Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"All talk is misunderstanding. Insight is just in work." Rilke

Bob Shannon has done it again, given us writing worth reading and talking about. In his AllAccess column, All Them Big Dogs (free rr here), he offers a list.."the 100 people who've had the most influence on radio", here is a bite of Bob's 100...

29. Bill Gavin 30. Mike Joseph 31. Ruth Meyer 32. Jack Spector 33. Rick Sklar 34. Bruce Morrow 35. Dan Ingram 36. Murray The K 37. Bill Meeks 38. The Beatles 39. Stan and Sis Kaplan 40. Jack Gale 41. Dick Biondi 42. Jay Cook 43. Ron Jacobs 44. Bill Drake 45. Gene Chenault 46. Claude Hall 47. Robert W. Morgan 48. The Real Don Steele 49. Pat O'Day 50. Tom Donahue 51. Scott Muni 52. Allison Steele 53. B. Mitchell Reed 54. Bob Henabery 55. John Rook 56. Larry Lujack 57. Tom Merriman 58. Tom Rounds 59. Casey Kasem 60. Don Imus

Congrats to all on Bob's list! Bravo, again, to my friend Bob on another excellent column. Thanks too to Joel Denver for somehow getting Bob to share his wisdom and providing use of his hall. No doubt there will be those who feel someone has been "left out", no matter, after a study of Bob's list please feel free to offer up your most deserving bold faced names via comments to this post. Who made your list that didn't make Bob's?

My list would include the following not found on Bob's...

  • Jesse B. Blayton
  • Kevin B Sweeney
  • Jim Yergin
  • Jack Gibson
  • Jim Seiler
  • Jim Schulke
  • Lewis Hill
  • Chuck Blore
  • George Wilson
  • Ron Chapman
  • Bob Hamilton
  • Jim Gabbert
  • Ed McLaughlin
  • Gerald Blum
  • Elmo Ellis
  • John Bayliss
  • Rick Carroll
  • George Burns
  • Ted Atkins
  • Lucky Cordell
  • Jack Thayer
  • Allen Shaw
  • Dickie Rosenfeld
  • Jim Hilliard
And, after careful study of Bob's would suggest? Comments welcome. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Hire people of youth and vitality, people who are chronic grumblers about the status quo." Warren Bennis

Online is a major part of our business and business is very, very good. The Top Online advertisers (via OMMA -2005/TNS Media Intelligence, in Millions):

  1. Vontage 275,753
  2. Time Warner 169,745
  3. GUS Plc 166,481
  4. Dell 155,414
  5. Verizon 143,546
  6. Classmates 142,874
  7. Netflix 136,384
  8. General Motors 110,480
  9. Hewlett-Packard 107,959
  10. Microsoft 103,032

The TNS data does not include search or classifieds, $5B and $2B markets respectively in 2005.

Never has there been a better time to get serious about your Online ad initiatives; beginning to look a lot like 1999 only better.

Robert Young writing Social Networks are the New Media...

Think of this way… what if “American Idol” had been produced solely by the capabilities of the contestants themselves, without the expertise and talent of the show’s producers, directors, writers, etc. As talented and entertaining as the contestants are, the resulting production quality, the level of emotional engagement, viewership/ratings and monetization potential of the full package would likely be far inferior to what we all see on the air today. Well, social networks should be seen in a similar way… people want to express themselves and the platforms that allow them to do so with the most creativity and production value, are the ones that people will flock to. Check out the entire writing via Om Malik here

The Death Star blowed up and Darth phones it in...excellent bit from AdultSwim's Robot Chicken gang, highly recommended, via YouTube, while it lasts, here

Congrats and bravo to Brian Tierney and his associates for doing what few considered possible, putting together a local group to buy The Inquirer (Philadelphia Newspapers Inc) from the McClatchy Company. Kudos to Inquirer staff writers Joseph N. DiStefano and Larry Eichel, they have done an outstanding job providing the made-for-tv-movie back story...

Tierney also called Leslie A. Brun, semiretired founder of Philadelphia-based Hamilton Lane Advisors, which helps pension plans manage their money. Brun agreed to put several million of his own dollars into the deal.

"At the beginning," said Brun, "it felt like it was just Brian and me."

Brun, whose father once started a local newspaper for New York's Haitian community, knew that dailies were struggling. But Brun found Tierney's pitch convincing. Tierney called the papers "an underleveraged brand," suggesting that Knight Ridder's cost-cutting had "left too many advertising dollars on the table." Tierney warned Brun and other prospects that "the returns aren't going to be up to the same level as typical private equity," but they would be respectable. And he noted the benefits to Philadelphia of improved news coverage.

Read all about it here

Mark Glaser interviews Patrick Phillips (I Want Media), a good read...

"Many old rules about business don’t apply anymore. It’s a scary, weird and strangely exciting time in media. Has this become an obsession with media types? Well, professionals in all areas of media should be concerned about what these changes mean for their future livelihood. If they aren’t, they’re fools. It must be unnerving to be a captain of an industry that has the potential to die off, or at least be weakened severely."

And Patrick goes on...

I don’t think anyone is safe. No one is in the catbird seat. Every traditional media sector is on shaky ground to one degree or another.

Newspapers? They have to contend with readers getting news for free on the Internet and from free youth-targeted tabloids. Radio? They have to address the challenges of satellite radio and iPods. Television? Programming is becoming available for free on the Web and via iTunes while viewers skip commercials on traditional TV. Magazines? Like newspapers, they’re watching their readers move to the Web and other platforms. And all forms of media have to compete with the new options taking up consumers’ time: gaming devices, social networking sites, and on and on.

Myself, I’m still a big fan of “old” media. Then again, I’m “old,” as I tell my NYU students (I’m a baby boomer, tail end). I love the experience of exploring a print newspaper, relaxing with a glossy magazine, passively watching television. I sometimes hate the idea of being “always connected,” with my cell phone, or being online or whatever.

I was waiting for the elevator in NYU’s journalism building the other day with five or six students, and I couldn’t help but notice that every single one of them had their cell phone out, checking their emails, looking at photos, or involved with whatever else mobiles are capable of offering nowadays. No one was talking to each other or even acknowledging one another’s presence. Everyone’s attention (except mine) was focused on their cell phone.

The writing via Glaser's MediaShift here

Get me re-write! Dept of Media History Revisionism...

Radio & Records writer Dana Hall drops the ball in an otherwise very well done tribute to honor the 25 year history of WRKS (98.7 Kiss FM). The error? Dana's tribute fails to give proper credit to the two station guys that were first in making WRKS happen - Lee Simonson and Don Kelly. Tony Q gives proper credit to Don in his quote but the writing fails to chase this when the tribute's Page One list of "PDs who have led the station" fails to mention Kelly. The very gifted GM, Lee Simonson, gets not one mention. As my Georgia relatives would say, something bad wrong here. Hey Dana, here's an idea - please feature Lee and Don in another column and do the right thing - set the story straight and give your readers the back story on how this legendary station first came to be.

Bravo, again, to Lewis Lazare! Today's column commends DDB/Chicago on their "Whassup" creative induction into the Clio Awards Hall of Fame and then Lew goes on to say what a great many have only thought...

But as hugely popular as "Whassup?" ultimately proved to be, in retrospect the commercial also seems to be directly responsible for a subsequent troubling downward spiral in the quality of advertising across the boards as scores of agencies and clients have tried -- and failed -- to come up with commercials that could equal or top its impact.

Amen, Lew. Lew also shares insights from Mindshare research director Debbie Solomon who shares from the agency's annual "Clutter Watch" study...

The new data for 2005 indicate that, among the major networks, ABC was the worst offender when it came to clutter, with an astounding 15 minutes and 26 seconds of advertising and network promos during every hour of prime time programming. But every other network wasn't far behind, with all offering around 15 minutes of commercials and promos every hour.

The situation is worse on cable. MTV registered a whopping 16 minutes and 13 seconds of commercials and promos per hour, and the USA channel was not far behind with 15 minutes and 43 seconds of spots and promos.

Sadly, Solomon said she knows of no one who is stepping up and demanding substantive solutions to the clutter problem

Get dialed in to all of Lew's views here. As John Sykes serves as the lead on new network development at MTVN, my pov is John will not only be sensitive to this but make it a point of difference going forward (a strong benefit for viewers, MSOs and advertisers).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"I never had much use for specialists. Specialists are inclined to argue why you can't do something, while our emphasis has always been to make something out of nothing." Masaru Ibuka

Adam Cohen writes about "net neutrality" in the Opinion pages of today's New York Times (Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End, rr/sub req here). Adam makes a good case. Please read his writing, visit (badge at right), and do something - get involved.

"The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass medium there has ever been. Freedom of the press, as the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one. Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions.

This democratic Web did not just happen. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, envisioned a platform on which everyone in the world could communicate on an equal basis. But his vision is being threatened by telecommunications and cable companies, and other Internet service providers, that want to impose a new system of fees that could create a hierarchy of Web sites. Major corporate sites would be able to pay the new fees, while little-guy sites could be shut out."

and he ends...

"Sir Tim argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet's extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.

"That's not what we call Internet at all," says Sir Tim. "That's what we call cable TV."

Bonus: Firefox Flicks winners (via YouTube), 1st place here and 2nd place here

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Progress in every age results only from the fact that there are some men and women who refuse to believe that what they knew to be right cannot be done." Russell Davenport

The best part of being invited to participate in the HD Radio Seminar hosted this week by the Broadcast Advertising Club of Chicago was getting to spend time with some of the best and brightest. Joyce Saxon, BAC's Treasurer-For-Life, is a living legend, she has made a difference in the careers of countless media people, myself included. During her 25 year career with J. Walter Thompson she ran spot broadcast and syndication with distinction and style. She was the first woman to achieve a senior officer's post at a major US agency to the surprise of no one. Known for her unrivaled dedication, grace, warm wit and encyclopedic knowledge of every market, Joyce remains a one-of-a-kind original. Joyce continues to serve not only the BAC but as well on the Board of Governors for The City Club of Chicago. We can all learn something from Joyce Saxon.

Up to nothing but good: Drew Horowitz (Bonneville's go-to senior exec and one of the best, most gifted managers working in media today), Barry James (architect of the very successful WTMX, now leading the charge at his latest hit - WILV), Kipper McGee (WLS, scary smart young turk of the ABC news/talk programmers), Rod Zimmerman (the respected, always well-spoken SVP/MM CBS Radio, just completed moving his B96 and WBBM-AM teams into their new Prudential home), Peter Bowen (new GM of B96 and Jack, CBS Radio rising star and BAC director), Skip Weller (COO, NextMedia, great guy - building his company leading by example), Harvey Wittenberg (ageless sage, it's not a real media gathering in Chicago without Harvey), Earl Jones (CC Chicago RVP - getting early rave reviews from staff and competitors alike), Ron Ruth (RAB's EVP and one of media's most charming gentlemen, great that he made the trip in from DFW)

Kudos and cheers to those involved in making the HD Radio Seminar happen. Carla Ross, BAC President; Joyce Saxon, BAC Treasurer; Jerry Schnacke, President - Radio Broadcasters of Chicagoland (and the engaging, sharp GM of one of America's most imitated stations WDRV) and Dick Rakovan, the beloved Chicago-based RAB SVP.

Thanks and congrats to my fellow panel members. Our moderator - Dennis Lyle, CEO of Illinois Broadcasters; Dave Robbins, GM of the #1 Country music station in the nation -WUSN, head of digital programming for CBS Radio nationwide and architect of the first major market multicast; and Don Kelly, head of broadcast marketing for iBiquity Digital inventors of the HD Radio technology (and pioneering FM radio programmer). Don presented an excellent overview of the technology and peak at what's going on in the HD Radio lab. Dave Robbins did a great job walking and talking the Chicago HD Radio dial - live - a killer real-time demo. Dennis did a fine job, kept everything moving forward and worked the room to bring us some very good questions. A wonderful event, a great time in Chicago, honored at the invite. More later.

Bonus: Virginia Heffernan blogs the Upfronts here. Bravo, very cool!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. Every one has bad breaks, but every one also has opportunities. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on." Samuel Goldwyn

Lots of chatter about Beck's run on HLN including some goofy ratings inflation (e.g., "he's beating King"). Here's a quick overview of last Friday's 25-54 in both the 7p and 9p hours.


Shep 254
Blitzer 203
Hardball 92
OTM 58
Beck 51


King 240
H&C 238
Cramer 92
Beck 34

The first weekend box office is rolling out for radio. Big winners in the city are WLTW, Z100, and the SBS pair. CC takes top cluster honors, 4 of their stations achieving a 3.0 or better. Others that made the 3.0> cutoff include the Emmis trio, the SBS pair, and one each for CBS, ABC and InnerCity. The three CBS FMs came in under a 2.0, clearly the underdogs in this spring meet. I stand by my previous take on the incredible and continuing success of WLTW...

That the #1 billing station in America is seen by many as invincible, considered by so-called experts to be an impossible to challenge incumbent, this lack of imagination alone may say everything about radio's current state of affairs. Kudos to Jim Ryan, he has done more than create a great radio station, he has somehow convinced his competition to serve an unprecedented new role, that of financier, their charter to willingly capitalize his continued success. The entire post is here.

Also from the city...

So another foul-mouthed, miscreant misogynist makes headlines for spewing venom over the public airwaves. What else is new? Most of these lowlifes get away with it by hiding behind the First Amendment. And the rare few who get public wrist-slappings just lay low for a while, only to return more obscenely rewarded than before.

But, as repugnant as they are, these morally bankrupt millionaires can't be held solely responsible for taking the money and running (off at the mouth). The lion's share of blame must be placed at the feet of the broadcast industry itself.

The crux of the issue was captured in an editorial cartoon in these pages on the morning after the most recent jaw-dropping debasement. Two fat cat executives at Clear Channel Radio are having a private conversation. A computer screen in the background reveals a graph depicting soaring profits. Suit No. 1 says, "There's a lot of publicity about our hip-hop deejay threatening a little girl with sexual violence." Suit No. 2 responds, "So we can increase our ad rates?"

I know these guys. I worked for them. They would look the other way at any kind of perversion that helped them squeeze a quarter of extra profit between last quarter and this quarter. It's in their interest. But that is not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, nor is it what the founders of Federal Communications Commission meant by the phrase "public interest."

Pete Fornatale in the NY Daily News here

Bringing the framers into this might be a bit much Pete. We have a leadership problem, no question. Let's start with the program directors. A PD job description can be reduced to six words - deliver numbers to the sales department. In doing the work of that charter they need to use their own good judgment and protect the license because without it there is no business. As part of my day job I work with performers, talent both broadcast and cable. The number one complaint of talent has remained the same since my first days in the trade "no feedback", the number two complaint is "when there is feedback it's negative."

A great many of the problems from recent years can be traced back to PDs not doing their jobs or not knowing how to do critical parts of their jobs. What we allow, we encourage. Absent leadership talent will go off the rez. Absent a tone set at the top, station folk will approach their work with a mindset of compliance without regard for compassion or creativity. Radio, at its best, is a creative art that demands creative leadership. The majority of PDs working today have no clue how to work with talent, directing and coaching creative people are skill sets well beyond their reach or in some cases even their comprehension. Cheers to CC for showing Star the street, they should also "exit" the producer, PD and perhaps the GM. If a strong PD and an effective showrunner had been on the case Star would have been saved from himself and the audience saved from his obscene behavior.

I'll agree with Pete on one key point but with a change in language. Pete, the faceless "industry" is not responsibile, specific managers are responsible. Those managers involved should be held accountable. I have written previously about these leadership issues, specifically about music radio here, and on talent here and here. Your comments are welcome.

From this morning's excellent Robert Feder column, he interviews Robert Murphy...

Q. How come radio sucks?

A. Because it's being run by a bunch of 'tards. I don't think there is any denying that the takeover of stations by huge national conglomerates has taken its toll on the creativity that once drove radio. Years of piling on more commercials and spending less for talented employees -- both on-air and managerial -- has taken its toll, even if it upped the profits. And the new competition from satellite, HD, Internet has most managers making decisions based on panic. I hope they don't totally kill the radio star. Read Robert's entire writing here

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Build, buy, or partner" Terry Semel

Sandra Ward is to be commended for her excellent Barron's cover story on Terry Semel's Yahoo! (Yahoo!'s Edge, sub req - here). Great take away for those working in ad supported measured media. My take later on these excerpts...

  • Yahoo! is second in paid search to Google, first in non-search Internet ads (banners and videos).
  • "Yahoo!'s revenue is climbing by 30% to 40% a year, and next year, by most estimates, cash flow should jump 60%, to $2.5 billion."
  • "Yahoo! is a multidimensional experience built around communities and content, while Google is primarily a place to find something."
  • "Yahoo! projects 2006 revenue of $4.6 billion to $4.85 billion, excluding marketing commissions, up more than 30% from last year."
  • "IMPRESSIVELY, YAHOO! REPORTED A 24% increase in the number of its Web pages viewed worldwide during the first quarter, to a total to 3.8 billion a day. Revenue-per-page view grew by 10%. Marketing-services revenue, which reflects advertising revenue and excludes fee-based revenue, increased 35% as a result, above the industry average of 30%, and that trend is expected to continue."
  • "Yahoo! boasted 400 million unique users in the first quarter, a 27% jump from the year-earlier period. It has a bigger audience of people at work and at home combined than any other media brand on the 'Net."
  • "At Ford Motor, for instance, online ads now account for 20% of marketing spending, up from 5% or 8% a few years ago. And the car maker has boosted its spending on Yahoo! by about 60%, to include ads on lifestyle pages such as Yahoo! Entertainment and on the Yahoo! home page, rather than just the auto section, says Ford Car Communications Manager Linda Perry-Lube. Ford is also spending more on search advertising, benefiting both Yahoo! and Google."
  • "AT THE MOMENT, ONLINE ADVERTISING represents only 4.7% of the estimated $276 billion spent annually on all advertising in the U.S., but that's expected to increase to 7.4%, or $22.3 billion, by 2009, according to eMarketer, an online market-research firm. More importantly, spending on displays ads will rise 27% this year, to $5.4 billion, as big consumer-products companies make broader use of the medium."
  • "Another advantage for Yahoo!: Its management team has deep roots in "old media," making them more attuned to the needs of traditional advertisers as they shift more of their budgets online. CEO Semel joined the company five years ago, after 24 years at Warner Bros."
  • "Randy Befumo of Legg Mason considers Yahoo! "a very rare asset" because it is one of only four companies that generate more than $1 billion a year in advertising revenues. Yahoo!, he notes, with $4 billion in revenues, is half the size of media giant Time Warner, but is growing three times as fast.
  • '"Terry Semel grew Warner Brothers' cash flow 15 times," says Haverty. "Margins are not the way to build shareholder wealth in media companies -- you need to reinvest."'
  • "The beauty of paid search for advertisers is its effectiveness and easy-to-track response rate. Consider that direct-mail advertising costs $2 per mailing on average, and a good response rate is 2% to 3%. The average search click, by contrast, costs 45 to 50 cents and the "click-through-rate" is 13%. Those numbers naturally have drawn advertisers and led to rapid growth in the category. That, along with high margins, is the beauty of paid search for Internet search engines."
  • "Yahoo! also is taking aim at the mobile delivery of its services, partnering with Motorola for example to install Yahoo! Ready applications on Motorola's mobile devices, allowing users to access e-mail and other favorite sites. This takes advantage of the fact that the market for mobile devices is growing more than twice as fast as that for personal computers. In less-developed nations, mobile phones often represent the only access to the Web."
  • '"The Internet is fundamentally ...about making your experience more relevant," says Semel.'

Bonus: One of the most talked about interviews of the month. On May 11th, the New Yorker writer Ken Auletta interviewed Terry Semel, the chairman and C.E.O. of Yahoo!, at a breakfast sponsored by the Newhouse School and The New Yorker. A video of their conversation may be found here

Love the latest Yahoo! redesign. Not a single wasted pixel - the page works as few others do. Check out the Yahoo! main page design from 1994 up to the latest redesign, via CNET, here

The "old media" company that get's it - Fox (so too does Umair Haque)...

"Fox's acquisition thesis is a bit more complicated - but predicated on a much deeper understanding of the new media value chain. Fox invests in domains which are hypersocial (discontinuous shifts in social connectivity) or hypercultural (discontinuous shifts in cultural specificity): sports, karaoke, music.

Further, Fox invests at the edge of the new value chain: at the interface with consumers. Further, Fox invests in the three roughly distinct models which live there - which are what we talk about at bubblegen a huge amount: markets, networks, and communities.

Why? Because Fox understands the deep economics of new media. Value capture in the new media value chain is a function of market power. And market power is a function of attention. And attention is allocated most efficiently by markets, networks and communities."

Umair makes a very good case, a fine read (Discovering the Wrong Future) here

Nuts about Southwest. The good folks at Southwest Airlines are blogging here - Bravo! Word around the Love campfire is getting your "A" will be history once the new reservation platform debuts with seating assignments.

CBS moves into second place. For the first week since August 2001, CBS Evening News beats ABC last week. CBS has gained 280,000 viewers while NBC has lost 680,000, ABC losing 940,000. Congrats and cheers to the Eye team.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Howard Bedno

Chicagoan, husband, father, grandfather, D Day veteran, record producer, band manager, club owner, publisher, serial entrepreneur, music promoter, epicurean captain of the Lunch Club.

Ed McCaskey, Eli Schulman, Howard Bedno

He was always impeccably dressed, a marked preference for Armani. An easy man to find, he held a ritual court amid his consorts, the rich and famous lunch crowd at Eli's. A maven of national eminence, he was also the tireless mensch that returned your call the same day without fail ("please hold, Mr. Bedno calling"). While he was certainly "Mr. Bedno" to many, he was simply "Howard" to a great many more.

At industry gatherings he shunned the designated hotels, instead making The Ritz Carlton or The Four Seasons his pied-a-terre. He didn't just stay at a five star hotel, he owned the joint. No matter his surroundings, Howard was in facile command of a refined and engaging presence. Everyone who met this gentleman immediately knew him to be somebody special; his grace, charm, sharp sense of humor and infectious laugh won over even the most jaded. Howard prevailed.

He was well read, conversant at the post graduate level on all things media, politics, sports, entertainment, affairs of the day, and business, especially the business of music. He brought perspective to the party, he had been there and done that too many times to mention. Accordingly, he often introduced that most rare of arguments - the obvious, while also imparting another seldom heard point of view - the relevant. And Howard was iconic; he embodied the authentic old school perspicacious spirit of music's halcyon days. He loved music and he loved show business. He lived each day with vivacity, he suffered no fools, living his life in Chicago a world apart from the pretension and vanities of New York and the coast. His famous wit and Chicago-style brand of candor was fresh with honest bite, one leavened by the street wisdom of Chicago's hardscrabble west side. In the autumn of his years he wasted no time laurelling, obsessed in the moment, his conversation vivid with today and tomorrow.

He possessed a knack for picking not only hit records but hit people as well. John Rook, John Gehron, Barry James, Joel Denver, Steve Dahl, Jay Cunniff, Johnny B, Sonny Joe White, Marty Greenberg, Steve Perun, Ric Lippincott, Gary Bond, Art Roberts, Dick Biondi, Fred Winston, Bill Curtis, Tex Meyer, Jeff McClusky, Kevin Metheny, Dave Shakes, Burt Burdeen, Kurt Hanson, Harvey Wells, Margo Kenez, Jerry Greenberg, John Iltis, Donny Ienner, Rich Melman, Steve Rudolf, Stuart Brent, Jhani Kaye, Tim Sabien, Nancy Stein, Buddy Scott, Todd Cavanaugh, Irving Azoff and Mike Ditka are but a few of the many whose gifts he recognized and championed over the years. As the genius Chuck Blore once scored for WCFL..."as much a part of Chicago as" went the indigenous son turned legend Howard Bedno.

There has never been a person like Howard, nor will there ever be again. All of us who knew him are blessed, each and all better for having known this fine gentleman. Howard was a giant, an original, a class act and a dear friend. More here and here

Monday, May 15, 2006

"Monitor the seven windows of innovative opportunity: the unexpected; the incongruity; process need; changes in industry structure or market structure; changes in demographic; changes in perception, mood and meaning; and new knowledge." Peter Drucker

Another great lesson taken from The Daily Drucker (Amazon info at right). He goes on to write...

"It is precisely because the unexpected jolts us out of our preconceived notions, our assumptions, our certainties, that it is such a fertile source of innovation. In no other area are innovative opportunities less risky and their pursuit less arduous. Yet the unexpected success is almost totally neglected; worse, managements tend to actively reject it. One reason why it is difficult for management to accept unexpected success is that all of us tend to believe that anything that has lasted a fair amount of time must be 'normal' and go on 'forever.'..Don't neglect or reject unexpected success. Identify it, absorb it, and learn from it."

My sense is we are each aware of someone who woke up on third believing they had hit a triple. In measured media, the soup of the day or flavor of the month represents one class of the unexpected success. The danger comes in practical application - the failure to "adsorb and learn" - that is, failing to do the homework, may cause one to act on hope alone, an enticement to simply copy...the goal to "travel" success. Conversely, investing in the homework pays excellent dividends. Three cases come to mind here. From history - Mother W's failed attempt to "travel" the great success of legendary talent Robert W. Morgan to Chicago. Secondly, the killer call by Emmis from the recent past. Emmis' keen study and understanding of the local market results in their decision to "travel" Johnny B from failure in LA to repeat success in Chicago where JB is beloved. CBS Radio's failure to do their homework, hiring Rover for Chicago when Johnny B was theirs to lose may turn out to be the biggest, and most avoidable, post-Stern blunder of all. Finally, Jack FM. The lure of some early on ratings successes combined with the allure of low operating costs baked into the format design again proved the herd instinct of measured media to be alive and well. Never underestimate the power of squeezing media management's paranoia gland. The fabled silver bullet delusion, hallucination, again trumps pragmatic, critical thinking.

A lot harder than it sounds dept:

Joe Mandese tells us that Mediamark Research, Inc (MRI) has pulled out of the radio ratings race, leaving two players - Arbitron and The Media Audit (in a jv with the EU firm Ipsos). I have a great deal of respect for The Media Audit but my money continues to ride with Arbitron. More later today.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"In the old days when I was turning rockers around, I used to have a saying: Every time the ratings fall, raise the rate card. People became so fascinated by the concept, they'd buy. The thing is, you were negotiating from a hell of a lot better base than when you had the higher ratings. Then, when you got the ratings back, you could raise the rate card again. Again, courage." Dwight Case (from Claude and Barbara Hall's This Business of Radio Programming). Image from 1240 KROY

Another follow-on to the earlier post concerning the David Lee Roth adventure. The decision to terminate.

One of the 2006 recipients of the Broadcast Pioneer Awards, Dwight Case is a gifted gentleman who has done it all and then some. Dwight is a living legend, one of the lions in media's forest, an inspiration to generations of media folks, twice my former boss. During my days as a group guy we established a tradition of showing appreciation for our "business partners" by hosting a gourmet dinner in their honor on the Friday evening of each fall's NAB Show. Each year we raised the bar, the goal to best the previous year's event. The great bon vivant Norm Goldsmith served as our sommelier and confidant - helping to plan each detail of the event ten months in advance. One year, the fall show being in Boston, we decided the perfect venue was Maison Robert then in Boston's Old City Hall (now a Ruth's Chris). Lucien Robert, his wife Martha Ann and their daughter Andree presided over one of the nation's finest dining institutions. When we discovered one of our mentors, the estimable Dwight Case, was attending the show we invited him to the party. At the end of the evening as dessert was served Dwight shared an object lesson.

When, How much, and Why

It seems a manager had been terminated and when telling his wife of his firing she had only three questions. This became the lesson of When, How much and Why. Dwight told us those were the questions, in that order, that one needed to address in any termination.

When - "Today is your last day with the company"

How much - "Your final payroll check will be $$$$, this includes severance of one month's pay, all wages owed you up to and including today and pay out of your accrued vacation"

Why - "We have reached this decision for the following reason(s)..."

Dwight went on to counsel...Once the very serious decision to terminate has been made, you have an obligation to do the right thing, coming to the last meeting prepared to answer, in full, the questions of When, How much and Why. Dwight correctly observed most managers lose control, allowing the final meeting to digress into a marathon of why.

Did you attend NAB 2006? Terry Ottina and the NAB research gang want your feedback, check your email for a survey invitation and get involved.

Please accept our invitation to diss you!

The Starwood Preferred Guest Program needs some fine tuning. In response to a Northwest Airlines email offering me an upgrade in the program of their Starwood partner, I clicked on the link in the email to "activate" my upgrade. I was asked to enter either my Starwood Preferred number or my Northwest FF program number and my email. When pressing confirm after entry of my Starwood-Email combo - I was taken to a screen that said "Sorry, you are not eligible for the upgrade." Entering again using my NW-Email combo I was taken to a screen that said I was approved and moments later came the "Welcome very special VIP to our Super Triple Platinum Whatever" email. Also included in the warm welcome was my new Starwood Preferred number, so it would appear I am now in their system twice, what a mess. Imagine if I had not made that second attempt, imagine how many do not...going away with bad feelings about NW and Starwood. File under - when CRM attacks!


Lee Abrams writes something that you need to read...

"Radio keeps re-inventing itself as if by divine intervention. Radio revolutions then chokes itself through greed, inattention and somehow forgetting the building blocks of the revolution that got them there in the first place.

The following is a list of the key Building Blocks that created each Radio revolution.....followed by the elements that killed each revolution."

Read, and then read again, Lee's post WHAT MAKES....AND KILLS AMAZING STATIONS here.

While I respect Lee, and appreciate his passion, re XM's raison d'etre, I continue to believe that innovative, maverick AM and FM radio folk will again "reinvent" their medium, the first tribe of wireless will again come to embrace the rich potential of audio...anew. XM is another part of the audio mediascape not the end of AM and FM.

Lee's suggestion that the pioneers, the influential wellspring of personality radio (in those first days of post-TV radio reinvention) came from black radio is spot on. My father got his start in radio at the legendary WERD, Atlanta, a station overrun with bigger-than-life personalities.

Let me again state Martin's First Law of Audio Media: All that's important is what comes out of the speakers, everything else is a footnote.

Lots of examples of great radio being committed today...for one, let me suggest you check out the fine art of Brian Kelly now on offer at Milwaukee's WXSS. Another is Bobby Rich who holds a daily clinic on the proper breakfast show at KMXZ. One to watch - Madison's WMGN where Pat O'Neill leads the way. P.S. All deserve better websites, while each is ahead of radio's hoi polloi.

A word to the wise from Horace, a lesson taken to heart, no doubt, by the guys and dolls that go to work each day to commit great radio, Messrs Kelly, Rich and O'Neill included: "Sedit qui timuit ne non succederet." He who feared he would not succeed sat still (for fear of failure, he did nothing). Make something happen, please check this

Bonus - smart guy and longtime friend Fred Jacobs, his Jacobs Media team and invited guests are blogging, highly recommended, here

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Some of my best friends are consultants. They tend to be the most entertaining people in the political community: eccentric, fanatic, creative, violently verbal, often extremely funny - the sort of people who sat in the back of the room in high school and tossed spitballs at the future politicians sitting up front. But their impact on politics has been perverse. Rather than making the game more interesting, they have drained a good deal of the life from our democracy. They have become specialists in caution, literal reactionaries - they react to the results of their polling and focus groups, they fear anything they haven't tested." Joe Klein

Joe Klein's Politics Lost is a must read for news and political junkies, highly recommended, get Amazon info here

"The people decision is a big gamble - by basing it on what a person can do, it at least becomes a rational gamble. Effective executives make strength productive. They fill positions and promote based upon what a person can do - not to minimize weakness but to maximize strength. Strong people always have strong weaknesses. Where there are peaks there are valleys...When making people decisions, make sure you know the assignment. Then choose a candidate who has proven strength in skill-areas required by the new assignment." Peter Drucker

Today's photo (Wisconsin's capitol in hometown Madison) comes via the Isthmus Pool at Flickr, thanks to WisDoc for his cool spring pic.

Working on an update of our Great General Manager course work (workbook, ppt deck, et al), lots to blog about later today.

Friday, May 05, 2006

WBZ's Joe Green Dies at 76

Millions of WBZ listeners eagerly waited to hear what Joe Green had to tell them about clogged Boston roads every day. He was a staple of WBZ'S morning and afternoon news coverage and on occasion he would be called into save some of his listeners.

Joe Green died at his Beverly home on Wednesday May 3, 2006 bringing an end to a life that was spent helping people. He was a Boston Police Officer in 1952 when he learned to fly. It was at that point that his life took off in another direction. His "hobby" became his passion and that passion led him to become Boston's only helicopter pilot also doing his own traffic reports.

He worked at WBZ radio from 1963 until his retirement in 1995. He was 76 years old and leaves 5 daughters and 4 sisters. Visiting Hours at the Lee Moody and Russell Funeral Home at 9 Dane St. in Beverly, Massachusetts is 2-5 on Sunday May 7, 2006. There will be a prayer service at 5:30.

Joe was a good friend from my BZ days. More from WBZ here. He will be missed.

"Most people in an industry are blind in the same way - they're all paying attention to the same things, and not paying attention to the same things." Gary Hamel

This year's NAB was simply the best, a killer show start to finish. There are billion dollar opportunities in today's discontinuity (to paraphrase Gary Hamel - who goes on). "Keep asking yourself, What's changing? What's the opportunity this presents?" It's all about getting addicted to change. One of his best lines is..."There is no proprietary data about the future." Think about it. Keep thinking about it.

Congrats and kudos to Nigel Spratling and his gang on a smash NAB HD "second-season". Bravos also to Mark Brown and his SignaSys crew from San Jose, they built 5,000 sf of leading-edge facility and studio from scratch. The NAB HD NewsCopter delivered amazing live video. Strong remote live shots, well-produced (taped and live) studio interviews, dawn to dusk event coverage. You had to see "the Nigel show" to believe it - outstanding by any measure. I am honored to have been invited to participate again this year.

Congrats to Joy 99.7FM, Ghana's first private commercial station, and the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korea's national pubcaster on their NAB International Broadcasting Excellence Awards.

Leslie Stimson and the IMAS team provided fine coverage of the event, publishing their daily (bulldog and PM editions) onsite over the show run.

David Rehr made an outstanding first impression, his opening keynote hit perfect notes. Bruce Reese deserves high marks for his tireless work as joint board chair - he leads by example.

Tom Webster of Edison Media Research has written about radio's "HR crisis", while I have to agree to disagree on some of his points he deserves praise for starting a conversation on the subject matter (another symptom of radio's leadership problem). Join the conversation here.
P.S. The one and only living legend, and exceptionally gifted talent, Frank Kingston Smith (WFIL, WRKO, WABC, WVBF, WBZ, WODS, etc) weighs in among others.

Esther Dyson and Vint Cerf ponder the internet's future, a good read via WSJ Online here

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Organizations have a gravity, the weight is constantly being pushed into being problem-focused, and one has to fight it all the time. Not very many organizations are good at what I call 'exploitation of success.'" Peter Drucker

One of the best, and least covered, NAB 2006 sessions was the farewell address delivered by RAB CEO Gary Fries. Gary told it like it is. He was spot on when he said too many market managers continue the tradition of beginning their day with a shared single item agenda - destroy the guy accross the street. Truth be told, there is no such thing as the "radio industry" and there never has been. Broadcast is a collection of regulated small businesses that go to work each day ready to engage in the accepted doctrine of a zero sum game; managers are preoccupied with a single purpose...killing each other.

Bad metrics drive this behavior. Rather than a careful analysis of a market's total ad spend (all media), broadcast tends to focus on broadcast. Assisted by state-of-the-art competitive, managers direct sellers to get their share of live, real-time, dollars. The daily fight for ad spend becomes an internecine intramural, a brutal battle fought in a single media silo. That's the bad news, the good news is a growing number of operators are waking up and discovering all of the new opportunities, ones that only require hard work and fresh critical thinking to develop. I commend Gary Fries for having the courage to say what he has said, for caring enough about the business to deliver a much needed wake up call, and for leaving us with a sharing of his lessons learned...unvarnished and politically incorrect. Cheers!

Great to see George Hyde, Ron Ruth and everyone's favorite evangelist, Sparky, at last week's show. Kudos, congrats and bravo to Teri Rabel and staff for another wonderful NAB international reception - the best ever!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Being number one requires no explanation" Paul Drew

Paul Drew deserves far more credit than he gets. He remains one of the masters of the radio art and it is fair to say we can all learn something from "PD." Paul's teaching was rich with metaphor, especially sports metaphor; he loved Lombardi's attitude on what it takes to be #1 and lived it. The Lombardi book Run to Daylight has been an annual read for me since Paul first suggested it.

Paul was also fond of saying "planning affords the best ROI." He would suggest locking up your seasonal promotions and programming early (read: planning Christmas in June) giving one more time to think about, develop topical promotions and programming.

Let me now share some thoughts on one type of planning - succession planning. The majority of media organizations fail to search for talent until the need becomes urgent. When the team starts to focus on the urgent rather than the important, the eye is not on the ball and matters can get seriously out of hand. The identification, recruitment, development and retention of talent deserves to be high on the agenda of every media enterprise. However, most media firms fail to respect or properly appreciate HR. Too often charged only with thankless tasks related to compliance HR should also serve as the lead in creating a challenging, positive environment for creatives. Job one should be the care and feeding of individuals obsessed and passionate about the art. Job two is continuous, relentless recruitment. Indeed, the very best time to find a rock star is before you need one.

At the local level most media properties give the business manager responsibility for HR (one of those additional duties as assigned). What might be the single most overworked department in the shop gets delegated the mission critical assignment of caring for the future. This is beyond understanding. Exceptional and gifted talent has never been available in greater supply than it is today. However, not enough teams are taking advantage of this abundance of riches. In point of fact, never before has more time and money been wasted on ineffectual, failed recruitment efforts. To blame the talent pool, or lack of one, is naive, disingenuous - to use the off-repeated canard "there's no one out there" when failing to build the needed team is malfeasance. Enough already. Those that would have you believe young people are not chasing media jobs today as they once did are the very same folks that did not attend the student-rich RTNDA/NAB sessions last week, the same, pardon me, hacks who have no idea what the Bayliss scholars and intern programs are about. The fish stinks at the head first and what we have here is a first class leadership problem. Make that leadership crisis.

Investing modest amounts in trade and consumer ads to meet your EEO model is prudent, to depend on those ads to actually bring you qualified candidates is foolhardy. As Kevin Sweeney once taught us about newspaper classifieds "The people our clients want to reach already have good jobs, they don't read the want ads" When what you are doing is not delivering the needed result you need to stop and do something different. There is just no good excuse for replicating avoidable failure.

Over the years we have employed many methods in succession planning and found two in particular to be excellent: scenario planning and game theory.

The Royal Dutch/Shell method is a personal favorite but there are many flavors to choose from. More on scenario planning here and Martin Borjesson has put together a good resource page including links here. You may find reading on game theory here, here and here.

Here then is the mission...

Identify a first and a second choice to replace every talent now on your team. You may find some are under contract, no matter, get to know them and stay close. Cultivate a relationship with all of your candidates. Granted this is nothing short of a major load of hard work - no way around it - but you'll find it to be a very valuable investment, one that yields an exceptional ROI.

On the day job we helped a station identify and pre-screen a complete staff of anchors and reporters. That team was ready when they lost their morning star without notice. We are now at work on a succession planning assignment for another station in the group. this relates to the David Lee Roth adventure. Was it a failure of succession planning by Joel Hollander and staff? No, the answer is not that simple. Lots of moving parts at work. The mess, in my opinion, had its origin during Mel's watch. Mel's loyalty to Howard while commendable also seems to have resulted in a complete lack of planning for the day when Howard was no longer there. Was it Mel who made the first mistake by taking his eye off the ball - the result a company now being made to pay for a serious compounded error? One could make that case.

While I'm at it please allow me to disabuse you of a romantic used to be a better place to work than it is today. Unadulterated nonsense. No matter the media - newspapering, broadcast, wired, each and all is much better today, more exciting, filled with far greater promise. The folks complaining the most are those belonging to "the party of the past." They tend to be those who have become highly skilled at a game that is no longer being played (my thanks to Goldsmith). I once made the mistake of saying there were not as many new artists being signed by labels, I remain in Paul Drew's debt for his reply "look at this weeks Billboard Hot 100 and you'll find lots of artists that were not around a year ago." A truly valuable lesson. It was ever thus; Fox has three hits passed on by others...Idol, House and 24 - each fresh and radical in their own right. One may respect the past, have good memories of days gone by but one must live in the present making the best of the hand you now hold. Which brings me to the good doctor Hamel. Gary Hamel has suggested leaders employ radical measures...

"Does the word "radical" still make you uncomfortable? Get over it. Today's world is a tough place. It's going to remain a tough place for the foreseeable future. You can wallow in timidity, or you can realize that the case for radical innovation is stronger than it has ever been, because there are fewer options than there have ever been. My question to anybody who's still skeptical is this: What other choice do you have? What's your Plan B?"

Read more Gary Hamel on innovation here

Seems appropriate to add a bit of Tom Peters writing...

“The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle,” strategy guru Gary Hamel reminds us. “Where,” he asks rhetorically, “are you likely to find people with the least diversity of experience, the largest investment in the past, and the greatest reverence for industrial dogma?” His answer, obvious to anyone except the incumbents: “At the Top.”

I can only say, “Amen!” And add: The Board ought to bear at least some, slight resemblance to the market we serve/aim to serve. In general, Boards do no such thing!

Bonus - thanks to the crew at Blogger for the pointer - another wicked good waste of bandwidth here

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Great baseball managers know how to get the most out of a team over a long season by understanding how to evaluate and motivate players, and when and how to hire and fire them. Learn how to apply their models and get the most out of your team."

"Every day of the baseball season, skippers skillfully juggle complex decisions, from choosing a lineup to calling for a steal. In the dugout, they handle abstract concepts like time management and training techniques. In the office, they pore over research reports and apply them to the problems at hand. Learn from the masters the methods of successful operational management (and lessons in what to avoid from baseball's biggest bunglers)." Amazon Editorial Reviews

Jeff Angus has written an excellent book. The Spring read, here

"When a management attains the company's objectives, it should always ask seriously, 'What is our business?' This requires self-discipline and responsibility. The alternative is decline." Peter Drucker

Sphere has gone live this morning (V1.5). Congrats, bravo and cheers to CEO Tony Conrad and crew. Tony has jumped out of stealth, fresh out of beta...into the live world of blog search. Sphere is a welcome addition, go play! The Sphere It! Bookmarklet is cool; a search widget for typepad is also on offer, check out their tools here and tips here.

Al Ries has written a good column on the halo effect ("What Apple's iPod and Motorola's Razr Can Teach Us"). Al says...

"Focusing your marketing message on a single word or concept has been our mantra for years. But taking this idea one step further can also produce dramatic results. To cut through the clutter in today's overcommunicated society, place your marketing dollars on your best horse. Then let that product or service serve as a halo effect for the rest of the line."

"The halo effect has a long history in marketing. In 1930, Michael Cullen created the first supermarket chain which he called "King Kullen." His breakthrough idea was his method of pricing. He decided to price 300 items at cost. Another 300 items barely above costs. And the remaining 600 or so items at very healthy margins. Guess which items he chose to advertise?The ones he sold at cost. What you advertise and what you make money on can be two different things."

Bravo Al! The column via AdAge here

Last week's NAB was the best ever. Enjoyed seeing Kurt Hanson at his RAIN Las Vegas Summit (very cool), recaps here and here. Nice to run into programming guru Alan Sneed and the young turk of brokerage Todd Fowler while having another amazing dinner at Bartolotta in the Wynn resort. Great to see Dwight and Virginia Case at the Pioneer breakfast - Dwight's acceptance was perfect (as usual). Over 700,000 sq feet of exhibit space, a strong lineup of speakers/sessions, a very well run event. Congrats to David Rehr and his staff on an excellent show. LR's Cory puts up points made in his well done NAB/RTNDA offering here

Anthony Lilley has written a fine piece in MediaGuardian...

"The biggest change in audience behaviour is that for much of the time, the folk out there have stopped being an "audience" at all. They are, increasingly, members of various communities and some of the time they listen and talk to the BBC.

The BBC clearly understands this idea. It's shot through Thompson's speech. But acting on it goes further than putting new media on an equal level to radio and TV. This is the BBC's main problem. Once a broadcaster, always a broadcaster. We don't need the BBC's permission to talk among ourselves and we don't need to do it on the BBC's (virtual) premises.

If there's one thing that really differentiates so-called "new media" folk from our brethren in "established" media, it's our version of the idea of control. Google knows that you don't need to control everything. You provide, in its case, the best search service and use it as a platform to become a key player online. From the rhetoric, the BBC gets this. It just doesn't seem to be able to resist going too far.

It appears determined to keep "audiences" within the confines of the BBC. But to do this, it plans to expand its means of delivery into every new area of media, and without questioning whether this is a) desirable or b) what the BBC is for. So we have the BBC developing search software. Is there a market failure in search engines? Not last time I looked. And take the idea that BBC Online should become the best place to publish the work of unsigned bands. Now, the BBC can be brilliant at discovering and drawing attention to unsigned bands, in the long tradition of John Peel. But the idea that it can't do this without having some virtual equivalent of every band playing on the forecourt of Broadcasting House is the worst kind of dotcommery. As is the BBC's intention to redesign its homepage to "exploit the functionality of" things like Flickr, YouTube et al. The same is true of what's been reported as the plan to build a public-service version of MySpace." Read on here (rr) - Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for the tip.

Writing in this morning's WSJ Amy Schatz says the Bells failed to get their national video franchise language into the first draft of Sen. Ted Stevens's telecom-rewrite. His draft also puts the issue of "net neutrality" into Mr Martin's shop...the FCC. Amy says two hearings ahead and markup, maybe, after the Memorial Day recess. Important stuff that deserves your attention. Contact your member of congress and weigh in, more info here . Kevin Drum provides a solid overview on the net neutrality issues here.

"In spite of email’s universal success (as a collaboration tool), and in spite of its many good traits, email contains deep, inherent flaws that force users and markets to seek alternatives to collaborating via email." Bonus - Isaac Garcia writes of The Bad in Email here. Also read his previous post The Good in Email here.

MediaNews to become the fourth-largest US dead tree co (by circ) as a result of the deal with McClatchy. More info via LA Times here.

Landon Parvin, the former Reagan speechwriter, was the creative force behind the Double Dubyas at the WHCA dinner...backstory, including the "rule" Stephen Colbert ignored here.

From Lee Abrams' blog...

"THERE ARE NO NEW IDEAS IN RADIO. Correct—that’s why WE have to create them. Time to tear down the walls…burn the old playbook and create radio for 2006." Bravo Lee, totally agreed

The first follow-on to my writing on David Lee Roth and CBS Radio coming later today.