Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

The Car Radio is 100

Commercial radio was born in November of 1920. The first OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) car radio came along in 1922 designed by the Chevrolet Motor Company and manufactured by Westinghouse. This first car radio was heavy, cumbersome and expensive; costing $200. In today’s dollars this would be the equivalent of $3,347.00. A 1922 Chevrolet, Superior 5-Touring automobile was priced at only $860, so you can see how expensive it was to buy one with a radio installed.

The good news is the radio worked and would then birth 100-years of innovation in the automobile dashboard.

The 1920s Car Radio Sales Pitch

With a radio in your car, your family could drive anywhere within a hundred miles of a radio station while being entertained, informed and educated.

It’s hard for any Baby Boomer to imagine not having audio entertainment as standard equipment in their dashboard.

1930s

It was radio engineer Paul Galvin that would pioneer more affordable car radios which he manufactured and sold through his new company, called Motorola.

1940s

Midway through the 40s, it is estimated that nine million cars now had radios in their dashboard and people were becoming concerned that they were leading to distracted driving thereby causing more auto accidents. Both broadcasters and radio manufacturers made the case for how having a car radio was useful in emergencies and alerted drivers to bad weather conditions.

Today when the topic of distracted driving comes up, it’s usually about handheld cellphones being used by drivers. But back then, Radio-Craft Magazine told of the battle being waged between state legislatures and radio manufacturers: “Ever since auto-radio installations became popular, a controversy has been going on…as to whether auto radio presented an accident hazard or not.”

The president of the Radio Manufacturers Association made the case that car radios were safe saying:

“Radio is not distracting because it demands no attention from the driver and requires no answer, as does conversation between the driver and passengers. Motor car radio is tuned by ear without the driver taking his eyes off the road. It is less disconcerting than the rear view mirror.”

Several states proposed steep fines for drivers, while others considered making installing a car radio a crime.

The Princeton Radio Research Project was created to study the effects car radios were having on automobile safety. In a paper published by Edward A. Suchman for that project, he reported that his small study found no link between car radios and traffic accidents.

1960s

In 1963, Frequency Modulation (FM) radios were introduced into the automobile for the first time. Radio penetration in cars had now reached 60%.

Along with FM radios, the 60s also gave birth to both eight-track tapes and car stereos, primarily due to the use of transistors, instead of vacuum tubes. Solid state transistors were smaller, drew less power and emitted very little heat.

1970s

If the 60s belonged to the 8-track tape player, the 70s would belong to the stereo cassette tape player. Recording tape manufacturer Maxell promoted these cassettes as nearly indestructible.

1980s

While the Compact Disc (CD) would be introduced in the 80s, it didn’t really become ubiquitous until the late 90s, coexisting with compact cassette players in automobile dashboards for two more decades.

21st Century

Probably the biggest disruption to the automobile dashboard came with the advent of Bluetooth allowing smartphones to interface with a vehicle’s entertainment system.

In 2011, automobile manufacturers stopped offering cassette tape players in their new cars, soon followed by the elimination of CD players/changers.

Today’s new cars come equipped with access to Satellite Radio, and an automatic interface with your smartphone allowing you the ability to stream anything you want to hear into your car’s entertainment system.

In fact, my first article for this blog in 2022 was “Why I Stream ALL My Radio Listening,” which diagrammed how my car radio audio systems are now programmed by my iPhone.

“Radio is not going to be Numero Uno in the dash any longer.”

-Fred Jacobs

AM/FM radio will most likely coexist with other forms of audio access for a period of time, but the writing is on the wall.

The definitive answer to how long over-the-air radio will continue to be used in the automobile really depends on broadcasters and whether or not they offer compelling and attention-getting content that audio consumers demand to hear.

AutoStage

Xperi’s newest in-dash experience is AutoStage. It was demonstrated at CES2022 and it should be noted that this system comes with the following pre-sets: SiriusXM, FM, AM and TuneIn Radio.

I use the TuneIn Radio App for most of my radio listening, but why was it chosen by Mercedes Benz? Turns out the answer is, “TuneIn’s radio stations can be accessed worldwide in 197 countries on more than 200 different platforms and devices.” TuneIn says it “provides the displaced radio listener a connection to home with local, national, and international stations anywhere they go and on any device.”

In other words, why would any audio consumer need DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), DAB+, Digital Radio Mondiale, HD Radio, AM or FM when they can receive any radio station in crystal clear audio via streaming?

With the exception of the proprietary content offered by SiriusXM, everything else is available via streaming at no charge.

Waxing Nostalgic

Car radio has come a long way from the day William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois to watch the sunset and their dates told them how much better this romantic evening would have been had they been able to listen to music in the car.

Lear and Wavering shared their girlfriends’ comments with Paul Galvin who would go on to make Motorola car transistor radios, and then AM/FM radio would dominate the dashboard for the rest of the 20th Century.

So, now moving further into the 21st Century, radio broadcasters really need to follow the advice of Steve Jobs in order to survive and thrive, and that is to:

Think Different

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What is The Future of Radio?

Ten years ago, I was in Las Vegas presenting at the Broadcast Education Association’s annual international conference. My presentation was called “This Changes Everything.” It outlined things that would be changing in our world in the decade to come.

“Prediction is difficult…especially about the future.”

-Yogi Berra

Remembering 2011

2011 was the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, and already we were witnessing a world where mediated communication was social, global, ubiquitous and cheap. It was the beginning of the social media revolution.

Groupon, which came into existence only a couple of years earlier, grew its revenue to over $1.6 billion in 2011. And yet, the doomsayers were already forecasting its demise. As this chart shows, revenues for Groupon did drop below 2011, but not until 2020.

A contributing factor to this downward revenue trend for Groupon might be that it’s estimated that only about 1% of Groupon users ever became regular customers of the businesses whose coupons they used.

TWITTER

A decade ago, Twitter was the most popular social media platform with more Fortune 100 companies using Twitter than any other social media platform.

As we begin the third decade of the 21st century, we know that the previous decade will now be known most for the impact of Facebook, not Twitter, when it comes to social media dominance.

Media Adoption Rates

In 1920, the adoption rate for commercial AM radio was incredibly fast, only to be eclipsed by the introduction of TV. However, both of these two forms of communication would be dwarfed by the adoption rates of the internet followed by the use of mobile internet made possible by the smartphone.

These last two brought about revolutionary changes in how we communicate.

In fact, the famous Maslow “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid, might be updated to look like this:

How the World is Connected to the Internet

At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, 85% of the world’s population connected to the internet via wireless mobile devices.

To put that into perspective, only 80% of the world was connected to an electrical grid in 2011.

Today, 92.6% or 4.32 billion people connect to the internet wirelessly.

Top Three Gadgets of All Time

A decade ago, The History Channel came out with a list of the “Top Gadgets of All Time” and they were:

  1. Smartphone
  2. Radio
  3. Television

Hat Tip to Mary Meeker

None of these things were a secret, but it was Mary Meeker that tied all of these changes together in her presentation “Internet Trends 2011.” Her presentations are worth your time to view. The most recent one being 2019, before COVID19 disrupted everything. You can view that presentation HERE

What we do know is COVID19 took all of the changes that were slowly taking place and accelerated them dramatically. Think “warp speed.”

The big three takeaways from 2011 were:

  1. Every media consumer is now a media producer
  2. Smartphones are changing the world of mediated communications
  3. Media is now social, global, ubiquitous and cheap

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

What Technology Might a Baby Born Today, Never Use?

Let me throw out some thought starters for you to consider. Please feel free to add to this list.

  • Wired home internet
  • Dedicated cameras
  • Landline telephones
  • Slow-booting computers
  • Dialup Internet
  • Hard Drives
  • Electric typewriters
  • Movie Theaters
  • Computer Mouse
  • Remote Controls
  • Desktop computers
  • Phone numbers
  • Prime Time TV
  • Fax machines
  • Optical disks
  • Record player
  • Cassette player
  • CD Player
  • VCR or DVR
  • Radio
  • ?????

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that – was what allowed you to make great products – but the products, NOT THE PROFITS, were the motivation.”

-Steve Jobs

So, What’s the Future of Radio?

In 2011, one hundred college students were surveyed about what they believed the future of radio was, here were their top three positive comments and their top three negative comments:

POSITIVE COMMENTS

  1. Radio will re-invent itself. It is always evolving.
  2. Radio has a bright future as long as there are cars. It’s the first choice for drivers.
  3. Satellite Radio will expand as subscriptions become cheaper.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS

  1. Devices are coming out that will allow iPods and MP3 players to be played in cars.
  2. Smartphones will gradually take over radio entertainment.
  3. The only time people listen to radio is in their cars. Even then, they have CDs & MP3s.

Radio’s Car Radio Paranoia

Then Fred Jacobs came out with a blog this week about the seemingly bleak future for AM/FM radio in cars. You can read that HERE

At the annual CES (Consumer Electronic Show) Fred’s been asking about the future of car radio every year, and noticed that more recently auto manufacturers are reluctant to give a direct answer if there might come a day when AM/FM car radios won’t be standard equipment.

For Elon Musk and Tesla, that day is already here.

How to Build Brands

Ernest Dichter is known as the father of motivational research. Over 50 years ago he did a large study on word-of-mouth persuasion that revealed the secrets of how to build brands. Dichter said there are four motivations for a person to communicate about a brand:

  1. Product-Involvement: the experience had to be so novel and pleasurable that it must be shared with others.
  2. Self-Involvement: people want to share the knowledge or opinions, as a way to gain attention, have inside information, or assert superiority.
  3. Other-Involvement: a person wants to reach out and help to express neighborliness, caring or friendship. They are often thought of a “brand evangelists.”
  4. Message-Involvement: the message is so humorous or informative that it deserves sharing.

“Win the hearts of the people, their minds will follow.”

-Roy H. Williams

So, if you are in the radio business, OR are a radio listener, the question you need to honestly ask yourself is:

How does your brand measure up?

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HD Radio – The Answer to the Question No One Was Asking

I was reading about how HD Radio was celebrating its 15th birthday recently and that had me scratching my head as HD Radio is older than that. In checking the records, I saw that the Federal Communications Commission selected HD Radio as America’s digital standard in 2002. By comparison, Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPod in October 2001, XM Satellite Radio began service in 2001 and Sirius Satellite Radio in 2002.

Radios Go High-Definition

This was the headline that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on January 7, 2004. Unfortunately, unlike HDTV (High Definition Television) HD Radio never stood for “High Definition.” And possibly that was the first mistake. HD Radio was simply a name they chose for the digital radio technology, but even today, many people still think it means “High Definition” or “Hybrid Digital.”

Sadly, by 2004, America’s digital radio was late to the party and if the industry is now marking the date of 2006 as its moment of birth, it was really late!

Remembering 2006

In 2006, Facebook opened up its social network to everyone in the world. The original requirement that you be a college student enrolled at a specific university was eliminated and the only requirement now was that you were over the age of 13 and had a valid email address.

In just 15-years, Facebook has grown to over 2.85 billion active monthly users.

Let’s look at what else was born in 2006 that competes for our attention:

  • Twitter was launched in 2006 and today enjoys 199 million monetizable daily active users.
  • Wii game system was introduced with its handheld motion controller that got families off the couch and in motion doing all kinds of sports in front of the TV.
  • PlayStation 3 came online to provide strong competition to XBOX 360. (Video gamers spent about eight hours and 27 minutes each week playing games, which is an increase of 14% over 2020. The video gaming industry predicts revenues of $100.56 billion by 2024)
  • Google bought YouTube in 2006 and now has over 2 billion users, the channel grosses over $19.7 billion in revenue and users are uploading videos at the rate of 500 videos per minute with over a billion hours/day spent watching videos on the platform.
  • The one billionth song was purchased from Apple’s iTunes, the dominate source for music lovers in 2006. (Two years later Spotify would arrive and not only disrupt how music was sold but how it was listened to in general.)

When we look at 2006, it becomes easier to understand why HD Radio wasn’t such a big deal to the average media consumer.

Solving a Problem That Didn’t Exist

What HD Radio did for FM radio stations was solve a problem that listeners to FM didn’t feel existed. No one who listened to FM radio was complaining about the quality of the sound, they were complaining about other things, like too many commercials. And for AM radio stations, it meant people buying radios for a service that didn’t offer anything they really wanted to hear or couldn’t get elsewhere. AM radio was now the service of senior citizens who already owned AM radios, who grew up with AM radio’s characteristics and whose hearing was not the best now anyway. So, HD Radio for AM wasn’t anything they were asking for and worse, AM radio stations that put on the new digital signal found it lacked the benefits of skywave and often interfered with other company AM radio stations as the industry quickly consolidated radio ownership.

Industries Most Disrupted By Digital

In March 2016, an article published by Rhys Grossman in the Harvard Business Review listed “Media” as the most disrupted by the growing digital economy. Turns out, if you’re a business-to-consumer business, you’re first being most disrupted by digital. The barriers to be a media company used to be huge, but in a digital world they are not, meaning that the business model that media companies depend on has not adapted well to the digital economy.

Elephant in the Room

But the elephant in the room remains the broken media business model. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and television – any media that is ad supported – will be challenged to find a way to capture revenue to continue operating.

Walt Disney famously said “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make movies.”

Broadcasters of my generation had that same attitude about creating great radio.

Do the people owning and operating today’s radio stations still embrace that concept?

* In 2021, it’s estimated there are 3.78 billion social media users worldwide.

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My Desk is Cluttered, Not My Mind

One of the snappiest dressers on television was Morley Safer. But if you were to peek into Morley’s office when he was off-camera, you would have seen an office that was quite the opposite.

Depending on your point-of-view, a cluttered desk might have been thought of as a cluttered mind, or the opposite; a clean desk means an empty mind.

Spatially Organized

Let me offer you a third perspective.

My desk is usually cluttered when I’m deep into a project.

What I have learned about myself was I tend to be spatially organized, and when things get neatly put away, out of sight, in a file drawer, they are also out of mind. Mine!

Productive Workspaces

We’re all different.

When people try to design workspaces for others, it will most likely fail.

In his book, “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” Tim Harford explains how engineered spaces can kill productivity and innovation, while having a messy workspace might actually help us to do some of our best work.

Arbitron

I remember entering Arbitron’s new facility when it opened in Columbia, Maryland. Everything was fresh and new and oh, so very sterile.

One of the managers could be seen chasing people around and chastising them for taping things to the walls or for having a cluttered desk.

This type of order is fine for an automobile assembly line, but not your radio station.

WLAN AM/FM

When I moved WLAN AM/FM from its original location in downtown Lancaster, PA to a brand-new facility, I told everyone that their workspace was theirs to decorate as they wished.

I even let everyone pick out their own style and color of desk and chair.

Everyone was excited for moving day to arrive and had been planning for months how they would set-up their new offices.

Studies have shown that when people are allowed to decorate their work place with the stuff and personal knickknacks they love, productivity can increase by as much as 32%. In fact, people are not only more productive, they are also happier and healthier.

Moves can be really disruptive to a business, but when I moved my Lancaster radio stations, we had a record setting year in both ratings and revenues.

Mix It Up

Another way to stimulate innovation and productivity in your station, is to create spaces where everyone bumps into each other on a regular basis.

When Steve Jobs was designing Apple’s new building, he purposely made sure there would be spaces that would cause employees from all sectors to come in contact with one another.

Diversity of thought and ideas come from everywhere and everyone.

So, break down the silos that walls create, and have some space that brings your people together like a tossed salad.

This will be a real challenge as COVID-19 sees more companies allowing their employees to continue to work from home as an option, versus daily commuting to an office.

The Take Away

The key thing to know about creating a productive work environment is this, you can’t dictate it. You have to empower your people to create it for themselves.

People who have power over their workspace tend to be more engaged, productive and collaborative.

Just remember, it can get a little messy at times, but that’s how greatness is birthed.

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The Thrill is Gone

Like many readers of this blog, I grew up listening to AM radio. It created for me the passion and desire to pursue a radio career while I was still in grade school. As a young child, I remember my parents having a least one radio with the FM band, but scanning that band produced not a single radio station to be heard.

FCC Broadcast Station Totals

Looking through the FCC database, I found that the commission’s Broadcast Station Totals reports begin with December 1968, the same year that my professional radio career began. In America, that report listed 4,236 AM Commercial radio stations on the air with only 1,944 FM Commercial radio stations, and even adding the 362 Education FM radio stations only gets you to about half the number of AM stations.

On March 31, 1994, FM Commercial radio stations outnumbered AM Commercial radio stations 5,001 to 4,933; plus, there were now 1,674 FM Educational stations on the air.

To put things in perspective, when the number of America’s FM signals equaled the number of AM signals, 75% of all radio listening was estimated to be occurring on the FM band.

Today’s AM/FM Radio Landscape

The FCC just issued its March 31, 2021 Broadcast Station Totals report and it shows the number of AM Commercial radio stations is down from 27 years ago by 387 stations; now just 4,546 stations, and FM Commercial radio stations are up 1,681, for a total of 6,682 stations. In addition to the commercial stations, there are now another 4,213 FM Educational radio stations and 8,521 FM Translators & Boosters along with 2,114 Lower Power FM radio stations. That’s a grand total of 21,730 FM signals on the air in America compared to 4,546 AM signals.

What percentage of listening would you estimate is now taking place to AM versus FM in the 21st Century? I’m thinking it’s probably north of 99%.

All Digital AM Authorized

October 27, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized ALL-DIGITAL AM RADIO in America. The commission’s ruling says that all “AM broadcasters will be able to voluntarily choose whether and when to convert to all-digital operation from their current analog, or hybrid analog/digital signals.”

A quick check of the FCC database shows only 245 AM radio stations currently broadcasting in hybrid analog/digital; six of which either had their license cancelled or were silent.

The issue for the consumer will be having to buy new AM Digital radios, since all their existing AM radios will not be able to receive an all-digital AM signal.

No to Digital AM

Frank Karkota wrote a guest column for Radio World titled “No to Digital AM” in which he listed six reason why he was opposed to the digitization of the AM band. Let me summarize them for you:

  1. Building an AM Digital radio is too complicated
  2. The technology is becoming too complex
  3. Because of the remarkable advancements in analog AM receiver technology, there’s no need to digitize the AM band
  4. The poor recovered audio quality of digital radio
  5. The listening audience will lose some listening options
  6. Most car radios will need to be replaced to permit digital reception

I’m not an engineer, so I’ll leave it up to technical readers to weigh in here, but as a non-engineering radio guy, why would I go through all those hoops when I can simply click on an aggregator like TuneIn.com and stream any radio station I want to listen, to via my smartphone?

The biggest reason why this is a bad idea is that people are not going to spend money buying a single use device to listen to a radio station when there are so many ways to listen to virtually any radio station in the world today on so many other multi-use devices.

Radio’s Biggest Problem

Back in August 2017, I wrote an article titled “Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio” which had hundreds of people commenting.

This month Bloomberg reported “Coal Is Getting Even Closer to the End of Its Line” saying that the United States is on track to use less coal than at any point since the 19th century. This graph paints the picture:

Now look at the change in the number of AM radio stations in America over the past thirty years:

Whether we’re talking about coal or AM radio stations, the trendline is spiraling downward.

Radio’s biggest problem, AM and FM, is that it suffers from a deficit of imagining the lives of its listeners. Radio broadcasters are in the communications business, and yet, they are too focused on saving the past instead of focusing on the future of communications.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

-Henry Ford

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.”

-Steve Jobs

Both Ford and Jobs understood that to win the heart of the customer, you needed to create a future they never even knew they wanted.

The future for radio is creating great audio programming that has people wanting to receive it no matter what platform it is delivered on.

Stop Your Air Talent from Multi-Tasking

It saddens me, that today the radio industry is asking their air talent to multi-task on multiple radio stations. Could you imagine the NFL deciding that their quarterback could also act as the team’s coach at the same time? Never!

The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no. … The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once. Low-level functions like breathing and pumping blood aren’t considered in multitasking.

-Chris Adams, ThoughtCo.com

Listen to what a difference it makes when an air personality can focus on one station, one market and communicate one-on-one with the listener, as KHJ Midday Personality Charlie Tuna does in this air check (Courtesy of the Charlie Ritenburg aircheck collection). Click HERE

This is not a morning show air check, but a midday one for Charlie Tuna. Notice how integral he is to the pace and flow of the radio station. He provides a link to the Los Angeles community and companionship to the listener. The on-air production is tight and smooth. It’s a style of radio so hard to hear anywhere today.

It’s the style of radio that launched my 50 year radio career.

Memo to the Radio Industry

 It’s time to bring back the thrill

of listening to Great Radio.

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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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Is Radio Being Disrupted or Simply Lacking the Human Factor

slide ruleI was a physics major in college. The slide rule was a necessary piece of equipment when I was going to school. Hewlett-Packard then came along and replaced it with a line of scientific pocket calculators.

When I began my radio sales career, I adopted the DayTimer written system for keeping track of my schedule and appointments. Then Palm came along and I replaced it with their Palm Pilot Digital Assistant.

When I became a general manager, I wore a pager. That soon was replaced by a Motorola flip phone.

Then Research In Motion (RIM) came along with the Blackberry and suddenly my flip phone and Palm were replaced by a single device.

I loved the size of my Blackberry Pearl smartphone and it wasn’t until I realized that the iPhone4S was the same size as the Pearl and more versatile that I switched to my first iPhone. I also saw Blackberry phones were clinging to life and wanted to adopt an ecosystem that would be around as long as I would be.

Today, I’m fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem and could not imagine what would ever get me to leave it.

Disruptive Innovation

I thought for years that these disruptive changes were due to mechanical innovation. But was that the core reason? Could it be something else?

In 1943, Thomas J. Watson of IBM is credited with saying, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And Ken Olson of Digital Equipment Company (DEC) while acknowledging the growth of people using personal computers, said he couldn’t understand why.

The Human Factor

How important is the Human Factor in the future of a company, or even an industry?

October 6, 1997: Michael Dell makes an infamously bleak appraisal of Apple’s fortunes. Asked what he would do with Apple, the founder of Dell Inc. says he would “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Where do you think Apple would be today if Michael Dell had been put in charge? What did Steve Jobs, who had just returned to lead Apple say to Dell’s assessment? “We’re coming after you buddy!”

Jobs gave Apple a vision, backed it up with management fortitude and people with the technical skills to make the Apple vision a reality. It was those human factors that carried Apple to become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Apple’s market value (at the time I was writing this article) was $948M and Dell’s was $27M.

Radio’s Human Factor

Which brings me around to the industry I loved for over 50-years, RADIO. The aspect of radio that first captured my attention was the radio personality. These were the people who built the relationship with the listener.

Then there was the dedicated radio programmer who created the stationality, the promotions and like a good sports coach, kept the radio stars playing together as a winning team.

While it appears, too much of the radio industry is focused these days on mechanical things, blaming it for disruptive innovation, maybe the real culprit is radio’s loss of the “Human Factor.”

“Absolutely everything begins with imagination.”

-George Johns

Howard Stern was never really replaced when he left OTA radio for Satellite Radio. Howard Stern, like him or not, has a vivid imagination. For his listeners, he creates a style of radio that they have to hear.

My favorite part of the Stern movie, “Private Parts,” is dialog between the audience researcher and Stern’s WNBC program director Kevin Metheny, aka Pig Vomit.

RESEARCHER: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes. The average Howard Stern fan listens for – are you ready for this? – an hour and twenty minutes.

PIG VOMIT: How can that be?

RESEARCHER: Answer most commonly given? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

PIG VOMIT: Okay, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?

RESEARCHER: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.

PIG VOMIT: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?

RESEARCHER: Most common answer? “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Does anyone want to listen to your radio station to hear what comes next?

“Radio only needs to move @ the speed of life.”

-George Johns

 

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What a Radio Looks Like in the 21st Century

first iPhone introducedIt was only 11-years ago that Steve Jobs took the stage and held in his hand the future. It was an iPhone.

Many people were skeptical that this device could compete with the very popular Blackberry. I think I may have been one of them, as I was a Blackberry owner/user until 2012.

I quickly realized that I knew how to operate an iPhone, after buying an iPad in the fall of 2011.  All Apple devices share a core eco-operating system that makes learning them fast and easy. My first iPhone was the 4S. The “S” stood for Siri and I quickly learned to use Siri to type all of my text and emails via dictation. In 2017, I upgraded to an iPhone 7.

OK, so I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. But in just a decade, have you ever stopped to think about the impact that the smartphone has had on our lives and the technology we use?

RADIO

In America today, 29% of households don’t have a single working AM or FM radio. But it gets worse. The percentage of households without a single working AM or FM radio grows to 50% for the 18-34-year-old age group.

Edison Research recently reported that even 63% of heavy radio listeners now consume their audio online. 82% of those listeners own a smartphone and the most commonly downloaded App is Pandora (40%).

For many, a radio in the 21st Century looks like a smartphone.

SMARTPHONES

Crosley AM FM Radio

Often it appears like radio people think they are the only ones who are not affected by the innovations of technology. Such as, no matter what comes along, AM/FM radio will always be there. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is like sticking your head in the sand.

Let’s think about how smart phones have replaced other “must have” technologies:

  • My Nikon camera no longer goes on vacation with me, it has been replaced by the pictures I take on my iPhone
  • Same for videos using my very expensive camcorders
  • My iPod is now my iPhone
  • My newspaper is my iPhone
  • My calculator is my iPhone
  • My eBook reader is my iPhone (or iPad)
  • My pocket voice recorder is now my iPhone
  • My GPS when on foot is my iPhone, though I still prefer my Garmin SmartDrive 61 in the car
  • My flashlight is now my iPhone
  • My iPhone is my compass, barcode scanner, and portable video player
  • My iPhone is the way I access Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn away from home
  • My iPhone is the way I get both my local weather forecast as well as access weather radar. Weather alerts come in immediately to my iPhone replacing the need for my weather radio.
  • I’ve been a cellphone only household since 2000
  • My smartphone is my household answering machine
  • My smartphone is my alarm clock
  • I no longer wear a wrist watch, as my iPhone is my watch
  • I use my iPhone as a timer when I’m cooking
  • I have my digital library on my iPhone
  • My work and personal calendars are all on my iPhone
  • I keep notes and other records on my iPhone
  • Since I take all my pictures with my iPhone these days, my photo album is also my smartphone. (Note: I have 2-TerraBytes of iCloud storage to back up everything)
  • My entire “rolodex” (contact list) is now on my iPhone (I started with a Day-Timer and went digital in 1989 with a Casio Boss. Then moved to a Palm Pilot. Then to the iPhone.)
  • I check my email when not at home on my iPhone
  • I surf the internet frequently on my iPhone
  • When I call the kids & grandkids, it’s using Facetime on my iPhone
  • My credit cards, plane tickets, show tickets are now all in my Apple Wallet on my iPhone
  • I can even use my iPhone to run my Apple TV as a remote control

SMARTPHONE ADDICTION

A new research study by Pew finds that 54% of U.S. teenagers, age 13 to 17, worry they may be spending too much time on their phones. While they also say they are trying to reduce their smartphone and social media time spent, 56% of teenagers find that doing so makes them feel anxious, lonely, or upset.Group Of Children Sitting In Mall Using Mobile Phones

And it’s no better for parents (and may I add, grandparents). Pew’s survey tells us that we are struggling with the same impulses over the time we spend on our phones and social media, sometimes with even worse results than teenagers.

Adults lose focus on their work and students lose focus in the classroom, by the constant need to check their smartphone.

SMART SPEAKER

echoMost research today indicates that since the introduction of the smart speaker, the device that’s getting a little less use is the smartphone. I would concur that is the case in my home as well. Our 3 Amazon Echoes are the way we access at home radio listening, get flash briefs, find out the time and latest weather forecast.

At home, 100% of our radio listening is streamed through a smart speaker.

Speaking of Voice Command devices, my Garmin GPS SmartDrive 61 is now programmed by my voice and I can add via points while driving simply by telling my Garmin where I want to go next. It’s the best improvement in automobile navigation since the GPS itself.

ON DEMAND

on-demand-cpeWhat the smart speaker and the smartphone have in common, are both devices give the user what they want, when they want it. On Demand is the real game changer of the 21st Century communications world.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV etc. are delivering on demand television. The smartphone and smart speakers are doing that same thing for podcasts, radio, news, weather and everything else.

Edison Research noted, in their recent research, that the hardware challenge in the home is significant. Getting analog radio back into the home (and I would add, in the very near future, the car) seems unlikely

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Clean Desk = Empty Mind

Morley Safer OfficeOne of the snappiest dressers on television was Morley Safer. But if you were to peek into Morley’s office when he was off-camera, you would have seen an office that was quite the opposite.

Depending on your point-of-view, a cluttered desk might have been thought of as a cluttered mind or as the title of this article suggests, a clean desk means an empty mind.

Spatially Organized

Let me offer you a third perspective.

My desk is usually cluttered when I’m deep into a project. (But never quite as bad as Morley’s.)

What I learned about myself was that I tend to be spatially organized and when things get neatly put away, out of sight, in a file drawer, they are also out of mind. Mine!

Productive Workspaces

We’re all different.

When people try to design workspaces for others, it will most likely fail.

In his book, “Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives,” Tim Harford explains how engineered spaces can kill productivity and innovation, while having a messy workspace might actually help us to do some of our best work.

Arbitron

I remember entering Arbitron’s new facility when it opened in Columbia, Maryland. Everything was fresh and new and oh, so very sterile.

One of the managers could be seen chasing people around and chastising them for taping things to the walls or for having a cluttered desk.

This type of order is fine for an automobile assembly line, but not your radio station.

WLAN AM/FM

When I moved WLAN AM/FM from its original location in downtown Lancaster, PA to a brand-new facility, I told everyone that their workspace was theirs to decorate as they wished.

I even let everyone pick out their own style and color of desk and chair.

Everyone was excited for moving day to arrive and had been planning for months how they would set-up their new offices.

Studies have shown that when people are allowed to decorate their work place with the stuff and personal knickknacks they love, productivity can increase by as much as 32%. In fact, people are not only more productive, they are also happier and healthier.

Moves can be really disruptive to a business, but when I moved my Lancaster radio stations, we had a record setting year in both ratings and revenues.

Mix It Up

Another way to stimulate innovation and productivity in your station, is to create spaces where everyone bumps into each other on a regular basis.

When Steve Jobs was designing Apple’s new building, he purposely made sure there would be spaces that would cause employees from all sectors to come in contact with one another.

Diversity of thought and ideas come from everywhere and everyone.

So, break down the silos that walls create to have some space that brings your people together like a tossed salad.

The Take Away

The key thing to know about creating a productive work environment is this, you can’t dictate it. You have to empower your people to create it for themselves.

People who have power over their workspace tend to be more engaged, productive and collaborative.

Just remember, it can get a little messy at times, but that’s how greatness is birthed.

 

 

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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

WFPG Transmitter SiteFor thirteen years I was the general manager of WFPG AM/FM in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The stations were successful. I was active in Rotary, the local chambers of commerce, community social programs in addition to running the radio stations.

We did the state’s first LMA (Local Marketing Agreement) adding a third radio station to our operation.

We had a print division that did zoned coupon mailers and produced an annual calendar for local advertisers.

I was in the zone, my comfort zone.

Success Is a Poor Teacher

When new ownership took over the radio stations in my 13th year of managing them, one of the owners was to be the “managing partner.” He didn’t have the equity stake to invest, so his contribution was to move to Atlantic City and manage the stations for the group. That meant that everyone in the radio stations were needed but me.

As I set out to find a new radio general manager position, I would be faced with something new that the broadcasting industry had never had to deal with before, consolidation. Consolidation was like a game of musical chairs, only in this game when the music stopped, you were out-of-a-job.

I thought that my long period of success would be a plus in finding my next position but kept hearing “you’ve been at the same place for over a decade?” I would soon learn that this wasn’t perceived as a positive.

My Road Trip

Eventually, I would land my next GM position and move to a new state. That would lead to a series of moves every two to three years after that as consolidation kept changing the landscape of the radio industry as we knew it.

Delaware, Maryland, Iowa, Pennsylvania and back to New Jersey a couple of more times would be my life over the next decade.

While I never would have chosen this path, what I would realize was that I learned more over this period of time than being in the same place for the previous decade. That being successful and in your comfort zone is a poor teacher.

College Professor

Seven years ago, I made a career change. I went from market manager of a cluster of radio stations for Clear Channel to broadcast professor at Western Kentucky University. I was moving out of my comfort zone BIG TIME.

That first year was a lot of heavy lifting as I created every course, every lesson, every test for each of my classes.

Eventually, I grew to a new comfort zone at the university. I was on university senate and several committees. I graduated from the university’s master advising certification program and advised around 100 students each semester. I graduated from the university’s police academy and my office was a campus “safe space” for students, faculty and staff. And I was active in state broadcast associations along with founding and directing a radio talent institute on campus.

Why Comfort Zones Are Bad for You

Staying in a comfort zone feels peaceful and relaxing. Comfort zones are not challenging. They become limiting and confining. They can produce a sense of boredom.

I know I certainly had that feeling of “Is That All There Is?” during my long tenure in Atlantic City.

Change is the only constant you can depend on in the world. Nothing stays the same. If you’re not growing then you’ve “gone to seed.”

WWJD

What Would Jobs Do?

My fiancé shared with me the last words of Steve Jobs and it’s illuminating.

Jobs said that in the eyes of others his life had been the symbol of success. However, Jobs found that apart from his work, his life held little joy.

Steve had stayed in his comfort zone.

Once you’ve accumulated enough money for the rest of your life, you need to change your focus to pursuing objectives that are not related to wealth.

It is why I started this media mentorship blog in January 2015.

Happy New Year 2018

The new year is traditionally a time when we all look in the mirror of our lives and contemplate where we want to go next.

If you want to grow in 2018, decide to get out of your comfort zone.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

– –Steve Jobs

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