Tag Archives: Bob Pittman

What’s NOT Going to Change About Radio?

It’s human nature to wonder about how our world will change and most times, what we think will change or maybe what we worry might change, doesn’t.

So, why do we do this?

Most likely because we all want to know what the future will bring and this is why fortune tellers are still in business or why we watch The Weather Channel. It’s definitely not because they always get it right.

What’s Going to Change in 10 Years?

I just finished listening to Bob Pittman, CEO of iHeart, on the Borrell Local Marketing Trends podcast on how radio will change in the years ahead. Gordon Borrell and Corey Elliot wanted to know “how radio will remain unique over the next 10 years, whether its dependence on advertising revenue might need to change, and whether we should be calling it ‘radio’ at all.”

What was his answer? Well you can listen to the podcast HERE, if you really want to know. But I can save 23-minutes and 15-seconds of your time by telling you it doesn’t matter what he said, because he’s probably wrong, and that’s OK, because no one will remember what he said a month from now.

What’s NOT Going to Change in 10 Years?

I remember reading that Jeff Bezos said people constantly asked him the “change in 10 years question,” and he said the question they should be asked is “what won’t change in 10 years.” Both Bezos and the brilliant investor, Warren Buffett, believe this is a very important question you should be asking yourself about your business or industry.

“When you have something you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it,” says Bezos.

Radio Personalities

Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Rewound Radio presented the sound of classic Chicago Top 40 radio with air checks of WCFL (Super CFL) and WLS (The Big 89 – The Rock of Chicago).

When I was growing up both of these radio stations greatly influenced me and were responsible for creating the desire to make radio my lifelong career.

Listeners to this special Labor Day Weekend presentation on Rewound Radio said they loved hearing their favorite radio personalities once again.

The program was not broadcast over any AM or FM radio signal, but was only streamed on the internet to a worldwide audience.

In fact, this past July 2022, more people watched their favorite programs by streaming them versus a cable TV subscription. Streaming, says Nielsen, is now “the most popular way to consume content.”

The one thing that Bob Pittman did share in his Borrell interview worth noting, was that in focus groups people didn’t call our medium, “radio.” They called what they listened to by the station’s brand, as much as we don’t refer to our mode of transportation as a “car”, but as a Ford, Chevy, Honda etc.

So, having a unique brand for your radio station is very important. The one unique brand every radio station in America has are its FCC call letters, like WCFL or WLS.

Dan Mason

Dan Mason was recently inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame 2022. Dan said he grew up in Louisville, Kentucky listening to Cawood Ledford, the voice of the University of Kentucky sports for decades. It was Cawood that created the desire in Mason to be on the radio and he never pictured himself in the executive suite. But Dan Mason would rise to the president and CEO of CBS Radio, which he retired from at the age of 64.

Upon retiring that position, Mason quickly return to his first love, that of being on the radio and broadcasting sports play-by-play.

Dan Mason believes that great radio depends on two things: 1) community & companionship for the listener, and 2) having integrity.

For the listener, both of these are created, and earned, by the radio station’s air personalities.

And that’s something that’s never going to change.

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My oh MAYA

81Have you ever heard of the MAYA Principle? Neither had I. But I saw an article in The Atlantic titled “The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything, what makes things cool” and I wondered if there might be some application for radio.

MAYA

MAYA stands for “Most Advanced. Yet Acceptable.”

It means that as you design your product or business for the future you need to keep it in balance with your users’ present. In other words, as Tony Bennett might have sang, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

This 1931 jazz composition by Duke Ellington was given the MAYA treatment by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in 2014. Proving anything that’s old can be new again.

Age of Distraction

I doubt anyone would take issue with the statement that the 21st Century is the “Age of Distraction.” I also am sure that when your computer, smartphone, tablet, software says you have an update, you sigh a big sigh and utter something like “Uff da. Fina mina doh.” (Translation: Oh boy. Here we go again.)

Sequels

Hollywood and television have long understood MAYA. To date we have twelve Star Wars movies, ten Halloween movies and CSI grew from Las Vegas to Miami and New York. I’m sure you can think of many others.

The reason is each is new but familiar.

Change

We humans are a fickle lot.

We hate change and we love change.

What we really like is what Derek Thompson calls “the simulation of innovation, which pushes the right buttons for novelty while remaining fundamentally conventional.”

________ R Us

Remember when Toys R Us had everyone copying their success by calling themselves “R Us” too. The iPod, iPhone, iPad had lots of imitators as well, as if putting a small “i” in front of your name made you cool.

Well, it can.

Ask Bob Pittman.

He changed Clear Channel Radio to Clear Channel Media & Entertainment before abandoning the old CC brand to adopt its successful App brand for the entire company. Voila, iHeartMedia.

“iHeartMedia reflects our commitment to being the media company that provides the most entertainment to the most engaged audiences wherever they go, with more content and more events in more places on more devices,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.

Car Radios

I recently drove a Toyota Rav4 rental for a week in Florida. The radio was a trial. Thank goodness it had a volume and a tuning knob. Everything else was activated by the touch screen or the myriad of buttons on the steering wheel. (Don’t get me started about the HD reception.)

Laurence Harrison, Director of Digital Radio UK did a presentation at the Connected Car Show in 2016 on what the consumer wanted in their car radio. Here’s some of what he told his audience.

  • 77% want LIVE radio
  • 82% said a radio was a MUST HAVE
  • 69% said if they could only chose one entertainment option it would be radio
  • Digital is the future of radio
  • Want better radios
  • Listener centered design
  • Metadata to make it smart

Summing it all up, consumers want a car radio that’s broadcast digital, with a simple, easy-to-use interface (that’s familiar) and an app-like experience that is safe according to Harrison.

Raymond Loewy

The MAYA principle was the design approach brainchild of Raymond Loewy. You may not know his name but you know his work. Loewy designed the Coca Cola bottle, the logo for Air Force One, the logos for Shell, USPS and Greyhound. He also designed some of the iconic cars of the 40s – 60s and so much more.

Loewy understood us fickle humans. We want change, just not too quickly. He was a master of giving consumers a more advanced design but not more advanced than what they were able to deal with.

Apple

Steve Jobs was good as applying the principle of MAYA with the introduction of the iPod and its evolution. The iPod over time removed most of its buttons creating the entrance for the iPhone.

Apple wasn’t about to repeat the disaster it had with the Newton, a product that was more advanced than consumers were ready for. Google Glass is another such product that made too big a leap.

Knowing Your Customer’s Current Skill Level

For the consumer to embrace change, change must be introduced gradually over time.

The Air Pods might seem like a contradiction to this but when the iPhone7 introduced them and took away the headphone jack the percentage of wireless headphone sales to wired ones had already crossed a tipping point. iPhone7 sales are an indicator that it was MAYA time for this innovation. Apple didn’t have to explain the concept to its consumers, they were already there.

Consumers are not going to spend their time and money on trying to learn your product if there’s a product out there that is easier to use and more familiar to them.

And that is the challenge for radio.

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