Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

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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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.

119

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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