be a success and lead to years of extensive touring by the band and Dick Vaughan being invited to become a member. Dick’s membership in the Ferko String Band would span decades and often saw him in the role of Master of Ceremonies at many Mummer’s events.

Always Say “YES”

Another thing that bonded Dick and I, was a belief that the way you get ahead in the world is to always say “YES” when anyone asks you to do something. It’s by taking on new challenges that you learn and grow in life.

WARE Radio

WARE in Ware, Massachusetts is one of two American radio stations whose call letters are also the name of their city of license, the other being WACO in Waco, Texas.

Hearing Dick Vaughan talk about WARE and the success this radio station enjoyed, created a strong desire in me to drive to that part of the state and visit the station. I expected the building to tower over this rural community, but it didn’t, it was located in a single story structure. WARE was a powerhouse radio station because what the it accomplished for its advertisers, listeners and community. Dick Vaughan would be the station’s general manager from 1958 to 1986.

Hand Grenade

One of the sales stories I remember Dick sharing with me was how he got the attention of a business owner that wouldn’t stop and listen to him explain why advertising on WARE would grow his business. Dick’s solution to this problem was to go to an Army Navy Store and purchase a dud hand grenade. He returned to this business and stood in the middle of the store, held up the hand grenade and pulled the pin. The business owner froze in place and Dick would then say, “now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you how WARE can help you grow your business.” DV made the sale and it would become a long-term advertising relationship.

YaGottaWanna

Dick Vaughan was a mentor to many people, both in and out of radio. Many remember a sign on his desk that read “YaGottaWanna,” and how he preached that the difference between winning and losing is all about the effort you put into what you want to accomplish and that you have to want to win.

He demanded that everyone who worked at the station had to bring their ‘A’ game every day, and if you didn’t, he made sure you heard about it.

Massachusetts Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame

It was just last month that Dick Vaughan reached out to me to support him in his effort to be selected for induction into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Dick didn’t make the cut in 2021, but it gave us a chance to spend an hour on the phone together. He told me about his TV show on Charlton Community Television Channel 12 and what programs he was working on. He never retired, explaining that staying active was one of the secrets to living a long life.

You’ve got to do something you love

Dick’s father was a U. S. Navy commander and he once told his son that you’ve got to find something you like to do in life and then figure out a way to get paid for it. Dick’s broadcasting career turned out to be just that, a job he loved and got paid for.

Dick Vaughan took a radio job opportunity he was offered back in the 1950s, gave it his all and never looked back.  

R.I.P. Dick Vaughan (August 21, 1935 – August 9, 2021)

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HD Radio – The Answer to the Question No One Was Asking

I was reading about how HD Radio was celebrating its 15th birthday recently and that had me scratching my head as HD Radio is older than that. In checking the records, I saw that the Federal Communications Commission selected HD Radio as America’s digital standard in 2002. By comparison, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPod in October 2001, XM Satellite Radio began service in 2001 and Sirius Satellite Radio in 2002.

Radios Go High-Definition

This was the headline that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on January 7, 2004. Unfortunately, unlike HDTV (High Definition Television) HD Radio never stood for “High Definition.” And possibly that was the first mistake. HD Radio was simply a name they chose for the digital radio technology, but even today, many people still think it means “High Definition” or “Hybrid Digital.”

Sadly, by 2004, America’s digital radio was late to the party and if the industry is now marking the date of 2006 as its moment of birth, it was really late!

Remembering 2006

In 2006, Facebook opened up its social network to everyone in the world. The original requirement that you be a college student enrolled at a specific university was eliminated and the only requirement now was that you were over the age of 13 and had a valid email address.

In just 15-years, Facebook has grown to over 2.85 billion active monthly users.

Let’s look at what else was born in 2006 that competes for our attention:

  • Twitter was launched in 2006 and today enjoys 199 million monetizable daily active users.
  • Wii game system was introduced with its handheld motion controller that got families off the couch and in motion doing all kinds of sports in front of the TV.
  • PlayStation 3 came online to provide strong competition to XBOX 360. (Video gamers spent about eight hours and 27 minutes each week playing games, which is an increase of 14% over 2020. The video gaming industry predicts revenues of $100.56 billion by 2024)
  • Google bought YouTube in 2006 and now has over 2 billion users, the channel grosses over $19.7 billion in revenue and users are uploading videos at the rate of 500 videos per minute with over a billion hours/day spent watching videos on the platform.
  • The one billionth song was purchased from Apple’s iTunes, the dominate source for music lovers in 2006. (Two years later Spotify would arrive and not only disrupt how music was sold but how it was listened to in general.)

When we look at 2006, it becomes easier to understand why HD Radio wasn’t such a big deal to the average media consumer.

Solving a Problem That Didn’t Exist

What HD Radio did for FM radio stations was solve a problem that listeners to FM didn’t feel existed. No one who listened to FM radio was complaining about the quality of the sound, they were complaining about other things, like too many commercials. And for AM radio stations, it meant people buying radios for a service that didn’t offer anything they really wanted to hear or couldn’t get elsewhere. AM radio was now the service of senior citizens who already owned AM radios, who grew up with AM radio’s characteristics and whose hearing was not the best now anyway. So, HD Radio for AM wasn’t anything they were asking for and worse, AM radio stations that put on the new digital signal found it lacked the benefits of skywave and often interfered with other company AM radio stations as the industry quickly consolidated radio ownership.

Industries Most Disrupted By Digital

In March 2016, an article published by Rhys Grossman in the Harvard Business Review listed “Media” as the most disrupted by the growing digital economy. Turns out, if you’re a business-to-consumer business, you’re first being most disrupted by digital. The barriers to be a media company used to be huge, but in a digital world they are not, meaning that the business model that media companies depend on has not adapted well to the digital economy.

Elephant in the Room

But the elephant in the room remains the broken media business model. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and television – any media that is ad supported – will be challenged to find a way to capture revenue to continue operating.

Walt Disney famously said “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make movies.”

Broadcasters of my generation had that same attitude about creating great radio.

Do the people owning and operating today’s radio stations still embrace that concept?

* In 2021, it’s estimated there are 3.78 billion social media users worldwide.

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What I Recently Witnessed About Radio Use

Sue & I just returned from a seven week trip out west to visit our children and grandchildren who are living in Nevada, Montana and Washington. For me, our trip would also be a chance to witness how radio is used (or not used) in three different households, as well as in hotels, businesses and public transportation. What I would witness, was concerning.

Nevada

In Nevada, I noticed that for a household of seven, not a single radio was to be found. Audio was accessed by asking Alexa (Amazon Echo) to play something or a particular playlist was sent wirelessly to speakers via someone’s iPhone. Everyone, even the very youngest grandchild, who’s five, had their own iPhone.

In a house where both parents work, and can be called out at any hour of the day, this type of communications for all family members becomes a necessity.

Radio listening, if done at all, was something only done when in the car. Television, was connected to a cable bundle and only CNN or Netflix seemed to get viewed. The grandkids spent most of their time playing video games on the house computer, game console or their iPhones.

Montana

Here a Sonos home speaker system had been installed in the home. I found that two different local radio stations (country & classic rock) were programmed into rotation, along with an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Our grandkids called up songs they wanted to hear by asking Alexa to play them, so in the week we spent, Alexa was pretty much the default choice for anything musically played.

Television programs were all streamed via YouTube TV.

Radio pre-sets in the car were set to several country stations, several classic rock stations, several contemporary music stations and an oldies station. In all, 22 different radio stations were loaded onto the pre-sets. I added KBMC to that pre-set list when we borrowed the car a couple of times. KBMC programs a variety of jazz and classical music.

Washington

Our stay in the State of Washington took place on Whidbey Island. The only radio signal licensed on the island plays regional Mexican music and the majority of its content is in Spanish. So, it wasn’t surprising to find the pre-sets on the car radio did not include KNZW – La Zeta 103.3.

What was surprising was to see that all the pre-sets were to HD1 signals in this Mazda 6 sedan. (It appears Mazda has their radio default to HD signals and you have to toggle it off to get FM signals.) Since the island is just across the water from Seattle, all of the pre-sets were to Seattle radio stations. The two that dominated the listening in the car were KSWD (Audacy’s 94.1 The Sound) when mom was behind the wheel and KQMV (Hubbard’s Movin’ 92.5) when either of the grand kids got control of the radio. However, what is dispiriting to witness is how frequently the radio stations get changed whenever something comes on that they don’t wish to hear. When commercials come on, the station gets changed. Likewise, when songs they don’t like come on, the station gets changed. It’s like watching football using the Red Zone.

Here again, not a single radio receiver was to be found inside the home.

The Bus & Hotels

When we departed Whidbey Island, we took a bus into Seattle. On the bus we listened to KSWD 94.1 The Sound out of Seattle. It provided a nice sound track for the ride and the bus driver never changed the station for the two hours it took to reach our destination.

Every hotel room we stayed in featured flat screen TVs but none had a radio. The old clock radios have been replaced by digital clock/USB charging stations for our iPhones, iPads and laptop computers.

Summing It All Up

I realize there is nothing scientific about this, it’s all anecdotal, but it was a dose of reality that confirms much of the research I’m reading about today’s radio landscape.

No one in our seven weeks on the road tuned into any AM radio station. FM, was radio to everyone, but then, only in their vehicles. Listening to radio in the home was not possible, because there was only one radio in any of the homes we stayed at and that was in the garage.

HD Radio sounds great, but in all honesty, the one family that had this easily accessible in their car, probably didn’t know that’s what they were listening to and it certainly wasn’t the reason they were listening to any particular station.

With the exception of our two hour bus ride, radio exposure could be measured in short segments, that only happened to occur because the radio comes on with the ignition switch. Sadly, changing radio stations occurs constantly, so any commercial content never gets heard.

Likewise, businesses we frequented either had their own franchise “radio station,” like Walmart Radio or streamed a music channel from some other music service they subscribed to.

In our travels, we didn’t see a TV commercial, billboard or bumper sticker for any radio station. Lots of shirts and sweatshirts promoting lots of things, but not one for any radio station.

Radio, it would appear, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of media.

“We don’t get no respect.”

But then maybe, it’s a self-inflicted situation

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Sales is the Transference of Confidence

Here are three short stories for you to ponder.

Story #1

The other night a radio salesperson was in a restaurant. Business was a little slow, so he struck up a conversation with the owner who told him that she had used radio advertising for a restaurant she had owned back in California, and it didn’t work, and she didn’t intend to use radio ever again.

He told the owner that he and his wife had been in another restaurant in town a couple of days ago, and the service and food were both terrible. But, rather than never go to another restaurant again, he and his wife decided to try her place, where they found just the opposite. He suggested to her that just because radio didn’t work for her in one situation, there is no reason why she should conclude all radio advertising doesn’t work.

That radio sales person had a new client by the time they paid for their meal.

Story #2

Another radio salesperson was calling on a jewelry store. She had made several calls on the owner and was in the middle of a presentation when the owner suddenly asked her, “Have you ever bought anything from us?” She replied, “No, because you never asked me to.” She finished her radio advertising presentation. He signed up.

Story #3

Another radio sales person was calling on a car dealer who said, “I don’t like your radio station. I’ve never liked it and I don’t listen to it.” The radio salesperson responded, “I don’t care if you ever listen to us, for you see, we have a lot of people who do listen and like my radio station, and right now your advertising isn’t reaching any of them. But we are telling them about your competitors.” The car dealer was a little taken aback, but proceeded to get serious, and is now on-the-air.

Be Confident

Sales is the transference of confidence.

In each of these short stories, a radio salesperson was confident about their radio station delivering results. They were also prepared for such objections.

COVID-19 has shaken everyone’s confidence.

It’s never been more important that radio sellers “Be Confident.”

Preparation

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

There is no substitution for preparation.

As famed Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz put it,

“Everything is won or lost in the preparation stage.”

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If You Can Visualize It, You Can Do It

People who are the best at what they do, have one thing in common, no lack of self-confidence.

Visualization

Whenever successful people want to accomplish something, they go at it absolutely convinced they will achieve it. Science has shown that when we visualize achieving a goal, making it real in our minds, we enhance our performance and boost our self-confidence.

Improve Your Self-Esteem

Besides visualizing success, there are other things you can do to raise your self-esteem. For example: Reach out to others. Say nice things. Lend a helping hand.

When we help other people, we begin to feel more in control of our own lives.

Avoid Perfectionism

We all would like to be perfect. However, perfectionism often paralyzes us and can actually keep us from accomplishing our goals.

Respect Yourself

Make a list 20 reasons why you should. If you can’t think of 20, think of what people who admire you would say. (They’re right, you know.)

Your Values

Act in accordance with your own values. Choose the path that feels right for you.

Treat Yourself

Be good to yourself. Do something, just for you, that makes you feel good every day.

Challenge Yourself

Pick up an encyclopedia, or go online to Wikipedia, and read one new entry at random. Take a course at your local community college. Travel to a new place. Eat a new food.

As you meet new challenges, you gain new confidence.

Practice Being Optimistic

Fight pessimism. Think of setbacks as temporary, and one of a kind, not permanent and “complete” failures.

Don’t Take It Personally

Bad encounters often tell you more about how the other person feels at that moment in time, rather than representing a failure on your part.

Don’t Take Things So Seriously

Lighten up. Most of life’s little calamities have two sides. Try to gain a balanced perspective and you’ll bounce back more quickly from disappointments and embarrassing moments. And, people will enjoy being around you.

Finally

Practicing these positive measures will reinforce your self-worth, and increase self-esteem, which will make you more self-confident.

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.”

-Zig Ziglar

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