Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

Radio Grows Comunication Skills

Orson WellsHaving been in higher education for the past 7 years, I heard a lot about the need for students to be fluent in the STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

A recent study from CSIRO found that STEM skills were indeed important during the period of 2009-2016, but that in the future occupations requiring communication skills will grow the fastest. As our world becomes more technologically enabled, what will keep humans from being replaced by robots will be their ability to connect, communicate, understand and build relationships.

Google It

We live in a world where skills change quickly and facts can be Googled from one’s smartphone.  In order to be successful in the 21st Century, everyone must be able to work collaboratively and learn to be emotionally intelligent.

Those who possess the skills such as active listening, empathy and teamwork will grow in demand across all work sectors.

While we will still need people with STEM skills going forward, the numbers needed will decline as the work of programming will be done through artificial intelligence by the very machines that need it done.

Jobs requiring a high level of interpersonal and/or problem-solving skills are the ones that can’t be automated.

Radio’s Role in Developing Key Communication Skills

I was working in commercial radio when I was in the 10th grade in high school. What it taught me that school didn’t, was verbal communication skills. Being a radio personality means having to develop public speaking skills and being able to speak extemporaneously.

In radio, you learn how to serve a listener – both over the air, on the phone and on remote broadcasts.

Working in radio brought be closer to the community I lived in. I covered elections, breaking news, births & deaths, and was active in local charities.

Over my high school and college years, my radio work would see me hosting talk shows, buy-sell shows, gathering-writing-&-reporting news, playing Top 40 music, beautiful music, Irish music, Polish music, country music and middle-of-the-road music.

Each radio assignment required different communication skills.

Radio & Education

A quick check of the number of high school radio stations in the United States on Wikipedia shows about 250 currently on the air.

Students who are exposed to radio work as part of their high school education will not only find it to be a fun and exciting experience, they will also be acquiring the very critical communication skills that will help grow personally and professionally.

People who can create exciting, engaging, stimulating and fun radio have what it takes to be successful in life.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan WHO.jpegOur 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was called “the great communicator.” President Reagan learned those critical communications skills as a radio broadcaster. First at WOC-AM1420 in Davenport, Iowa.

When WOC consolidated (yes, that kind of thing was happening back in the 1930s too) with WHO, Reagan would go on to recreate Chicago Cubs baseball games.

While doing one of these recreations in 1934, the wire service feeding the play-by-play descriptions of the game went dead. Reagan, knowing that other stations were also broadcasting this game, knew he had to hold his radio audience and would improvise saying hitters on both teams were hitting foul balls off of pitches until the wire was restored.

Radio builds your character in moments like that.

Orson Welles

The Mercury Radio Production on CBS, “War of the Worlds,” brought Orson Welles to the attention of Hollywood. One of the aspects Welles brought to the movie industry was his extensive radio experience. In his greatest film masterpiece, “Citizen Kane,” Welles used a combination of live sound with recorded sound to create an almost three-dimensional audio illusion for Charles Foster Kane.

Radio is what inspired Orson Welles to push the aural possibilities of the film medium.

Theater of the Mind

Radio has the ability to take a listener anywhere.

Radio also has the ability to provide the foundation to take the radio performer anywhere as well.

No matter what you want to do with your life, radio will give you the communication skillset to get you there.

 

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Don’t Let Radio End Up Like Yahoo!

49I just finished listening to Jason Jennings’ podcast about how Yahoo went from being a company worth $120 Billion to its sale to Verizon for $4.8 Billion. I think the wisdom that Jason shared is very applicable to the radio industry’s journey through consolidation since the Telcom Act of 1996.

Jason says the selling of Yahoo is like a train wreck; you don’t want to look, but you just can’t help yourself. I know many who’ve said similar things as Wall Street invaded radio with its goal of “increasing shareholder value.”

So how can radio learn from Yahoo’s mistakes? What are the lessons Jason shared that apply to radio? Let me share with you the Top 5 Lessons of Yahoo:

#1) Know What You’re All About

Yahoo never really defined itself and the revolving door of CEOs contributed to this with each one bringing a different vision – or no vision – to Yahoo. Or as Jason puts it, the company didn’t have a purpose; they never knew what they were all about.

As radio was deregulated and its original mission of serving the public interest, convenience and necessity was abandoned, nothing replaced radio’s reason for existing except for “increasing shareholder value.” Not surprising as radio people were replaced by Wall Street investors.

#2) Have a Set of Guiding Principles

Radio’s guiding principles were first established by the FRC (Federal Radio Commission) and then by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Under President Ronald Reagan – and his government is best that governs least approach – radio’s deregulation began. President Bill Clinton would open the flood gates of consolidation with his signing of the Telcom Act of 1996.

With no guiding principles, investors were free to move in all directions; and they did, buying up not just radio stations but many of its manufacturers and service providers for radio.

It’s like the old saying, if you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there.

#3) Using a Business like a Personal Piggy Bank

Radio investors and many top radio executives began using radio as a personal piggy bank, only taking care of themselves and focusing on the immediate quarter with no long term vision, strategy or investment. Too many just lined their pockets and left.

#4) Trying to Be All Things to All People

Jason says “great companies stick to their knitting. You can’t be all things to all people.”

Radio was originally about serving their community of license via over-the-air broadcasting. It delivered local news, local sports, local community events, local bands and more by local radio personalities who lived in the communities they served. It was focused like a laser beam on local, local, local.

#5) Don’t Copy the Competition

Radio today is trying to copy Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and others. Radio today is trying to also copy YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and SnapChat. Radio is trying to copy just about every other business advertising model and without any guiding principles has been economically treading water.

Yahoo’s SVP Brad Garlinghouse wrote his infamous “Peanut Butter Memo” in October of 2006 that pleaded with the company to narrow its focus and clarify its vision.

Brad felt that Yahoo was spreading its resources too thinly. Business Insider recently wrote “This internal memo from 10-years ago shows Yahoo still hasn’t solved its biggest problem.”

If Yahoo had a culture problem, radio by way of mass consolidation had an even bigger one. First, as Wall Street money flowed in and radio stations were bought up, each of those stations represented its own culture that would need to merge into a larger culture. Then these new larger radio groups would try to change the culture from a local scope to a national scope. National radio personalities like Ryan Seacrest, Rush Limbaugh and many others would replace local personalities. National radio contests would replace local ones. Live and local for the most part would soon only appear in the history books on radio.

Culture is created at the top. Over the last twenty-years, radio’s consolidation has seen a revolving door of top leadership. The culture of radio has been a moving target for both industry professionals and listeners alike. Culture is built over time. There is no “quick fix” for building culture.

Absent a company culture, what fills the vacuum is one of everyone for themselves.

Now twenty-years later, there are signs of new growth as people who believe in live and local, and operating in the public interest, convenience and necessity are entering the business.

In many small markets, this way of operating never got sucked into the vortex of consolidation.

Even some of our country’s biggest radio companies are focused on getting back to the core principles radio was built upon.

Radio, the first broadcast transmission system to reach a mass audience, almost 100-years later is still the leading way to reach a mass audience.

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Digital Feudalism

I follow Jeremiah Owyang on Twitter. He’s been observing, writing and talking about the new collaborative or sharing economy for some time now. He says it’s the future and where all business is headed.

You might have heard of Uber (the taxi company that owns no cars) or Airbnb (the lodging company that owns no rooms) etc. and how they are growing by leaps and bounds. The venture capital is flowing into these new business models leveraging this collaborative concept.

So you can imagine my surprise to read this headline: “Jeremiah Owyang just dropped a bomb in Paris.” (Not literally, but figuratively) The “bomb” being the reality that “the driving force behind this disruptive movement isn’t peer relationships with customers,” but “the one percent own the collaborative economy.”

Why was this a stunning announcement? Because the concept of this new value proposition called the Collaborative Economy “is organic, peer-to-peer digital interaction to create opportunities that bypass outmoded processes of brick and mortar businesses.”

Much like I wrote about in my blog post “The Future of Ad Supported Media.

Owyang was revealing the dark side of this new economy. The rich were getting richer and the poor, poorer. While some tried to dress this new sharing economy in the clothes of Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle-Down” economics, the reality is clear; that’s not what’s really happening. The world’s wealth-gap continues to expand and it’s picking up speed.

For media companies, this new economy is seen as sharing of thoughts, ideas, information and creation via the Internet. The result has seen the number of dominant media companies go from somewhere around fifty back in the 1980s to about five around the turn of the century.

The old ways of doing business – printing newspapers & magazines or broadcasting over radio & television – are dying.   The “smart money” is moving into digital marketing and advertising. The party’s over, turn off the lights, it’s time to go home – OR IS IT?

Have you heard about ad blocking?

It turns out this a big deal and growing exponentially. The advertising industry has simply looked the other way as though it didn’t exist, but it does.

While only about 15% or so of the US folks are using an ad blocking extension, other countries around the world are approaching 40%. Gaming sites are reported to be even worse with over 80% of their ads being blocked by gamers. Frederic Filloux goes into a lot more detail in his blog post titled “Ad Blocks’ Doomsday Scenarios.

This could be a real opportunity for radio especially. But it needs to look in the mirror, put its big boy pants on and do what it knows it should have been doing all along.

Barry Drake spells it out better than I ever could in his book “40 Years 40,000 Sales Calls” (which I highly recommend you pick up and read). Barry writes the following prescription for radio’s future:

“…there must be investment, the fuel necessary to attack the four major issues.

In Programming:

  • Fresh content to attract a new generation of listeners, 95 million millennials

  • Promotion and advertising to achieve prominence

In Sales:

  • Severe reduction and limits to inventory  (Not a gimmick, smart business)

  • Contact with the BOSS (calling on decision makers by local sellers)

The very entity that caused so much grief is going to eat its own tail.

This is radio’s next big opportunity to reinvent itself and reassert itself as the powerful medium that it always was.

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