Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

The End of the iPhone

121I write about radio in most of these weekly articles. Recently, an article that compared the future of AM radio to the future of the coal industry created a lot of conversation.

People who don’t listen to AM radio wondered why this was even a topic for discussion and people who own AM radio stations felt they would never go away, even though they were actively acquiring (or had already acquired) an FM translator for their AM station.

Putting your programming content on an FM translator is NOT saving AM radio. Period

Saving Fax Machines

I remember the day I got a fax machine for my radio stations in Atlantic City. It was the day one of our biggest client’s ad agency called about the next month’s orders for their casino client and told me that if I wanted to be on the buys going forward, I needed a fax machine. Only those radio stations with fax machines would be bought.

Holy Batman! I got a fax machine that same afternoon.

Soon a dedicated phone line was installed just for the fax machine.

How important is faxing these days? I still see fax numbers on business cards and websites but really, does anybody send faxes anymore?

There’s no effort that I know of to save the fax machine.

AM Radio

I spent over four decades of my life in radio broadcasting because of AM radio. I remember my first radio, a Zenith transistor radio 103 that came with a single ear piece. I remember sneaking it into school to hear the Red Sox playing in the world series. I don’t remember what the teacher said in those classes.

The transistor liberated radio from being a piece of furniture that occupied the living where the whole family would gather around to hear broadcasts. The TV would be the electronic piece of furniture that would take that spot once radios moved to the kitchen, bedroom (clock radios) and just about everywhere else people went now that the transistor made them light weight, stylish and very portable.

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Model 66 Skyscraper Radio, 1935; Designed by Harold L. Van Doren (American, 1895-1957) and John Gordon Rideout (American, 1898-1951); Manufactured by Air-King Products Company, Inc. (Brooklyn, New York, USA); Compression-molded Plaskon, metal, glass, woven textile; 29.8 × 22.5 × 19.1 cm (11 3/4 × 8 7/8 × 7 1/2 in.); Promised gift of George R. Kravis II; Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

In fact, I just visited the Cooper Hewitt Museum of design in New York City that showed the evolution of radio set design from the beginning to the present.

The present is characterized by the iPhone and Google Home (smart speaker technology) neither of which looks anything like a radio.

Bag Phones

My first mobile phone was a bag phone that sat on the front seat of my car with a wire that would run out the back window to a magnetic antenna that attached to the roof. That seemed like a big improvement from the previous form of remote communication with my radio stations; the pager.

Flip Phone

The bag phone would be replaced by a Motorola flip phone. It rode in a holster on my belt. I wouldn’t trade my flip phone for a bag phone for anything at that time. It was such an improvement in cellular communications.

Blackberry

Of course, the need for more information to be communicated remotely demanded that I get a Blackberry to stay in contact with not just my radio stations but corporate. I opted for a Blackberry Pearl as it was very small and so compact, it fit into a pocket in my dress pants, that I think was designed for loose change or maybe car keys.

iPhone

I stayed away from the newest smartphone technology because it was so big compared to the size of my Blackberry Pearl. Until my son took his iPhone out of its Otterbox and put it next to my Pearl and I realized it wasn’t all that big. In fact, it was thinner than my Pearl.

I got my first iPhone soon after that. An iPhone4S. Siri would begin to write all of my emails and text messages from my verbal dictation. It made written communication a breeze.

I would stay with my 4S for what many of my students thought was an eternity, five years (2012-2017). The main reason was it worked perfectly and the other reason was I didn’t want to move to a larger phone.

Finally, the iPhone4S could no longer receive software updates because the technology was “so old” and my battery was beginning to show its age with all the nightly recharging. So, I bit the bullet and upgraded to the iPhone7 with 256GB (the same as my MacBook) and a pair of AirPods to go along with it.

While in some ways it is larger than my old 4S, it really is sleek and I quickly fell in love with it.

I would never wish to return to the days of only having a pager, bag phone, flip phone or Pearl. I would not even wish to return to my 4S, though it now is attached to my home FM system to stream music wirelessly to FM radios in every room of my home and taken on a second life.

Bye Bye iPhone

Microsoft’s Alex Kipman is the person who says that augmented reality could “flat-out replace the smartphone, the TV and anything else with a screen.”

Up to the present time, all gadgetry depended on us wearing something. But Elon Musk co-founded a new company called Neuralink and its working on technology that would blend the human brain to computers making humans one with the digital world.

No iPhone, tablet, computer, TV or radio would be needed to access the digital internet world.

Musk believes at the rate of digital development the only way humans will be able to keep up with change will be through being augmented themselves via a neural lace.

This is the stuff of science fiction with a Stephen King twist.

The questions it poses to future government regulation, education, ad supported media et al is mind boggling.

The smartphone connected to the internet has given everyone superpowers by instant access to all the world’s knowledge and wisdom. Eliminating this passive device so that our minds can be continuously linked to that information fountain is the natural evolution.

Can you see why smartphone makers aren’t worrying about having an FM chip in their devices?

The Book of Ecclesiastes (adaptation & music by Pete Seeger)

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

-sung by The Byrds

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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The Era of Stand-Alone Electronic Devices is Ending

111It was 10-years ago this past Thursday that the iPhone went on sale. On that fateful day, I was using a company issued Blackberry Pearl. It was such an amazing upgrade from my old Motorola flip-phone that I got a couple of years earlier.

Cell Phone Evolution

It was 1983 that Motorola introduced the DynaTAC 8000X Advanced Mobile Phone System. It was with the DynaTAC in his hand that Michael Douglas told the world “greed is good” in the movie “Wall Street.”

This phone could make and receive calls from almost anywhere. But that was it.

I never had one of those phones, my first cell phone was a bag phone that sat in the front seat of my car with a wire running out of a rear window connected to a magnetic antenna on my car’s roof.

Only six years later, the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X would become the first truly portable phone. Having this phone was a real advancement as it now fit onto a belt clip and went everywhere I went. However, I was still using a Palm Pilot to keep track of my calendar, contacts and other notes and a Nikon Coolpix to record radio station events for posterity.

In 2004, I got my first Blackberry and in 2007 I upgraded to a Blackberry Pearl.

None of these phones really changed my life other than they got better at making and receiving calls, sent & received text messages and company emails could be sent and received. I still relied on other single use devices to do the other things in my life.

My 1st iPhone

One of my problems with iPhones were how big they were. I grew to love the size of my Blackberry Pearl and didn’t want to go backwards to a larger phone. (Later I would learn it was the huge cases people put their iPhones into that made them so large, not the phone itself.)

My second Apple device, after my iPod Classic, would be an iPad2, purchased in November 2011. I wasn’t sure why I needed one, but since I was teaching at a university to the next generation of broadcast students, I thought I needed to stay up with the technology.

I quickly fell in love with my iPad and realized I now knew how to fully operate an iPhone.  So, in January 2012, I purchased the latest iPhone that had just come out, the iPhone4s. The iPhone4s was actually more compact than my Pearl and I would store it in a leather sheath just as I had with my Pearl.

The iPhone4s WOULD change my life!

The Beginning of the End

The day that Apple introduced the iPhone4s – October 4, 2011 – was one day before the death of former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. The “s” stood for Apple’s new voice assistant Siri. (Siri would not be the first intelligent personal assistant but would be the one that would start a new round of innovation giving birth to Amazon’s Alexa and the Voice Activated Devices I wrote about last week.)

Equipped with my new iPhone4s, I quickly converted my entire contact file from Palm to Apple. My calendars – both personal & professional – were converted to my iPhone and iPad. My Nikon Coolpix began to gather dust as all of my pictures would be now taken with my new iPhone4s.

Being new to the Apple ecosystem, I signed up for the iCloud and iTunes match to connect my PC, iPad and iPhone all together. I was surprised to learn that many Apple devotees didn’t use these internet connected systems. But then I didn’t realize they only came on the scene a few months before I got my first iPhone.

Very quickly my iPhone4s replaced my camera, my video camera, my Palm Pilot, my cassette recorder, my note pad, my desk calendar, and even my iPod Classic. It became my way to email, text and make calls. My landline phone was discontinued the day I got my iPhone4s.

My unlimited data plan allowed me to stay connected to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Search. My phone became my resource for breaking news and if severe weather were imminent it would immediately alert me of pending danger.

Would bad weather cancel classes? My iPhone4s would alert me of any delayed opening or closing.

Very quickly my iPhone4s became one of three things I would not leave my house without: those being my wallet, my car keys and my iPhone.

Noteworthy is that Apple has made privacy “a fundamental human right” and is the only consumer-oriented technology giant with a business model not based on sucking up tons of personal data in order to target advertising to consumers, writes the Economist. In fact, this online business magazine says “the end of stand-alone electronic devices, however slick, is coming to an end.”

The End of Single Skill Students

What I’ve seen change in just the last seven years as a broadcast professor are the needs of the broadcasting industry in terms of what they want graduating students to know when they enter the workplace. In a word, EVERYTHING!

They need to be equipped with the “Swiss Army Knife” of skill-sets.

They need to be able to write for broadcast – online web-pages – social media, take pictures, take & edit videos, record & edit audio and so much more. Where once each one of these tasks was a single skill, today’s broadcaster needs to be able to it all. Much as we require of our electronic devices.

Cutting the Cord

When my laptop died, I replaced it with a MacBook Air. When it was time to replace my desktop PC, I bought an iMac. My iPhone4s has been replaced by an iPhone7 (that has as much memory as my MacBook Air) and AirPods. And when I moved to Virginia, I “cut the cord” on cable TV and went with AppleTV.

Everything is tied to the Apple ecosystem – iCloud, iTunes Match and to each other.

What I still enjoy using are my BOSE Wave Radios (I have two of them), my Garmin GPS and my car radio.

However, I know that my students have no such need for anything other than their smartphone.

And they are the people who will determine the future of broadcasting by the choices they make.

For radio the game will be less about numbers and more about attracting and engaging with a specific audience by super-serving their needs, wants and desires to such an extent they will find you on whatever device they choose to listen on.

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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.”

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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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