Monday, April 30, 2007

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." Aristotle

"The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of work." Sarah Bolton

"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is." Wayne Gretzky

To find the right people get the word out. Posting the job is a must and the start of an over-deliver on your EEO model. In your posting use the complete ideal candidate description. Write a job ad using the most important points from your ideal candidate description. Write a direct, tight ad aimed right at your ideal candidate. Use the name of your market in the headline. Take advantage of all the free posting opportunities including NAB, state association job banks, etc. Run a paid ad in the trade your ideal candidate is most likely to read. The most effective insertion is usually three times, any more is less effective (it also sends the wrong message). Use display ads rather than classified ads. If you need to run a classified ad for EEO run a small inexpensive ad once in the Sunday edition of your local daily.

depend on the ad and EEO outreach alone. No matter how good and well placed the ad is, no matter how extensive and deep your outreach it will not be enough to really get the word out. Yes the ad and outreach will deliver a flood of response but don't be confused by volume. You are looking not for candidates but the best qualified candidates. You are also building your talent bank. Hint: the majority of the best qualified candidates are not reading the want ads, they don't surf the job boards.

Enlarge a copy of your paid trade ad, paste into an email under a brief, to the point set up asking for help "Do you know the person that would be perfect for this opportunity? Would you please reply and let me know the name of the person that first comes to mind. Would you also be kind enough to please forward this email to the person you think would be ideal for this job? Thank you very much." Send this email to every person in your address book. Include vendors. Snail mail a copy of your ideal candidate description to every person in your address book, again including vendors. Hand write a note on each "Any ideas? Thanks for your help!" Sign the note including your direct dial.

Follow up by phone with your most trusted colleagues. They may have missed your ads, email and snail mail, however, they may have a great lead.

More trade secrets: Reach out to the best with the same business card. Looking for a great sales manager? Get in touch with the best sales managers. Whom are they mentoring? What names would make their short list if they had to replace themselves? Should time allow go one position up and two down. Ask GMs for the one that got away. Talk to LSMs, NSMs and NTR managers about the best GSM they ever worked for. Ask sellers what former manager they stay in touch with, the one they go to when they need important advice. Ask GMs, talent and producers about the best PDs. During the interviews with your short list get the names of former subordinates you can call for a reference if hiring a manager, former peers and support staff if a talent or seller. Traffic directors and business managers can be great resources when searching for strong sellers. Sellers and folks in the promotion department can give you the real deal on talent.

Do call your EEO outreach contacts during the search. Nobody does this. All it takes is one killer referral to pay off. FYI - it always pays off when you are looking for the best interns.

Don't use the line "No calls please." Treat every applicant as a candidate.

Have a system set up to deal with the response. This will be a daily grind but too typically the first and often biggest missed opportunity in recruiting. Respect the candidates. They have taken the time to notice your opportunity and send you a package, you need to show them some appreciation. It never fails that the person who is not qualified today is the perfect candidate four years from now. Ensure that you make a good first impression - no exceptions. Consider this the romance stage of recruiting. Log in all packages and phone calls. When candidates do call get more info including best days/times to return the call, cell phone, spouse's name etc. Set up an email account used only for recruiting. GreatJobs@. Better, create a named email account like Janice.Jones@. Send an email to candidates confirming your receipt of their package the same day it comes in. You will cut your incoming phone calls by half when candidates know that you have their package. Do set up a voice mailbox dedicated to your search. Remember to check it twice a day.

Why even take calls? Your ideal candidate may need to phone you to explain something or learn more before they apply. How soon are you hiring? Could you wait longer? They have six months left on their contract or they need to stay with their current employer until a closing to collect a retention bonus or they happen to be a single parent and need to wait some months until their kids are out of school. Lots of good reasons why a perfectly qualified candidate may need to have a brief phone call before sending a package. A manager emailed me suggesting we have a brief conversation. On the phone the manager said he would be very interested in the advertised opportunity if only he were legally available. In other words he was not then able to apply but could do so if we were able to wait a few weeks. Rather than scare away the ideal candidate with a "no calls please" line put a system in place to manage calls.

Start sorting packages immediately. Not qualified, qualified and best qualified. Get another on your team to check your work. Call the best qualified candidates as soon as possible. Give them your time line. Let them know what to expect next. Ask if they are "legally available" for hire. Get answers to any other "first questions" that come to mind when reviewing their package. Ask them if there is anything that you need to know that was not in their package? What questions do they have? Important - write these down. Call the qualified next. Set yourself apart, pull away from the pack and do call the not qualified at the end of your process before you announce your hire. One day they might be one of your best qualified.

Once you have a short list let those candidates know they are the finalists. After your hiring stay in close contact with your short list. Remember their special days. Birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs.

Create a tickler file using the data collected in your talent journal. You may find that a talent is not available now due to a multi-year contract, make a note of when they will be available to talk to you. While you may not have an opportunity when they do become available it is likely some other manager in your firm, or other trusted colleague, will be looking.

After your announcement send a thank you letter to every applicant. Request that they keep you up to date on any changes in their information. New job, new email, etc. Put all of the applicants into your talent bank. Next time you have a job opportunity send these folks the same notices you send to your address book. The idea is to leverage the contacts. On more occasions than I can remember this technique has paid off. An anchor recommended a killer sales manager to me, a sales manager once suggested a great news director, a sales person led me to a gifted general manager I would have never otherwise found, an overnight guy put me in touch with the perfect morning show, exactly the one we needed and would not have discovered on our own.

Under the gun? Got weeks or days to hire? As Bob Dylan famously wrote "money doesn't talk, it swears." Offer either a significant cash bounty or a luxury trip for two to the first to refer the new hire. Mention this in your emails and snail mails to your address book. Offer a signing bonus to new hires and include this in your ad as well as your emails and snail mail. In each case provide the detail to get the attention. Trip for two to Hawaii, first class air and five star luxury hotel included. $5,000 signing bonus. What's a significant bounty? Consider this. Recruiters are usually paid 30% of first year comp. In your most intellectually honest moment ask yourself "How much will it be worth to us if we get the right (insert job title here)?" The facts are you can not afford to hire the wrong person - that's expensive.

Continuous recruitment is hard work and more than just a good idea, it yields incredible ROI. Hiring is the single most critical process that every manager must master. You are as good as your team and as Tom Peters has said the best roster wins!

Hiring is a process not an event.

Never settle. The ideal candidate is out there, you have to find them. Go for greatness!

P.S. Many thanks for all the emails.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Photo: Air by Thomas Hawk Outstanding shot. Bravo and thank you!

"He/She who has the ... Best Roster ... rules. Oh how I love ... LOVE ...those two words. TALENT. ROSTER. Say 'talent,' say 'roster' ... and the Yankees ... the Metropolitan Opera ... or a space shuttle crew ... or Microsoft's latest bet-the-company design team comes to mind...Talent is cool! Talent gravitates to cool! Talent attracts more Talent! Boss Job One (and 2 through 2,002 is the ... Attraction & Development & Retention of Talent. For NFL GMs, a few of whom I've known, Talent per se is a 25/8/53 Obsession (and don't forget to capitalize the 'O' in 'Obsession.')." Tom Peters

"Never hire anyone with a history of being unlucky." Bruce Johnson

"You can teach a kid everything else in the game but you can't teach speed." Al Davis

Startups are all the fun of a new car and fresh driver in the big race. Turnarounds are more like last year's losing car back in the race deciding to take on the additional challenges related to changing a flat tire without stopping or slowing down. Pit stops? We don't need no stinking pit stops to win this race. It's the difference between building new for the Parade of Homes and doing a major rehab project while the owner's family remains under roof. Both situations teach valuable lessons about hiring, directing and retaining talent while operating under unusual pressures and high expectations.

Ideal candidate description > Identification of suspects > Recruitment of prospects

Casting to role is very effective, it begins with creating the role, and a detailed description of the player needed to bring it to life. If breaking news is important you'll need a player that is strong off script. Should the role be built upon listener/viewer interaction you'll want a player that can work callers cold and love doing it. Ensemble cast? You will want one player that is great at bringing out the best in others, the player-coach that can keep things moving. What is the act? Tell me everything about the show. What's important? What is going to make the show work? Knowing what you're looking for keeps your casting focused.

Drafting term sheet "zero."

Managing up is about managing expectations. My suggestion is before you go shopping it's best to get a ballpark budget approved. We call this drafting term sheet "zero." When you get to the offer stage of recruitment you can revisit this approved budget and fine tune, creating your "first" draft or term sheet "one."

Start in your neighborhood.

We have all seen the nationwide search that ends with the job being offered to a person already on staff. My sense is this, in at least 50% of cases, is a signal of "settling." The ideal candidate you found 1,500 miles away wanted more money than you budgeted, including a pricey relo, and had five months left on their paper. The person on staff can "grow into the job" at a fraction of the budget hit. We have a winner.

In most cases, the ideal candidate is already in your neighborhood. From now on staff to across the street to within 200 miles of your mailing address. Hiring within your neighborhood, what my friends Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson call "the territory," has practical advantages. Candidates know what they're getting (see yesterday's post on my dumb mistake - bringing a sunbelt talent into the ice and snow of Chicago). The profile and reputation of you and your organization are likely to play larger in your neighborhood than nationally.

Perceptions rule, play the hand you hold. Curb appeal tends to diminish with distance unless you're in a glamour market (e.g., San Diego). Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee might be regarded as regional meccas to those in the neighborhood while viewed as "fly over land" by coastal denizens. Green shade benefit: your costs will be lower from scouting to relo.

Road trip!

After getting the book on everyone in your market, and that includes all part-time and free agents, it's time to hit the road. Once a quarter scouting trips or "market tours" as the legendary Al Heacock used to call them are invaluable. Not only do you get to discover talent, you also gain the advantages of getting out of the bubble, being exposed to new and different approaches. Forget air travel when scouting; "windshield time" gives you time to think, time to reflect.

Start and keep a talent journal.

Memorialize your thoughts, perceptions and findings in a journal. More than once I have hired someone years after first discovering them. This is also the one place to store priceless intel (e.g., contract expirations, candidate's "dream cities", name of candidate's significant other, candidate's birthday, anniversary, names of children, parent's DMA, et al). Doing this homework pays. We once made a great hire quickly as a result of my first learning years before that a candidate considered our market her "#1 dream city." For the exact reason we previously passed in Chicago we later hired her in New York. Sidebar: No one else had ever asked this Florida star about her "dream city" or "dream job." Only we knew her secret, she wanted to come home to the tri-state.

Cultivate and nurture.

Once you discover a talent the recruitment process should begin in earnest. Get to know the person. Stay in touch, especially on those special occasions. Stock up on birthday and congratulations cards. Follow their career. Be there to listen or watch their work and offer honest reviews. Odds are they are not getting the positive feedback on the job that they want and need. Catch them doing something right. This investment in building a relationship over months, even years, offers an excellent ROI. When the talent gets a new job out of the neighborhood stay in touch. On many occasions I have hired or recommended the hire of a star first met years and multiple markets earlier. To connect the dots you need the dots. Exactly wrong today might just be the perfect fit tomorrow. Good talent can also grow while on the payroll of others. The killer street reporter of two years ago becomes the gifted up and coming anchor. The exceptional night guy grows into the afternoon drive star loaded with morning show potential. Know and understand their dreams.

When you witness a Ferrari getting into a go-kart race, that is, some major market star making a lifestyle move to a smaller, less competitive DMA, you can make book it's not an accident, someone has done their homework. Timing is everything if you have the right knowledge to act. Your goal should be establishing relationships with qualified candidates before you have a job to offer. It's working smart.

Lesson learned the hard way: develop a short list of qualified candidates for each position. Don't put yourself in a hostage situation by having only one best candidate. Odds are six to five against you when it's one or none. You think everything is going along just fine and suddenly you're face to face with Mr. Murphy in the mix. You end up settling or paying too much. You must have depth in your casting portfolio. Not having options is unlucky.

Develop your speed dial of gifted minds.

Networking with like minded managers everywhere, especially those in your neighborhood, is also part of working smart. One day you may want to get someone out of town or get the book on a promising candidate. This is a contact sport and the person with the best rolodex wins every single time. Know your neighborhood and all the players in it. Consider it one big chess board.

Casting is everything. When casting, go for greatness. Never settle, never.

NEXT: Part Three - Job ads, responding to applicants and hiring under the gun.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Image: Business is change by Hugh MacLeod. Bravo Hugh & thanks!

"One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it...A change leader sees change as an opportunity. A change leader looks for change, knows how to find the right changes, and knows how to make them effective both outside the organization and inside it. To make the future is highly risky. It is less risky, however, than not to try to make it. A goodly proportion of those attempting to will not succeed. But predictably, no one else will." Peter Drucker

"There are always two parties - the party of the past and the party of the future, the establishment and the movement." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Agility is great, but if a company is no more than agile, it will be a perpetual follower - and in the age of revolution even fast followers find few spoils. Companies fail to create the future not because they fail to predict it but because they fail to imagine it. It is curiosity and creativity they lack, not perspicuity. So it is vitally important that you understand the distinction between 'the future' and the 'unimagined,' between knowing what's next and imagining what's next." Gary Hamel

In my salad days as a music director and talent at RKO's WFYR in Chicago I learned an important lesson. Having worked hard to earn the respect of my superiors I wanted a promotion to program director. Going on the record with my station and corporate bosses seemed the right approach. When word reached RKO president Dwight Case he called and said "Once you train or recommend a qualified replacement we'll consider promoting you."

Succession planning is difficult but important work. It remains the single most vexing task at every level of the organization. The identification, recruitment and retention of creative people should always be on the manager's agenda. The time to look for people is before you need them. Until you have found replacements for every member of your team identification should remain a daily priority. Begin the recruitment process after identification and before the job offer. Cultivate the relationship while getting the book on your candidate and selling the person on your organization. Having identified, vetted and cultivated the best candidates you will be in a position to act as soon as circumstances dictate or needs require.

In the near term this is months of thankless hard work. In the long term you and your organization will be ready for the inevitable change you can not now imagine. One evening our very talented and effective sales manager gave me his notice. No one saw it coming. His father-in-law had developed serious health issues and his wife had convinced him that their immediate relo to be with her father was the only acceptable course. We were riding high in April and seriously shot down in May.

Hiring is a process not an event.

When you begin looking for the best person the day your top performer gives notice the odds are against you. The pressure is on to hire. You have lost any opportunity to cultivate a relationship. The majority of the time you will be speed hiring. Chatting up strangers from scratch, hoping for the best. Often you will "settle" for the person available rather than the ideal person you have not had the time to find.

Write a detailed description of the ideal candidate.

More than simply skill sets. Who is the ideal person? Attitudes, character, values, beliefs, dreams. It is sometimes easy to overlook the obvious. Once, under the gun to hire in a couple of weeks, we went after a great talent that was in the southwest. We brought him and his wife up to Chicago during a beautiful September weekend. We had picture perfect Chamber of Commerce weather. Everyone got along and had a terrific time. The offer was made and accepted before the couple left for the airport. Things went very well until winter arrived. At the company Christmas party his wife joked that they had finally gone to Marshall Fields and bought their first ever "heavy winter coats." Six weeks later our great talent was asking me to release him from his contract. I had failed to do my homework. The performer's wife hated the cold Chicago winter weather. It turned out he was not the ideal candidate and it was my mistake. The big market, big call letters and big contract were less important than the weather. Performers tend to do their best work when they are happy. Each performer has their own unique and very personal set of "be happy" requirements.

Look for people that want to come home.

One of the lessons learned in retaining the best people is to hire people who have some reason to be in love with your market or, in the least, your neighborhood (e.g., upper midwest, southeast, et al). Over the years there were some gifted performers that we knew could not be hired away to any other town, we worried only about losing them to the guys across the street. They had their own reasons but they had no interests whatsoever in living any place else. This also applies to folks who believe your market is somehow very special to them but they are working elsewhere. Perhaps the most effective job ads we ever ran always used the name of our town in the headline (a trade secret we still use, it works!)

We have an excellent opportunity for the right person.

Sometimes we find people who vacation every year in our town. They may be coming home to family for the holidays and sometimes we discover they just have dreams of living in the market. No matter, these are the people you want on your team. You don't have to sell the market, later others will have a harder time selling them on leaving their market and you. Start by looking for people who believe you are living in the neighborhood if not the city of their dreams.

NEXT: Part Two - Birthday cards, timing and term sheets

Doing the right thing: Creative Commons is conducting a special two-week iSummit 2007 Scholarship Funding Campaign. The goal is $50,000. Please join me in giving what you can to this important cause. More info here. My thanks to Lawrence Lessig for the heads up.

Congrats & cheers: AllThingsD debuts. Kudos to Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.

Bonus: We spend too much time hiding illness - "I ain't a pretty boy no more." Roger Ebert writes from the heart here. Thanks to Dan Kelley for the tip.

Bonus 2: Christopher Lydon talks with Dr Dave Weinberger about Dr Dave's very cool new book Everything is Miscellaneous. Highly recommended. Check out the podcast here. Bravo Christopher! Kudos to Dr Dave!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Photo: Set Me Loose

by Thomas Hawk

Beautiful shot

Thank you!

"He who relies entirely on his own judgment ever regrets it." Ibn Iskandar

Fred Jacobs
blogs, again, about radio's "short bench" saying the "talent pool has become a puddle." Read Fred's post here. This is another symptom of radio's leadership problem. The failure of stations to replace Stern is illustrative. Carson and Rather are two obvious case studies from TV. NBC's fourth place in prime is not an accident, ratings bounce or other aberration happening outside the executive suite. MSNBC is a failure by the hands of professionals.

No plan B.

The broadcasting business is really good about living in the moment. Activity is focused on optimization, about getting better today. Thinking the future will simply be another sustained version of today. What broadcasting consistently fails to do is think about a different future. What's clearly indicated is the need for a serious investment in scenario planning (e.g., Royal Dutch/Shell method).

What if Howard's plane goes down?
What if Letterman does not agree to another extension?

The opportune time to search for talent, the best time to gather options for discussion and decision is before you have any real need. To begin looking at the first notice of need is fraught with peril. The odds are against good decision making.

The urgent drives out the important.

You end up "settling."

You end up rationalizing failure. Buy into the false argument that there is "no one out there" then convincing yourself that you can build your own show from scratch - too often occasions when no one on the management team has ever successfully done such a thing.

You begin accepting mediocre performance with the justification that "it is what it is" and taking solace in the fact that you are saving money, spending much less time managing problem talent and sleeping better now that the fear of FCC fines or potential litigation have left the building.

You end up tempted to go long on the wrong equity against all reasonable logic and evidence (e.g., Rover and Roth). Intellectual honesty becomes the first casualty. The spin is in. Everyone on the team drinks the Kool-Aid and agrees "it doesn't suck" or goes along with the suggestion that "we need to give it some time, it will get better."

You're wrong. It rarely gets better (especially on its own, absent skilled nurturing). You are playing with live ammo using Powerball odds. Betting the farm that you can duplicate or "scale" catching lightning in a bottle requires courage, imagination and resilience of super-sized orders of magnitude. For example, replication of the Keith Olbermann metamorphosis from one-off temp to prime star first requires you find another talent, one different from just another Olbermann. To succeed sooner you must learn how to fail faster. You need more than luck and hope. Kismet is a bonus not a plan. Serendipity is the stuff of Hallmark made-for-TV movies, you can't count on it to pay the bills. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

You need to take charge of your own destiny.

You need creative leadership.

Start by facing the reality of your circumstance. Reality, as it is not as it was nor as you wish it to be.

NEXT: Creating your future.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"With Web 2.0, the Web is starting to impinge on broadcasters and they're just where newspapers were 10 years ago - in denial" Michael Rosenblum

Today's quotation from VJs for the digital age by Andreas Tzortzis writing in the International Herald Tribune

David Halberstam
the great American writer has been killed in a car accident. A major loss.

From left coast pal Kent Vickery a management lesson:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Rob, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, Rob says, "I'll give you $800 to drop that Towel." After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Rob After a few seconds, Rob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, "Who was that?" "It was Rob the next door neighbor," she replies. "Great," the husband says, "did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?"


If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Congrats & cheers: Doug Perlson named founding CEO and principal of TargetSpot, the new firm will introduce a sales platform focused on streaming media. The self-serve bid engine allows users to create, buy and place ads. CBS Radio will use the platform for its owned and operated stations. Bravos and good luck to owners CBS Radio, Oddcast, Union Square Ventures and Milestone Ventures. Brett Allsop and Tom Romary on their new venture Yapta, the very cool new platform for buying your airline tickets.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"They told us to break all the rules." J.D. Freeman

Kudos to my pal J.D. , his programming chief Duane Doherty and CC Dallas DOS Kelly Kibler on the launch of Lone Star 92.5

Thanks to Bruce Ravid. Enjoyed some great conversation and the usual good groceries at The Avenue Bar with Bruce and Tom Teuber. Check out Bruce's webcast Go Deep here.

During that discussion with Bruce and Tom we talked about online music sites including, seems the buzz this morning is a Viacom team is said to be in the UK trying to buy them. John Carney at DealBreaker has the scoop here.

Gail Shister writes about Katie, her well done review of the bidding, CBS evening blues, via The Philadelphia Inquirer here. Bravo Gail!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Congrats & cheers: Marcus Brauchli named WSJ managing editor. NAB 2007 and Web 2.0 Expo were both very well done.

Sun-Times Sneed needs to step up and apologize. More here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"A strong company must always look outward more than inward. Companies that sell what they make always die, but companies that make what they sell have the formula for longevity." Gary Sutton

Don Pogany
, founder of Sticky Worldwide, has a wonderful idea - a Chicago gathering of creative folks titled ThirdThursdays. Lewis Lazare has the story here. Bravo Don! Thanks for the tip Lew.

A perfect fit: Robert Feder suggests that Bonneville and WGN Radio would make a good match. Good call Robert! Drew Horowitz is playing at the top of his game.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"What can we do to improve ratings and revenue?" Dan Mason

The first week of Dan Mason's watch at CBS Radio and his focus is on the fundamentals. Ratings and revenue. Driving the toplines. Putting authority and responsibility right where it should be - the local market. Bravo Dan!

Congrats & cheers: David K. Rehr on his excellent address yesterday. To NAB staff on getting NBC back into the fold.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Maybe Mr. Moonves could put his prime-time schedule where his mouth is and stop milking that format (reality game show) merely for the fun of humiliation, voyeurism and sexual high jenks. If locking Imus and his team in a house with Coach Stringer and her team 24/7 isn't must-see TV that moves this conversation forward, then I don't know what is." Frank Rich

The quotation taken from Rich's NYT writing Everybody Hates Don Imus. Bravo Frank! Tim Russert did an excellent roundtable on Imus this morning. Howie Kurtz led a good segment about Imus on his show.

Questions: Now that MSNBC has the opportunity to stage a morning news show will they field a solid effort? The network remains a confused mess. Models NYC? Now that CBS Radio has an opening at WFAN and Westwood has need for a new morning offering will they each field programs as successful as Imus?

My sense is leaving a new and improved Imus on the air with a mission, one focused on candid discussions about the issues of race, gender, and diversity would have perhaps been a very effective approach to keeping the discussion alive. Not that he would discontinue the discussion of politics or world affairs. Seems to me we are losing one of the best forums on American politics not to mention one of the only shows offering serious discussion about non-fiction writing. What will we gain? Too early to tell. The pc police, gotcha journalism and the freak show had a great week last week. Stay tuned.

So many have sent emails about this so-called "national moment" - thank you. Some included links to interesting writing. A few provided links to rants by idiots. One of the laugh out loud rants suggested Imus was the product of the evil media consolidation and this court jester of the media cabal would never be fired. Gimme a break. Wrong on both counts.

Congrats & cheers: Google buys DoubleClick. Smart!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"One of the few good things about modern times: if you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us." Kurt Vonnegut

We have lost the Voltaire of our age. Vonnegut was more than a great writer, he was an original thinker. Funny, yes, but more than just funny.

The Imus controversy and termination have prompted some interesting discussion. More on this another day. On balance, we have a leadership problem that is not getting the attention deserved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Tell the truth, tell it completely, and tell it immediately." Dan Edelman

Don Imus
said something stupid.

He offered a sincere apology.

He has been suspended for two weeks.

He will meet with the Rutgers students and offer an apology in person.

His bosses at CBS Radio and MSNBC will likely establish new rules of engagement for the show. JD's suggestion that they would be better served by adding minority participation to the show is an outstanding idea that deserves serious consideration.

My sense is before acting further management should wait to hear from the students.

In advance of that meeting my take is Don Imus should not be fired. He and all others on his crew should agree to do his act within new zero tolerance parameters and be held accountable. Being a man of means he should make some significant contributions to the Rutgers team and to each student on the offended team. While he is certainly guilty of being stupid with no excuse, he was offensive without malice, this event does not merit his termination.

Let the marketplace decide. Listeners, affiliates, and sponsors are the final arbiters.

LATER: MSNBC drops Imus. "What matters to us most is that the men and women of NBC have confidence in the values we have set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible." says the NBC News release. Bruce Gordon, former head of NAACP and a director of CBS said he hopes the company makes the "smart decision" by firing Imus. Ball now in Les' court.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"CBS Radio and NBC News needs to remove Don Imus from the airwaves. That is what needs to happen. Otherwise, it looks like profit and ratings rule over decency and justice." Al Roker

"I did a bad thing, but I'm a good person." "Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far." Don Imus

What Imus and McGuirk said was patently stupid but what happens next is what's important. Should there be consequences for this behavior beyond the two week suspension? Should these old white guys be allowed to continue doing what they've been doing for years? What makes this event different? After all, Imus and McGuirk have a well documented history, a pattern as some have called it, of making stupid and offensive remarks.

"Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it" said Imus. My sense is the offensive remarks struck a responsive chord not simply for what was said but because of the targets. The young women of Rutgers advancing against all odds was a Cinderella story. These ladies became targets because of their success and their color. To demean Black women is wrong and without excuse. To demean these champion student athletes, to diminish their achievement with an offensive attempt at humor, is clearly beyond the pale. They are simply not fair game for an Imus shredding. This time, Iman, you picked the wrong folks to trash.

Making matters ever more reprehensible is the Imus Walk of Shame. The groveling old white guy on tour. The "you people" remark during yesterday's Sharpton show. This morning's NBC appearance with Lauer and Sharpton. The "comedy" defense and the etymology argument (popular, pervasive "use" of Black slang by others), each serves to confirm Imus and his crew are tone deaf. Out of touch geezers. Imus has been sucked into that vortex that is the freak show. The story becomes nothing but sound bite and react, this is the Iman's "Howard Dean moment." B roll of the well managed Rutgers press conference with headshot of the old white guy. In all this mess it would appear the Rev Jackson owes an apology of his own to Alison Stewart. MSNBC is not all white, all day, all night.

Imus ignited his own firestorm. From his inept delay in offering a first apology to his overwrought repeat offender contrition to his off-topic reminders about all his years of good work and service to others. The ideal moment for him to have said "I'm an idiot, an old fool, an aging clown, it was a joke, get over it" has long passed. Where was management the day this happened? The talent said what they said, however producers, program directors and general managers are also culpable here. MSNBC and CBS Radio each have a stake. The lack of management acuity in prompting a quick and proper apology is eclipsed only by what appears to be management's ham-fisted involvement, if not boneheaded counsel, in the Walk of Shame. We have a talent issue here and a leadership issue as well.

Now that the ladies have agreed to a private meeting with Imus this story is far from over. The young champions will have their say.

It seems too much has been made about how Imus feels. The only feelings I care about are those of the young ladies. And before you tell me there's a "sticks and stones" lesson here let me stop you and suggest there's a much bigger opportunity here - an opportunity to teach and to educate. To move forward by setting an example, move forward by doing the right thing.

What is certain at this point is the Iman has become radioactive. P&G and Staples have pulled their advertising. Should he stay or should he go? Your comments welcome. My take tomorrow.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Photo: Fall From Grace by Thomas Hawk. Another amazing shot. Bravo & Thank you!

"Luck, chance, and catastrophe affect business as they do all human endeavors. But luck never built a business. Prosperity and growth come only to the business that systematically finds and exploits its potential." Peter Drucker

Drucker went on to suggest three questions that will bring out the hidden potential of a business:

  • What are the restraints and limitations that make the business vulnerable?
  • What are the imbalances of the business?
  • What are we afraid of, what do we see as a threat to this business - and how can we use it as an opportunity?
Writing this past weekend on development issues. Came across some excellent points made by the great David Oglivy. His "five characteristics which suggest...a person has the potential for rapid promotion:
  1. He is ambitious.
  2. He works harder than his peers - and enjoys it.
  3. He has a brilliant brain - inventive and unorthodox.
  4. He has an engaging personality.
  5. He demonstrates respect for the creative function.
If you fail to recognize, promote and reward young people of exceptional promise, they will leave you; the loss of an exceptional man can be as damaging as the loss of an account."

Too much for too little: Now comes word the eBay cable net exchange was to charge 2% per transaction. Also hearing the platform feature set did not allow for any value added. Some cable folks are saying the exchange was just too expensive at 2%.

Best music in the history of TV: Little Steven says it doesn't get better than the music on The Sopranos. Read the Reuters/Billboard story via WaPo here.

100 million - the number of iPods Apple says it has sold. According to Nick Wingfield writing is this morning's Wall Street Journal Apple grabbed a 73.7% share of the MP3 market (US retail) in February. SanDisk was second with a 9.0% share; Microsoft picked up 2.3% of the February retail market. (data: NPD Group). Read A New Wireless Player Hopes to Challenge iPod via WSJ here (sub req).

Wired: Eric Schmidt interviewed by Fred Vogelstein via Wired here.

"How should we think about Google today?

Think of it first as an advertising system. Then as an end-user system - Google Apps. A third way to think of Google is as a giant supercomputer. And a fourth way is to think of it as a social phenomenon involving the company, the people, the brand, the mission, the values - all that kind of stuff."

"Google’s revenue and employee head count have tripled in the last two years. How do you keep from becoming too bureaucratic or too chaotic?

It’s a constant problem. We analyze this every day, and our conclusion is that the best model is still small teams running as fast as they can and tolerating a certain lack of cohesion. Attempting to provide too much order dries out the creativity. What’s needed in a properly functioning corporation is a balance between creativity and order.

But we’ve reined in certain things. For example, we don’t tolerate the kind of “Hey, I want to have my own database and have a good time” behavior that was effective for us in the past."

Bravo Eric! Well done Fred.

Congrats & cheers: Roger Ogden, Gannett Broadcasting CEO, named B&C's Broadcaster of the Year. “Good ideas can come from any level of the organization, from any source. We can’t sit back and hope and expect that’s going to happen naturally or automatically. So we’ve developed a culture in which we encourage people to participate.” Read B&C item here. Ellen Weiss named VP of News for NPR. Well deserved!

Google Maps - create your own personalized, annotated maps - very cool.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

"Plant the flag downrange and then turn your forces loose. Don't tell them how, just give them the vector." Art Cebrowski

Thanks to one of my favorite strategists Thomas P.M. Barnett for the quotation by the great Admiral Cebrowski. In the same post Tom says "If we weren't so damn binary as a society in our approach to strategic issues, life would be a lot easier. Suffice to say, the grand strategist learns to love ambiguity. It's written into the DNA code of any real visionary." Bravo Tom! Well said.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"You cannot bore people into buying your product." David Ogilvy

The always amazing Paul Gallis checked in to say everything is looking good for next month's big reunion. Chicago Music Row will happen Tuesday, May 8 at Yolk, 1120 S. Michigan Avenue. 3pm until the last story is told. Open to all who work or have worked in or around the Chicago music scene. Radio, records, retail, A&R, producers, distribution, sales, venues. More info here. Clark Weber and Jim Scully are the event's MCs with Paul. This should be one to remember. See you there!

More than spots & dots: The eBay TV ad sales exchange seems to be in trouble - no inventory. The platform funded by HP, Home Depot and Phillips will not be supported by the cable networks. Louise Story writes Cable TV Networks Boycott eBay Ad Exchange via NYT here. "We don't believe that eBay is going to get this right" says CAB prexy Sean Cunningham. Ouch!

The seven cable networks that tested the exchange over the last month decided it went too far in removing humans from the ad sales process. Cunningham added "The grand-majority is about idea driven packages that have got multiple consumer touch points that activate these brands." So he seems to be saying it's more than spots and dots. More than push print and buy.

If one is able to book almost anything online these days why is it just not possible to book advertising? First, what's being done today is not simply booking, it's online negotiating - it's one kind or another of ad auction. My sense is the hurdle here is all about the bid ask, the process. This is about seller fears. The fear inventory will become a commodity. The fear of a collapse in pricing. The fear of losing pricing power. The fear of those paying full retail migrating to wholesale. Exchanges offering remnant inventory face an even bigger challenge. Why is the buyer not able to buy the good stuff?

What broadcast and cable are having a difficult time letting go of is "the deal." The process. Sellers making deals with their clients with the help of their managers. Some bonus weight here, a bit of value-added there, tweaking the pricing, adjusting the dayparting, add the cool idea and voila! The deal is done. Can't this be done online? Of course but offline haggle is in the seller dna. The selling more art than science with a dash of sport.

The flaw is the liquidator model

"Price becomes an objection when you fail to articulate value" said my dear friend Norm Goldsmith. Media should take a lesson from the successful. Do what The Four Seasons does. Put all of your inventory online. Allow customers to add promotions, signature sponsorships and other "touch points" from a comprehensive menu. If one can design a car or five star holiday online it should certainly be possible to design an ad campaign online. Use your online platform to manage all of your inventory - prime, off prime, promotions, remnant, everything. What's wrong with the exchange idea is the exchange idea. An auction of some inventory has narrow, limited appeal and self limiting potential.

A better start would be an exchange as one moving part of a robust sales platform rather than the entire platform being nothing but auction. Sell full retail, subject to some real-time pricing supply/demand dynamics (think airlines, hotels, et al), and sell off discounted inventory that needs to be moved. Offer incentives to book online. Perhaps you have buyers earn access to the discounted inventories? Require buyers to qualify for access to the exchange portion of the platform. But sell everything. Make it easy for the customer to buy at any price.

YES, this does put your sellers in competition with the platform. The more realistic pov is your sellers are an important part of your sales platform, so is your national rep. The business case for moving forward is clear. If you always do what you've always done, then you'll only get what you've always gotten. To succeed sooner you must learn to fail faster.

There is more than one right answer here. It's not either or it's AND.

P.S. Nothing says you can't have it both ways and then some. Sell online, sell offline to customers who prefer face calls, personal contact, and lots of service or some combination to meet every customer need. High tech with high touch options. No one is going to like that approach but the buyers. Google or Microsoft will probably be the first to make it happen.

All it will take is a broadcaster or a network with nothing to lose.

Congrats & cheers: Joey Vartanian, King of Chicago night life, on his 25th year in the bar trade.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"I have learned that it pays to fight for concepts and causes that may appear unpopular at the moment, rather than following the course of quick and easy agreement." Leo Burnett

Great to catch up with Dennis Lyle, President & CEO of Illinois Broadcasters. Illinois will join Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio in staging a super-sized summer conference. July 8-10 at French Lick, Indiana. Great idea!

Congrats & cheers: Ira Glass and his This American Life crew win a Peabody. Todd Cavanah VP/PD for Chicago's WBBM-FM adds oversight of co-owned Jack FM. (My thanks to Robert Feder for both tips here. Good to have you back Robert.)

Complete list 2006 Peabody winners: Kudos to HBO, Ugly Betty, The Office, StoryCorps, CBS News, our favorite Food Network dude Alton Brown and all the winners. Winners list here.

Ready for his closeup: The Man Who Would Change Microsoft: Ray Ozzie's Vision for Connected Software via Knowledge@Wharton here:

"What we as an industry need to deliver are seamless experiences -- however those things are accomplished -- to do the appropriate thing in the browser and the appropriate thing on a laptop or on a device to solve that problem.

So the way I view it is, first generation 'software as a service' really just meant browser. Second generation means weave together hardware, software and services to accomplish a specific solution.

The iPod is a great example of that. You have hardware, the embedded software on the device and an associated [online] service. The BlackBerry is another great example [of the combination of] hardware, software and service. The Xbox is a terrific example -- you've got amazing software in the games, hardware to support it and Xbox Live as a service."

"Is it difficult to compete with somebody who has executed as well in search as Google? Absolutely. We've spent the last few years putting some amazing people on it and the core relevance of search has increased progressively.

But I think you will find that Microsoft will take a different approach toward search than simply trying to copy Google's success. History has shown that any time you have a fairly significant market leader, the best way of competing is not to just simply take the same approach. You have to find your own unique approach. And Microsoft has a number of different ways that we could do that because of the different touch points we have with the market and how people use our products."

The emphasis and boldface above is mine. To count Microsoft out would be a significant error. Ozzie is driving things forward and doing so with the right attitude - they have to develop their own unique approach.

Survey says: Fred Jacobs is blogging about his firm's latest research - Tech Survey III. 25,000 rock radio listeners weigh in on all things tech. When asked to select the most important new feature they wanted in an MP3 player 33% of respondents said FM tuner. Read more here. Bravos and thanks to Fred and his Jacobs Media team for sharing the findings and for taking a leadership role in fielding the research.

Bonus: Steve Safran shares his "Things Viewers Never, Ever Say" to wit: "The police want MY help in solving this crime. Cool." Part One here. Part Two here. Steve's update, "Things Web Viewsers Never, Ever Say" here. Bravo Steve! Very well done.

"I don't know" Sam Zell. Now there's the sign of one very smart guy. He has the courage to admit, to say out loud "I don't know." Read the Sam Zell - Tribune interview here.

Which reminds me of something said by one of my heroes, Richard Saul Wurman...

"Perhaps the three principles closest to my heart - and the most radical - are learning to accept your ignorance, paying more attention to the question than to the answer, and never being afraid to go in an opposite direction to find a solution."

Nothing but a guess dept: What if? Should Tribune be required to spin broadcast. Here is one happy ending...TV to Randy Michaels accretive to his NYT portfolio. WGN Radio and Cubs to Emmis. WGN Radio would also be accretive to the portfolios of Dan Mason's CBS and Farid Suleman's Citadel/ABC. Of course the dark horse bet would be ESPN. Please allow me to mark 30 saying "I don't know."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


"Industry, Intelligence, Integrity, Initiative" Clive Davis

Those are Clive Davis' "Four Is." The advice he once gave to me when asked "What are the secrets to success? What is most important?" Excellent counsel from a great gentleman and genius. We can all learn something from Clive.

"Until your conversion rate is 100%, there's always room for improvement" so says Google product manager Tony Leung. Tony's team has rolled out Website Optimizer a tool designed to help site owners test different landing pages. Brilliant! Tobi Elkin has the story Google Bows Website Optimization Tool via OMD here. Congrats to Tony and his crew!

Free, still the best value proposition: To the surprise of no one more than three quarters of consumers who listen to audio content via their cell or other mobile device prefer free ad-supported content to subscription or fee based services. This according to a study by Arbitron and Telephia. More from Erik Sass Mobile Audio Study Favors Ad-Supported Model via MDN here. Erik also offers up a good writing on what's happening with radio revenues. He interviews our favorite economist, BIA's Mark Fratrik. Erik quotes Mark "To really grow beyond the low single digits, it's going to take other things...the internet, podcasting or events." Exactly. Kudos to Mark and thanks to Erik! Read the article Radio Turnaround Seen For '07 here. Seems like only yesterday that we were talking about events ;) Before I get any emails from N Street allow me to add - my second favorite economist remains David K. Rehr.

Microsoft v Google: The battle for DoubleClick is instructive. Readers know I heart Google, however, Microsoft is right where they need to be. And where is Yahoo? My sense is Yahoo has become the fast follower. It seems more and more of a two horse race. Meanwhile DoubleClick moves forward with their new product; Louise Story details the new next product via NYT coverage of the DoubleClick "NASDAQ-like" exchange. Smart, very smart. The indications are '07 will be a monster year for M&A in the interactive space. (Closed circuit to broadcasters: What is your Redmond strategy? Your Mountain View strategy? You do have one, right?)

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP CE, says "Start experimenting with mobile, test, refine, repeat." Speaking at a mobile entertainment summit he says 50% of his agency spend is traditional media while the other half is spent on outdoor, new media, market research and PR. He goes on to say the dead tree guys are most in danger by new media followed by radio and TV. "Probably the least affected is outdoor and cinema" More by Enid Burns via ClickZ news here. I would agree with Sir Martin on outdoor. The migration to digital art refreshes outdoor media making it a killer app all over again.

Say what?: Way back when, Episode single digit something of Diggnation to be exact, I sent a heads up email to two broadcast network honchos suggesting they look into what these lads were doing. I thought it fresh and engaging. Lots of possibilities. Got back the Blackberry "thanks" reply from both, nothing more. Then yesterday I get an email from one of them to wit: "Have you heard of digg? What is it? Any ideas?" Well, now that you mention it. (LATER: We enjoyed a good laugh about this, after I found and forwarded the original email w/reply. Stay tuned.)

Thanks for the emails! A bunch of response on yesterday's comments about remotes. Many from folks working outside the largest markets about the reality of med/sm market sales. My sense is there is still a better way to execute. I understand the differences between New York and New London, got the Louisville is not LA message. Will scribble something on this later this week. Again, thanks for the feedback - it's appreciated.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Photo: Never is enough by TheAlieness Clever, playful image. Thank you

"Involvement seems to me to be everything in communication. If I do everything as the sender, the only thing left for the receiver to do is to refute it. Because the only contribution you can make is to disagree with me." Jeremy Bullmore

"It wins time.

Apart from Londoners on tube platforms reading posters until the train comes in, very few people have time to spare for all the messages people want to give them. How many people stop and look at a new pack on the supermarket shelf? How many spend time considering a new financial product when a brochure arrives in the mail? How many do more than glance at an annual report? The most precious gift a designer can give a client is the gift of someone else's time.

'Interactivity' is the buzz term for today. Depending on their energy levels and enthusiasm for the latest technology, designers are either trying to get to grips with it or trying not to think about it. But witty graphics have been interactive since the days of the long-playing record. The designer sets up an open not a closed system.

For example, most signs are straightforward, like 'Fire Exit' or 'No Parking.' What about a sign that gives information in a witty way? Suppose it says 'No Parking - don't even think about it'? This is a message with more than one layer. It acknowledges that not all drivers will simply go off and look for another space. Some people see the message, read the message, think about the message and decide to ignore the message. The 'don't-even-think about-it' sign accompanies that thought process, as it were. Then the mind considers the options, the sign makes a second hit. This is one aspect of participation, predicting and entering the dialogue.

Another aspect of participation is making demands on the audience. Imagine that there is a clothesline which stretches from the designer sending the communication to the person receiving it. If the communication is merely 'Fire Exit', the designer comes 100% along the clothesline, and the person at the other end doesn't have to move an inch. It is the same with any piece of straight information - it expects a passive recipient.

But when wit is involved, the designer never travels 100% of the way. The idea has to be 'seen' or decoded, and this demands an active recipient. The audience may need to travel only 5% or as much as 40% toward the designer in order to unlock the puzzle and get the idea. Wit invites participation because it asks the reader or viewer to take part in the communication of the idea. It is as if the designer throws a ball which then has to be caught. So the recipient is alert, with an active mind and a brain in gear." Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart from their wonderful book A Smile in the Mind. Amazon info here.

The notion of letting the reader, the viewer "fill in the blank" is very powerful. In film think Hitchcock's dark at the top of the stairs, arresting indeed; it's what you don't see. The concept also works very effectively in audio, one engages the listener mind. Let the listener fill in the blank. Encourage vicarious participation. Dare to involve the audience!

Opening Day: My thanks to programming ace Tom Teuber. Enjoyed a great lunch and some wonderful conversation. Tom has the gift of a storyteller. He painted vivid pictures from his childhood including his first time on the radio. It was the day he was an in-studio guest of the legendary Dan Sorkin on WCFL. Lucky for us the kid was never the same.

Thanks 2: Cara Carriveau checks in. She has some cool new audio now on offer - check out Cara's Basement here.

In all of art, it's the singer not the song: Seems fair to reprise the wise words of PJ. The Emmis Indy gang are getting out of the "remote" bidness. Fine but they have over-reached in making the claim that remotes don't work. What they should have said was commercial remotes, as they have been staging them, don't work. Check out the web page devoted to their announcement here. Those pics are just plain sad. They say it all. A jock phoning it in from a retailer, standing at a card table with station banner skirting or standing next to the station suv - nothing to write home about. Never has been. Where's the show? At least in the fifties a hop was, well, a hop. An actual event. An event that created traffic for the retailer and a fun experience for those who showed up.

As with any promotion the first question that should be asked is "are we asking folks to do something that we would never do? Would anyone have an interest in doing this? Why?" If the staff would never consider going to the remote why would a listener?

The same test holds true for gaming or contesting. Stations continue to ask listeners and viewers to do things staff would never even consider doing to have a chance at winning prizes no staffer wants. You know you are offering up the right premium when staff wants some. You know you're doing a remote "right" when staff shows up on their own time because they don't want to miss it. Here's the first clue. Broadcast from where people are or where they want to be. Nothing wrong with broadcasting from a retailer just ensure there is an appropriate reward, a pay off for their investment of time and attention. What's the attraction? What's the big deal? What's in it for the listener or the viewer? The idea is to broadcast from an event. Design the event first, the broadcast second.

Kudos to Emmis for having the courage to out bad execution and kill it. My sense is Paige Nienaber would have a creative solution and that is just what is called for here. The dirty little secret is remotes do work however they require thought, old fashioned hard work and a process most station folks simply don't understand. Station promotion teams, in the majority, don't know how to stage events from scratch; they don't know what they don't know. This is part of the "avail as blood sport" sales driven madness. The goal should be creating traffic. What would have to happen to get people into the tent? Once there what would make folks feel good about their decision, good enough to tell friends and family about the experience?

If the only thing happening is your talent showing up, if that's truly all you've got, you'd better have talent - talent people will go completely out of their way to meet.

In all of art, it's the singer not the song.

P.S. Clearly Emmis knows how to do the big remotes right - here's one example.

Red wine: Codice 2004 is another good Spanish red available for under $10. Vino de la Tierra de Castilla. The Eguren family are producers of fine wines in the old traditions of Spain. Hard to find better wine at these prices. Enjoy.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Photographic Psychology


John Suler

Great image, thank you.

This image has a related essay.
They are part of a book John is writing
within Flickr.
Check it out here.

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose." Bill Gates

"Flexibility is the highest attribute of human intelligence." Bob Henabery

"The conductor of the orchestra doesn't make a sound." Benjamin Zander

Tribune accepts Sam Zell offer:
Cubs to be sold after this season. Regulatory may require sale of broadcast properties. Katharine Q. Seelye and Andrew Ross Sorkin have the story writing for NYT here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Photo: Only 10 meters between by Fotoliebe. Beautiful shot of QM2. Bravo & thank you!

"Passion begets success. Success begets success formula. Success formula begets isolation from passion, vision and innovation. Isolation begets atrophy, decay, a fading away." Gordon MacKenzie

MacKenzie the former creative genius in residence at Hallmark and author of Orbiting the Giant Hairball sets the table with today's quote. From the first chapter, Where Have All The Geniuses Gone?, to the final page, MacKenzie's book is a gem. It merits your attention and a place in your library. Amazon info here.

The herd instinct seems almost hard-wired especially in the media. Success begets success formula. Once a show becomes a hit the herd scrambles to follow the leader. The pacing of real innovation, resourcing any fresh development, any original approach seems relatively glacial in speed compared to the breakneck velocity associated with producing the knockoff. Corporate staff greenlights plug and play solutions on a fast track buying into the notions of first mover advantage and creative preemption. Once a new hit show appears on the radar, a trend being good enough these days, the corporate paranoia gland has been properly squeezed and the rush is on to introduce the copy. The single hit become the alpha dog that leads the pack, overnight the main attraction of the entire dog show. The buzz becomes the goods. Copy trumps original. Comfort comes in knowing some other corporate team has pulled the trigger. They must know something we don't. It's high school with money and staff provides their board and the analysts with that most adolescent of arguments "everybody's doing it."

It was ever thus. From the variety and quiz show wars of early television to "fake Drake" in sixties radio to the ongoing attempts at covering tunes (e.g., the country version of the pop hit or vice versa) and of course the remake, bringing back hits unheard by today's youth. Licensing a hit for a TV commercial can be more creative than scoring original music just ask The Iron Butterfly. While it would seem fair and reasonable to devote a share of resources to R&D, especially for properties with fair market values exceeding $150 million dollars the facts belie any such thinking. It's the cover that continues to provide cover for c-level folks. Knockoff plug and play is the perfect creative prescription for the 95% who follow the 5% who lead. The challenge is to identify and follow the true innovators, that small percent of the leading 5%, the mavericks who are creating works of sustainable value. That, dear readers, is the pesky detail.

The story of the great genius Kokichi Mikimoto provides an excellent case study. Mikimoto invented completely new competitive space, he founded Japan's cultured pearl industry. Many thought they could simply copy, knockoff his nucleation process. They had failed to fully understand and appreciate the work of this brilliant businessman and tireless promoter. The world's largest oyster, the Pinctada Maxima, is native to the waters off Australia, the famous Eighty Mile Beach area. Using Mikimoto's technique with the world's largest oyster should have produced the world's largest cultured pearls or so they thought but they failed. They failed at first because they merely copied technique expecting a better result. Bigger oysters = bigger pearls. Sometimes ideas don't travel well. Sometimes the success of the original is more dependent on the original's "environment" than may first seem apparent. A well-crafted adaptation always takes the "local environment" into account.

Earlier thoughts on creativity and radio programming here and here and here. A post with the famous Making Something Happen ad copy here. And the very popular You Can't Polish A Sneaker post here. A bounty of earlier scribbling, each post a "most emailed" by readers.

The team that had the courage to greenlight the Queen Mary 2, an $800 million dollar wager, could teach us all a lot about innovation. Innovation has risk baked into it. It's scary. You can fail. You can also hit it out of the ball park and bring home a major victory. At the least you can get on base, get into the game. As Wayne Gretzky once said "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." This week take a shot.

Another legend passes: The great broadcaster Herb Carneal has died. The voice of The Minnesota Twins for all but the first of the Twins' 46 seasons in Minnesota. I had the incredible honor and pleasure of working for him during my watch at WCCO. We shall not see nor hear the likes of this amazing gentleman again. An artiste and a class act. A major loss for broadcasting and for baseball. More here.

Bonus: The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time. Fun! Check it out here.