Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

Radio’s Best Feature

96The one constant in life is change.

What makes our world different than the world we grew up in is the rate of change in technology.

Adoption rates for technology over time according to the U.S. Census,  shows us that it took about 45 years for 25% of Americans to adopt electricity, 35 years for 25% of Americans to adopt the wired telephone, about 32 years for 25% of Americans to adopt radio, 25 years for TV, 15 years for personal computers, 12 years for mobile phones, 8 years for the internet and about 5 years for 25% of Americans to adopt smartphones.

Nearly nine in ten Americans today are on the internet and 77% of Americans now own a smartphone according to Pew Research.

K.I.S.S.

Most people who have any sales training at all know all about “KISS.”  Some say it means “Keep It Simple Stupid” and others will tell you it means “Keep it Short & Simple.”

But either way the message is the same, keep things simple.

“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple.”

-Steve Jobs

Quite possibly our biggest challenge in the 21st Century is to keep up with the rate of accelerating change.

The More Things Change, the More They Are the Same

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase uttered more than once in your lifetime. Every generation has thought that the rate of change was beyond their ability to cope.  A couple of centuries ago Henry David Thoreau told his contemporaries to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Technology – especially information technology, the basis of our social networks – is speeding up exponentially. The famous Moore’s Law predicted this for computer chip development.

Exponential growth rate is an evolutionary process.

In his book “The Singularity Is Near” Raymond Kurzweil showed how civilizations advance through building on the ideas and innovations of previous generations, a positive feedback loop of advancement.

Each new generation is able to improve upon the innovations of the past with increasing speed.

Kurzweil wrote in 2001 that every decade our overall rate of progress was doubling, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st Century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

Only 17 years into the 21st Century and it feels like Kurzweil nailed it with his prediction.

It Still Takes 9 Months to Make a Baby

While it’s true so much of our world is uncontrollably speeding up, we are still human beings and we still pretty much move at the same pace biologically as we always have. Technology doesn’t transform our human nature.

Our need for love, touch, companionship and community will always be part of our humanity no matter what technology brings.

Radio Reaches 93% of Adult Americans Every Week

The latest Nielsen Audio research reports “radio leads all other platforms when it comes to weekly reach (93%) among adult consumers – and with new insights available to compare radio to other platforms on a regular basis, it’s clear that radio is an integral part of media consumption for millions of Americans.”

Great radio makes a human connection, engages its community and is a companion.

Radio’s best feature in a world of complex technology is that it’s simple to use.

It’s that simplicity I believe that makes it the #1 media favorite.

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My oh MAYA

81Have you ever heard of the MAYA Principle? Neither had I. But I saw an article in The Atlantic titled “The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything, what makes things cool” and I wondered if there might be some application for radio.

MAYA

MAYA stands for “Most Advanced. Yet Acceptable.”

It means that as you design your product or business for the future you need to keep it in balance with your users’ present. In other words, as Tony Bennett might have sang, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

This 1931 jazz composition by Duke Ellington was given the MAYA treatment by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga in 2014. Proving anything that’s old can be new again.

Age of Distraction

I doubt anyone would take issue with the statement that the 21st Century is the “Age of Distraction.” I also am sure that when your computer, smartphone, tablet, software says you have an update, you sigh a big sigh and utter something like “Uff da. Fina mina doh.” (Translation: Oh boy. Here we go again.)

Sequels

Hollywood and television have long understood MAYA. To date we have twelve Star Wars movies, ten Halloween movies and CSI grew from Las Vegas to Miami and New York. I’m sure you can think of many others.

The reason is each is new but familiar.

Change

We humans are a fickle lot.

We hate change and we love change.

What we really like is what Derek Thompson calls “the simulation of innovation, which pushes the right buttons for novelty while remaining fundamentally conventional.”

________ R Us

Remember when Toys R Us had everyone copying their success by calling themselves “R Us” too. The iPod, iPhone, iPad had lots of imitators as well, as if putting a small “i” in front of your name made you cool.

Well, it can.

Ask Bob Pittman.

He changed Clear Channel Radio to Clear Channel Media & Entertainment before abandoning the old CC brand to adopt its successful App brand for the entire company. Voila, iHeartMedia.

“iHeartMedia reflects our commitment to being the media company that provides the most entertainment to the most engaged audiences wherever they go, with more content and more events in more places on more devices,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.

Car Radios

I recently drove a Toyota Rav4 rental for a week in Florida. The radio was a trial. Thank goodness it had a volume and a tuning knob. Everything else was activated by the touch screen or the myriad of buttons on the steering wheel. (Don’t get me started about the HD reception.)

Laurence Harrison, Director of Digital Radio UK did a presentation at the Connected Car Show in 2016 on what the consumer wanted in their car radio. Here’s some of what he told his audience.

  • 77% want LIVE radio
  • 82% said a radio was a MUST HAVE
  • 69% said if they could only chose one entertainment option it would be radio
  • Digital is the future of radio
  • Want better radios
  • Listener centered design
  • Metadata to make it smart

Summing it all up, consumers want a car radio that’s broadcast digital, with a simple, easy-to-use interface (that’s familiar) and an app-like experience that is safe according to Harrison.

Raymond Loewy

The MAYA principle was the design approach brainchild of Raymond Loewy. You may not know his name but you know his work. Loewy designed the Coca Cola bottle, the logo for Air Force One, the logos for Shell, USPS and Greyhound. He also designed some of the iconic cars of the 40s – 60s and so much more.

Loewy understood us fickle humans. We want change, just not too quickly. He was a master of giving consumers a more advanced design but not more advanced than what they were able to deal with.

Apple

Steve Jobs was good as applying the principle of MAYA with the introduction of the iPod and its evolution. The iPod over time removed most of its buttons creating the entrance for the iPhone.

Apple wasn’t about to repeat the disaster it had with the Newton, a product that was more advanced than consumers were ready for. Google Glass is another such product that made too big a leap.

Knowing Your Customer’s Current Skill Level

For the consumer to embrace change, change must be introduced gradually over time.

The Air Pods might seem like a contradiction to this but when the iPhone7 introduced them and took away the headphone jack the percentage of wireless headphone sales to wired ones had already crossed a tipping point. iPhone7 sales are an indicator that it was MAYA time for this innovation. Apple didn’t have to explain the concept to its consumers, they were already there.

Consumers are not going to spend their time and money on trying to learn your product if there’s a product out there that is easier to use and more familiar to them.

And that is the challenge for radio.

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The Problem with Too Many Choices

57I’m not a shopper. I admit it. Shopping for me is work. When I do shop, I like places like Costco because while they offer choices, they don’t offer so many as to overwhelm. I like stores that do the “heavy lifting” for me and give me a selection of the best to pick from.

Less is More

Al and Laura Ries write in “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” that many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that more products equals more sales. This type of strategy is a trap and can lead to negative consequences in the long term.

Apple’s Quest for Simple

When the iPhone7 finally was released, everyone was talking about the missing headphone jack. The 3.5mm audio output port is 19th century technology. It doesn’t allow the highest sound quality to be transmitted. It is a way for water to invade the electronics of the iPhone. It takes up a lot of space. It adds a level of complexity where having the lightning port do this function or better yet, wireless transmission of audio to a set of AirPods, makes more sense.

Steve Jobs put it this way:

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Give Me One Good Reason

In media sales, we try to have our clients identify that one thing that makes them unique and special. What makes their business so different that consumers will want to come to you instead of anyone else. You may have heard this stated as finding a business’s “unique selling proposition.”

Ten Reasons Are Not Better Than One

The problem is that often it is hard for people to give just one reason. Instead they offer lots of reasons. This adds complexity. When you become burdened with lots of choices, you tend to avoid making any choice at all.

In the book “The Paradox of Choice” author and psychologist Barry Schwartz tells the story of very memorable jam study by psychologists Mark Lepper and Sheena Lyengar. The study compared the amount of jam sold if consumers were given either 6 varieties of jam to choose from or 24 varieties. While the table with 24 varieties attracted more people, the table with only 6 varieties saw thirty percent of the people buy a jar of jam versus only three percent who bought a jar when confronted with a choice of 24 jams.

One Good Reason

There was a great billboard in New York City that promoted AM66-WNBC’s drive time personalities that has stuck with me since the one and only time I saw it. It gave one reason to listen to this iconic radio station. It simply said “If we weren’t so bad, we wouldn’t be so good.”

56

This one simple sentence captured the essence of both Don Imus and Howard Stern. It was this radio station’s one good reason to listen. It was this radio station’s one good reason to advertise on it.

Something for Everyone = Nothing for Anyone

Variety is a word that used to come up in radio station focus groups so often that many radio stations began to brand themselves as “Variety Radio.” It was an attempt to appear to be offering something for everyone.

The Better Way

If you want to be more effective, be specific versus general. Use words that have color, create mental pictures and surprise the listener. Don’t use two words when one will do. Tell your own story, the one no one else can tell.

Choice vs. Complexity

In the end, we all like to think we have a choice. But if the number of choices becomes too great, then complexity is introduced into the decision process. Complexity produces paralysis, whether the choice is a product, a service or listening to one of your radio stations.

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Real Possibilities

AARPBefore I get into the meat of this week’s post, I first need to walk you through a bit of a preamble. Also, this week’s post is a continuance of last week’s post about Millennials vs. Baby Boomers, so if you missed it, you might want to read that first here before you read this week’s. Now please bear with me while I set-up the story for this week’s post.

I’ve been a card carrying member of AARP since I turned 50. When you hit this milestone birthday, don’t worry the folks at AARP will find you and solicit you to become a member.

When I became a member, AARP stood for the American Association of Retired Persons. But at age 50, I was a long way from actually retiring.

AARP was founded in 1958, so this organization could be classified a “Baby Boomer” just like me. And just like me, AARP has changed over the years. It officially changed its name from the American Association of Retired Persons to just AARP. AARP no longer requires members be retired but they must be at least 50 years of age.

In 2013, AARP launched its “Life Reimagined” program that sub-labeled the “RP” part of AARP to mean “Real Possibilities.” You see, AARP realizes that today people aren’t thinking about retiring when they hit 50 as much as they are thinking about tackling a second, or maybe a third career or endeavor.

At my university we started a wellness program in 2013. I was a charter member. Our university self-insures employees for healthcare and one of the ways to control costs is to incentivize employees to be as healthy as possible.

My university office is on the third floor of the Mass Media & Technology Hall building. We have three elevators in our building. I never use them. I prefer the stairs for two reasons: 1) they are much quicker than the elevator and 2) I use the stairs as a part of my wellness fitness program.

When a student says they’d like to meet with me for a moment in my office after class, I often find them a third of the way up the stairs when I reach the top floor (I take stairs two-steps at a time). They are also huffing and puffing. I just wait for them to catch up.

Now here’s the point of this week’s post…

Millennials Don’t Know What Age “Old” Is

Millennials are today’s media buyers. Millennials are today’s creative’s. Millennials are today’s planners. Heck, Millennials are probably the people running the place too. So if they have a warped concept of age, it is going to affect their advertising placement decisions.

Millennials now populate today’s media properties. They are the programmers, air talent, sales management, sales people and possibly the senior management.

I just met the director of Cox Digital Media in Las Vegas this past April and he is 28 years old.

Millennials Describe What Old Age Means to Them

Well AARP did some research into this question of what Millennials think “old” is. Then they asked them to show them what they thought “old” looks like. Then they introduced these same Millennials to some real “old” folks. Best of all, AARP recorded everything on video.

Watch the four-minute long video and then continue reading.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYdNjrUs4NM

See the problem now?

If you are wondering why more radio stations aren’t programming to Baby Boomers, or if you are wondering why more media buyers aren’t buying the BIG MONEY demos, now you have a better understanding of the problem. They think you and I have one foot in grave, instead of one foot away from the summit of Mount Everest.

Corvette Buyers

I live a short distance away from the only place Chevrolet makes the Corvette in the world. The average age of a Corvette buyer is 59. Boomers and people even older are the people who are buying Corvettes. They are NOT the Geritol-set.

We Are Part of the Problem

We call them Millennials, Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers etc, but another way to look at these generations is as tribes. Seth Godin has written extensively about this concept.

Seth says that sooner or later tribes begin to exclude newcomers. So each of these groups operates in their own little silo because it is easier than to keep breaking in newbies and because it could threaten the existing power structure.

Consolidation

The consolidation of media hasn’t helped either. RIFs (Reduction In Force) mainly dismissed the highest priced employees (Boomers) and left an organization of low cost employees (Millennials) all in the pursuit of increasing Shareholder Value.

Recent studies have shown that private companies out-perform public companies. The reason, they operate on the Peter Drucker principle that the only valid purpose of an enterprise is to create a customer. Privately owned radio companies also out-perform their publicly traded radio company counterparts. Same reason.

Turns out delighting customers is simple, clear and measurable, moreover it is the genuine path to successfully operating any business.

Leadership

The first question of a leader always is: “Who do we intend to be?”

NOT “What are we going to do?

BUT “Who do we intend to be?”

In other words, says Max De Pree of Herman Miller “What are we here for?”

Napoleon put it this way “Leaders are dealers in hope.”

Tom Peters says “The leader is the person who inspires us, sends us on quests to places we had never imagined.”

Think Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and so many more just like them.

To paraphrase the title of Lee Iacocca’s 2008 book:

“Where have all of the radio leaders gone?”

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Day of Reckoning

20There’s an old saying “Nothing lasts forever.” Do you remember flying on TWA or Pam Am? How about shopping at Woolworths? Broadcasters will remember names like Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting, or Taft Broadcasting, or Nationwide, or RKO General that would put the successful Bill Drake Top 40 format (with the non-stop innovations & promotions of 93-KHJ’s Ron Jacobs) in major cities across North America. They’re all now a memory.

In a time of limited radio signals, radio could control its inventory and increase stakeholder ROI by raising rates as it increased the size of its audience. That’s now a memory.

Next came the Local Marketing Agreement (LMA) to soak up all those Docket 80-90 FM signals that were squeezed into the FM band but found themselves economically challenged. More signals meant a new way to make more money. That’s now a memory.

LMAs were “training pants” for the Telcom Act of 1996 that would unleash a consolidation of radio and television ownership like the world had never seen. Companies would rush to acquire as many radio signals as they could as fast as they could. And do what with them? They would figure that out later was the common response. Owning more stations was a way to make more money, until it wasn’t. That’s now a memory.

You might have thought that would have sent a message that there are limits. It didn’t.

Today the game is translators. And the number of radio signals continues to grow, all seeking funding through advertising, just like every other form of media out there today.

So is the ad pie growing? Not according to Adam Levy at Motley Fool who saw advertising drop nearly 4 percent in the second quarter of 2015.

When the advertising pie isn’t getting bigger, two things usually happen: 1) budgets get cut and people lose their jobs and 2) more spots are added to the hour. Unfortunately, all through consolidation and the Great Recession radio companies have been doing both. They are like the Federal Reserve wondering what you do when you already have cut the interest rate to zero to stimulate the economy. Not a fun place to be.

Suggested Solutions

 Not to be all doom and gloom on you, I think there are some things that can be done to turn things around. The first thing is to focus on something and own it. Steve Jobs would put it this way “Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” The way Jobs took Apple from near extinction to the world’s most valuable company was by his relentless focus on creating a small number of simple and elegant products.

Seth Godin calls it finding and serving your tribe. Radio needs to give up the quest to be all things to all people and learn to be something some people can’t live without.

Some stations can be the national brand in town, but everyone can’t. Likewise if people can get what you do someplace else, then why do they need you? This is the secret of “less is more.”

Radio stations need to have the agility to make decisions on the front line. Top down management is out, front line management is in. Mary Berner, the new CEO of Cumulus gets it. She has been reported in the trades saying “Cumulus will rely less on top-down management and more on letting managers do the job they were hired for.”  She also understands that while IoT (Internet of Things) is the future, it’s not the place Cumulus needs to focus on today. It’s about changing the culture and the way the company operates first. Getting the programming right and improving sales of those radio programs next.

I remember when I starting working for Clear Channel and hired to turn things around in my market, the company had a big push on selling the web and developing that component. I told my sales manager after the conference call ended that was not going to be the case for us. First we needed to get the programming and radio sales on fire and then – and only then – would we begin tackling our web based program. It worked too.

The hardest thing sometimes is not doing things, but figuring out what to stop doing. Jobs was good at this at Apple. You need to invest some serious thought about what you need to stop doing in your radio property. Again, less IS more if done right.

And the last suggestion I have is directed at colleges and universities. We need to be focused on the business model of radio and putting more of a focus on the business side of radio and radio sales. Radio owners and operators I talk with aren’t clamoring for more DJs or news people like they are for more sales people and innovators that will create the next revenue stream for their property.

In the end, your audience size won’t matter if you don’t have a business model to monetize it.

 

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Career Question

1A reader of this blog wrote to me asking for advice on how he could reinvent himself and best utilize his talents. I’ll call him “Bob” and give it my best shot.

Bob’s got nearly 30 years experience in radio. Loves being on-the-air but as radio consolidated and the local radio station became a cluster of stations under the same roof, Bob now spends all of his day in the production studio. He’s writing copy and producing commercials, promos and other content for cluster. And Bob’s good at it, he says. In fact, other clusters in the company will often send stuff Bob’s way to be written or produced.

Bob’s seen multiple decades tear off his calendar. He’s a homeowner (or should I say the bank & home own him). He’d ask for a raise, but he’s already earning twice what others in his position in the company are making. Worse, new cost control initiatives being studied by the company may target the higher wage earners.

Bob loves radio, but radio doesn’t exactly love Bob back.

Have you ever been in this position? Are you there right now? What do you do?

Right after the Telcom Act of 1996 passed, I was at a meeting where Randy Michaels, President of Jacor was speaking. Randy said something that made me, a homeowner with two small children, break out into a sweat. Randy told the room that if you wanted to be in radio once upon a time, you found a community you wanted to live in, moved there and played radio. Those days were gone. If you loved radio and wanted to be in radio, moreover wanted to move up in radio, you now no longer picked the community but went where the jobs were. That the future of radio consolidation meant there would be fewer jobs and they would go to the best and the brightest that would move to where they were and took them.

I heard Randy when I had been in my current GM position for 12-years. The following year, my stations would be consolidated and I would find myself out-the-door.

I thought that being the GM of the top property in a competitive market for a dozen years would make me a valuable commodity. What I would quickly learn is that other companies wondered why I had stayed in the same position for so long and not moved up. Having a house, raising a family didn’t seem to rank high on the hiring criteria.

The next dozen years I would move a lot. Always the odd man out when the consolidation cards were played. I was always with the radio stations being taken over and not with the company doing the taking. The other market manager would be the victor. It wasn’t fun. However, it was educational in ways being in the same position for a dozen years never was. I would grow more in this period of time than at any time in my radio career.

So Bob, the hard advice I’m about to give you is move.

If what you’re earning is below what you’re capable of earning with some other company, it’s time to move. If what you’re doing has become routine and doesn’t challenge you, it’s time to move. If all that changed on your resume this past year were the dates, you’re stagnating and the only way to change that is to move.

When you stay in the same place, you in essence let others make decisions for you. If you like the decisions they make and you’re happy, that’s great. But if you’re not happy with the decisions they are making for you, then the only way you make things different is by taking charge of your life and changing things up.

Leo Tolstoy once said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one ever thinks of changing themselves.”

Bob, in what you wrote to me, you talk all about the changes you wanted to see other people make so your life could be improved. That’s not likely to happen anymore than my buying a lottery ticket and yelling at the TV when they draw the numbers is going to make me a winner. You cannot wish for things out of your control to change.

Progress is impossible without change.

Steve Jobs put it this way: “For the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to be doing what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

So Bob, what do you ask yourself when you look in your mirror?

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What if…

I had the opportunity to sit in on a webinar on “The Creative Economy” that is considered to be the direction the future of business is headed in compared to the traditional business methods of the past. What is meant by the term “The Creative Economy?” It’s one where business revolves around the customer versus the past where the customer revolved around the business.

The Creative Economy also breaks from tradition in the sense that it means the goal of a company is no longer about making money for the stakeholders but about delighting customers. But, you ask, isn’t “maximizing shareholder value” the mantra of Wall Street? Good question. Listen to what these CEOs have to say about that mantra:

            Jack Welch former CEO of GE: “the dumbest idea in the world”

            Vinci Group Chairman/CEO Xavier Hulliard: “totally idiotic”

            Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever: (has denounced) “the cult of shareholder value”

            Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce declared this still-pervasive business theory “wrong”

I guess it’s quickly losing favor with those who should know.

The Internet and “The Cloud” are enabling “The Creative Economy.”

Which brings me back to my initial question, “What if…”. What if radio stations were supposed to be small operations? What if the radio industry wasn’t meant to scale?

When I entered the radio business, companies were limited in the total number of radio stations they could own; in the entire USA. It was known as the 7-7-7 rule. A single company could own not more than 7 AM, 7 FM and 7 TV stations in all of America.

What this created was competition between owners of radio stations in a market. Each station was a team of people working as hard as they could to win the audience in that market. The focus was all about the listener or the viewer. Win the most listeners/viewers and advertisers would soon follow to showcase their wares on that radio or TV station’s airwaves.

Hearing “The Creative Economy” described on this webinar was like radio déjà vu.

In 1996, President William Jefferson Clinton signed the Telcom Act of 1996 into law. That was the moment that the “land rush” for broadcast properties began and Wall Street became heavily invested in the radio industry. Wall Street would bring its “maximize shareholder value” mantra to broadcasting.

This point was really brought home to me in 1999 when my stations were sold to a large radio consolidator. The head of this “big box” radio operator told us that we needed to “sell, sell, sell” that it was all about making money for the company and “maximizing shareholder value.”

This “pump up the troops” speech left me cold. I was brought up in a radio world that was about operating “in the public interest, convenience and/or necessity.” I was brought up in a world where if we treated the members of our team well, our team focused on delighting the listener, the advertisers would flock to our station and the owners would be rewarded for doing everything right. That view of life served me well my entire radio career.

Needless to say, I opted not to remain with this new company.

However, I would find myself playing “musical chairs” going forward as it was getting impossible to not be working for a company that hadn’t adopted this modus operandi.

Steve Denning, who writes for Forbes, lead this webinar and pointed out that economics was driving the change for companies worldwide. He told us that no company is doing it all right. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Salesforce are moving in the right direction. In fact, Tim Cook is better at navigating the change to this style of management than Steve Jobs ever was and it no doubt is contributing to Apple being the most valuable company in the world. To give you an example of what it means to focus on the customer first, consider Tim Cook telling an investor in Apple this:

“If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

That was kind of radio world I grew up in. We always tried to do the right thing for our employees, our listeners, our advertisers and the money would follow.

I’m encouraged that radio people who sold out when Wall Street was buying, are now getting back into the radio business with that same ethic, spirit and sense of innovation that seduced me into a four decade long radio career. They understand the concept of “The Creative Economy” because that’s how they built their radio companies the first time around. They also understand that today, radio is more of a concept of operation than a method of delivery.

I’m excited to be working with the next generation of radio broadcasters at my university knowing that radio’s future has never been brighter.

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