Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Work for a boss to whom you can tell it like it is. Remember, you can't pick your family, but you can pick your boss." William Swanson

Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management:
unwritten rule number six...

"The point here is that in the workplace, unlike your family, you have a choice. You will have many bosses in the course of your career. You are not totally passive in the process of 'selecting' your boss. You have a choice, more than you may realize. Be proactive."

A good friend called to catch up earlier this week. We talked of many things and ended up discussing office politics. Sometimes good people get into bad situations. They end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. The miasma of misfortune sets in. It comes time to delegate blame and they are asked to take one for the team. Life is not fair and no one is going to save you, you have to save yourself. Three lessons, taught me by experience, seem appropriate to mention:

We teach others how to treat us.

Whatever you allow, you encourage.

What you count, you improve.

Beginning of the end: Harvey Mackay suggests the way to end your meeting...

"What are the five things that could go wrong, and what would we do about each?" (Thanks to Tom Peters)

"The difficult we do at once. The impossible might take a few minutes." Sign posted in the newsroom of KLIF, Dallas during the Gordon McLendon era.

"Never try to tell a joke in Japan, Germany or at the Vatican." Christopher Buckley (Good counsel, wish I'd known this prior to my first presentation at MIDEM)

"Either way, struck forte or pianissimo, novelty is the designer's main note. The most impressive designs are those that seem naturally right, unimprovable, inevitable." Raymond Loewy

The glory:
Our favorite ninja interviews Will Ferrell. Kudos - outstanding! Via YouTube here.

Something bad wrong here:
That's exactly what my Georgia relatives would say should they hear about what Kathy Sierra has put up with this week. Kathy tells her story here. I agree with Seth here and with Hugh here. Kathy is a good person, no one deserves this twisted stuff less than she. There is never an excuse for bad manners but this is clearly beyond the pale. Darker than Mahler's 6th symphony. No excuse is good enough, none whatsoever. Kathy, you may count me in your corner.

Friday, March 30, 2007


On the Road Manuscript #1


Thomas Hawk

Bravo! Great shot, cool story. Thanks for sharing.

"When you talk to Sweeney the people of bluer blood will understand, whereas if you talk to Stuyvesants, the Sweeneys won't listen - you can't lose by saying so Sweeney understands." Leo McGivena

Tell it to Sweeney is a lesson from the founding of America's first tabloid. The grandson of the Chicago Tribune founder noticed how difficult broadsheets were to read on New York's crowded rush hour trains. This single obvious observation led Joseph Medill Patterson to launch the New York Daily News in 1919. Combined with the new smaller form factor was a fresh new approach to writing, speaking to the working class using tight, crisp, familiar everyday language. It was a lesson that served us well, many decades later when we "refreshed" the sound of 1010 WINS radio in the city. Relate! You can't lose by saying so Sweeney understands.

"The only thing that can stop a good viral idea is when it runs out of population" Sean Parker Taken from Sean's conversation with Michael Arrington. Read what the co-founder of Napster and Plaxo and founding prexy of Facebook is up to with his latest endeavor, Project Agape, here.

"People come back to places that send them away" Dave Winer. Journey to places online that you would not otherwise ever find. It's a favorite waste of bandwidth. It's StumbleUpon. It's fun. Oh, the places you will go. Check it out here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Are you having fun?" Larry Bentson

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

The fun factor

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

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

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

Are you having fun?

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus: Irrational Public Radio

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007




Paparazzi Liz

The shot is a beauty.

Thank you!

"First class is only eighty percent more" Johnny Martin

My dad had a way with words. A lateral thinker, great wit and contrarian, he often suggested embracing the paradox: every complex problem has a simple solution. The popular paraphrase of Occam's razor states..."All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one." The actual principle translated from the Latin is "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

The temptation is to over-think a complex problem.

It's a trap.

Launching a new morning show is certainly important work but it should not be confused with launching the space shuttle. This is not a life saving hospital, we're not looking for a cure for cancer, it's only a TV station. Gary Hamel was spot-on when he said "Perspective is worth ten IQ points."

Once, excited about a job offer at a big station in a major market, I called my dad for advice. My thought was the situation was unique, different from any other. A bigger-than-life personality and musician who got his start working in black radio he had the ability to see the world in context, the imagination to perceive possibility. He said "It's only a radio station. Stations are all in the same business, only the call letters change. The mission is to get the ratings and sell the advertising at a profit. Most important it's show business and without a show you're out of business."

It's all about the show and the show is hard work. The show is fun, engaging, arresting, moving, entertaining, interesting, breathtaking, memorable, informative. The show is evocative, it strikes the responsive chord, it connects, relates and involves the audience. It's the show that gets them into the tent. It's the show that keeps them coming back. It's the show that gets them talking. It's the show that pays the bills; the show creates wealth. It's the show that wins.

All that's important is what's on the screen(s), what's coming out of the speakers, everything else is a footnote. It's the show!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Congrats & cheers: Les Moonves on a great hire. Dan Mason on an incredible opportunity. Google, the 3:14 easter eggs on themed personalized pages - genius!

Monday, March 26, 2007

"If you're building brands, go work for Procter & Gamble." Bob Lefsetz

Tom Teuber
sent me an article from ENCORE Magazine. A writing by Bob Lefsetz titled Branding?!?. Today's quotation is taken from that writing. Here's more...

"Have you ever heard someone wax rhapsodic about TIDE? THAT'S a brand. The Beatles were a BAND! It's not about the peripheral chozzerai, but the MUSIC ITSELF!

The music is its OWN brand. The music should be able to speak IRRELEVANT of what the players look like, irrelevant of the sell.

The old executives knew this They searched for excellence. Look at A&M, they didn't sign the same vapid pop crap again and again just a wide variety of stuff that SOUNDED GOOD! Same deal with Bob Krasnow's Elektra."

You may read the entire article here. My thanks to Tom for sharing the article. Bravos to Bob for his writing and for raising an important issue. Seems to me that we have a leadership problem combined with a massive failure of imagination. The brilliant David Mamet said it best when he suggested everyone working in Hollywood is a bit of a fraud, they were all making it up, no one really knows how to make a hit, no one honestly understands the secret to box office gold. The truth be told there is only one rule in the performing arts - there are no rules. There is no magic formula. American Idol, CSI, Lost and Desperate Housewives each got on the air by mistake. Each was a surprise hit. Turns out few besides the viewers liked those shows until they became hits. The folks leading the TV industry go to work everyday and make it up. The same holds true in the music business, the publishing business, the radio business, any and all of the hit driven enterprises. 146 MP3 players on the market yet only one captures significant share. Hundreds of search engines yet only one is consistently favored. Lots of browsers are available to you yet the odds are you are reading this using some release of IE. The market is beautifully irrational.

We need more Clive Davis, less six sigma.

Clive Davis has the golden ear. He is the legendary gentleman with a rare gift. He understands potential, he is sensitive to the possible. "The plays the thing" said Shakespeare and Clive Davis gets that. He gets that it's in the grooves or not. It's binary. It's off or it's on. You need to first have a show before you can have a show business. This is more art than science. What drives the accountants mad is the inability to reduce hit making to a science. Their goal is to structure hit making in a way that is economically efficient removing the mess, waste and chaos from the process. Entire industries suit up daily and spend millions to crack the code. The soup of the day is branding. The popular wisdom holds that one can use the tenets and disciplines of successful package goods marketing to sell anything including music. What gets lost in this approach is the obvious. Before you can sell something you have to create something. Investing focus and resources on building demand sounds reasonable, using the fast moving consumer goods playbook seems logical. Thinking one can just manufacture buzz is kinda cool. Only the facts get in the way of this elegant simple logic. The reality is P&G fails. Not every sku is a winner. They're making it up.

A great product creates its own demand.

The silver bullet is the silver bullet itself not some process. The "process" of music happens in your head. In his excellent book This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel Levitin writes...

" in visual art, music plays on not just what notes are sounded, but which ones are not. Miles Davis famously described his improvisational technique as parallel to the way that Picasso described his use of a canvas: The most critical aspect of the work, both artists said, was not the objects themselves, but the space between the objects. In Miles's case, he described the most important part of his solos as the empty space between the notes, the 'air' that he placed between one note and the next. Knowing precisely when to hit the next note, and allowing the listener time to anticipate it, is a hallmark of Davis's genius."

Want to watch an MBA meltdown? Tell them the secret sauce is what you don't put in. Brandon Tartakoff knew how to watch for what was not on and, in a manner similar, Kevin Weatherly, Jack Swanson and Brian Kelly understand how to listen for what's not there. One can certainly argue that what makes Tide successful is what they leave out, what is not in the soap, what is not a part of the look, feel and smell of the soap itself and what is not found on the package. You can say that Tide buyers are emotional about the product, you can go so far as to say that some love Tide more than any other soap. However as Bob Lefsetz has said Tide is an inanimate object. Music, entertainment, the performing arts involve our emotions at levels higher than package goods. I will stipulate that emotions are involved in the purchase of soap but in the majority of cases the relative intensity of those emotions involved in music are far greater, deeper, more complex. This is not to suggest that selling soap is easy, it's not. My thought is hit making is exceedingly difficult. Understanding why one track is a hit and another is not remains elusive. Why the majority of new stuff fails to connect, fails to become a popular hit is still a mystery. Don't tell the accountants but we really are making this stuff up, all of us. Honest.

At the beginning and the end of the day the best marketing is the product itself. We live in a cool new world of permanent beta. Before you believe that accountants and bankers have all the answers you may wish to remember those are the same folks who extended loans to guys with guns in South America. Guys that said "covenants, we don't need no stinking covenants." The bankers wrote off hundreds of millions. Same can be said for the bankers and their VC pals on another big occasion. They actually bought into the now clearly goofy and silly notions of NASDAQ 5,000...all the way to the bank (OPM, some of mine and perhaps some of yours). Bankers and the various players in the professional investment communities should not be viewed as being especially smart. One need only to look at their record.

I am reminded of something Dwight Case once told the RKO program directors. We were all geeking out on music research during one of our annual meetings and Dwight stood before us and said "Every once in a while I want you guys to tell me that you put a song on the radio just because it sounds great. I want you to remember that the turntable is one of your best research tools." Of course, Dwight was right. To succeed sooner one must learn and appreciate how to fail faster. The plays the thing not the marketing, not the branding.

Bonus: Zany Brit fresh from sxsw goes off. Our A-list blogger who draws cartoons on the back of business cards (mine included) has taken to full rant. A wonderful thing to behold. Highly recommended. Check out Hugh here. Closed circuit to Hugh - bravo! More sugar!

Friday, March 23, 2007

"Take me wandering through these streets where bright lights and angels meet" Paolo Nutini

We're in luck.

Bob Shannon (left) the brilliant creative and affable author has decided to grace us with a book. The estimable and inimitable Mr Shannon is working on a writing about radio in the second half of the 20th century. He's inked a deal with Southern Sky Publishing.

For those who know his writing, either his current work residing on Joel Denver's AllAccess or his earlier Radio & Records "Legends" column, no encomium is needed here. Expect nothing less than a panegyric on the best, the brightest, the greatest. Bob will take us wandering through streets of the past where bright lights and angels we'll meet, and we will all learn, each of us better for the reading. Congrats and cheers to my long-time friend, the uber-mensch Bob Shannon.

The freak show: Thanks to them internets we are able to enjoy a wide variety of povs. In the past week several folks have shared items posted on blogs and message boards. The items have one thing in common - they lack perspective. "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" so said Darwin. Some folks are mad about change, angry at the march of technology, bitter that the rules have changed and they never got their at bat. Others are members of the old guard, the party of the past, those with an irradicable reverence for industry dogma. My thought is the writers of these items are not looking at the forest nor the trees instead they are seeing nothing but the bark. To see reality as it is, not as it was or as one wishes it to be is important but it's difficult, hard work. Having a sense of history is critical, it provides one with context. I love Robert Kaplan's writing for that reason. He walks into another country knowing that to understand what's happening now one must be aware, informed of what happened before. A grasp of how we got here provides richer meaning.

The Monday morning quarterbacks abound. Someone who has never owned or even managed a single station certainly has every right to their opinion. But what is that opinion worth? As Buzz Bennett famously said "Everyone has the right to program" but does everyone have the right to head a major market group (in the least suggesting or pretending they're up to the challenge)? Of course, but keep in mind it is what it is and nothing more. How does one value the gravity, the intellectual honesty of a pov? It would seem fair to ask - is the writer qualified and how? Are they smart enough to actually lead a major group? Have they done it? Are they now or have they ever been on a short list to head a major group? Forget heading the group, are they even qualified to serve on the board? Let the reader beware. Disc jockeys, present and former, second guessing the suits at the top, trash talking the captains of industry and the owners is nothing new. Those wacky jocks, they've got all the answers - just ask them. Delusional hacks? Perhaps not. The truth may be they don't know what they don't know. They do know how to run their mouth. Consider the source and remember the adage that begins: Those who can, do.

P.S. Bob's current AllAccess writing is a multi-part piece on the great radio star Dick Biondi. Highly recommended.

P.S.2 Please check out the Paolo Nutini "New Shoes" vid via YouTube: US version here UK version (better) here Live version (best) here. He did a great job on Leno last night. "Short on money but long on time." A fresh, tight track from last summer. This kid is a star. Suddenly - what a killer word to use in a lyric. That word always reminds me of the Mankiewicz tour de force Suddenly, Last Summer. If you have not seen it - please do rent it this weekend, if you have seen it this mention might just make you want to see it again - go ahead, you know how good it is.

Next time: Thanks to a writing provided me by that clever programming ace Tom Teuber I'm inspired and a rant is the result.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bob Wilson needs our help.

Radio & Records
founder Bob Wilson is recovering from a series of strokes and a special needs trust has been established to assist in his recovery. Please join me in giving what you can to help this great gentleman. The Robert Wilson Special Needs Trust c/o First Republic Bank, 12070 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA 91604-2608. Thanks to Joel Denver and AllAccess for the tip.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"I don't believe that's likely" Mel Karmazin

Mel has had better days. With those above quoted words from his sworn testimony before a Senate Subcommittee Mel may have helped to write the next NAB media release on the XM-Sirius merger issue. Lots happened in the hearing. Here is my take on some of it.

Mel would have us believe the pay radio combination would only be a small player: 13.6 million subs, less than 4% of the national listening, a combined business that has billed under $70 million in ad dollars over the past five years. Mel said that Sirius alone has lost $3.8 billion dollars but the proposed merger is not needed for him to survive. He's right, of course, pay radio is a small segment of today's audio marketplace. Those who believe pay radio is a big deal are in the minority including the subs, some working at the broadcasting trades and consumer press, some wall street analysts, and some number of folks holding XM and Sirius equity and debt. Mel finds himself in the position of downplaying the considerable patinas of the XM and Sirius PR efforts. The greatest consumer electronics revolution in history now becomes the little pro-consumer companies that could, if only allowed to by congress.

The honorable gentleman from Wisconsin, Senator Kohl, after saying that Mel was smart and could be on to a big and good business, a colossus, in the proposed combination then asked if Mel thought that another satellite radio company would emerge. In an intellectually honest moment Mel replied "I don't believe that's likely." In that moment of candor the gentleman who is arguably one of the greatest salesmen of his generation may have made a critical misstep. One could suggest that what he said was he believes, granted a government-sanctioned monopoly, he would remain without a direct competitor in his licensed space. Perhaps it would have served him better to have simply answered "Mr. Chairman, I don't know." After all, visibility with respect to tech today is accepted as Delphian. He later went on attempting to add some additional perspective and context to the issue of his competition. His team would be wise to respond with a further, more well reasoned and detailed response in a writing to the Chairman and to the Subcommittee.

For Mel obscenity is the issue that will not go away. It was the Senator who once "crossed swords" with Mel over Janet Jackson who renewed the good fight. Saying that Mel had come calling on him earlier in the day Senator Brownback wanted to talk about pornography. Without bringing in the record, an event certain to occur in the coming days in an attempt to establish Mel's "pattern of behavior," the gentleman from Kansas asked if Mel was willing to get out of the business of questionable content to get the deal done. Mel said that he was not. Senator Brownback's preface to the question included a variety of citations on the damage being done to society by porn. During the hearing Mel attempted to frame this as properly a first amendment issue. Cue the Supremes. Senator Hatch, the ranking member, chased the obscenity issue and asked that Mel consider doing something for the good of mankind. One of the more brilliant politic moments of the hearing - how could one possibly refuse to consider doing something for the betterment of mankind? Genius! The Chairman also agreed, obscenity is not a good thing.

David Balto a member of the club with a specialty in antitrust stuff was the wild card. He clearly understands regulatory and the legislative process. Advantaged with over twenty years spent deep in the antitrust canon, this gentleman could load the gun for members wanting to kill the deal. In fact, I'd pay real money to see a Balto-Karmazin cage match (no doubt a great ppv opportunity).

Mel's parting shot at the NAB was to ask for that level playing field, the one that included broadcasters "pay for performance rights and spectrum". A comment perhaps smacking a tat too much of Glengarry Glen Ross bravado.

My sense is the odds remain 6 to 5 against the merger. One of Mel's greatest strengths is his downfall in appearing before members - he is quick on the draw, in fact a bit too quick. Quoted as previously saying "You are dealing with two companies - it would be great if there was a monopoly, but the second best thing to a monopoly is a duopoly" he now says "There is no monopoly or duopoly. That's the most bizarre thing I've ever heard." Too clever by half. The congress, by nature, is deliberative. If he wants to win this Mel should take the advice that he once imparted to me: "ready, aim, fire...we have an urgent need to be right." Mel should make the right argument and that will require carefully measured speech. We've all got a good seat for this one. It will be very interesting to watch what may one day be called Mel's last great pitch. Unless, that is, they don't buy or they do buy. Never count this guy out.

I would have made this shorter but I didn't have the time.

"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats." Howard Aiken

"It is easier to get into something than to get out of it." William Swanson

Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management: unwritten rule number two...

"One should not be timid about committing, but one should commit only when one has a clear sense of goals and means. Invariably, it is more complicated and potentially more costly to undo an action already under way than to change a decision before it is acted upon.

This principle has specific meaning in many fields, including the transition of engineering solutions to manufacturing...

By involving all elements of the team - including manufacturing - early in the design process, producibility will be built in. Designing in quality is a lot more effective than inspecting - or testing - it in later. Customers understand this acutely. Get your suppliers on board, too.

Put another way: remember your first speeding ticket? It was so easy to exceed the limit, but there would have been so much less pain in the long run if you had observed good process - and the speed limit."

Enjoyed the annual sxsw Bruce Sterling rant. Some almost quotes (from my notes): "2007 is the year of video" "Video is the worst medium" "You pitch Google and Wikipedia together and it's kind of game over for the eighties." "There are's a new world of laptop gypsies where there used to be sorta solid professionals." "Mashups are novelty's bad's a pastiche." "Fan art is terrible, it's not good and it's never gonna be good." "Folk culture is for hicks." "The teens are coming...native internet generation cares nothing for the proprieties of the 20th century media...time is not on the side of the incumbents." "It's hard to find a blog that will make you cry." On blogs, a form he sees as transitional: "I saw this, this, this and this. Sort of like watching you get beaten to death with croƻtons." "The media are not converging, they're all becoming sort of different flavors out of the same mixing machine." Bruce talked about the writing of Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, and spoke about "commons-based peer production" and quoted Benkler "Computers are platforms for self expression rather than well behaved appliances." Bruce also spoke of Henry Jenkins, Lev Manovich and Richard Stallman. Bruce left us with the words of Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz "Gift." Bravo Bruce! Really well done.

Bruce is spot-on about the teens. Cohort replacement is a beautiful thing. My sense is the only thing getting in the way of progress with the internet (and media), the root of today's problems, may be reduced to three words: old white men. The wrong old white men. We have too few enlightened seniors and way too many that are scared. Afraid to let go of the past. Dedicated to keeping everything the way it was. This will be messy, this will not be a smooth evolution. There is a genetic blindness at work here. Arrogance + ignorance + money = really stupid stuff happens. As Gary Hamel has said the bottleneck is at the top. It's a leadership problem.

Melapalooza: Mr Karmazin goes to Washington, this time the Senate. He's at bat before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The hearing, by the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, begins this afternoon at 2:15 eastern. Mel's guest stars this round include Mary Quass, David Balto and Gigi Sohn. The hearing "The XM-Sirius Merger: Monopoly or Competition from New Technologies" will have Chairman Herb Kohl (WI) presiding. Check out all the action via the Senate webcast here. As the great Gary Owens is fond of saying "Don't miss it if you can."

: John Long, RKO Super Achiever and legendary programming ace, emails to say he is involved in the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. Great idea. Perfect place to honor Drake, Drew, Ellis, Burkhart, Jockey Jack Gibson (and the entire WERD gang). Congrats and cheers to the Longman!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Hugh MacLeod

Thanks Hugh!

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Jonathan Swift

Lawrence Lessig
delivers the mail, his New York Times Op-Ed, Make Way for Copyright Chaos...

"The Internet will now face years of uncertainty before this fundamental question about the meaning of a decade-old legislative deal gets resolved.

No doubt the justices are clever, maybe even more clever than Congress. But however clever, it’s hard to believe that their input is worth the millions in economic value that will be wasted long before they announce their decision."

Bravo Larry! Well said. Read the entire writing here. If you have not yet written to your senators and representative please do so. You may get more information and sign an online petition by clicking on the Save The Streams banner found at the upper left of this page. Since congress is hearing happy, we might as well get in line. We need congressional action to get this fixed. Kurt Hanson has written an excellent post - Copyright law and the CRB: What went wrong? here. Bravo Kurt and Paul!

Talk is cheap, whiskey cost money: Would you pay $50 per year for "free music"? Peter Jenner via Wired here. Doc's Internet Radio on Death Row here.

One call does it all: GrandCentral, now in beta, offers up some cool telephone services. You sign up, get your universal GC phone number and when folks call you it rings all of your phones at once. You may also screen your calls. Lots more on the services here. (Thanks to Tim and O'Reilly Radar for the tip)

Dan Rather, Bruce Sterling, Amanda, Phillip Torrone, Kathy Sierra, Daniel Raffel and more: The SXSW Podcasts here.

Bonus: Idol Critic Liza Persky rocks! Congrats and cheers to Liza, Mary, Peter and Jeff. The obvious remains the most difficult to see.

Bonus 2: PrezVid Peter Hauck and Jeff Jarvis cover the 08 one day sale via YouTube - smart, very smart. Bravo! ( ibid, the obvious)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss." Emerson

The New York Times
gets it, they're on Twitter. Very smart. Check out the NYT Twitter set up by Dave Winer here. Timesman Jacob Harris advises Dave they have been on since March 5. (Thanks to Dave Winer for the tip and the cool river) Now, how long before the first and second tribes of wireless get it. Your station, your personalities, should be on now. Seems the perfect place too to let folks know what you're "working on in the newsroom", breaking, etc. My sense is someone at Today will be on this next week. Surprised that Amanda is not on for ABC or is she?

Congrats & cheers: Heather Harde joins TechCrunch as CEO. We can expect Michael's already superb content to get even better. Announcement here.

Cobo Countdown: Fred Winston shares some parting shots here and here. He's certain to have some cool pics and stories to share when he returns.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Is Twitter TOO Good?" Kathy Sierra

This was the week that was for Twitter.

Andrew Lavallee writes Friends Swap Twitters, and Frustration via WSJ here.

Kathy Sierra has done her usual good job of providing us with some perspective. The illustration is taken from her Is Twitter TOO Good post...

"Twitter scares me. For all its popularity, I see at least three issues: 1) it's a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, the key addictive element of slot machines. 2) The strong "feeling of connectedness" Twitterers get can trick the brain into thinking its having a meaningful social interaction, while another (ancient) part of the brain "knows" something crucial to human survival is missing. 3) Twitter is yet another--potentially more dramatic--contribution to the problems of always-on multi-tasking... you can't be Twittering (or emailing or chatting, of course) and simultaneously be in deep thought and/or a flow state."

Read Kathy's entire writing here. Bravo Kathy, well done! What are you doing? Should the 18-34 crowd be important to you, check out Twitter, early adopters are all over it. Kudos to the gang at Obvious.

Congrats & cheers: Microsoft's IE7 update does a beautiful job of rendering text. Downloaded it yesterday and was immediately impressed. Clearly, Microsoft's investments and study in the arts/sciences of reading text have brought us some very cool improvements. Bravo to all involved. You may upgrade free however you need to be running at least XP. Internet Explorer Seven.

Friday, March 16, 2007

"The Cirque's objective will remain the same: to contaminate the planet with good creative projects that suggest reasons to hope." Guy Laliberte

Today's quotation from the founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, the man who calls himself "The Guide" who also said "We are, essentially, messengers of good news and carriers of hope." What began over twenty years ago as a band of Quebec street performers is today the privately-held firm doing about one million dollars a day in ticket sales in Vegas alone. Gilles Ste-Croix, a founding member of Cirque said the soul of the company is its creativity "...our ability to start from scratch, from a white page, till we've come up with stuff nobody has ever dreamed of before...and then to risk it, and find ways to make it happen, and for the public to go: Wow!" Daniel Lamarre, Cirque's president sums up the day to day: "A typical day at the office for me begins by asking 'What is impossible that I am going to do today'...If there's a pattern that exists, we're going to break the mold."

What good news, hope and original wow will you bring into the world today?

What is impossible that you are working on today?

What mold are you intent on breaking?

Go for greatness!

Word around midtown is Joel Hollander is leaving CBS. Good man, he will go on to do amazing things elsewhere.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself that either thought or theory." William Wordsworth

I love my Google home page. It allows me to add stuff I want and position elements on the page. Stuff I want, how I want it.


Stations should consider the same approach. Let me customize the primary content area. Make it easy for me to make your site my personalized home page.

Everything is Miscellaneous: The book (preorder via Amazon) by David Weinberger has a companion blog (beta) here. Book ships May 1. Bravo David!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"We have more power than will; and it is only to exculpate ourselves that we often say that things are impracticable." La Rochefoucauld

The inconvenient truth:
Almost daily we hear, see or read something that suggests today's teenagers are using media in dramatically different ways. True. We are living in a dramatically different media world. Nothing stops technology and the velocity of change is incredible, at times even difficult to fully grasp. What has not changed is the teen appetite for new. Like those who went before them they make the hits and make them fresh daily. The container always less important than the content, the technology becoming transparent. Their iPod, cell and computer compliment their other audio and video behaviors. First generation wireless is actually alive and well. It is not, as some have suggested, that teens no longer listen to the radio, they do. It is that not many in the trade are dedicating themselves to committing great radio for the youth market. There are notable exceptions. Brian Kelly is making it happen. He's the goods, one of the best radio programming chiefs working today; Brian's stations are fresh, engaging, arresting, entertaining and just plain fun to listen to. For those who may harbor the illusion that teens no longer listen to radio may I present the facts. Exhibit A: In the Spring 06 Arbitron, Kelly's station, Milwaukee's 1037 KISS FM (WXSS) delivered a 57.8 teen cume rating. In fact, a trending of each Fall sweep since 2003 reveals his teen cume rating has increased each and every year! MySpace. Station site. But wait...there's more. His team has cool vids on YouTube, to wit: this 100K+ views video and his latest "Tix in a box." Brian Kelly gets it, check out his stuff. All that's important is what's on the screen(s) and what's coming out of the speakers, everything else is a footnote.

Congrats & cheers: Jay Rosen launches AssignmentZero. "Pro-am journalism opens on the web" Bravo! WaPo's Joel Achenbach blogs the backstory here. Another music site debut, check out here.

Your copier remembers: AP tech writer May Wong writes Your New ID-Theft Worry? Photocopiers via Wired here.

Things may appear larger than they really are: Today, many years ago, the great Bill Hartman and I took the shuttle to the city for a meeting at 90 Park. Our suggestion was to stop playing music and take WBZ 100% spoken word, 100% talent driven service, information and entertainment. Our proposal was 100% rejected. It was the brilliant Jimmy Yergin who weighed in on our side "The twelve hours you are doing talk is killing the twelve hours you are playing music, the reverse also holds true. Your successful evening sports talk program is killing your midday music show." Our corporate "angels" (as Bill called them) said as long as WHDH and WRKO were playing music we needed to play music and besides AM stereo was going to change everything and make us equal in fidelity to those FM stations. It was the story of WKTU and WABC that got the attention of our angels. Back in the day Mediastat issued a monthly ratings report. WKTU, an FM station playing disco, became #1 in the monthly report. The considered opinion of our corporate team was disco was the new rock n roll, WKTU's success a watershed. Tastes in popular music had been reset. It was 1955 all over again. Some execs at ABC jumped to the same conclusion and changed the music approach of WABC. Acting to preempt others ABC changed their Chicago FM from rock to disco; if ABC's WLS was to be hurt by an FM station it would be by their own FM station. The myth of first mover advantage. Being first is not important, being the first to get it right wins the race.

Bonus: My $100 Million Dollar Secret by David Weinberger

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Photo: Queen Mary 2 under the Golden Gate Bridge by niallkennedy. Thank you!

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick

"Learn to say, 'I don't know.' If used when appropriate, it will be used often." William Swanson

Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management:
unwritten rule number one...

"How many times have you been in a meeting with someone who felt compelled to contribute even though he or she obviously did not know what to say? Silence is golden in these circumstances.

If you are asked to contribute and don't know what to say - or don't have the answer - then say 'I don't know.' Maybe you should know the answer, but if you don't, say so. Learn for the next time. Even better, volunteer to go get the answer.

It is my belief that if you behave this way, you will be respected for your honesty and candor. You are not expected to know the answer to everything.

We've all been in this position, and will be again. 'I don't know' are powerful words when used appropriately."

Gettin outta Dodge: Fred Winston is packing. Check out his post and his very cool photo here.

Congrats & cheers: Amy Anderson and Alex Gould on their engagement. A more perfect "wedding cake couple" simply does not exist. I am reminded of Goethe - "Girls we love for what they are; young men for what they promise to be."

Rosenblum for philosopher king: Michael Rosenblum is writing stuff you need to read, his unvarnished take is refreshing and right on the money...

"In 1452, Gutenberg’s printing press changed forever the relationship between power and average people. It put the power to publish into the hands of anyone with an idea… and a press. The Constitution, a printed document begins with the words WE THE PEOPLE. It does not say, ‘we the anchors’. ‘We the celebrities’. ‘We the hosts’.

Now, 500 years later, video on the web puts the power to publish images and video into the hands of anyone who wants to do it. It fundamentally changes the relationship between power and average people. The potential now exists in the world of video, television and images, to change the basic nature of our relationship to the machine.

We need only take it."

Read Michael's post We The People, here.

Sam says: Sam Zell tells Bloomberg reporters "My inclination would be to not break it up". More on the Zell-Trib story by Leon Lazaroff and Suzy Assaad here.

Bonus: We Want Media

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hugh MacLeod

Thanks Hugh!

"Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." Michelangelo

The State of the News Media 2007
, the annual report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ is a part of the Pew Research Center) mentions seven new major trends...

  1. News organizations need to do more to think through the implications of this new era of shrinking ambitions.
  2. The evidence is mounting that the news industry must become more aggressive about developing a new economic model.
  3. The key question is whether the investment community sees the news business as a declining industry or an emerging one in transition.
  4. There are growing questions about whether the dominant ownership model of the last generation, the public corporation, is suited to the transition newsrooms must now make.
  5. The Argument Culture is giving way to something new, The Answer Culture.
  6. Blogging is on the brink of a new phase that will probably include scandal, profitability for some, and a splintering into elites and non-elites over standards and ethics.
  7. While journalists are becoming more serious about the Web, no clear models of how to do journalism online really exists yet, and some qualities are still only marginally explored.
You may access the full report here. Congrats and kudos to Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel and all involved in the project.

Fish stinks at the head first: From the Overview text of the PEJ report...

"The character of the next era, far from inevitable, will likely depend heavily on the quality of leadership in the newsroom and boardroom. If history is a guide, (be it Adolph Ochs, Ted Turner, or Google) it will require renegades and risk-takers to break from the conventional path and create new directions."

Renegades and risk-takers are exactly what we need.

Sam Zell may just be the perfect guy to buy Tribune. Thomas S. Mulligan has done a good job of reporting on the possible Zell-Tribune hookup via LAT - Zell's past may hint at plan for Tribune here. (Mulligan mentions the Barron's article wherein Zell claimed to have pocketed $1.3 billion on his $70 mil investment in Randy Michaels' Jacor. Should Sam prevail would he spin off Trib's broadcasting assets to Randy? Might be a good fit for the broadcast portfolio of Oak Hill Capital Partners. Plus Randy's deep understanding of radio, his passion for talk, and his rare appreciation for big stations with lots of moving parts would be serious advantages for WGN. And...what a great first move back into the radio biz.)

Hot, very hot: Proof positive you don't need a big marketing budget to have a big hit. Behold. Twitter. Related: Twitter blog.

The smell of burning cash: Ogg & Barnes calculate the burn rate and time left for the pay radio guys. XM $129.8 mil per month/10.8 months. Sirius $123 mil per month/8.4 months. Read their analysis here.


Bonus 2: SXSW Web Awards Finalists

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"...each time you start somewhere have to pay your dues all over again every time. There is no such thing as resting on your laurels." Fred Winston

From the Rick Kaempfer interview with Fred. You'll find it here. Bravo Rick! Thanks Fred; I'm honored by your kind words.

Congrats & cheers: Radio & Records News Talk winners. Kraig Kitchin, Gabe Hobbs, Mickey Luckoff, Joel Oxley, Jack Swanson, Steve Jones, KFI, KGO, WLW, Bill Handel and Rush. Kudos: To Erica Farber, Al Peterson and team R&R on what everyone tells me was a very good show.

Barry's latest bet: My favorite media mogul, Barry Diller, may be about to announce a jv with Dow Jones. The buzz is they will develop a fresh approach to the finance and investment web space with David Kansas, of fame, leading the new initiative. Smart, very smart.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"We found at 6:30 with only 22 minutes of programming time, people basically want you to tell them what happened in the world that day...That's probably the biggest lesson we learned." Sean McManus

The quotation is from the Eric Deggans writing in the St Pete Times here. Amazing.

Michael Learmonth writing in Variety - CBS taps Kaplan to boost news - "His to meet the needs and expectations of an audience that already knows the headlines of the day...'The network that is able to service that extra curiosity and answer their questions is going to build an audience.'" Read the entire article here.

Bravo! Scott Shannon and his WPLJ team of merry pranksters offer up a tune about Katie. "It must be tons of stress for the perky news princess" MP3 here. Obvious, topical, local - priceless.

My sense is rather than fight for existing share CBS news would be wise to invent new share, create a new news market space. Yes there is certainly a hole larger than a Boeing 787 between the competitive space at 6:30 now fought over by the big three and the Lehrer News Hour and the contestable space of the cable newsers. My suggestion is to look for what is not there, what is not now on offer. Here's some more thinking from Gary Hamel..."The problem with the future is not that it is unknowable. The problem with the future is that it is different. If you are unable to think differently, the future will always arrive as a surprise...confirmation of what you already believe is a complete waste of time. You must look for disconfirming evidence, for things that don't fit, for things that are ajar. This is hard, because it forces you to write off your depreciating intellectual capital - you must admit not only that you do 'not know' many things but that you 'wrongly know' many things." The good Dr. Hamel is wiser than a tree full of owls. Once more with feeling, please, say it out loud "We have a leadership problem."

The what > The why > The how
We get seduced by the game, the sirens of inside-baseball and toy department fun of how, distracted from the critical precedents of what and why. Too often the green shades get us focused on the numerator and tactics when we should instead be concentrating and obsessing on the denominator and strategy.

Industry inertia is deadly. Best practices, benchmarking and playing it safe are killing innovation in the conference room. "That's an interesting idea Jennifer, what major market stations are using that approach successfully?" Al Primo couldn't get arrested today. When NewsBlues and the watercoolers at TVSpy get more readers than LostRemote you know we have a problem. It was ever thus. There is more passion and serious, candid thinking and discussion going on today in the IT department (e.g., vi vs emacs) than in the news department (i.e., what we're doing now vs what might we be doing now). We need to confront the present with the possible. That giant sucking sound is the urgent consuming all of the oxygen in the room and killing the important.

This same massive failure of imagination can be seen in the ad sales space. Rather than develop their own new business station sales teams use competitive monitoring to target accounts unleashing a swarm of cold calls on defenseless merchants. Picture a pier in early morning light. A bunch of folks with lines in the water. One gets a fish on the line and reels it in. Rather than catch their own fish the unsuccessful others change the game, they drop their lines and run to a fight with one intention... to get a piece of the successful angler's prize.

Developing new competitive space much like developing new revenue streams will require thought, imagination, hard work and risk. To succeed sooner you will need to learn and appreciate how to fail faster. It's about art. Patrons Wanted: 21st century media Medici.

You are reading the new Michael Rosenblum blog, right? He has a great lesson on offer today, Some advice from a giant...

"You decide on a course of action, and of course you get resistance. Rather than stand your ground, you give in a little. Give in a little here… give in a little there. Try to make people happy. You compromise by degrees. One degree at a time. Pretty soon you are nowhere near where you started. In fact, you are going in completely the wrong direction.

One Degree-itits."

Bravo Michael! Read Michael's post here. The post reminds me of something my friend the brilliant Dale Pon was found of advocating, he was very passionate about what he once called "high-definition communication." For the creative to be effective it must be undiluted, free of the clutter brought by too many cooks. Dale creates advertising rich with emotion. A very serious student of advertising, Dale has no need nor want for collaborators. He preaches industrial strength reduction, getting directly to the heart, the essence of the message, preoccupied with what is seen and heard rather than what is said. The secret of his amazing work is its purity, that rare quality bereft of office politics and conference room second guessing. Four words. I Want My MTV. But what did that say about the brand? As it happened, everything.

"The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike. Because then one wrong turn can cause an entire news division to implode. We must respect and encourage diversity of thought and speech in the newsroom." Roger Ailes (from his acceptance speech RTNDF 1st Amendment Leadership Award)

Closed circuit: Attention readers. The legendary Chicago raconteur and uber-cool renaissance man Fred Winston has changed his blog address. His blog has moved here. Please make a note of it.

Bonus: Obviously

Bonus 2: Words at Play (hint: you'll need audio on and up, and please keep in mind play like news is a verb)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Photo: New American Landscape, Plate 2 by Thomas Hawk. Beautiful shot. Thank you!

"In the field of observation chance only favors minds which are prepared." Louis Pasteur

"All the daddy figures are gone...If we do the program right, the viewers will come." so says Rick Kaplan the new EP of CBS Evening News. Sean McManus made the right call in hiring the storied producer. Congrats to Rick and Katie. Best of luck to Rome Hartman. More by Bill Carter in CBS Producer Goes Around, Comes Around via NYT here.

Moving and shaking: Congrats to Spotplex. #1 on the Alexa Movers & Shakers ranker. Up 9,000% from 247,451 to 5,969. To put this in perspective, #2 was Mega Millions up 188%. Congrats to John Gehron and the Harpo Radio folks, on being honored with two AWRT Gracies.

Dreaming out loud: Fred Winston in his soon to be live interview via the blog of Rick Kaempfer reveals his station dream team. Included are Dick Biondi, Dan Sorkin, Ken Nordine, Larry Lujack and Steve Dahl. What a killer lineup. Fred is kind enough to name this humble writer as PD. Now working for those guys would be one fun gig. Thanks Fred, love ya man. Rick's blog is here, the Winston interview goes live Sunday. (Thanks to Robert Feder for the tip)

Stream saving: Kurt Hanson has done an excellent job updating the CRB ruling here. Get involved! Thanks Kurt.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail." Joseph Conrad

Yesterday The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held their second hearing on the Digital Future of the United States. While the session was billed as "Future of Radio" it quickly became the future of Mel's merger and little else. In his opening remarks Mel talked about the "confusion" about pricing and repeated his merger "will not result in higher prices" pledge. During house testimony last week he made references to the $12.95 price point and it sounded like for that price consumers would be able to get some blend of the two services. He also said other lesser than $12.95 pricing options would be made available. Turns out the present combined charges for both services, $25.90, will be the price point reduced ("substantial reduction"). So, if I may use Mel's favorite opening word, So that means while you would now have to buy two radios and sign up for two services for $25.90, post-merger you will only need one radio and pay something less than $25.90, got that? Hey wait, what happened to cutting some bucks off the $12.95 that subs are now paying? What happened to more for less? Stay tuned. Pricing schema will no doubt be a part of future hearings. It may be safe to say those wanting the best of both services will pay more than $12.95 but less than $25.90 and because he has not mentioned video services it might also be safe to suggest video would be a separate and additional charge. Who knows? Nothing has been presented on the record yet.

So, what did we learn after three hours and thirty something minutes? Mel will subsidize and bring to market an inter-operable radio ("post merger'), he is prepared to be accountable, the services billed $60 million in combined ad dollars and KDKA started in 1926. While some might jump to correct Mel saying he missed KDKA's sign-on by some six years I say let's give the man a break. With so many hours of on the record hearings yet to come the odds are good his mouth will get him into much deeper and far more interesting waters. You may watch the archived video here.

Congrats & cheers: Chuck Tweedle and staff make history. KOIT bests KGO and takes first in the trend. It is so very cool that this happened during the last days of Chuck's watch and Bonneville's ownership.

Michael Rosenblum from his post Crap TV...

How it is possible that we spend so much time, effort and money and continually produce such a mediocre product?...When television first arrived no one knew what to do with it. Radio was the big play. The best people worked in radio. No one wanted to work in TV. TV in 1948 was like the web in 1992 - a small corner with a bunch of screw ups buried in the basement. No one would imagine that TV would eat up radio. No one can imagine that the web will eat up TV."

Bravo Michael! Read Crap TV here. Bonus: Check out Michael's keynote, a tour de force, at the recent Public Media Conference 2007 here. Highly recommended!

Michael's writing reminds me of the wise words of my favorite business strategist Gary Hamel...

"Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you're on a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Of course, there are other strategies. You can change riders. You can get a committee to study the dead horse. You can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You can declare that it's cheaper to feed a dead horse. You can harness several dead horses together. But after you've tried all these things, you're still going to have to dismount. The temptation to stay on a dead horse can be overwhelming...The companies that are creating new wealth are not just getting better; they're getting different - profoundly different...the future is not an echo of the past...history suggests that top management has an enormous capacity for denial. Most senior executives grew up in a world where industry boundaries seemed inviolable, where business models aged gracefully, and where incumbency was often an overwhelming advantage. That world is gone. Get over it. Anyone who fails to recognize this fact puts his or her company's future success in grave jeopardy. Executives and employees in every company have a set of lies they tell themselves to avoid having to deal with the reality of a faltering strategy. Like an alcoholic who claims to drink only socially, managers often claim a dead business model is only sleeping. Here are some of the most used lies:

  • It's only an execution issue
  • It's an alignment problem
  • We just have to get more focused
  • It's the fault of the regulators
  • Our competitors are behaving irrationally
  • We're in a transition period
  • Everyone's losing money
  • We're investing for the long term
  • Investors don't understand our strategy"
From Gary Hamel's brilliant writing Leading the Revolution. Amazon info here.

As has been said here before broadcasting (radio and television) is a romantic notion. The problems that broadcasting is having today can be traced to one source - leadership. We have a leadership problem exacerbated by a massive failure of imagination. It's not about radio it's about audio, it's not about television it's about video. All that's important is what's on the screen(s), what's coming out of the speakers, everything else is a footnote.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Photo: JJjunki
mashup of original
, Little Bo Peep on Market Street by
Thomas Hawk

Outstanding, thank you!

"Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm." Disraeli

Carl Hiaasen
writes about Anna Nicole and the new dawn of modern journalism: "Don't make the mistake of dismissing the Smith story as an anomaly; it's a media watershed. If the death of a hapless, doped-up ex-model can knock two wars out of the headlines, there's no end to the squalid possibilities." Read We have seen the future, and it's not pretty via The Miami Herald here.

Apple unveils new product-unveiling product: "Apple claims the iLaunch can garner the same amount of press attention as a major scientific discovery, high-court ruling, celebrity meltdown, or natural disaster at 200 times the speed of a traditional media-fostered launch." More via CNET News here.

The future of radio: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet holds a hearing today at 2:30 eastern. The Digital Future of the United States: Part II - The Future of Radio. Scheduled to appear Mel Karmazin, Peter Smyth, Robert Kimball, Geoffrey Blackwell, and Gene Kimmelman. Listen in via the committee site here.

What are we selling, what's being purchased? Points or demos or environments or formats or markets or stations: Fig sends along an email wherein he compares and contrasts the Google Audio initiative with the work of his firm Softwave Media Exchange (SWMX). Fig raises some important issues that merit attention and discussion. Thanks Fig. From his email...

"- Radio station audiences are NOT generic. They each have a target, just like advertisers products & services.

- Advertisers want demographic choice. Not bulk audience markets. It goes against the basic benefit of radio. Radio's ability to target makes it attractive. Selling advertising on radio only to have it not work (because of improper targeting) will drive advertisers away from radio. ("I bought the market using radio, it didn't work") 12+ is a family reunion, not an effective radio buy. (SWMX stations offer choice because over 1,800 stations representing 40+% of all radio 12+ average quarter hours (12.4 million listeners) in 248 markets allows advertisers to choose the correct demo's for the product.)
- What % of the current Google Advertisers are NEW to Radio? (ours is 90% - Is Google more?) If they are bringing new advertisers to radio, why hire radio sales people to call on radio buyers? Who are they selling against?
- Google can preserve a stations rate card integrity by selling the station for what it is worth. Then you don't have to "hide" the station and sell radio by the pound. Let me understand, if Google sells cheap spots and takes a 50% commission, it will cause other local, loyal, station advertisers to pay more. (This is why SWMX has offered "full flighted"options.)
- A 50% commission rate is good for Google. Not radio stations.
We (SWMX) love having Google (or anyone) selling the benefits of radio. But, NO RADIO MANAGER that I know of will allow,
- The sales department to sell a cluster without knowing what stations the advertiser is going to be on. How can you repeat a successful campaign if you don't know what stations worked? Hello?
- Please let me know where a sales person can earn 50% commission. We all want to work there! (Google charges 50% for every dollar they bring to radio. SWMX gives the station 85% of the buy.
Google can do much better for radio and advertisers if it takes the time to learn what radio is all about. Bring more money into the biz, that's great! But take the time to learn why radio is so special. Then get the rate to make radio advertising (and Google) worth more.
Radio can help itself by making it easier to buy. There is too much paper, too many hoops to jump through, too many people saying "no" and not enough attention being paid to the content value. As a MAJOR purchaser of radio, SWMX has made it easier for stations to "get money." If Google really wants to help, it can start by understanding the key benefits of radio, then make it easy for the stations (not Google) to get money."

Congrats & cheers: Alexandra Wallace named EP of NBC's Nightly News.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Heaven never helps the man who will not act." Sophocles

"There is nothing in life so irrational, that good sense and chance may not set it to rights; nothing so rational, that folly and chance may not utterly confound it." Goethe

What is News Worth?
From pigeons to online profits. Michael Rosenblum is asking us to think about the value of news. In the process he tells us a story. The story of Napoleon, Rothschild and a cutting edge technology, a pigeon. Read all about it here. Bravo Michael! Very well done.

Congrats & cheers: Eric Schmidt, Larry Page
, and Sergey Brin top the list - The 50 Most Important People on the Web. The list by PC World's Christopher Null here. Others in the top ten include Steve Jobs, Bram Cohen, Mike Morhaime, Jimmy Wales, John Doerr, Craig Newmark, Peter Levinsohn, Marissa Mayer, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Good to see that Shana Fisher, Matt Mullenweg, Ray Ozzie, Robert Scoble, Larry Lessig, Kevin Rose, Gabe Rivera, Dave Winer and Nick Denton all made the list.

Not a big fan of "lists" but they are not insignificant. In fact, lists are everywhere. Rankings, nothing more than an r word list seem all the rage today (e.g., digg, et al). It was the legendary genius Bill Kaland who first gave me some understanding on lists. In my salad days as a manager at WBZ one of my mentors, the brilliant researcher Jim Yergin, took me to see Bill Kaland. Bill, then retired, took an audience with the "kid" and said the world was ordered, so-called taste and popular culture nothing more than ranked zeitgeist. Dynamic never static, a changing motion picture not a snap shot. Yergin, his assistant Roy Shapiro and I listened as Bill held forth. This was the gentleman, along with Bill Heacock, and other thinkers that had changed the broadcast media in north America. Kaland was part of those Group W, Westinghouse guys. The people that put "contemporary" music on their big 50kws, the very same gang that put all news on 1010 WINS. The guys that first defined the news cycle by asking for "22 minutes." "A hit list, there is always a hit list whether or not you wish to concur" so said the great Mr. Kaland. Of course, he was correct. There is always a hit list, always.

You did read Michael Rosenblum's story about the pigeon, didn't you? You really should, it's here. And be sure to catch his Why TV News Sucks, Pt. 3 here. Bandwidth well spent.

Couric & Company: Clearly, the CBS Evening News needs work. At six months since debut Katie is stuck in third place. The solution might be more about pov, style, content and substance than about the star talent catching the now daily incoming. While Katie may not be the answer she may not, in fact, be the real problem. Before I start getting emails from my AWRT pals please allow me to explain. Breaking out of third place by getting better at the same approach is not likely. What's needed here is differentiation. Breaking away from the pack and putting on offer a very real alternative deserves a candid hearing. Having a woman reading and presenting basically the same stories is not different enough to gain share nor, apparently, loyalty. What is needed here is radical game-changing innovation. Give the Couric team another six months to find their way and during that interval begin developing some original plan B scenarios. Perhaps the best return on the Katie investment is the most obvious, have her lead development of the failed CBS morning franchise. Let Katie play to her strengths, let that perky gal give NBC a run for their money and stop wasting time coaching her on giving better "serious news face." Katie's smile, laugh, giggle and engaging attitude are golden, give them back to America. Chase the NBC strategy and add more hours, earlier and later. Let her do some prime specials and contribute on 60. What to do with the evening news? Michael Rosenblum's suggestion deserves consideration: "For the price of Katie Couric’s salary, CBS Evening News could field the most powerful and dynamic television reporting team in the world. They could enter the new world of non-linear, web driven, online, VOD news and conquer it. Own it! They could, in a stroke, become the Digital Tiffany Network (so to speak), and set a global standard for video reporting and journalism." Reinventing the evening news will not be easy but my sense is Les Moonves is enough of a maverick to make it happen. Getting better and better at a game that's no longer being played or, in the least, played less and less might not yield the best future ROI. Might not be the best allocation of resources. Let's be honest enough to admit the evening news business, as it is now practiced, may be an anachronism, the preservation of which might well be fraught with peril. It's not about winning one half-hour of weeknight news, it's all about creating a 21st century news and information service. Courage.