Tag Archives: TV

The Better Advertising Mousetrap

Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have coined the phrase: “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” When it comes to advertising, social media has built the better mousetrap, and you and I are helping them to improve it every day.

The Social Dilemma

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma” about how social media is impacting our lives, and is truly eye-opening. I encourage you to watch this documentary if you subscribe to Netflix, but especially if you’re in advertising and marketing. In fact, it would pay you to subscribe to Netflix just to view this documentary; it’s that important!

This blog won’t be about many of the important social issues raised in the documentary, but instead I plan to focus on how traditional media, like AM/FM radio broadcasting, is fighting a battle for advertising with the internet companies that isn’t a fair fight. Broadcasters are in essence coming to a gun fight, wielding a knife.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular readers of my blog, because back on February 25, 2018, I wrote an article titled “Radio Has an Addiction Problem,” that quoted MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s 1995 book “Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet” saying “computers don’t just do things for us, they do things to us, including ways we think about ourselves and other people.” Turkle said that computers weren’t just a tool, but were sneaking into our minds and changing our relationship with the world around us.

Monetizing Social Media

Social media quickly realized that in order to sustain itself it needed to monetize its service. Google’s search engine business was a Silicon Valley marvel for not only harnessing the power of the internet but simultaneously building a revenue engine that grew right along with it. Tim Kendall, now CEO of Moment, was one of the early people at Facebook, charged with coming up with a way to make money. He said that he decided that the “advertising model was the most elegant way.”

Advertising

The advertising business has always been about selling exposure to the people who use the product. Newspapers sold access to its readers, radio sold access to its listeners and television sold access to its viewers.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;

the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

-John Wanamaker

Businesses have always wanted to get the biggest bang for their advertising buck, but realized that in the world of advertising, there were no guarantees, that is until social media came along. Mel Karmazin, former broadcasting and satellite radio CEO put it this way when he met with the founders of Google: “You’re messing with the magic of sales.”

Jaron Lanier, who wrote the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” explains that what social media is doing more effectively than traditional media is “changing what you do, how you think and who you are…it’s a gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your behavior and perception.” It’s similar to a magician performing slight-of-hand tricks, and making you believe things that aren’t real.

“This is what every business has always dreamt of, to have a guarantee that if it places an ad it will be successful. That’s (social media’s) business, they sell certainty. In order to be successful in that business you have to have great predictions. Great predictions begin with one imperative, you need a lot of data.

The internet has given us a new kind of marketplace that never existed before, a marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures. Just like there are markets for pork belly futures, or oil futures, we now have markets that trade in human futures, at scale, and those markets have produced the trillions of dollars that have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity.”

-Shoshana Zuboff, PhD, Harvard Business School

Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology

is indistinguishable from magic.”

-Arthur C. Clarke

Getting Your Attention

Every company whose business model is to sustain itself through the selling of advertising is competing with other companies for your attention. Traditional media is competing with every social media company to get as much of your time and attention to their platform as they possibly can. Remember, when you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

The advantage social media has over traditional media is their development of persuasive technology. It’s designed to intentionally apply to the extreme behavior modification in the user, and cause them to take a desired action. It does this through the use of positive intermittent reinforcement, just like a casino slot machine lures you into thinking the next pull of the handle will release its fortune. Social media works to create an unconscious habit, programming you for a deeper level of control than you even realize is happening.

Social media has learned how to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, which even when you know how it works doesn’t inoculate you from its power to change you.

No longer is social media a tool we use, but is a tool that uses us, creating this technology based environment designed for mental addiction through psychological manipulation.

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’:

illegal drugs and software.”

-Edward Tufte

Most concerning about this change is that it’s being driven by a technology that’s advancing exponentially. In contrast, our human brain has not really advanced at all over the same period of time. The rate of change is beyond our human comprehension, even for the very people who are designing and building these computer networks.

“The race to keep people’s attention by social media isn’t going away. Our technology is going to become more integrated into our lives, not less. The AI’s (artificial intelligence) are going to get better at predicting what keeps us on the screen.

How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you’re in the matrix?”

-Tristan Harris, Center for Humane Technology Co-Founder

“Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion

will be a touch-and-go relay race

right up to the final moment…”

-Buckminster Fuller

Today, the internet is a more efficient way to sell our attention to advertisers.

Now you know why.

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I Cut the Cord

113I finally did it. I cut the cable cord in July 2017. It had been something that I had been thinking about for well over a year now.

Each time my local cable company was gobbled up by a larger cable company nothing really changed except that my bill went up. And up. And UP.

How Many Channels Do I Really Watch

I did an analysis of my TV viewing habits and found that most of my TV habit revolved around LIVE news programs, YouTube, HBO, Showtime and Netflix.

I can spend a whole evening sometimes just going through the viewing options on Netflix and call it a night without ever watching a single program sometimes. (I know if you have this service you’ve probably done it too.)

When I looked at the number of shows I was watching on HBO and Showtime, it came down to about one program per service each. So, I’m temporarily going without either of them for the time being. But I also know that if I access these services via OTT (Over The Top) TV, I can get full access to their library vs. only selected access via a cable bundle’s On Demand offering.

LIVE TV

The thing that had me staying connected to the cable bundle was access to LIVE TV, especially the news channels like CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

I also am a weather geek and so The Weather Channel often would be on my TV screen while I played the radio. My new set-up doesn’t access the live meteorologists on TWC but I have the TWC App on my iPhone7 and so I really have access to all the weather information I need at the touch of my screen.

SLING TV

My dilemma to accessing LIVE TV for news programming was solved when I learned about SLING TV. SLING offers CNN, MSNBC and FOX 24/7 LIVE. I bought the SLING BLUE package for $25/month. No contract to sign and I can terminate the service (though I serious doubt that will happen) at any time. I also added the news option to SLING BLUE for $5/month. My total TV package is now $30/month.

SLING TV now controls the lion’s share of subscribers according to comScore with more than 2 million users as of June 2017.

APPLE TV

I access SLING through a 4th generation AppleTV. AppleTV offers quite a few other options for news and entertainment viewing. One being CBSN, the new CBS 24/7 news channel that reminds me of the old Headline News.

AMAZON PRIME

My fiancé had Amazon Prime when I moved in with her in Virginia but was not taking advantage of her access to Amazon TV that comes with a prime membership. AppleTV doesn’t have a way to access Amazon TV (I don’t know why this is) but Amazon TV can be accessed on any Apple computer, iPhone, or iPad. So, I downloaded it to our iPad and now stream it to our large screen HDTV with excellent quality for both picture and sound.

USA OTT Viewing Time

In a report released by comScore the research company reports that SLING, AT&T’s DirecTV NOW and Sony’s PlayStation Vue garner around 3.1 million viewers. Those same services now command 54.6% of OTT usage.

Impact on Radio

Does any of this have an impact on radio? Well it just might when you consider what Amazon just introduced in June 2017, the Amazon Echo Show.

While the radio industry was just beginning to wrap its head around the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and Microsoft/Samsung’s Cortana Voice Activated Devices (VADs), along comes the Echo Show with a touch screen. “In addition to its usual Alexa powers, the Echo Show is a phone, TV, karaoke machine, and digital photo frame. The screen stays on even when you’re not using it,” writes CNN tech.

The world of communications technology is changing at breakneck speed.

It’s a “Winner Takes it ALL” game.

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live,

life changes.”

-Hugh Prather

P.S. on Monday, August 7th, a great new book “Fired Up! SELLING” will be released. If you’re in sales or just a lover of inspiring quotes like me, this little book is a MUST HAVE for your library. 268 people are quoted in this book.

Full disclosure, I was one of the quote judges that worked on putting together this book. It was a labor of love and working on it made for a very inspiring year that truly fired me up.

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fired-Up-Selling-TM-Energize/dp/1885167830/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501771980&sr=8-1&keywords=fired+up+selling+quotes

 

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When TV Disrupted Radio

97I grew up with TV.

Essentially, we were “born” in the same year.

I don’t remember a time when TV didn’t exist.

TV was supposed to put radio out-of-business. It was the “great disruptor.”

Why TV Didn’t Put Radio Out-Of-Business

While I loved my TV shows and even remember planning my life around TV GUIDE and the new fall shows, I still fell in love with radio and wanted to be a radio personality since elementary school and my first Zenith transistor radio.

Radio for me was never about Jack Benny or Groucho Marx or Amos & Andy or radio dramas like Orson Welles “War of the Worlds.”

Radio was exciting execution, engaging personalities and the best of new music from all genres.

Radio was addictive because it was so engaging.

Disruption Knows No Loyalties

It’s reported that as this decade began only 67 of the original Fortune 500 companies were still in business. Welcome to the 21st Century of Disruption.

The reality in today’s world of accelerating change is that the very success that rockets a company to raving success usually becomes the dagger that runs through its heart when the market environment shifts. Then new firms take over and former leaders fade into the history books.

The business truth is eventually every business sees its model fail.

Radio’s New Business Model after TV

Can you imagine a more difficult time than when TV swooped in and stole all of radio’s programs and talent? It was a time when people said things like “The last person to leave, please turn off the lights on your way out.”

It was a dark time for radio.

But not for all.

Only those who couldn’t see their way past the way it had been.

New broadcasters were quick to develop new formats.

1965 saw the birth of BOSS RADIO in Los Angeles with Bill Drake & Ron Jacob’s 93-KHJ.

At the same time 1010-WINS in New York would pioneer the all news format and everyone would know the phrase “You give us 21-minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

These new broadcasters would be the ones that inspired me to want to be a radio guy.

The Transistor Radio

Radio took advantage of the transistor radio. The youth of my day would all want a transistor radio of their very own and radio owned the youth generation.

The Car Radio

As we grew older and bought our first car, the car radio was a MUST HAVE accessory.

Movies like American Graffiti would romance the glory of the young and their radio.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Today’s 21st Century finds radio with a new disruptor, the internet. It’s not a new product but an ecosystem.

Amazon and Walmart sell many of the same products and are quite competitive on price. The big difference is Walmart is a brick and mortar ecosystem and Amazon is internet based.

For radio to compete the industry needs to have a vision for how its product fits into a complex network of components, systems and user experience.

That’s the 21st Century radio challenge. (TV faces the same challenge.)

Today’s radio must seamlessly fit into a listener’s life on any platform the listener uses.

Disruption will crash and burn any business model that wants to hold onto the past.

Disruption will clear a path for those who are innovative, nimble and responsive to a changing marketplace.

For those broadcasters, the opportunities are limitless.

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The Post-Fact Society

68P.T. Barnum, among many others, is credited with saying: “I don’t care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name right!”

Barnum knew it wasn’t important what people said about him as long as they were talking about him. Only the noise level about Barnum mattered.

When I saw this chart from The DataFace measuring the newspaper media coverage of the two presidential candidates, it was eye opening.  68a It mattered little that most of that coverage was negative. What mattered was they spelled “Trump” correctly.

Fake News

Once upon a time, news came from journalists who worked for newspapers, radio and television stations.

Then along came the iPhone and social media.

Now the same device that could receive text, voice, pictures and video could produce it too.

Social media platforms provided mass distribution without a filter (aka an editor).

This provided the perfect storm for the production of fake news. A cottage industry in some parts of the world, some American citizens soon learned that producing internet stories that would get lots of clicks could be profitable.

Radio & Fake News

Even syndicated radio host Sean Hannity got snared in the volume of fake news being generated and had to apologize for using fake news stories to attack Obama.

Ad Supported Media Fight for Survival

In an effort to make a little coin, trusted media sources began accepting advertising that would lead their readers, listeners, viewers to unaffiliated sources that would serve up this fake news. In so doing, they inadvertently now wore the stink of the fake news creators. The public quickly could not discern the researched and sourced news from the made-up variety.

One PM Central Standard Time

Radio and television journalism didn’t always operate this way. PBS produced an excellent documentary about the coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The program was called “One PM Central Standard Time” and it covered how “the most trusted man in America” Walter Cronkite waited until Kennedy’s death was confirmed by  multiple sources before going live with the news to the nation over the CBS radio and television networks.

The Being First Obsession

Things changed when things started being published digitally. In this world, advertising paid based on clicks. Quantity beat quality. Sensational beat facts. Going viral meant big money to these new media folks. Plus the concept of “native advertising” means that advertising copy is presented to look like editorial.

All of these little changes contributed to consumers becoming less and less able to tell real news from what was fake news. Which has led to many not believing anything today’s media tells them.

And that’s a very sad state of affairs for journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
–Thomas Jefferson

21st Century Business Model Challenge

Starting with newspapers, then radio, then TV then digital, the business model has been one of ad supported media. The model is broken.

Disruption first destroys the old ways of doing things before the new ways are discovered and take root. We are living in that destruction period of disruption.

Our challenge lies in building a business model that will support solid journalism, quality entertainment and community service.

What others have shown us is that in a 21st Century world it will take a collaborative effort from people from all over the world to help build the new way.

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Informed or Just Amused?

61This is not a blog about politics. It’s a blog to mentor people about media.

One of the courses I teach at the university is about the processes and effects of mediated communication. I feel this is an important course for students who will become future radio and television journalists. Journalism is a critical component of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson on Newspapers

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third President felt that newspapers were that important to our democracy.

Warning: Long-term TV Exposure Could Be Hazardous to Your Reality

Researchers Morgan, Shanahan, Signorielli said their research found that long-term exposure to television tends to cultivate the image of a relatively mean and dangerous world. This area of media research is called “Cultivation.”

People have long feared powerful and harmful media effects, especially on children.

National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence

The 1960s were tumultuous times. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. His accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed on live TV by Jack Ruby. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on the balcony of his hotel and Bobby Kennedy, President’s Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated at a political rally in California. This is why President Lyndon Johnson formed the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence to conduct the first study on the effects of mediated violence on TV.

Cultivation Effect

George Gerbner, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and later Temple University, developed his “cultivation theory” to explain the effects television was having on heavy viewers. His theory says that people who watch a lot of TV tend to develop or cultivate views of the world similar to what they see on television, generally a “mean” world filled with crime and violence.

TV Violence

In a given week of TV, more than half of all leading characters on television are involved in some kind of violent act. Heavy viewers see more than 50% of the stars in their favorite shows engaged in some kind of violent activity. But what’s the reality?

Violent crime in America is at 30-year lows. However Americans’ concern for violent crime is at a 15-year high. In fact 7 out 10 Americans said crime was rising in America. Gun sales have surged 40% this year and are on track for another record breaking year.

Can you see how television is cultivating its viewers and skewing their reality of the world around them?

Social Construction of Reality

Research shows that heavy viewers of television tend to cultivate the same distorted view of the real world as the one they see on TV. They over-estimate the amount of crime on their streets, become more fearful and seek out ways to protect themselves from this perceived violence. Resonance with TV’s dramatic stories occurs when real world events occur that reinforce the fictional world of television.

Reality TV

Network television’s corporate leaders are always striving to produce programs that will garner the most eyeballs watching them for the least amount of money to produce them. Why not, its good business and stakeholders reward a great financial performance by TV executives.

Reality TV shows were a dream come true. Production costs were low and audience viewing levels were high. The only real problem with reality television is it’s not reality; it’s faux reality.

Reality TV Stars

This new form of prime time programming would produce new stars. Jersey Shore produced Snooki to the world. Seaside Heights might compare that televised devastation to Hurricane Sandy in terms of the damage caused to this wonderful ocean resort community.

The Apprentice would produce a New York billionaire as its star.

Donald Trump

Between the original Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump would command prime time television on NBC for 14 seasons. For some voters in this 2016 Presidential election, that’s almost their entire life. For heavy TV viewers, their reality of Trump has been formed from this television program. Their social construction of reality of Trump has been formed by up to 14 years of faux reality.

24-Hour News vs. ESPN

The advent of 24-hour news channels created an insatiable appetite for content. To keep viewers tuned in, the once rarely seen “Breaking News” slide now is exploding on people’s HDTV screens out of every commercial break.

The coverage of politics is almost indistinguishable from the way ESPN covers sports. Many of the descriptors used come directly from the lingo of play-by-play announcers.

TV The Great Storyteller

Television is the great storyteller of our time. Much in the way researchers have measured the impact TV has had on people’s view of crime versus reality, should we now be concerned about people’s view of our politics in much the same way?

Talk Radio

Radio also has a toe in these waters. Talk radio, after the repeal of The Fairness Doctrine, took off. Rush Limbaugh was the first – and still reported to be the biggest – benefactor of this new kind of talk radio.

Radio operators, like television operators, also look for programming that will produce the largest audience for the least amount of dollars to produce. Talk radio was incredibly successful for accomplishing this.

Social Media

The last election showed the power of social media in terms of influencing voter opinion during the Presidential election in 2012. This election cycle appears to be reaching a new apex for social media’s influence.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Professor Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” was published in 1985. Postman passed away in October 2003. His book looked at whether the future would be more like George Orwell had predicted in “1984” or more like Aldous Huxley predicted in his book “Brave New World.”

Orwell predicted that a “big brother” government would control the world and Huxley felt that entertainment would totally distract us from what was really going on with our world.

This book is as relevant today as when it was published, maybe even more so, as many of the predictions made are now on internet steroids.

Television and social media have replaced the written word. Mass media continues to move in the direction of entertainment which challenges it to share serious ideas. One candidate’s coughing fit obscures serious talking points delivered later to an audience in the room but not to the audience on television. Another candidate captures TV coverage by early morning “tweet storms.” The casualty is serious issues get no air time, complex issues are bumped for superficial ones. News we need to know is replaced by news that entertains.

ABC – NBC – CBS

For the past seven years, my students have done a comparative analysis of the three major evening newscasts to study their “agenda setting” for America’s news viewers. The general conclusion by my students is that none of them give you everything you need to know to be an informed citizen in a democracy.

What I’ve witnessed over the time I’ve been doing this exercise with my students is how totally entertainment oriented all three of them have become.

Saturday Night Live

The new season of SNL opened on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Alec Baldwin was cast in the role of Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon was cast in the role of Hillary Clinton. Based on the reviews of what every news channel was calling “Must See TV” McKinnon won the night by putting Ms. Clinton in a positive light and Baldwin turned Mr. Trump into a pathetic caricature of “@realDonaldTrump”.

McKinnon’s line probably said it best; when as Ms. Clinton she said “I think I’m going to be President.”

If what researchers have learned about television and the study of its influence on people’s perception of violence carries over to people’s candidate voting preferences, then SNL may have just influenced the outcome of the 2016 United States Presidential election.

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The Lesson of High School

41Everything you need to know to succeed in life you probably learned by the time you graduated high school. Do you remember your high school days? You probably couldn’t wait to graduate and begin the next chapter of your life. We were all in such a hurry. Many of us were looking forward to going to college. College, we thought, would be what real life was like. It would be a world where real talent is what counts.

Meryl Streep once told an interviewer that she thought life would be like the life she lived in college. Only it wasn’t. “Life,” Streep said, “is like high school.” Life, it turns out, is a popularity contest. The competent and likeable person will soar in life whereas the intelligent but socially inept won’t.

Real Life Doesn’t Give Written Tests

Education revolves around the test. Tests produce grades. Grades are compiled into GPAs. GPAs are part of the process to measure a person’s intelligence quotient or IQ. Not to burst your bubble, but the world’s most successful people are those that often finish in the bottom half of their class but were probably the best known and best loved.

What’s Your EI?

This begs the question, why don’t we measure what’s important? Or better yet, why don’t we teach it? Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale says “we know from doing dozens of studies, that emotions can either enhance or hinder a person’s ability to learn.” Emotions impact our memory, our attention and our ability to focus. EI is Emotional Intelligence. EI is something we talk about in my broadcast sales class. Great media sales people score high in emotional intelligence skills.

We Are Controlled By Our Emotions

Whether you are in sales, a television/radio performer or running for political office, just like in high school, you will be judged by if people like you or feel good about you. The world works not by logic and reason, but on emotions and feelings. Radio and television are a people business. It is all based on relationships. Relations are all about feelings.

Academics & Success

Our educational system is built upon the premise that if a student achieves academically they will be employed, healthy and everything else in their lives will be a bowl of cherries. The reality is something quite different. Turns out academic success predicts very little about the future outcome in these metrics.

Talent Assessments

Can emotional intelligence be taught or do we all start out emotionally intelligent and have it beaten out of us by our home life, our friends – or most likely – the educational system? In my broadcast sales class, I have my students take a talent assessment. These tests give insight into how a person is wired. Unlike most tests students take, there is no pass or fail. The results give insight into a person’s emotional intelligence and make-up. These tests were developed from the research of people like Sigmund Freud. They came into widespread use during the Second World War. The goal was to quickly place people into jobs that they would naturally excel at doing. After the war ended, many companies continued to use these tests when hiring. They are another tool in the tool box for evaluating a person.

Can An Old Dog Be Taught New Tricks?

What is not known is at what ages these emotional intelligence skills can be taught and if there comes a point when the cake is baked and can no longer be changed. Few studies in this area have been conducted. Plus the deck is stacked against this area of education by people who take the “that’s not the way we’ve always done it” approach to anything new and different. At this point, it would appear these “emotional habits” get baked into a person’s personality early in life and it is a mixture of home-social-school environments.

Life Is Like High School

So maybe Meryl Streep is right. Success in high school and life is basically a question of one’s personality. Zig Ziglar put it this way, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” In a world that is wired for reciprocity, going first and showing you care is always good when it comes to building relationships.

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History’s Technology Rhyme

Transistor Radio, Car Radio and Rock & Roll

Transistor Radio, Cars & Rock ‘n Roll

I’ve written before how history never repeats itself, but usually rhymes. So when I was reading an article in the NY Times about “Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future” it hit me. Here was how history was rhyming when it came to communications. Fasten your seat-belt, this will get bumpy.

What this article’s author Farhad Manjoo wrote was how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft (others include Netflix in this mix) came along at a perfect time to roll up their user base. They were in the right place, at the right time in other words.

Geoffrey G. Parker, a business professor at Tulane University has co-authored a book called “Platform Revolution” where he explains how these tech companies were able to ride the perfect wave of technology change – that being a decrease in the cost of IT, an increase in connectivity and the introduction/fast adoption of mobile phones.

And when it comes to advertising, these companies are in the right place to leverage digital marketing and enjoy most of the benefits of this growth area as well. In fact, since there is a sense that these major digital companies will receive most of the online advertising monies, traditional media – like radio & TV – could see advertising monies return to them.  Let’s hope that happens.

So, where’s the rhyme in this story? Well consider this other time in communications history when television burst onto the scene after the end of World War Two in the 1950s. Radio, a lot of people thought, would cease to exist. Radio’s stars, programs and advertisers, to a large measure, jumped into television. Radio had to find a new act.

Radio was in the right place, at the right time for the birth of three things when TV came along; the transistor radio and the car radio. Both of these technology advancements would be the savior of radio along with one other important development; rock ‘n roll.

Radio was in the perfect place to ride the baby boomer youth wave of rock music, cars and transistor radios. Television grew in large measure by scarcity, only two or three television networks and few TV stations.

When broadband came along, that scarcity factor went poof. Radio now sees its dominance in the car being challenged by a digital dashboard.

The newest radio format to have come into existence – all sports/talk – is now 29 years old. Clearly, innovation in the radio world has stalled.

The good news is radio in America has more reach than any other form of mass media. The bad news is it sees annual erosion of its TSL (time spent listening). This can be fixed. To do this, radio needs to address the very factors that are causing its TSL to erode.

The thing most often heard from consumers about what they dislike about radio are its commercials. Yet, commercials don’t have to be a tune-out factor. No one tunes out the Super Bowl when it’s a blowout because they want to see what other clever commercials might still be coming on their television.

Most radio stations long ago did away with their copywriters. These masters of the spoken word who can craft a story about businesses need to be enticed back into the radio business at every radio station.

The number of commercials in a break needs to be reassessed by the radio industry as well. You can’t kill the goose that lays your gold revenue egg and expect it to continue to lay you golden eggs.

Bring back personalities. They not only sell the music (the record companies need you!); they sell your station and through live reads, your advertisers’ products and services.

Those who remember Paul Harvey News & Commentary will tell you that page two (his first live read commercial) was always something you turned up the radio for. I remember reading Paul Harvey brought in more money for the ABC Radio Network than everything else they did. And everyone loved Paul Harvey’s commercials and bought the products he talked about.

I think retired CBS Radio President Dan Mason said it best when he said this about radio:

“Without community and companionship, we have nothing.”

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Why is so much of television so bad?

That’s the question that Newton Minow asked on May 9, 1961 when he addressed the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC.

In his first public address after he took over as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Mr. Minow didn’t pull any punches. He made it clear that in his role at the FCC he was going to make darn sure that broadcasters operated in “the public interest.”

What is meant by operating in “the public interest?” That’s been open to interpretation since those words were written down. Here’s how Mr. Minow defined them:

“Some say the public interest is merely what interests the public. I disagree. And so does your distinguished (NAB) president, Governor Collins, who said ‘Broadcasting to serve the public interest, must have a soul and a conscience, a burning desire to excel, as well as to sell; the urge to build the character, citizenship, and intellectual stature of people, as well as to expand the gross national product….By no means do I imply that broadcasters disregard the public interest…But a much better job can be done, and should be done.’ I could not agree more with Governor Collins.”

Mr. Minow also told the radio broadcasters in the room that the FCC wasn’t going to go to sleep at the switch on them; they were still listening, but that most of the controversies and cross-currents in broadcast programming were swirling around TV and that’s what he planned to address in this speech.

“When television is good, nothing – not theater, not the magazines or newspapers – nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse,” said Minow.

He then threw out this challenge to television broadcasters:

“I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet, or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Mr. Minow is 89 and living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On the 50th anniversary of his famous speech, he was interviewed by James Warren of the Chicago Tribune. Minow was 35 years old when he took over as chairman of the FCC under President Kennedy. He told Warren that he couldn’t have anticipated the impact his speech would have. Minow’s severe censure of TV’s “procession of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons” remains highly “radioactive” to this day.

If you’re a fan of the television show “Gilligan’s Island” you might not have realized that the boat that sank was coyly named after the FCC chairman; however spelling it S. S. Minnow. Does that give you some idea of how distasteful having their medium called “a vast wasteland” was to the TV men of that day?

Mr. Minow’s own daughters joke that their dad’s tombstone might be inscribed with the words “On to a vaster wasteland.”

In 1998, President Clinton appointed a commission to review “the public interest” on the eve of the arrival of Digital Television. That commission issued a 160-age report on December 18, 1998.

In 2015, “the public interest” issue has been addressed with respect to the Internet.  Again, the FCC under its current chairman Thomas Wheeler has come forward with a plan that has been as well received by the “Internet men” of today as Mr. Minow’s assessment of TV back in 1961. Here’s what the FCC decided:

Adopted on February 26, 2015, the FCC’s Open Internet rules are designed to protect free expression and innovation on the Internet and promote investment in the nation’s broadband networks. The Open Internet rules are grounded in the strongest possible legal foundation by relying on multiple sources of authority, including: Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. As part of this decision, the Commission also refrains (or “forbears”) from enforcing provisions of Title II that are not relevant to modern broadband service. Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers.

The new rules apply to both fixed and mobile broadband service. This approach recognizes advances in technology and the growing significance of mobile broadband Internet access in recent years. These rules will protect consumers no matter how they access the Internet, whether on a desktop computer or a mobile device.

The public interest standard has long provided guidance for promoting greater diversity in content, political debate, access, service to local communities, education, diversity and equal employment. The communications revolution will continue to challenge policymakers to ensure operating in “the public interest” remains.

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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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The Choices We Make

You are what you are; you are who you are, by the choices you have made. You can change what you are, you can change who you are by changing the choices you make going forward.

To make things simple, let’s break down the choices into large choices and small choices. Large choices would be things like changing careers, getting married or divorced, having kids, picking a college/course of study etc. Small choices are exercising or sitting on the couch watching TV, having that extra cookie or not, going to the football game or listening to it on the radio etc.

Both large and small choices impact our lives. The difference is immediate with large choices but the small choices, over time, can be just as impactful. We just don’t see the change all at once, so they give the appearance of not having any impact, but that’s what makes them so deceptive. The reality is both are as important.

So what does this have to do with radio and TV? Listening to the radio or watching a TV show is a choice we make. We do it often to feel good. Feeling good releases endorphins in the brain that stimulate the pleasure center. It can become an addiction.

Today’s entertainment consumer has lots of choices. They also want to feel good. So it’s only natural that they are going to seek out those entertainment choices that stimulate their brain’s pleasure center.

Netflix and YouTube are two video services that are doing a better job of providing this video pleasure than broadcast TV. YouTube and Pandora are two audio services that are doing this better than broadcast radio (in the opinion of their users). YouTube, as you can see is a double threat, as it is strong in two different media areas and is a real force to be reckoned with. New habits are being formed; new entertainment addictions.

Once upon a time, people jumped through lots of hoops to receive a radio or TV broadcast. Today, all of those choices are quickly and easily available on their smartphone or tablet. Mobile is the fastest growing segment of media in the world. Mobile advertising holds unlimited potential for those service providers that get chosen and make themselves a habit.

The consumer is making little choices each and every day. Broadcasters have ignored them because they seem small and insignificant. But I’m here to tell you that those little choices are just as impactful to your future as if they were of the large variety.

Broadcasters too, have a choice. Accept the new reality and embrace change or let the change happen to you.

Remember, death by a thousand cuts is still dead.

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