Friday, March 31, 2006

"The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: 'What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?' His stress is on responsibility." Peter Drucker

David Lee Roth, the Howard replacement, had another bad trend in New York. According to John Mainelli, writing in The New York Post...

There is reason for concern. Roth's audience was down to an estimated 32,000 listeners last month, off 88 percent from Stern's 277,000 last December.

John's article, Fading Out, is here. Is Roth, the musician without radio experience, responsible?

Numbers for the Michael Eisner CNBC debut are out. 95,000 viewers, 39,000 in the 25-54 demo. TV Newser sez...

Eisner lost most of his lead-in. At 8pm, CNBC's "Deal or No Deal" had an impressive 518,000 total viewers, with 245,000 in the demo. Eisner lost 82 percent of the total viewers, and 84 percent of the demo.

TV Newser is here. Is Eisner, the exec without television experience, responsible?

My opinion both cases leadership is responsible. Is this a casting issue? An issue of direction or failure to provide appropriate direction? Some combination of both? Not having first hand knowledge of what's going on I am not able to make that call. It does, however, seem to me that each performer, Roth and Eisner, would benefit from better leadership. Roth and Eisner deserve nothing less. In my experience, the quick, easy and wrong solution is to blame the talent without first carefully reviewing how they are being directed. Management must be held accountable; management is responsible for producing results. My suggestion...the first step is to catch talent doing something right. Roth and Eisner may each achieve great success yet but for that to happen they will need responsible, qualified leadership. As to the chatter that Roth is "difficult" my take is that is simply wonderful news, have yet to meet a great talent that was not, in some manner, "difficult." More often than not the "difficult" characterization is a symptom of poor or unqualified leadership rather than poor or unqualified talent. Before replacing the talent, change up the leadership.

Jeff Jarvis has written about DLR (with comments) here and here. Bravo Jeff!

Clear Channel, CBS, Citadel and Entercom have each had a sit down with FCC staffers in what some are saying is an effort to make any pay for play problem go away (thanks to RDN impresario Larry Shannon for the pointer). The story from Reuters here

Howard is the cover story in this week's Entertainment Weekly...

Does it bother you that most of your fans haven't followed you to Sirius?

I was just at my psychiatrist and I said, ''I just got great news: We hit the 4 million mark. And I'm angry. It should be 20 million.'' It's insulting to me that everyone hasn't come with me. I take it personally. The competitive thing is a sickness that eats at me. I want to say to my audience in this article, ''F--- you! You haven't come with me yet? How dare you?'' [Laughs] ''We're up to wild, crazy stuff, the show has never sounded better. You cheap bastard!''

Read the Howard Stern cover story here. The EW site needs major work, page design is very poor, no excuse for the slow page loading.

Patrick Phillips interviews Elizabeth Spiers, the uber-cool princess of snark, here. Bravo Patrick!

Looking for a great business book? Please allow me to suggest The Daily Drucker, get details via the Amazon link, upper right of this page. Exceptional, read-it-with-a-highlighter-good; Highly recommended. (FD - the link uses my associate account).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Finding and realizing the potential of a business is psychologically difficult. It will always be opposed from within because it means breaking with old, established habits. It often means giving up the very skill people are proudest of. To fight the threat, to manage an imbalance, and above all to make a process efficient despite its inherent weaknesses, requires great effort." Peter Drucker

New business cards arrived from the Hugh MacLeod Streetcards store. My new cards use the image above and I just love them. Highly recommended. Check out what's on offer here.

Great time in the city last week. Bravo and congrats to all involved in the 20th John Bayliss Broadcast Foundation Radio Roast. A simply wonderful evening for a good cause. More on the foundation here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Any problem that is pervasive, persistent, or unprecedented is unlikely to be solved with hand-me-down principles...novel problems demand novel principles" Gary Hamel

The above from GH's excellent writing in the Feb issue of Harvard Business Review (The Why, What, and How of Management Innovation). The folks at work in public radio (or in any venture for that matter) would benefit from the reading.

It's official - Microsoft has delayed Vista - shipping now in early 07. Bet it is worth the wait, especially since word around the camp fire is security issues are behind the delay.

Steve Krause has written a good review of Pandora compared/contrasted with here

The Digital Journalism class at NYU is blogging and it's mighty good, kudos and congrats - check out We Want Media here

NPR is now blogging - Bravo & Cheers! JJ Sutherland hosts Mixed Signals here

Writing a WSJ page one story on the newspaper business Julia Angwin and Joe Hagan have done an outstanding job in telling us what's happening with the dead tree gang (sub req) here

CBS Radio moves Mike Preston the bay area. Mike takes the helm as VP/Programming for KCBS-AM and KFRC-FM. A brilliant programmer, Mike is exactly the kind of leader and driving creative force that CBS needs to make things happen in San Francisco. Smart move.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Memoranda flew out of my shabby office, right off the lobby where evil record promoters lurked, quicker than the accounting department spat out invoices, once we became RKO General’s Money Machine."
Ron Jacobs

The legend of legends, Ron Jacobs, has decided to favor us with a on offer at his site. Click now for the wisdom of the one, the only, big kahuna, here. If, in the context of McLean, one were to define F, S & suggestion would be Drake, Jacobs & Drew.

"In the end I was so micromanaged that they were telling me how to pronounce syllables of words." Bob Edwards

The above from NEWSWEEK'S Brian Braiker - he interviews Bob Edwards here. Bravo Brian, well done. An interesting read, including...

"How many staff do you have? I have eight producers."

"And how many did you have at NPR? A hoard. An army of hundreds. There were 25 people on the staff of "Morning Edition" alone, and that doesn't count the technicians or the reporters."

And folks wonder why public radio is in trouble...NPR and public radio share a common challenge...clearly, it's a leadership problem. From Audience 2010, Interim Report 4: An Historic Loss of Momentum...

"With few exceptions, local programming is generally more expensive to produce than acquired programming of the same caliber. It generally does not serve the station's audience as well. Listeners generally do not consider it as important in their lives as other programming on the station. As a result, it is difficult to do well and sustain financially"

Generally speaking, I find this to be genuine pubcaster consultant gibberish. Moreover, my opinion is their counsel is pure boneheaded nonsense. Public radio has a leadership problem. The best practice of yesterday fails to address the reality of today. This pubcaster crisis began and remains centered at the top; no parsing of Arbitron data nor any resultant graduate level dog-ate-my-homework excuse making, nor delegation of blame will fix things. Pubcasters must face reality as it is, not as it was or as they wish it to be. The first step is to stop doing what they've always done; abandon the unproductive legacy practices, wake up to the simple truth - you're attempting to measure today's problems with yesterday's metrics. This is another case where perspective is critical - as Dr Gary Hamel often says "perspective is worth 10 IQ points." Embrace the paradox - the solution to this complex problem is simple. You may read the Interim Reports via PDF here

My thanks to Mike McVay and his team - Mike is kind enough to feature one of my Great Leaders monographs, A Great Program Director. I admit to being a longtime fan of Mike, not only because he's a smart guy but because he's a mensch as well. (btw, at last count A Great Program Director was translated into twenty-six languages). You'll find Mike's gang on the web here, the monograph is here

Monday, March 20, 2006

"Great radio stations begin and end with talent" Paul Gallis

A highlight of my Chicago trip last week was lunch in Greektown @ Greek Islands with Paul Gallis and Dick Rakovan. Paul is writing a tell-all book about the wild world (the characters, the players, the real stories) of Chicago media. Paul sets the stage in the 50s and names names up through the 70s. It was big fun listening to Paul share stories about the winners (John Rook, Lee Davis, Lucky Cordell, Bobby Collins, Chris Lane, Fred Winston, Bob Pittman, George Wilson, Clark Weber), the wannabes and the clueless who "didn't know what job they were out of". Paul has a unique pov...a skilled musician who first worked in radio (as a record turner) before getting into music promotion and later producing records. We talked about one of the greatest radio conventions of all time - Claude Hall's last Billboard International Programming Forum in New Orleans in 1976. It was at that exceptional conference that Paul was named Promotion Executive of the Year. During my salad days as a music director and programmer Paul was kind enough to give it to me straight up, he held no punches. His unvarnished candor, his rare sense of humor, his genuine caring for others and his encyclopedic grasp of the entertainment business make him a force of nature. Rackets, as usual, shared stories and his own brand of original collected wisdom. The best part of the conversation was not about the past but rather the present and the future. Radio is indeed blessed to have Dick Rakovan and Paul Gallis around; two great story tellers and teachers that bring their A game every time they show up.

In today's post an invitation to the 2006 Broadcast Pioneer Awards in Vegas. I wouldn't miss it. This year honoring...

Dwight Case (twice a former boss and longtime mentor of mine), John G. Conomikes (the legendary Hearst CEO), Gary Fries (present RAB CEO stepping down this year - a major loss btw), Tichenor Family (overdue), K. James Yager and the Chairman's Award goes to Richard A. Foreman. Each and all class acts.

Most of the time I agree with Jeff Jarvis but not today...Jeff fails to appreciate the contributions of the great Bill Beutel and on this we will have to disagree. To be fair...Jeff's take and comments here

" “Citation”, “Man O’ War”, “Seattle Slew” and “Affirmed” are to racing as Larry Lujack, Don Steele, Robert W, Cousin Brucie, Paul Harvey , Rush Limbaugh and yes…even Howard Stern are to radio. Thoroughbreds all - unique and gifted entertainers. Try as it may, radio will never “reinvent” these original talents." John Rook

John Rook, the great programmer of legend, makes the case for "unique and gifted entertainers" in a recent writing from his web site here. John's take on the Howard replacements goes on to say...

Radio should encourage and motivate talented young folks to become the stars of the future. Instead, the stages once relied on for developing programming are darkened by voices from afar.

The desire to cut costs with syndication continues to short change radio’s future.

A reminder of the days when independent radio owners provided listeners with what the networks couldn’t…local programming. The independents flourished and the networks were reduced to providing niche programming. History is repeating but this time radio will become just a niche its self.

Dominated by those blinded by the revenue $tern brought in, CBS had months to create something other than “shock” radio. So it decided on David Lee Roth – who lacking Howard’s talent but with more ego, if that’s possible…will certainly crash and burn.

And thus will end CBS radio’s Roth problem.

Bravo JR, well said. Several emails about my post yesterday on what really made WABC's EWN such a smash. The one word answer is talent. Bill Beutel, Roger Grimsby and the entire EWN ensemble cast, the EWN corps, were "unique and gifted entertainers" in addition to being outstanding journalists. It is wrong to suggest the success of EWN was only a matter of "presentation style" as some have emailed me. To discount the significance of talent is to completely miss the point. "In all of art it's the singer not the song" so said Penn Jillette, great directors (and programmers like John Rook) get that and understand...performance is only as good as the talent involved.

Bonus - writing in his column today Lewis Lazare says...

Just about everybody in advertising loves to do commercials they think are funny. We have observed again and again that doing humor that works is one of the most difficult assignments in advertising. Still, everyone seems convinced they know how to do humor right.

Lew nails it (again). Humor is exceedingly difficult and to work it demands the execution that only talent can bring; the writing (the song) requires a star (the singer) buts, ands or ifs.

Read Lew's always insight filled column here

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Good luck, and be well" Bill Beutel

One of the great gentlemen of broadcast news has passed. Bill Beutel holds the record for longest anchor run in the city. His smooth as silk delivery was but one of his many considerable gifts. Bill and Roger Grimsby, once co-anchors of the #1 rated Eyewitness News, were bigger-than-life personalities, genuine New York media celebrities. Bill added something special to each newscast he played on, however, the chemistry between he, Roger and the other players on the Eyewitness News programs of the early seventies remain without equal.

Al Primo invented the ground-breaking Eyewitness News concept in the mid sixties while ND at KYW in Philly. Al was the first to have reporters, rather than anchors, tell the story and the EWN pov was born. Al was the WABC ND who introduced his EWN concept to New York and the first to add "personalities" to the local newscasts. Al cast Bill as Roger's co-anchor - a brilliant move. Consumer writers often described the difference in the revolutionary EWN format as "happy talk" or banter between readers - they were wrong. As were the hundreds of copy cat local news shows that pushed their readers to "talk among yourselves." The magic of Al's WABC EWN presentation came from the introduction of very distinctive news "personalties." During the early seventies Bill and Roger mixed it up with a great "cast" including Tex Antoine (perhaps the first weatherman with an attitude), Geraldo Rivera (who brought the Mike Wallace ambush interview to local news), Howard Cosell, and Roseanne Scamardella (the subject of parody by SNL's Gilda Radner). Bill and Roger were outstanding on their own, with the other players they proved to be unbeatable.

From his use of Lalo Schifrin's music (Cool Hand Luke's "Tar Sequence"), to hiring Bob Giraldi to create some of the best news promos ever broadcast, to his uber-cool soft "stories" about cast members, Al Primo created one of the most enduring and copied news franchises in broadcasting history. Bill Beutel and his fellow news personalities brought the programs to life giving them an edge, a look and a feel like no other. Watching in the early seventies I made certain never to miss the Friday shows when wild off-the-wall horse play could and more often than not did happen. They gave you the news and they also gave you a good humored, playful attitude, they included you in the joke. Al had a deep understanding of the importance of creating contrast - the other stations were dull and lifeless by any comparision. Later, in the mid eighties, Bill Applegate of WLS fame was brought in to refresh the casts and did an excellent and very effective job of putting WABC back in first place.

WABC's tribute to Bill is here

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"...a healthy flow of information separates winning organizations from losers. Deciding means acting on information. Barring blind luck, the quality of a decision can't be better than the quality of the information behind it" Arno Penzias

The Cirque du Soleil gang are staging their first-ever live arena event - Delirium. Booked our tickets this morning. Looks like big fun. More info here; get tour dates and purchase tickets here.

Congrats and cheers to Jimmy Cramer on the occasion of Mad Money's one-year anniversary on CNBC. JC proclaimed yesterday that he has become the new "King of All Media", I'll second that. Cramer is the goods and - stay tuned - he's just getting started.

Meanwhile the previous KOAM title holder, Howard Stern, continues his rant against Les Moonves and Joel Hollander with his I Hate Les Moonves Tour. Time for Howie to file a counter suit or shut up, 6 to 5 against either action seems the safe wager. If I had to pick one of the equity plays in this drama - Sirius or CBS - no contest, CBS is the equity with greater potential. Bonus - Allan Sniffen posts his review with comments along with the Sean Hannity Howard Stern interview audio (RA) here. Read the CBS suit via The Smoking Gun here. One has to wonder - what did Mel know and when did he know it? Discovery in this case could prove entertaining. Howard calling out Les for using company resources to chase a "frivolous suit" against him says it all...the man who once had company resources used against others in his defense now questions the use of company resources when used against him. Priceless.

Congrats to Tim McCarthy, clearly A Great General Manager, for his recent well deserved (and overdue, imho) recognition...Tim was named R&R's News/Talk General Manager of the Year.

Also honored at R&R's TRS...Jack Swanson as Programmer of the Year and Harvey Nagler as News Radio Executive of the Year.

The fund drive for Chicago Ed Schwartz now has a website here, please give what you can.

Bravo to Dean Richards, Lyle Dean, Dave Baum, Clark Weber, Mitch Rosen, Steve Dahl, Mike North, and each and all involved in Monday night's WSCR radiothon to benefit Chicago Ed.

Congrats to on their debut, very cool - check out Tina and Laura as they offer a tour of KEXP Radio, Seattle here

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The final question needed in order to come to grips with business purpose and business mission is: 'What is value to the customer?'" Peter Drucker

The above taken from The Daily Drucker. About the question he goes on to add "It may be the most important question. Yet it is the one least often asked...the customer never buys a definition the customer buys the satisfaction of a want...he buys value" Pure gold.

Last week in DC. A wonderful dinner with Susan and Bob Henabery. Susan, an accomplished watercolorist, Bob the legendary and brilliant architect of the ABC Radio FM group, et al. Fine plates of Turkish (as well as Lebanese and Greek) food at Nizam's in Vienna, VA; the conversation was so rich it almost took any attention away from the good food. Nizam Ozgur has been serving since the Carter administration; it's worth the Metro trip to Vienna. btw, the Metro service was excellent - from the district to Vienna in less than 20, back in less than 15.

Two other DC restaurants merit your attention. Enjoyed Franco Nuschese's Cafe Milano in Georgetown with Art Vuolo. We booked the wine room. The food and the room were exceptional. Avoid the noisy and very crowded ground floor main room. Had an incredible dinner with clients at Bis a very cool little French Bistro near the Capitol.

Highly recommend all three the next time your in the DC area.

Another high point of the trip - breakfast with the gifted Kipper McGee.

Congrats and kudos to Al Peterson, Erica Farber, and team, on another home run...the Talk Radio Seminar hit just the right note. Kudos and Bravo to Rush for giving credit, during the Q&A of his talk, to Larry Lujack and Robert W. Morgan as early "influences." While we're speaking of the TRS - noticed, and appreciated, for bringing their "A" game...Jack Swanson, Mark Masters, John David, Clark Howard, Laura Ingraham, George Noory, Gary Krantz, and the next post. Cheers to Farley & Company, 103.5, WTOP sounds simply great!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" Second Part of King Henry VI, Act IV, Scene II. Shakespeare

The words of Dick the butcher came to mind when hearing about Eliot Spitzer's lawsuit against Entercom. From the full AG press release here...

The lawsuit filed today in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges that Entercom:

• Traded air time for gifts and other payments;
• Traded air time for promotional items and personal trips;
• Solicited and accepted payments from record labels for air time;
• Instituted corporate programs, supported and directed by senior management, that sold air time to record labels in order to manipulate the music charts.

The lawsuit cites evidence that Entercom executives were closely involved in these illegal practices. In various documents and e-mails cited in the complaint, Entercom executives discussed strategies for supplementing radio station budgets with payments from independent promoters and record companies.

In an e-mail to an Entercom executive, a station manager described how he preferred to deal with record companies instead of independent promoters because the record companies were more generous:

"As of this date I choose not to work with an ‘indie." My program director Dave Universal is vehemently opposed to working with an indie.....Dave generates $90,000+ in record company annually for WKSE. I receive a weekly update of adds and dollars from Dave ....Forcing Dave to work with an indie at this time is the wrong move."

Seems to me this is another fine mess caused by lawyers and their greedy clients. Lawyers working for indie promotion firms, lawyers employed by labels and lawyers engaged by major broadcast corporations each appear to have been directed to review, if not discover or invent, "legal" ways for station owners to accept payments. The seductive lure, and allusion, of easy money. Is it against the law to work in collaboration with labels to game the reporting systems? Against the law to do any of the things the AG claims in making his case? At this point I only know what I read. While the charges may fail on merit, the revelations are nonetheless somewhat stunning if not plainly embarrassing. This is not just about Entercom, this is about owners who seem to have lost their way, owners who appear to have prized dollars above ethics, above morals, above common sense. Too clever by half.

Is it possible - with encouragement, a wink, a nod and some creative reading from their lawyers - broadcast corporate managers thought they had found a creative, totally legal way to generate millions of dollars in cash? Is it possible that this represents a lapse in judgment wherein a public trustee has simply forgotten their responsibilities and directed those in their employ to "go for it"? At one time holding a broadcast license was a trust, it required the owner to be accountable; the concept of being "fit" to hold and to renew a license was a serious matter. My guess is the FCC will get involved in this mess. Further, the commission will take action. The action could lead to another September 2, 1976 but my sense is that won't happen again. That was the day owners of KOIL and KISN, having been found "unfit" by a 6 to 1 commission vote, were ordered off the air by the FCC. Two stations ordered to go "dark" was one of the darkest days in the history of broadcasting, however, it served to be an effective wakeup call to owners back in the day. Today only one commissioner has said these matters deserve commission attention (the others have remained silent) so we don't have a good or even interesting game of chicken at this point. Moreover, Entercom has not doubt secure in the opinions of their lawyers.

Being a public trustee should demand more than a robust pe ratio, it should demand that owners do not what is merely legal but they do what is right.

It's time to pay for the play. It has been proven possible and profitable to operate in the public interest, the standard of being "fit" to hold a license is beyond any simple "legal" standard. Let us hope the commission revisits and reboots the broadcast license renewal process as a result of any payola investigation and subsequent rule making. Let us hope the second to lose their jobs work not in the field, but at headquarters. Let us hope the first to be fired are the lawyers involved, the ones involved in the abuse of a public trust. As Eddie Ruben was found of saying "the fish stinks at the head first"

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Only when knowledge is used as a foundation for skill does it become productive" Peter Drucker

Good day, as was yesterday, to buy more Google stock. Comments made by their CFO and the action of others seems to have created a good buying opportunity.

Howard Stern goes to lawyerland? Can it be considered to be true that Howard is, at once, playing the roles of cry baby, victim, free speech fighter, and, of course, self-proclaimed KOAM? Is making fun of Moonves' appearance Howard's best shot? The drama. The winner in this deal? Smart money is on the lawyers.

Some comments on the recent broadcast radio earnings calls and my pov...

"pricing for share" - never prudent practice, it's as close to having no pricing strategy as one can get. To determine effective pricing you must first have a deep understanding of how much it is costing you to create each avail in your proposed schedule.

sat radio has pr firms working for them while broadcast radio still does not - tired of hearing this one, will some radio company CEO please take the lead and hire a pr firm - enough, physician heal thy self. Don't want to spend the money? Let me suggest you can ramp up your earned media in a very significant way immediately...start doing good in your community...daily...give them something to talk about, make your own great copy, do it every single week - your once a year radiothon and psas are just not enough, make a real difference, repeat daily (then hire a pr firm)

the need to create new revenue streams has never been greater - if you always do what you've always done...time to stop re-stating the obvious and actually do something, start with selling your online assets as stand alone non-spot inventory, stop giving away online now.