Many people have often wondered what the radio industry might have been like today, if it had had a Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs had Schwerpunkt.
What is “Schwerpunkt”?
The term is attributed to Carl von Clausewitz and is now considered the heart of any sound plan.
“An operation without Schwerpunkt
is like a man without character.”
-Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg
Schwerpunkt means “focus of effort.”
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he stunned his employees not by creating anything, but instead destroying many of the products Apple was making; like the Newton personal digital assistant and the many Macintosh clones.
Jobs quickly made it clear that Apple would no longer try to be all things to all people, and that the key to Apple’s future success would be winning where it mattered and focusing Apple’s resources on just a few meaningful products.
In December of 1996, under the leadership of then CEO Gil Amelio, Apple suffered its worst financial quarter in the company’s history. Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, when asked what he’d do to fix Apple if he were made the new CEO said, “I’d shut the company down and give the money back to shareholders.”
Steve Jobs knew that he couldn’t compete against Microsoft and Dell when he returned to Apple, so he focused the company’s resources in an area he saw as fragmented and that made products that as Jobs put it, “sucked.” He decided that Apple would produce a digital music player that would allow him to have a thousand songs in his pocket. The result was the iPod.
Focus On Your Strengths
The iPod took advantage of Apple’s strengths in simplicity of design and an ability to build easy-to-use interfaces. Jobs learned everything he needed to know about negotiating intellectual property rights from his ownership of Pixar. This knowledge was perfect for the creation of the iTunes store.
When you identify weakness in a market, and then apply a good strategy to exploit that weakness for your business success, that application is a key part of Schwerpunkt.
Steve Jobs was confident he knew where Apple’s strengths were, and how to apply them for the best opportunities that could leverage those strengths.
iPod = Apple’s Schwerpunkt
The iPod was an immediate game changing hit which changed the basis of competition in the music business.
While Dell was playing catchup, developing its Digital Jukebox, and Microsoft was creating its Zune, neither of which saw much success, Apple was preparing to launch the iPhone.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company was near death, while Microsoft and Dell were giants. It was by employing Schwerpunkt that Apple went from worst to first. Today, Apple is the richest company in the world with a market cap of $2.294 Trillion.
While his competitors were still reacting to his latest innovation, Jobs was already hard at work on his next big thing.
Radio & Schwerpunkt
When I read the radio trades or sit in on a webinar, what strikes me most is how the radio industry’s leaders are talking about working to develop areas that are already owned by others. Areas, that don’t align with radio’s strengths.
When I worked for Clear Channel, I also remember management meetings that spoke of how we needed to focus, and then rolled out an agenda of 20 to 50 things we needed to focus on.
In 1952 Rosser Reeves, the ad man who developed the television ads for President Dwight Eisenhower was confronted with Ike’s multiple talking points. Reeves told the President that he needed to focus on just one thing, but relented to allow Ike to have three. Reeves understood the concept of Schwerpunkt, though he may never have heard of it.
Radio’s strength has always been about serving its community of license with live local personalities that provide companionship for the listener.
The very people the radio industry continues to eliminate.
When hurricane Ian bore down on Florida this past week, I’m sure I’m not alone in turning to The Weather Channel to see Jim Cantore and Stephanie Abrams tell us what was happening.
Jim Cantore joined The Weather Channel upon graduating from college in 1986 (36 years) and Stephanie Abrams has been with the network since 2003 (19 years). Cantore and Abrams along with the rest of the team of meteorological professionals have earned our respect and trust. Trust that has been earned over many years of excellent broadcasting.
Good luck to anyone who thinks they can beat them.
The Weather Channel has Schwerpunkt.
Until the radio industry truly focuses on its strengths, and leverages them for both its own financial benefit as well as that of their advertisers and listeners, its future will remain cloudy.
Radio = Schwerpunkt-less