Tag Archives: Eric Schmidt

F’ing With the Magic

Those that know me, know I don’t use profanity. But former radio CEO Mel Karmazin, upon learning about Google’s automated advertising sales algorithm, verbalized what every nervous media and technology CEO was thinking when he said to Sergi Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt “You’re fucking with the magic.” I read this in Ken Auletta’s 2009 book titled “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.”

Media Advertising – The Last 10 Years

If we measure media advertising as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), we see that in the last decade, media advertising in the United States was down 25% according to the Progressive Policy Institute. This think tank is reported to do some of the best research that uncouples advertising expenditures from the rest of the economy.

What caused this drop? Low cost digital ads, as compared to advertising rates in traditional media, what many of us used to call trading traditional media dollars for digital dimes.

Unfortunately, as traditional media, especially print, was seeing its advertiser base disappear, it compensated for fewer advertisers by raising its prices. Television did this too. They were assuming they held an impregnable position with advertisers. Unfortunately, they completely ignored the digital reality exploding all around them.

Radio’s Expansion

Similarly, the radio industry went about over-populating the AM and FM broadcast bands without acknowledging the growth of digital alternatives. The FCC’s “MM Docket 80-90” added over 700 new FM radio stations in the first three years after the law took effect in 1987. Then LPFM (Low Power FM radio signals) were added to help AM radio stations, as well as to provide local non-profit radio stations to communities that had no local radio service.

If that wasn’t enough, radio broadcasters began to embrace HD Radio (digital radio signals) when they learned that the same law that allowed for an AM radio station to rebroadcast its programming on an FM signal also allowed HD Radio broadcasts to be rebroadcast on an analog FM signal.

To be clear, in 1927 there were 705 commercial radio stations on-the-air (all on the AM band and most with transmitter power of under 1,000-watts). Today we have 25,819 radio stations (21,209 FM / 4,610 AM).

While all of this was going on at a frenetic pace, no one was paying attention to the 800-pound elephants in the room aka Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Time Spent vs Ad Expenditures

It stands to reason, that the more time a person spends with a particular form of media, the more likely they are to be exposed to more of the advertising content it runs.

Ten years ago analyst Mary Meeker showed in her annual “State of the Internet” slide show, how things were trending negatively for traditional media.

For print, our media attention in 2010 was only 8%, but print commanded 27% of ad dollars. By 2018, our print attention had dropped to only 3%, and print’s ad dollars fell to 7%.

For TV, in 2010 it garnered 43% of our media attention, and commanded 43% of ad dollars. By 2018, both attention and ad dollars had fallen to 34%.

In 2010, for radio, we gave this medium 16% of our media attention and it collected 11% of the ad dollars. By 2018, our attention had fallen to 12% and radio’s ad dollars slipped to 8%.

Where did those ad dollars go? To digital media, as this Mary Meeker chart clearly shows.

More specifically, to mobile digital media.

In 2010, the smartphone in your pocket took up about 8% of our media attention and a paltry 0.5% of ad dollars spent. But by 2018, mobile digital media was commanding 33% of our attention and collecting an equal 33% of ad dollars, soon to be eclipsing TV in both metrics.

Too Little, Too Late

It’s easy to look back 20 years into the beginning of the 21st Century, and say what should have been done, but the fact of the matter remains that traditional media companies were in denial. The denial of the coming digital media world wasn’t just in the ad-supported mediums such as print, radio and TV, but also in companies like Kodak, which actually invented the digital camera in 1975, but whose leaders were in denial about it being the future of photography, and worried about cannibalizing its lucrative print film business.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

-Peter Drucker, legendary management consultant

Radio’s golden assets were its radio personalities and the relationships they built with the listeners. In the rush to expand, and appease shareholders who wanted accelerated growth, radio owners killed their “golden goose,” while enlarging its nest.

Radio continues to jettison the very people that connect its stations with their community of license.

Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do, simply proves what you believe.”

For me, radio was a passion to make something great come out of a person’s radio speaker. It’s why I made radio broadcasting my career and why I went on to teach broadcasting at a university. It was my passion to create great radio!

What is radio’s WHY today?

I think that’s the question the industry needs to ask itself.

“If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product.

But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”

-Steve Jobs

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouths Are

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Boom Boom Brannigan, June 1, 2000. (Times Union Archive)

Last week, I wrote about the power of the human voice. Each of us who decided to make radio a career was influenced by the voices we heard coming through our radio speaker.

Zenith Radio

My first radio, a pocket Zenith Royal 50 transistor, was purchased at Sammy Vincent’s Music Store on North Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. My first SONY reel-to-reel tape recorder would also come from Sammy Vincent’s.

Both of these wonderful electronic devices would be the foundation of my lifelong radio career.

Sammy Vincent’s was also the place to get a free copy of the latest WPTR-AM1540 Top 31 songs of the week.

Boom Boom Brannigan

WPTR had many famous voices travel through its 50,000-watt AM broadcast signal. Its most famous voice was that of Boom Boom Brannigan. You can hear an air check of Boom Boom from January 1974 here. The Albany Times Union wrote upon Boom Boom’s death in 2010 at the age of 82, “Boom Boom Brannigan, a pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll radio in the Capital Region was known for his energetic personality, sideburns and bright fashions. For decades, Brannigan was the voice of the local airwaves, a high-profile DJ who delivered the hits that defined the music of the baby-boom generation.”

Every market had their own Boom Boom.

For example, Boston had Arnie Woo Woo Ginsburg, New York City had Cousin Brucie and Los Angeles had The Real Don Steele.

Each, larger than life personalities, that lived the part of being a radio star. Each more important to their listeners than the hits they exposed them to.

Radio Stars

Bob Lawson, who worked with Brannigan at WPTR in 1964 put it this way, “They were the real stars in those days, and Boomer was the epitome of radio stardom.”

These legendary radio personalities caused so many baby boomers to get into the radio industry.

I had the opportunity to meet Boom Boom one Saturday afternoon when he was broadcasting from a little phone booth like studio in the transmitter room, next to the huge 50,000-watt transmitter. He was the consummate gentleman and further inspired this young broadcaster as he let me sit in with him during his broadcast that day.

70-20-10 Rule

Fresh off CES2018 many radio executives are talking about the latest shiny new things that are on the horizon and how they will impact radio. Everyone’s talking about how radio needs to innovate. The big question is how does the radio business manage its innovation resources.

In his book, Mapping Innovation, author Greg Satell cites the 70-20-10 Rule that is used by companies like Google to allocate resources.

70% of a company’s resources should be invested in sustaining improvements to existing products. Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman, said the 70-20-10 Rule insured that Google’s core business would always get the bulk of the resources.

20% of available resources should get invested in exploring adjacent opportunities.

The remaining 10% are for creating something entirely new. Something that most likely will crash and burn, so you want to be able to sustain this effort without it damaging your core business. What Satell said he learned about businesses that invested in basic exploration was they all eventually hit on something big.

Radio’s 70-20-10

What would you say radio’s 70-20-10 rule is? 70% goes to pay down the debt? I’m sure many come away with that impression from what they read in the trades. But not every broadcast company is in that predicament.

How about your radio company?

Consider this operating strategy: 70% of your resources should be invested in your people who create the radio you broadcast every day. 20% should be invested in the adjacent delivery pipelines, like streaming, NextRadio and voice activated devices. And 10% should be invested in building a new paradigm.

What’s happening in the 21st Century is the acceleration of change for all industries. Innosight predicts that about half of the S&P 500 will be replaced by 2026. Back in 1965 33-years was the average tenure of a company on this stock exchange. By 1990, this narrowed to 20-years. By 2026, it’s forecast to drop to 14-years.

So, the gale force winds of change have never blown with more velocity.

Community & Companionship

What great local radio personalities each created in their markets was a sense of community and companionship for their listeners. That’s radio’s core business.

It’s where the bulk of your resources should be directed.

Put your money where your mouths are.

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