Saturday, September 08, 2007

"In your journey toward the realization of personal goals, don't make choices based only on your security and your safety. Nothing is safe. It is not safe to challenge the status quo. But challenge it you must." Toni Morrison

"Like every generation, we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality." John F. Kennedy

"Be bold, be bold, be bold." Susan Sontag

One of the cool things about living in Wisconsin is the rich experience of seasonal change. Each year as fall approaches change is set into motion and the big show begins. Last evening we heard the honking and watched the V-formations of Canada geese arriving from Hudson Bay. Soon the migratory flyway overhead will be stocked with waterfowl. The photo above is of Horicon Marsh a wetland habitat. Marlin Perkins comes to mind as I write this post opening. As we provide a safe habitat for wild birds so must managers provide protection for their teams.

Scott Berkun makes this point in his new book The Myths of Innovation (Amazon info)...

"One thing a genius can't do that his manager can is provide cover fire. Whether through power, inspiration, or charisma, managers have the singular burden of protecting their teams. Innovations always threaten someone in power, and executives in search of budget cuts frequently target them first. The manager's unique role is to use whatever means necessary to shield innovation while it's too young to defend itself in the open. Steve Jobs took the Macintosh project into a separate building at Apple headquarters, sequestering it from the rest of the company. The first laptop at Toshiba was rejected by corporate leaders, and Tetsuya Mizoguchi, the team leader, fought to keep the project alive until he won executive support; three years later, the project had 38% of the market. Any story of breakthrough work has someone acting as a shield, defending innovation while it's happening...Managers can take larger bullets for the team than anyone else."

The effective manager provides protection

There has never been a more exciting time to be working in ad supported measured media. The sea change taking place is not the stuff of evolution but rather disruptive game-changing revolution. This time of incredible opportunity demands effective leadership and the effective manager must provide protection. As the Toni Morrison quote above says "It is not safe to challenge the status quo. But challenge it you must."

The dead tree guys are holding a clinic on this sea change. Here is part of a writing by Jeff Jarvis on Newspapers in 2020...

"So by 2020, I predict, the surviving news organizations will be built on large and efficient advertising networks. They will place advertising not only on the content they create but, in far greater volume, on the content others create. This means they need to encourage others to create more quality content. That, I argue, is the key strategic challenge for newspapers: how to gather more and produce less, how to enable others to produce more content so we can build a larger network around them. This reduces our cost while increasing content for our communities. It also reduces our cost while increasing our potential for revenue.

So we become networks of content and content creators. By 2020, most news coverage will not be created by people employed by our organizations. Much of it will still be created by professionals, by people making a living off journalism. But many of those will be independent. All over the world, I see journalists laid off from their jobs who start their own independent news ventures, and many are starting to make an economic go of it. I also see newcomers creating their own enterprises."

Jeff also says...

"So how do we make sufficient revenue in the future? I argue that we need to operate advertising networks, finding and selling the best of what exists both within and without of our walls and sites. And if we do that quickly, we have a few timely advantages: First, we have the relationships with and the trust of advertisers; if we assemble the best networks, we are well-positioned to sell them. Second, advertisers have been even more timid about this new age than we have, and so we can be their guides. If we do not do this, be assured that Google will."

Read Jeff's entire essay here. Bravos Jeff! If not Google, then certainly Microsoft or a player to be named later. Agree with Jeff on one other very important issue, the importance of incumbency...

"Who is best to get us there? No rule says that it will be the incumbents: today’s newspapers. If these products, brands, and companies are to survive and prosper in 13 years, they must aggressively innovate today, leading – not following – their readers and advertisers into the new universe, reimagining and revinventing their service – and journalism itself – to exploit this new architecture of media and news. Their advantage born of their control over content and distribution will become increasingly meaningless. Their businesses are losing value as circulation and advertising decline. Their brands are losing equity as trust declines (a recent Pew survey said 53 percent of Americans think news stories are often inaccurate). New competitors have the advantage of operating more nimbly, without the burden of infrastructure and with a keener understanding of – and no fear of – the new opportunities technology affords."

Jeff is spot-on here. My sense is incumbency, as a practical matter, is meaningless in everything except political campaigns. Being an incumbent no more secures success than does being the first mover. Both are canards. Both dangerous notions past their best-used by dates.

Back to the manager as protector. At one time the sales department provided cover for product innovation. All of my greatest successes in delivering numbers to the sales department were made possible only by the creative collaboration with and full support of sales. A great sales manager buys time for product and audience development. It was Lee Simonson, Drew Horowitz, Bill Hartman, Chuck Tweedle and other exceptional leaders that played critically important roles in my ratings successes - they bought priceless time for me and my team.

It was a crisis of confidence in the sales department and a massive failure of imagination that brought down WCBS-FM in 2005, that killed the 19 year-old Oasis franchise in Dallas, and it's that deadly combo which continues to kill off good stations. Nothing can do more harm to innovation than a sales department that's not producing. Nothing builds the brand like time; the support of a productive sales team is key to the ongoing success of every great station.

Perhaps the most improper deployment of a productive sales team is keeping a bad station alive. We all know of stations that are not able to break a two share yet are allowed to continue posting mediocre ratings because a good sales department has the station on life support; the numbers are modest but additive to the cluster, it's the station that brings in the buy. We see this too often. It is the responsibility of leadership to produce results. It is the responsibility of leadership to bring out the best in others and to achieve the full potential of the assets under their management. A perfectly good full-powered station should never be allowed to deliver mediocre ratings (or sales) performance without getting the serious attention needed to correct the situation. Hard working sellers deserve a credible product in advance of competitive numbers. Give them a story. Make something happen that they can hear (or see) and believe in.

If there is one thing too often missing in today's broadcast enterprise it is the productive creative tension between programming and sales. To take advantage of today's many opportunities, to make the best of the revolution at hand, to navigate one of the greatest sea changes in ad supported measured media we need great sales managers. Nothing less will get the job done. Nothing.

Programming ace Tom Teuber reminded me of something I had said in one of our earlier conversations. The role of program director as sometime defense attorney. Here again, we are talking about the effective manager as protector. It's one of those additional duties as assigned and it's very important. Talent need protection. Providing the right environment for creative people to do their best work is certainly critical, however, standing up and being their advocate is equally important. Over our recent lunch in Chicago Tom quoted Gordon McLendon "Get people to talk about your radio station." Very wise counsel. Long, long before it became vogue to hold forth on the power of word of mouth, viral marketing, et al, Gordon was making it by the truck load and to incredible affect. To get folks talking you need to do something. One needs to go off the rez and take a calculated creative gamble. This involves a measure of risk as does any successful creative endeavor. Talent will perform at their potential only when they feel they have an advocate to champion their work. Great performances come from talent being focused on performing rather than being preoccupied with consequences. Talent need to know they can run the yellow lights.

Bonus: Build A Sales Machine

Bonus 2: The legendary Paul Drew, Jaywalking with Leno. Outstanding PD! Congrats & cheers!


Anonymous said...

Cheers David, excellent article, however you are WRONG about one thing. As a major market manager let me tell you our jockless also ran station is a bcf winner! We spend no money on the station and we get, as you suggested, a small rating, BUT, we are able to use the inventory to get the low end business or - as you correctly imply - bring the buy in. Is it the "potential" realized of this station - NO - certainly not but so what! We are making our numbers, corporate is happy and we all have jobs. I appreciate your thinking, love your blog BUT must bosses do NOT see the world as you do and that is my biggest problem. Rock on, keep it up, many people are reading and being inspired by you.

dave said...

I will admit to being on the wrong side of the jockless strategy, that is, in my opinion, it is you guys who are wrong. Reasonable people may disagree.

Your corporate masters have made a Faustian deal. The error in the bcf argument is how do you grow the business? Cutting out the single biggest expense line - labor - is a one time savings and once you cut out all the expenses the only effective method of growing bcf is growing top line.

A station is a terrible thing to waste. My sense is it is only because of cluster economics that your jockless also ran station is even allowed to exist. The cluster has provided the "cover" for management to rationalize and accept failure. The tragedy here is in the process you are not building a business, not growing the top line of the portfolio, not creating wealth at the potential of the assets.

Good luck, thank you for the good wishes.

dave said...

From email:

You are right in principle, wrong in practice. We have one of those jock-free stations in our cluster. The station adds real value. The ratings are fair, we use all of the inventory and the station produces cash. Two years ago we were operating a little above break-even. Today the station throws sixty cents of every dollar booked. What you fail to "get" about today's operating philosophy is this - playing it safe is the only acceptable strategy, swinging for the fences is risky business and we do not take any unnecessary risks (why should we?) Our jock-free station is boring, safe, and a profit center. We'll let it be and stay focused on building our lead brands, the cash cows.

Anonymous said...

"off the rez" you can not be serious?? original thought is not permitted, taking risks is a job ender. read the lee iacocca book it asks WHERE ARE THE LEADERS???? radio has no leaders any more. as for sales we can't find any sales people worth a damn (this is the dirty little secret the biz is imploding)

dave said...

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" so said the bard. My pov is the glass remains half-full. Yes, we have a leadership problem. Readers of this blog know I have been writing about the leadership issue since early 2004. The very cool thing about electronic ad supported measured media is it is nimble, agile. We can (and in my view will) change things in new and different ways. Be a part of the solution set.