Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." H.L. Mencken

"When everyone sings the same tune, the words are unimportant." Stanislaw J. Lec

"Love and art do not embrace what is beautiful but what is made beautiful by this embrace." Karl Kraus

Today's image: curses by cloudnine. Beautiful shot. Thank you for sharing.

Running your mouth is not good enough

Execution not excuses wins the day

A farewell to Howard & Mel

The final curtain draws nigh for pay radio. While it's possible to make reasonable cases in defense of a wide variety of "how" and "when" scenarios, it appears the "if" argument is all but off the table. Getting the capital to deal with debt and operating expenses will require more than the spreadsheet arithmetic and clever feel good pitch considered coup d'eclat in the last century. New rules of engagement: the uber-cool cash user has fallen from grace along with the trade craft of financial engineering. Now framed in the context of a macroeconomic calculus driven by a consumer led recession, credit crisis, auto industry melt down and weak ad market, making arrangements to pay down debt and getting operating capital to survive is a whole new game, one requiring a solid plan and execution without excuses. Moreover, the ethos, pathos of a Dickensian 2009 will favor those trading in back-to-basics essentials over peddlers of the ostentatious and discretionary. Budget is in, luxe is out.

For Howard and Mel a fresh reading of Henry V and a serious study of history seems appropriate. Stern and Karmazin are engaged in their own battle of Agincourt with Mel cast in the role of the French commander Charles d'Albret. As it happens, the terrain will again play a decisive role. This time around Henry V will be played by hundreds of little guys. The big aging acts of Howard and Mel must somehow be made to prevail in the brave new world of agile little guys who live and dream in perpetual beta. The value proposition of pay radio (and related business model) must be reinvented, convincingly sold to financiers, subscribers and advertisers. My sense is the show will go on for pay radio at least for a while. Mel can buy some time playing from the bottom of the CEO deck, the bankruptcy card.

For broadcasters who were once considered players it's a sad ending.


Five things to start doing in 2009

Monday, December 29, 2008

"One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it in your heart that every day is the best day of the year." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." Henry David Thoreau

"Seize this very minute! What you can do, or think you can do, begin it!" Goethe

Today's image: Tormet Way by Paulo A. Lopes. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

All That's Fit to Tweet: According to HubSpot 70% of Twitter users joined in 2008. This from HubSpot's State of the Twittersphere - Q4 2008 here. You'll find some interesting media folks on Twitter, the early adopters, expect more of the cool kids to catch up next year. Birds of a feather: Tweetree - Birds in a tree. Sidebar: HubSpot's Twitter Grader program ranked me 2,014 out of 803,262 Twitter folk graded.

Bravos & kudos: Chicago radio star Fred Winston. The Fred Winston Holiday Spectacular broadcast on WGN radio was a tasty holiday treat. Bonus: Just in time for New Years, get your very own copy of the famous Fred Winston's Chili recipe here. Bonus too: Check out Winston's uber-cool photos each paired with killer quotation, it don't get much better, all on his blog here.

Congrats & cheers: Darlene Love and all involved in the digital short via SNL - Christmas for the Jews Song [Video here]. Amazon enjoyed their best holiday sales season in 14 years - nearly 73 items ordered per second on December 15th, the season's peak sales day. George Johns writes about the real game-changing players, the gifted creatives and says "it's not our fault that there are no finance action figures." Read George's entire post here.

Have an amazing week. Make something happen!

Friday, December 26, 2008

"What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens." Robert McKee

"There are two things that have to happen before an idea catches on. One is that the idea should be good. The other is that it should fit in with the temper of the age. If it does not, even a good idea may well be passed by." Jawaharlal Nehru

"All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward." Ellen Glasgow

Today's image: leaf on water by mosippy. Great shot. Thank you for sharing.

The Clay Shirky interview w/CJR...

"A lot of working journalists, and especially print journalists, are in the position of being sort of kept women. They don’t really understand where the money comes from but, you know, their particular sugar daddy seems pretty flush, so they just never gave it much thought. And then one day the market crashes and they suddenly discover, 'Wait a minute, we were a business? And our revenues had to exceed our expenses every year? Why wasn’t I informed?'

Read the Shirky interview here. The CJR cover story Overload! here. Both highly recommended.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it." Roger Ebert

"Every time a man puts a new idea across, he faces a dozen men who thought of it before he did. But they only thought of it." Oren Arnold

"To find new things, take the path you took yesterday." John Burroughs

Today's image: The Shadow by DavidHR. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Winter storm warning. Snow, fog, 22 degrees here this morning. The sounds of plows and snow blowers fill the air.

Today is the last day our offices will be open in 2008. Ahead, more time for blogging. Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Yeats

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present...As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." Abraham Lincoln

"The creative mind is the playful mind. Philosophy is the play and dance of ideas." Eric

Today's image: Untitled by taylorjonesphoto. Great shooting. Thank you for sharing.

Do the right thing

Ad-supported measured media is a mess.

The fish stinks at the head first, my friend Eddie Ruben often said. My sense remains that what we have here is a leadership problem exacerbated by a massive failure of imagination.

Gary Hamel, long a favorite business strategist of this space, has written a book every CEO should read. I know it was recommended here last year but it merits a serious revisiting. If you're a CEO please read it again (or read it for the first time). If you're not the CEO gift this to your guy at the top, thank me later. Get the Amazon info here: The Future of Management

Dr Hamel's thesis is management is out of date. I agree with Hamel when he says "What ultimately constrains the performance of your organization is not its operating model, nor its business model, but its management model." It's time for management innovation and, in my considered opinion, it needs to start at the top.

Allow me to quote further from the preface to Hamel's writing...

"I dream of organizations that are capable of spontaneous renewal, where the drama of change is unaccompanied by the wrenching trauma of a turnaround. I dream of businesses where an electric current of innovation pulses through every activity, where the renegades always trump the reactionaries. I dream of companies that actually deserve the passion and creativity of the folks who work there, and naturally elicit the very best that people have to give. Of course, these are more than dreams; they are imperatives. They are do-or-die challenges for any company that hopes to thrive in the tumultuous times ahead - and they can be surmounted only with inspired management innovation."

It's time for management to do the right thing. Time to carefully review and examine the leadership of the organization.

Bonus: Chris Brogan ppt Social Media for Publishers here.

Pre-order: Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by N=1 house artiste Hugh MacLeod. Amazon info here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Work usually follows will." Louis Pasteur

"What is strength without a double share of wisdom? Strength's not made to rule, but to subserve, where wisdom bears command." John Milton

"It is better by a noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half of the evils we anticipate, than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what may happen." Herodotus

Today's image: Going by Gail Johnson. Amazing shot. Thanks for sharing.

Catch them doing something right: Chicago's first tribe of wireless gets high marks from radio programming ace Matt Dubiel for something they didn't even do...yet. Read Matt's post here.

IWM: The annual Media Person of the Year award goes to Arianna Huffington. Read more incl comments here. Kudos to Patrick Phillips.

Congrats & cheers: Second-generation broadcaster Kevin Metheny joins Tribune as programming chief at WGN radio. Kevin is a gifted leader certain to make a lasting, positive difference at WGN and Tribune.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"To be independent is the business of a few only; it is the privilege of the strong." Friedrich Nietzsche

"Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune." Nicholas Lang

"Art is simply a right method of doing things. The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces." Thomas Aquinas

Today's image: The man and the clock by rabataller. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

Nine Predictions for 2009: Marketing maven Tom Asacker has a well written piece that deserves your attention. It's one worth sharing. Read and pass along. Bravos, Tom. Available via PDF here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone." Coco Chanel

"A powerful idea communicates some of its power to the man who contradicts it." Marcel Proust

"We should rather examine, who is better learned, than who is more learned." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

Today's image: blending in (031/365) by Katherine Elizabeth. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

Jack Myers: Jack's team have revised their 2008-2010 Advertising and Marketing Investment Forecast. You may download a copy free here. Here's the headline version...

ADVERTISING DEPRESSION: It's Here and It's Sustained. Down 2.4% for 2008; -6.7% for 2009; and -2.3% for 2010. The brunt of the 6.9 percent fall-off in 2009 ad spend will be felt by newspapers (-15.0%), Yellow Pages (-14.0%), consumer magazines (-13.0%), radio (-12.0%), local television (-10.5%)...

Have an amazing week. Make something happen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"There is only one success: To be able to spend your life in your own way." Christopher Morley

"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority." Thomas Huxley

"Prudence is a presumption of the future, contracted from the experience of time past." Thomas Hobbes

Today's image: Mystery Morning In The Palouse by kevin mcneal. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Submitted for your consideration, a case study in real-time, to wit:

You have a major talent working for your company. The talent is a market legend of thirty years making, respected by the industry as an accomplished, innovative performer; he has consistently produced top five ratings in the diary. For the past year the performer has been assigned to a morning drive shift after years of success doing afternoon drive at another station in your cluster. Performance in morning drive, as measured by the new PPM methodology, is significantly different and less competitive than that exhibited in previous diary created data. Management decides to take the talent off the air while assuming the obligation to pay the talent for the next two and one-half years of the performer's contract.

Of course, the reference is to Chicago media star Steve Dahl. He did his last show for CBS this past Friday. While CBS has, to my knowledge, not made any comment on the decision (a wise move since most covering their equity only know what they read), we have the penchant for transparency of Steve Dahl himself to thank for a bit of back story. Steve made mention of the meter during his last show, suggesting music programming did better in the meter numbers and was less expensive programming.

We now come to the issues of this business case.

  1. Did management make the right decision in assigning Steve Dahl from afternoons at its Free FM talk station to mornings on its music intensive Jack FM station?
  2. Did management provide those resources necessary to ensure the probability of success in the highly competitive morning drive environment? (The counsel of a mentor, Paul Drew, comes to mind. Did Steve have a "better than even chance to win.")
  3. Once PPM data was in hand what corrective measures did management take to improve performance? Was Steve provided the direction, dedication of resources, deemed requisite to move the needle and improve performance? Were sellers provided the direction, support needed to build revenues needed to generate an acceptable profit?
  4. If we stipulate continuing to do mornings on WJMK was not an option, what other options were prospectively available to management without regard to the election to pay and not play? Is it not management's responsibility to explore any and all options to retain Steve Dahl including those beyond the conditions and scope of the existing agreement?
Clearly, management decided it was better to have Steve Dahl off the air and paying him than on the air in some other assignment.

Many have said the larger-than-life personality was not a good fit on Jack FM, the bold contrarian move of putting a high profile talent on a jockless station risky from day one. While it is perhaps convenient to argue that Dahl failed to improve the station's ratings performance, it should be kept in mind that Jack FM has failed to achieve, sustain ratings success of any significance where it counts. Recent meter numbers would have us believe the station's biggest win is outside of prime, 7p-12Mid. One has to at least consider the logic that Steve was released from breakfast duties as part of an effort to somehow "help" Jack FM. The single most credible, attractive attribute of any jockless station continues to be the low cost of operating which is not insignificant. Putting Dahl on Jack FM changed this jockless economic model.

My sense is the real failure here is one of leadership. No matter the numbers, sales should have found a way to generate revenues. It is hard to argue there exists a more sales friendly talent than Dahl.

Given the option of creating the next successful music intensive format or finding the next killer talent, one is best served by electing the former. The latter is a far more complex mission, one in which finding becomes the easiest part of things, however, the rewards of engaging killer talent are almost without equal. The play's the thing so said Shakespeare and in this case the play is a killer talent, Steve Dahl.

As a practical matter, CBS is making a wager. They are willing to bet Steve will gain employment elsewhere, ultimately releasing them from their financial obligation. They are suggesting it is the best decision for the company to continue paying Steve to not be on their air or to have him working across the street. The alternative which management should properly consider, it seems fair to offer, being to retain Steve Dahl, putting him to work in a productive and effective manner on one or more of their stations. This will require the hard work of thinking, of engaging the imagination and most of all, it will demand creative leadership.

Stay tuned.

Previously, on Steve Dahl and the diary versus the meter, here.

As always, your thoughts are welcome. Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"What the business thinks it produces is not of first importance. What the consumer thinks he is buying, what he considers 'value' is decisive." Peter Drucker

"Limiting one's pursuits to one lone avenue without benefit of change or diversion can result in a form of vapidity which sometimes deadens imagination." Edwin Uhl

"The virtue of imagination is its reaching, by intuition and intensity, a more essential truth than is seen at the surface of things." John Ruskin

Today's image: Ordinary magic by IrenaS. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Good reads: Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin [Amazon info]. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell [Amazon info]. Fiction, worth reading, again: The Road by Cormac McCarthy [Amazon info]

Live ammo: You have a talent working for you. A well known talent with a history of thirty years in the market. The talent has consistently delivered top ratings for decades under diary measurement. Since the introduction of PPM the talent has failed to show the same winning numbers. The most recent monthly numbers show the talent is ranked 20th in demo a year after being moved from afternoons on one station into a morning drive shift on another station. You have two and one-half years remaining on the talent's agreement, an obligation of approx three million dollars. You play or pay the talent? In the case of CBS they made the decision last week to pay the talent, Steve Dahl, rather than continue to play him. Your thoughts? Back to blog about this Monday.