Tag Archives: Greg Satell

The End of Retail Business

Going Out of BusinessIs the retail industry dying?

Stores that I grew up with, like Toys R Us, Sears, K-Mart, and Radio Shack are either in bankruptcy or out-of-business. Other retailers are reducing the number of locations to become more profitable to their investors.

The local retailer finds themselves even more challenged to deal with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.

Radio Lives on Local

The prescription for the radio business is to focus their programming on their local community of license. In other words, be VERY local in everything they do.

If the radio station you listen to could be transplanted into another city without changing a single thing about their programming, other than their weather forecasts and traffic reports, then that radio station isn’t really local.

If, on the other hand, you drive into a community and you have no idea what the people on the air are talking about or who the people they’re talking about are, then you have come upon a LOCAL radio station that is serving the people of their listening area.

Local Retailers

In the smaller markets I’ve managed radio stations in, we didn’t really do much business with those big box retailers. Sadly, in most cases, after the grand opening schedule and remote broadcast, they pretty much stayed away from local radio.

The local businesses that lined the main street, or were located in a strip mall or populated the surrounding small towns, were the life-blood of a local radio station.

As Walmart and Amazon strip away the ability for these small merchants to make a living, radio’s business base is likewise being decimated.

21st Century Retailing

Retailing is being disrupted. While some retailers are closing, we also see companies like Apple, Amazon and even Coca Cola investing in building new brick and mortar locations.

The change that’s occurring according to Greg Satell is that “the primary function of a physical store is not to drive transactions, but to service and support customers.”

In other words, retailing is being reimagined.

Radio Reimagined

Radio is giving up its major strength by not having live, local personalities on the air 24/7. Successful small retailers are winning because they engaged in their community and are part of the community’s fabric. They are owned and staffed by dedicated people who believe in super-serving their customer base.

We are living in a time of too much automation and algorithms.

The moves being made by the Apples, Amazons and Cokes to get closer to their customer base by having local people serve their local community is an indication that the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction.

Radio cannot ignore this change in the wind.

Radio needs to unlock the enormous potential of people serving people.

Radio’s Why

A couple of weeks ago, I got a lot of people talking when I asked “What’s Radio’s Why?” What it can’t be any longer is, “we’re #1” or “we have the most listeners.” Nobody cares.

There are more radio stations on-the-air in America, than at any time in the history of radio. Ironically, there’s less choice of formats to listen to and there are less people working per station today as well.

It’s time for radio stations to define an audience for each station and then super-serve that audience. The radio stations who’s audiences are the most dedicated and passionate will be the winners, not the ones with possibly a larger, but passive audience.

Just as each station’s audience is clearly defined and targeted, businesses that are seeking those same people will become just as defined, and a win-win business relationship can be built and sustained.

As I lived through the consolidation of radio and the automation of tasks, I felt that the radio industry applied technology to many of the wrong areas of the business. The air staffs were the first folks to be eliminated in favor of voice-tracking and automation. The main radio station phone line, the listener’s first point of contact, was automated instead of having a live person to greet the caller.

The radio industry eliminated, through technology, the very points where the “rubber meets the road.” The people serving people point.

The Human Connection

I own a lot of Apple gear. I didn’t buy any of it at an Apple store. I bought it online. My iPhones from Verizon. My other gear online from Apple.

What the Apple stores mean to me is a chance to go in and play with the equipment, to ask questions and, like when my MacBook Air crashed, to have a place I can go and have it repaired, almost overnight.

The Apple stores are my human connection to Apple.

The radio industry was built on the human connection. Radio’s air personalities were constantly promoted, in print, on billboard, on television and they were always out and about in the community being highly visible. During consolidation, radio lost its way due to non-radio investors who only saw the money-making benefits of cutting costs to widen margins. Once this “Best Practice” type of thinking wormed its way through the whole broadcast industry, those benefits were quickly marginalized.

Values Shift, Not Disappear

“The businesses that thrive over the long-term,

not only see where value is shifting from

but where value is shifting to and race to get there.”

-Greg Satell

This is radio’s wake-up call.

Is anybody listening?

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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

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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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio