Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Are you having fun?" Larry Bentson

My friend and former partner would ask me that one question at some point during each and every occasion we talked or met. He still does to this day. Our successful privately held company did business in over 600 domestic communities. We started or acquired a number of companies. A great many deals were considered, some reaching the attention of the board. Those that did merit board attention were always interesting. At some point in our deliberations about funding a startup or a possible acquisition Larry, chairman of our board, would ask us "What's the fun factor here?" Larry's litmus test it going to be fun for all involved?

The fun factor

In my experience, the fun factor usually plays an unheralded role in every great success. When people are having fun at work amazing things tend to happen. When people are truly engaged in a mission, excited about their work, committed to a cause rather than a job, their performance consistently rises to unexpected result. This happens when a team believes they are doing work that matters. They're emboldened, in part, because they're having fun.

Stars are born: Great to see Gym Class Heroes on Leno last night. Readers of this blog will recall it was last year when programming ace Brian Kelly (Entercom/Milwaukee) turned me on to those lads. Brian is the programmer and pop music evangelist who broke the band's first hit last May. In the coming weeks that track looks to top the charts. Brian Mansfield, writes the story, Gym Class Heroes put 'Chokehold' on charts, via USA Today here. Congrats and kudos to Brian Kelly on his well deserved national ink. Bravos to Gym Class Heroes on a good show last night!

Think Brian Kelly is having fun? He is and it shows, he's winning. His stations sound great, they jump out of the speakers and it sounds like his team is having fun. Ten to one they are. And bravos to Brian for being bold, for having the audacity to put a track on the radio just because it sounded good. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what Great Program Directors do - they lead, they make things happen.

Are you having fun?

400 year death spiral continues: 2006 Web ad spend beats dead tree guys in the UK. More via BBC here. Katharine Q. Seelye writes Drop in Ad Revenues Raises Tough Questions for Newspapers via NYT here. One of my favorite economists Mark Fratrik (BIA) gets quoted. Excellent job Katharine - bravo!

Please Google me some radio and TV ads: Miguel Helft writes Searching for Ads Offline via NYT here. Good writing Miguel. Great pic Rick! The race to crack the code continues. Microsoft, Yahoo and Google being the big players here and while all are sure to get there my sense is Google and Microsoft will lead Yahoo's fast follower. Detroit radio seems a perfect market to test prime avails. In February national was off 27%, local down 6%, about two million dollars missing from the market. My bet would be Google could make that $2 mil up with the right inventory. FYI - Fig's outfit gets a mention in the article. Hey Fig, turn around 2 large in Detroit and be named the winner.

This environment has created a special olympics mindset wherein Detroit stations can be said to be winning if they are only down 5% when the market is down 8%. Nonsense. Down is down. It has to stop being about beating the market and start being about growing your business. It has to stop being an intramural blood sport (i.e., radio v radio) and start being about radio v all others. Stop the self-destructive silo warfare and get into the big game. There's a bunch of money out there but you won't find it looking in exactly the same places where you found it before. You've fished out that part of the lake, leave one person on shore at that spot and move the boat! Start with this - how much does it cost you to create an avail?

My readers know that I'm a Google fan. I feel their pain in this initiative. The sales departments of broadcast shops have changed little since 1970. The majority of those changes would be tech related: better mission systems, fax machines, email, ppt, laptops, cell phones, pdas, pdf, voicemail, better non-spot and vendor, desktop publishing created better leave behinds/pitches, better training available (thanks RAB), better research and improved seller access to customized research, better competitive monitoring and station web inventory. The twx machine is gone. Most sellers still get messages from clients on little pink papers. Broadcast sales still involves relationships and face calls. The sales dept remains the last throw back in the enterprise. Albeit a better tech empowered throw back. Better tools does not equal better selling and the national shares of ad spend would seem to confirm this notion. We have a leadership problem. All Google needs is a broadcaster with nothing to lose. Earlier scribbling on broadcast sales here, here and here.

P.S. My former partners continue to own one of America's finest cable companies. It remains, in fact, the nation's largest privately held MSO. And, yes, I'm told they're having fun.

Bonus: Irrational Public Radio

Bonus 2: They're back, JibJab's latest What We Call The News Anchor crushed by graphics, now that's a killer line, one of many, check it out.

Congrats & cheers: Microsoft Live team debuts Deepfish mobile browsing, jump in here.


Dan Kelley said...


Gym Class Heros reminds me so much of your Dwight Case quote from a few days back.

A great story...thanks for passing along!