Tag Archives: Jarl Mohn

Welcome to the Social Capital Age

64We live in interesting times. The internet has changed our world in a revolutionary way. In its current form the internet is now over twenty-years old. There are college students today that don’t know a period of time when there wasn’t an internet.

The 5 Media Revolutions

There are only five periods in world history where communication has undergone such a massive change to be called a “revolution.” The first would be the invention of the printing press and movable type. The telegraph and telephone would be the second time. The ability to take photos, record music and voice and create motion pictures would be third. Radio followed by television would be the fourth time and the digital/internet period – the period we are living in today – is the fifth communications revolution.

Each communications revolution brought with it a period of adjustment and made the world a little more connected. Entrepreneurs who could envision the future would leverage each media revolution to their economic benefit.

The Post-Digital Age

Once upon a time, people spoke of the electrical age and the computer age. You don’t hear anyone say that anymore. Slowly fading away are people calling things digital or internet. It’s when people begin to take a new innovation for granted that it begins to have social impact.

Social Capital vs. Technical Capital

In the previous four media revolutions, technical capital is what separated the winners from the losers. What makes the fifth media revolution so confounding to media professionals is that every new media device sold today creates not only a media consumer but a media producer as well. By 2020 it’s estimated that there will be nearly eight billion people living on planet earth and 65% of them will be connected to the internet. That means there will be over five billion people who will be able to create content and distribute it over the internet.

“The moment we’re living through

 is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.”

 –Clay Shirky

Professor Shirky also says that as these new social media tools get technologically boring, they get socially interesting. In other words, as the value of technical capital goes down, social capital’s value increases.

NPR Sees Large Ratings Increase

On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 NPR reported that its multiplatform journalism has seen a tremendous audience growth. NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn said it showed that NPR was doing a far better job of its public service mission, community engagement and local impact.

What NPR is very effectively doing is increasing the value of its social capital. It is focused on its listeners who have an appetite for strong reporting and a need to be in the know.

Today’s media landscape allows one to convene an audience, but not control them. It takes discipline to understand this change in our 21st century communications world.

Advertising’s New Challenge

Older media folks still think of media in terms of radio, TV, newspapers, magazines etc. Today any person over ten doesn’t make this kind of distinction.

Radio to my college students is anything that they can get through any media device that is primarily audio-only. Satellite radio, Pandora, AM, FM is all radio to them. Likewise is the idea of ecommerce, mcommerce or brick-and-mortar, for today’s consumer it’s just buying stuff they want, when they want it.

Birds of a Feather, Flock Together

The concept of reaching a mass audience through target demos is over. It’s no longer about age, as it is state of mind. Today the game is about reaching a unique audience that is socially connected by their interests. Shared interests are the new “local.” The future is in the careful creation of the ad itself, which speaks to the interests of the consumer and then placing it in a media environment that is in sync with the product or service being presented. Podcasters are doing this quite effectively.

Media that defines what it is, monitors all content to be consistent with that definition, will be the media that wins for both its audience and its sponsors.

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The Cockroach of Media

The new CEO of National Public Radio is a man named Jarl Mohn. Before his life in public radio began, he rose pretty high up in commercial radio, only then he went by his “radio name;” Lee Masters.

When he was recently asked if Internet radio would replace terrestrial radio within a decade, he responded with “Broadcast radio is the cockroach of media. You can’t kill it. You can’t make it go away.” But interestingly many radio companies are hiding the name “radio.”

National Public Radio isn’t called that any more. It’s now NPR. Clear Channel Radio isn’t called that any more. It’s now iHeartMedia. Even Radio Shack tried to jettison “radio” from its name and re-brand as just “The Shack.”

Most radio companies today prefer the term “media company” or “communications company.” Why is that?

The irony is when you look at pureplay Internet companies that stream music content, they glom onto the name “radio.” Pandora Radio, Spotify Radio, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio, Tunein Radio – even the one I’ve been a subscriber to for six years changed its name from Sky.FM to Radio Tunes.

Petula Clark probably got it right when she sang “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener.”

Commercial radio is suffering because it’s not as good as it can be. It suffers from a lack of innovation and investment. At the very moment that more commercial broadcasters are slashing budgets, eliminating people and consolidating operations, NPR is committing more money to be more local and live according to Mohn.

My university’s public radio service has a four person local news team. They don’t cover national stories, NPR does that. They cover south central Kentucky and they win just about all the news awards for their reporting every year. Their stories are detailed and well told. Their stories are readily accessible online in addition to being heard over-the-air.

Public radio is enjoyed by more people and earning a bigger share of the audience than public television. And when it comes to competing against commercial radio, the public radio station is in the top 5 stations in radio markets that have a public radio service.

Here’s the problem I see with future generations of listeners. Pureplays are redefining the term “radio.” To young people today, Pandora IS radio. iTunes IS radio. Spotify IS radio. Over-the-air broadcast is “media” that their parents still use.

When I was growing up I admit I didn’t listen to the radio stations my parents listened to. They had their radio station(s) and I had mine. But we both were listening to “radio.”

Radio turns 100 years old in the year 2020. To those of us who grew up with the service that began commercially in 1920 with the radio broadcast license issued to KDKA in Pittsburgh, we might see it that way. But to the next generation of listeners, radio might only be 20 years old; the same age as Pandora.

Call me sentimental, but I think that would be a shame.

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