Tag Archives: Change

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.

9 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

Career Question

1A reader of this blog wrote to me asking for advice on how he could reinvent himself and best utilize his talents. I’ll call him “Bob” and give it my best shot.

Bob’s got nearly 30 years experience in radio. Loves being on-the-air but as radio consolidated and the local radio station became a cluster of stations under the same roof, Bob now spends all of his day in the production studio. He’s writing copy and producing commercials, promos and other content for cluster. And Bob’s good at it, he says. In fact, other clusters in the company will often send stuff Bob’s way to be written or produced.

Bob’s seen multiple decades tear off his calendar. He’s a homeowner (or should I say the bank & home own him). He’d ask for a raise, but he’s already earning twice what others in his position in the company are making. Worse, new cost control initiatives being studied by the company may target the higher wage earners.

Bob loves radio, but radio doesn’t exactly love Bob back.

Have you ever been in this position? Are you there right now? What do you do?

Right after the Telcom Act of 1996 passed, I was at a meeting where Randy Michaels, President of Jacor was speaking. Randy said something that made me, a homeowner with two small children, break out into a sweat. Randy told the room that if you wanted to be in radio once upon a time, you found a community you wanted to live in, moved there and played radio. Those days were gone. If you loved radio and wanted to be in radio, moreover wanted to move up in radio, you now no longer picked the community but went where the jobs were. That the future of radio consolidation meant there would be fewer jobs and they would go to the best and the brightest that would move to where they were and took them.

I heard Randy when I had been in my current GM position for 12-years. The following year, my stations would be consolidated and I would find myself out-the-door.

I thought that being the GM of the top property in a competitive market for a dozen years would make me a valuable commodity. What I would quickly learn is that other companies wondered why I had stayed in the same position for so long and not moved up. Having a house, raising a family didn’t seem to rank high on the hiring criteria.

The next dozen years I would move a lot. Always the odd man out when the consolidation cards were played. I was always with the radio stations being taken over and not with the company doing the taking. The other market manager would be the victor. It wasn’t fun. However, it was educational in ways being in the same position for a dozen years never was. I would grow more in this period of time than at any time in my radio career.

So Bob, the hard advice I’m about to give you is move.

If what you’re earning is below what you’re capable of earning with some other company, it’s time to move. If what you’re doing has become routine and doesn’t challenge you, it’s time to move. If all that changed on your resume this past year were the dates, you’re stagnating and the only way to change that is to move.

When you stay in the same place, you in essence let others make decisions for you. If you like the decisions they make and you’re happy, that’s great. But if you’re not happy with the decisions they are making for you, then the only way you make things different is by taking charge of your life and changing things up.

Leo Tolstoy once said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one ever thinks of changing themselves.”

Bob, in what you wrote to me, you talk all about the changes you wanted to see other people make so your life could be improved. That’s not likely to happen anymore than my buying a lottery ticket and yelling at the TV when they draw the numbers is going to make me a winner. You cannot wish for things out of your control to change.

Progress is impossible without change.

Steve Jobs put it this way: “For the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to be doing what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

So Bob, what do you ask yourself when you look in your mirror?

10 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio

3 Leadership Lessons

Being a leader today is not for faint of heart. Gone are the good old days of simply planning your work for your business and then working your plan. Today, leaders need to solve problems and think creatively. They need to, as Wayne Gretsky so eloquently put it “skate to where the (business) puck is going to be, not where it is.”

Leadership today is all about inspiring people and empowering them to believe in themselves, their company and the path that lies ahead.

Whether that business is a radio station or a university (where I now work), the task is the same.

Lesson #1: Don’t run your business poorly

Leaders lead by example. People will follow more what you do than what you say. If you misuse your expense account or run your personal mail through the office mail machine, others will follow your example regardless of what the “official policy” is on personal use of the mail machine or what qualifies as a legitimate business expense.

In a radio station, sales people aren’t programmers and program people don’t sell. So sales people don’t have a say in programming decisions and programming people don’t set advertising rates.

Leadership means getting the people who are skilled at what they do to “Just do IT” not somebody else’s “it.”

I worked for a radio station owner who had a favorite phrase, “Money makes honey.” He knew that you needed to have money coming in the door to pay for everything his radio stations did and so he took the sales aspect of running radio stations VERY seriously.

Walt Disney put it this way “I don’t make movies to make money; I make money to make movies.”

Lesson #2: A Unified Vision is Key

 I used the words “unified vision” for a reason. Most folks would have said “mission statement.” I am not a fan of mission statements for a couple of reasons. They are often crafted by committees. Like the old joke about what’s a camel, it’s a horse created by a committee. So most mission statements are too unwieldy and no one can remember them much less carry them in their heart as a guiding star.

Leaders like Steve Jobs create a vision for their company. Steve’s was to create “insanely great products.” He didn’t say make the world’s best computer, iPod, tablet or iPhone. He just said whatever Apple is committed to making, it would be insanely great.

Lesson #3: Your Product is Job One

 In higher education, the product is the quality of your teachers, facility and the success of your graduates. In radio, it’s the quality of your air personalities, content, facility and the success of your property to serve the community, advertisers and listeners.

American broadcasting executive, Randy Michaels, once said at a conference I attended “you give me a poorly programmed radio station with a great sales force and I’ll lose you money, but if you give me an excellent programmed radio station with a mediocre sales force, I’ll make you money.” Randy was always clear that the way to make money in radio was making the radio product job one. (Sounds like Walt Disney, doesn’t it)

Look at any successful company and you will see that the product comes first; always.

The challenge in a digital world is that things are changing more quickly than at any time in history. Innovation isn’t a luxury; it has to be an integral part of your business plan. The only constant is change.

The trick for both radio and higher education is to innovate without tinkering with the core product in the process. You also don’t fear cannibalizing your core product either.

Again, Jobs didn’t tinker with his iPod while developing his iPhone, but never worried that his iPhone and later his tablet would cannibalize his iPod and MAC in the future. (Note: the era of the iPod ended in 2014 with the introduction of the iPhone6. Over 400 million iPods have been sold.)

But when you have instilled in your people a unified vision like to make insanely great products, you have sowed the seeds of success into the very fabric of your organization.

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales