Tag Archives: Change

Disruption is Everywhere

disruption aheadI’ve been reading the trades, trying to grasp what is happening, and it is all so very confusing. Have you felt that way too? That’s what a period of disruption looks like. Black is white. Up is down. It’s enough to give you an Excedrin headache.

SiriusXM

Jim Meyer, the CEO of America’s only satellite service reported strong growth in Q2. On his conference call he’s reported as saying that despite the surge in technology over the past ten years, AM/FM radio still attracts a big number of listeners. However, he also feels that the radio industry has a problem and it’s their product. He warns that if AM/FM radio doesn’t vastly improve their product, it will be to their own peril.

The feedback I received from my recent article “Radio & Traveling – Then & Now” that I wrote about in “From the DTB Mailbag…” seems to indicate that Mr. Meyer is not alone in that sentiment.

Streaming

Then I read how just halfway through 2018, streaming is growing at a rate that defies mathematical trends. By that, the writer meant when it comes to percentages, they are usually big when the numbers are small but become smaller as the numbers of people engaged increases.

With this area of streaming, we are seeing BOTH the numbers of people who stream growing with the percentage of people who are now streaming.

That’s a trend worthy of keeping you up at night.

Adoption Curve for Smart Speakers

In my university “Process & Effects of Media Classes” I introduced my students to the work of Everett Rogers and his Diffusion of Innovation Curve. Adoption Curve - Everett Rogers

Rogers studied how innovations with farmers in his native Iowa were adopted. He very soon realized that what he was witnessing occurred in all areas when a new innovation was introduced.

The latest research report from NPR/Edison, “The Smart Audio Report” showed we are into the Early Majority part of the curve with the smart speaker innovation.

Good News, Bad News

The smart speaker innovation has the ability to bring radio listening back into the homeEcho at a time when AM/FM radio is no longer the entertainment focus of the vehicle dashboard, replaced by the entertainment center that resembles the touch screen on your smartphone.

Unfortunately, the smart speaker also delivers an infinite world of audio choices and it is not a given that radio will be the benefactor.

Fred Jacobs basically lays out the fact that radio’s established brands such as a Z100 or a WTOP will find their engagement traversing from over-the-air to over-the-stream and onto smart speakers. I know that in my own case I can receive WTOP over-the-air, but atmospherics can play havoc with the signal at times. Not so with listening to WTOP via Alexa.

The best radio brands with strong listener engagement will grow.

Cord Cutting

The latest numbers indicate that cord cutting (eliminating the cable TV bundle) is growing faster than expected. The latest study from eMarketer  says that we can expect people cutting the cord to grow to 33 million Americans in 2018.

Netflix is now more popular than cable TV.

Jim GaffiganThe other night I watched Jim Gaffigan’s 5th Netflix special called “CINCO.” In his standup comedy routine, he hit the nail on the head about why Netflix is more popular than cable TV. Here’s what Jim said:

“Netflix has definitely made watching television with commercials kind of painful. Takes forever. You’re like, “What am I, growing my own food here? All right, Geico, we get it!” And it’s not just the length or the number of the commercials, it’s what the commercials say about the typical viewer of the show you’re watching. “Catheter? Why would–? Reverse mortgage? Back pain? I do have back pain. You know me so well, television show.”

Changing Habits

What we are witnessing in the current period of media disruption is the changing habits of the audience. They now have choices. Lots & lots & lots of choices.

Baseball, still radio’s #1 sport is seeing the decay of its audience to a myriad of choices to watch or listen to the same game. It’s no longer the monopoly it used to be.

But worse, once you’ve developed the Netflix or Alexa habit, going back to any delivery system that delivers lots of interruptions is, as Jim Gaffigan says, “painful.”

Ad Supported Media’s Future

I believe that there’s a future of ad supported media, but it can’t be done the way it’s currently being done. Podcasts understand this better than broadcast.

Amazon Prime is good at airing program promotions before the movie starts, in much the same way that my local movie theaters do.

And who didn’t enjoy hearing Paul Harvey say “page two?” It would be the first commercial break in his news and commentary but we listened. Because Paul was as engaging with his sponsor’s material as he was with the rest of his broadcast.

And thank you Mr. Harvey for making me want to own a BOSE Wave Radio. I now have two of them. However, I now play my Alexa Dots through them.

Life’s Only Constant

My old boss used to always say, nothing stays the same. You are either getting better or getting worse.

And he was right.

Life’s only constant is change.

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What to Do When What You’ve Always Done, Doesn’t Work Anymore

dematurityBefore I begin with this week’s blog article, I wanted to share with you a milestone this blog reached this past Sunday (5/6/2018) at 11pm EDST. Dick Taylor Blog dot com marked 100,000 visitors to this blog site. DTB premiered on January 4th, 2015 with 75 people stopping by to visit.

Thank YOU for making this blog a weekly habit. -DT

There’s no doubt about it. We live in challenging times.

The big word of the day is “disruption.”

We read every day about how some new shiny toy is the latest radio disruptor.

But is that really what’s happening?

Dematurity

The radio broadcasting industry may be dealing with something bigger; dematurity. “Dematurity is what happens to an established industry when multiple companies adopt a host of small innovations in a relatively short period of time,” says John Sviokla. The term was coined back in the 1980s by Harvard Business School professors William Abernathy and Kim Clark.

Radio’s Dematurity

Think about this phenomenon as it applies to radio.

The internet introduced the concept of streaming radio. Two companies introduced nationwide radio coverage from satellites above America. The smartphone provided an opportunity for Pandora to stream to cellphones. Podcasters followed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and others would compete for a smartphone owner’s attention on these same devices. Meanwhile, on the home front, Amazon developed its Echo voice activated device, as Google, Microsoft, and Apple followed with their own smart speakers. Facebook, not to be left out, says it will introduce its own smart speaker this coming July.

Each move by these technology companies might have seemed trivial when announced, but when looked at in total, they represent a crescendo of mini-disruptions.

The Currency of People’s Time

While most will focus on the shiny new innovation, what we’re really seeing is how people spend the most valuable currency in their lives, their time.

For broadcasters, the challenge is providing people with a listening experience worth a person giving us their time.

Government Regulations

Another factor that impacts business is government regulations. While radio broadcasting has been heavily regulated since the birth of commercial radio in the 1920s, we compete against online and satellite audio providers that are not.

Government regulations have enormous impact on the type of competition and the intensity it brings in your market.

Death & Taxes

Benjamin Franklin wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes.” In business, you probably can add dematurity. There is not a business that won’t be impacted by it, if it’s not already.

Ask the Right Questions

John Sviokla poses these questions for trying to get a handle on how to build value and sustain value:

  • What makes for efficient scale?
  • Who is the competition?
  • Who are the customers?
  • What do the customers want?
  • Who owns what?
  • Where is the risk?

Sviokla, in his book, The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, says more than 80 percent of the self-made billionaires he’s profiled made their money by reinvigorating a mature industry. “They either introduced a product tuned to new consumer habits, changed the technologies of production, adopted new ideas from another industry, adapted to new regulation, changed the distribution system, or made some combination of those moves,” says Sviokla.

While dematurity is inevitable for all businesses, brainstorming what change is happening, and making changes to take advantage of it, is the difference between crisis and opportunity.

“Change will lead to insight far more often than insight will lead to change.”

-Milton H. Erickson

 

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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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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?

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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.

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