The Future Comes To Those Who Make It

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

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When you’re walking along the beach, early in the morning, everything past the waves on the beach is invisible. You know there’s an ocean out there, but due to the fog bank, you can’t see it. Just like you know there’s a future out there, but you can’t see it.

This is where so many visions fail. The people involved can’t see past the fog bank, so they avoid anything about the future, missing the people on the small fishing boat and the ocean liner carrying passengers to far away places.  There’s a critical shortage of the Christopher Columbus’, John Glenn’s and Elon Musk’s who saw a future and made it happen.

Some of this is a simple vision block, we tell ourselves we don’t have a vision and so concentrate on the tactics that wind up taking us nowhere.  But some of it is also because we’re so tactically oriented that we don’t take the time to dream.  We think we have to be in a state of constant busyness – and you know what they say about a body in motion staying in motion.

Finally, there are those who think that planning gets in the way of a grander scheme to which we’re only a part of.  There’s an almost Biblical ban on strategy because it could get in God’s way.  I could be wrong, but I subscribe to what a famous dreamer, Galileo once said, ” I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, intellect and reason intended for us to forgo their use.

The perfect way to predict the future is to create it.  There’s a wonderfully simplistic, strategic sense to that, Abe.

Unsinkable Radio

If you look in your dictionary you will find: Titans – A race of people vainly striving to overcome the forces of nature. Could anything be more unfortunate than such a name, anything more significant?” – Arthur Rostron, Captain of the rescue ship Carpathia


This photograph is believed to be the last for the HMS Titanic, before it sank.

Everyone bragged on the Titanic in its time. It was too large to fail, it was unsinkable, and it was unthinkable that disaster could strike them. All those rich people would not have scrambled for tickets on the Titanic if they knew it was going to sink.

Sorry, but this still reminds me a little of radio as we vainly strive to overcome our own forces of nature. I am told almost daily that radio is in great shape and always will be. But actually, I can’t stop, because I remember history.

I am not anti-radio, and understand what it has done for me, but I can’t accept that everything will be as it was.

Change is inevitable, a part of life.  The radio industry is changing and won’t be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday.

The days of radio, television and print as the dominant media are ending, and the era of audio, video, digital and social have begun.

Toward the end of the Titanic’s cruise there were several things that were missed or neglected.  Had they acted on any of them the ship’s name “Titanic”  wouldn’t mean anything to us.  I’m wondering if we’re not seeing the signs and ignoring them, and are headed to a similar end?

Don’t fear change, embrace it!  Make change happen, don’t wait for it to happen.

You See What You Want To see

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


I’ve been deeply involved with exploration into the Millennial generation for the past 18 months, and it’s an interesting venture.

No matter what we find in the research, there are people that are going to see the group as slackers, entitled, living with mom and dad, and even the generation that will destroy America.  The truth is that Millennials are an exciting generation that will bring huge, important changes to society that are good, as well as their own “lens” on life.  I was at a meeting with some interns last week, and I left the meeting feeling very optimistic and excited to see what the future holds with these talented people.

But, no matter what research we present, or how many Millennials they talk to, some people will only see them through the lens of their own interpretation or perspective. They aren’t able to see the potential good, only the negative image portrayed by the media.  Some of those who are unable to change their interpretations will miss an opportunity to build a sustainable media palate that appeals to Millennials, and will wind up fading away with the boomer generation.

Whether you are a small, single station in the Midwest, or a larger broadcast organization on the West Coast, or yes…a Network, you’re going to be impacted by the Millennials, a generation significantly larger than the boomers.  Simple facts of life – like nobody gets out alive – means that things are going to change.  Every day, 10,000 baby boomers file for social security. It’s inevitable.

But it’s not “bad.”  Do your own investigation of the generation, talk with them and really listen, understand how they’re different, and how they’re not.  Embrace the change, and ask for their help in navigating through the changes.  Don’t just sit there complaining while the juggernaut gets closer and closer, and finally runs right over you.

 

Happy 4th of July

The very essence of leadership is [that] you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

— Theodore Hesburgh


Happy 4th of July to everyone as we celebrate the anniversary of our country.  Special thanks to Brooks Mason (1737-1825) my 5th Great Grandfather, and his 16 year old son Malachi (1760-1847), who both fought in the Revolutionary War.

It’s difficult to imagine stopping your life to help found a nation, especially when you’re not in the military.  The vision of what could be was strong enough to create patriots from all kinds of people.

Vision, what Simon Sinek calls “the why” is a powerful magnet that draws people into motivation they sometimes didn’t know existed in themselves.  The lack of a shared vision makes it all about the individual and their needs.  An organization becomes whatever the leader is interested about at the moment, not a shared goal or emotional purpose.

Vision is what makes a normal organization special, and the lack of vision is what makes it ordinary.  That’s as true with your organization as it was for our nation in 1776.

Investing In Revenue

“As opposed to trying to attract millions of eyeballs and monetize them with ads, branded social networks are less about profitability and more about creating loyal and engaged customers that will ultimately create revenue in more conventional ways.” – Adam Ostrow

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The conversation around radio stations eventually seems to wind up in a discussion of how to monitize digital media.  The answer eludes most radio people, because the idea of building loyalty and creating engagement, and then earning from that, doesn’t make sense.  Interesting, since that’s how radio was designed to be “monitized.”

Some time ago most of our efforts were to not only get people to listen, but to be as loyal as possible.  We wanted to build fans, not just listenership.  Over time, especially after the joys of consolidation, it became a battle for “ears” instead of a battle for hearts and minds.  Instead of being a way to more effectively reach people on a personal level, digital media is in danger of becomming another way to sell things to people.

This isn’t one of those, “why can’t it be like the old days” rants.  Instead, it’s a call to arms for those who still understand that the battle lies far beyond the ear.  Digital and social media don’t need to be a replacement for radio, they can actually be integrated into our plans as a compliment to radio, part of the larger media pallet we all need.  But it requires alternate thinking.

First, we have to understand that both radio and digital media are built on fans, not just listeners.  PPM results show the same thing, with the majority of listenership coming from P1’s instead of listeners.  I know there’s a school of thought that radio is simply cume based, but a radio station of a large base of listeners, without any fans, is useless when it comes to making money.  Success lies in the careful relationship between cume and P1, not just one or the other.

I’m going to step out here and suggest that, just as revenue used to be (and probably still is) a by-product of compelling programming, digital media income will be a by-product of compelling digital media.

There’s no empirical research to show this yet, but I’m willing to bet it’s the hardcore fans of a radio station that move product for the clients.  Occasional listeners, especially those we find spending one hour or less with the station, aren’t helping much at all.