Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions." William Swanson

From Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, unwritten rule number 22:

"This does not mean one should act impulsively. Quick, clean-cut decisions are the product of a mind that trains itself to eliminate waste - to focus on value-added thinking.

Don't waffle or flip-flop. Stand by your decision unless you find out something new - or you discover that you were wrong. Then, quickly and cleanly, make it right."

Swanson's little book is a gem. And he offers a very important lesson here. Not making a decision is actually making a decision. In today's environment not making a decision, not taking action, often results in unintended consequences. Do your homework, make an informed decision, move forward, take action. Make something happen.

Having served, in a previous life, as both an MSO and a telephony (CLEC) guy, it is interesting to watch the RBOC gang roll out their play to retain control of broadband. Nobody does the black art of lobby better than the RBOCs. When they want something they "push the button" with great effect. Tom Evslin does an excellent job of putting this mess into perspective....

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The proverb applies to incumbents with huge market share (aka former monopolies) as well as to trees and schoolyard bullies. An enormous customer base paying comfortable margins makes it nearly impossible for an incumbent to fight a disruptor in the marketplace.

Disruptive technologies which provide new and better ways of doing things are all the rage."

Read Tom's post "Price - Toppling an Incumbent" here Please do also check out Tom's outstanding book here, highly recommended.

Jason calls Kevin out...

"Kevin Rose is going to make millions of dollars (perhaps tens of millions) when he sells DIGG to Yahoo (my best guess). When he does sell DIGG--and trust me it will be sold before in the next 12 months--he will have done it on the backs of those top 50 members. Those top 50 members will get exactly... ummm..... nothing. If I was running Netscape as a startup I would create a bonus pool for these users in the case the site gets bought. I can't do that given our structure, so we're gonna just pay folks. Kevin should do something similar." This simply serves to prove that money does make you stupid and lots of money tends to make you really stupid. There is more than enough for everyone. This is beginning to take on the flavor of a high school battle of the bands. Jason is correct in his observation that few outfits can/should/will going forward "own" a vertical, them days are pretty much behind us. More from Jason here

Image at top left (inspired by Jason) from the guy who draws cartoons on the back of business cards (mine included) the consistently amazing Hugh Macleod, jump into his gaping void here

Wonderful lunch earlier this week on Chicago's near west side. The Parthenon in Greek Town. The pan fried eggplant was superb.

When the phone rings at Arbitron it's never good news. Gerry has an idea...

Radio has lost listeners to other entertainment outlets. By continuing to allow Arbitron methodology to force programming toward the lowest common denominator, radio will continue to perpetrate the crime of chasing listeners away...and further isolating potential listeners, not to mention clients that want to reach a more affluent audience.

Am I offering a specific solution? Yeah, bring back Hooper.

This company operated strictly by phone and one-on-one encounters to provide specific information about listening habits. "What are you listening to right now? What stations have you listened to in the past hour? What have you listened to in the past 24 hours? What is your favorite station?" Information would also be gathered about the respondents' age, marital status, income and ethnicity.

Some might doubt the validity of the responses. What? Like the respondents will be more accurate because they are asked to write this information down? PPM the ultimate solution, you say? Right, and the stations the things pick up in department stores should count equally as those stations the respondents choose to listen to. An improvement over diaries, sure, but not as big an improvement as...well, as Hooper.

The fact is, measuring audience is an inexact science at best. But I think we all believe we could do better than we're doing now. My question: Why aren't we trying harder?

Read all of Cagle's commentary here

My take is the exceedingly poor revenue environment has station and group management looking "outside" for excuses. Arbitron has always been one of the pinatas of choice in such times. It has been often said, when the phone rings in Columbia, or New York, or any office of Arbitron, odds are ten to one it's not a cheerful thank-you-for-doing-a-great-job call. #1 stations don't pick-up the phone to call their Arbitron reps and say thanks for the great book nor do they give any credit or praise to Arbitron for the accurate nature of those #1 estimates. The rocks go with the farm as my friend Larry Bentson says. As to bringing back C.E. Hooper in place of the estimates we now have on offer - no thanks. I must respectfully disagree with my former RKO colleague, the perennially uber-cool Gerry Cagle. The estimates produced by Arbitron are just about the best that can be produced given the methodology. Measuring audio media is a lot harder mission than it first appears to be. Agreed - the diary produces a rather crude data set, PPM is a light jump to a much superior method of capture, trade offs are inherent. Cognitive (literacy dependent) measure versus Passive capture. Recall versus Exposure. What we are facing is a sea change. The charge of programmers will be to get their audio played in as many environments as is possible. For my money the Arbitron PPM solution is the much needed next step. The problems with programming come not from chasing bad metrics, the wellspring is a leadership problem, a failure of imagination and a crisis in sales (subject matter written about here for years now). But wait, there's more...commercial estimates are just around the corner. If you think our sellers are outmatched now, stay tuned. Increasingly, smart programmers have two issues down cold...the dynamics of population in their DMA (including the practical implications of cohort replacement) and the exploitation of physics, the leverage of change in the multi-platform mediascape. Most importantly, they also excel at working closely with sales, inventing fresh new ways to create, sustain new revenues (this being the principal failure of practice at most broadcast especially public broadcasting).

The avail becomes blood sport. The days of the #1 sales department in town almost always being in residence at the #1 rated station in town is in decline. Transactional while certainly not dead is but a wee bit away from requiring life support. The entire tradition of the bid ask process now approaching incubation. The halcyon days of "push print and buy" are all but over and we are approaching the late afternoon of those storied days. The missing metier? Leadership. We have not one but two entire generations of management schooled in the finer points of transactional. Don't read me wrong here. Those that are great at programming (i.e., delivering winning numbers to the sales department) and those that are great at converting more than their fair share (e.g., sales leadership posting a close to, at or over a 2.0 power ratio) are champions, they are swinging for the fences, they are today's winners - no buts, ands or ifs. The real issue is...they are getting better and better at a game that is being played less and less. One perfect example is what happened to FM with pictures (that's the media commonly called television by those not in the trade) when auto went off the rez. Transactional is the nasty crack habit that must be marginalized. Transactional must be made to be the over the transom gravy, the gift that national too often once was in the years long since gone. Continuing to send sellers to work in what amounts to a game of optimization may well buy you today but it is not anything close to the activity nor the investment required to stay in the game. Hard work, game-changing innovation, abandonment and original thinking are the costs of doing business, the entry level investments, the ante, media will be made to pay to survive in the flat world just ahead. Showing up is just no longer good enough. Important, yes, but not good enough. Game on.

Just who the hell is this Brian Maloney? - Redux:

Hey, I'm getting the same introduction spam you are. Again, no idea who the scribbler is but he seems to be in the process of getting an education. Yep, Brian's little comments have attracted the attention of Ed Seeger, a good broadcaster and a fine gentleman by any measure. Further, Brian's generous, free-wheeling use of editorial linkage has come under the ever watchful eye of one James Smith, yes - that seasoned Chicago, and other major market, vet affectionately known to locals as Juke Box Jimmy. Class is in. You may catch Brian's so-called writing along with Ed and Jim's comments here Closed circuit to Tom Taylor: stop this man before he hurts himself again.