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The Responsibility Of Leadership


(Radio Ink Publisher Eric Rhoads) Each year, Radio Ink publishes a list of the Most Powerful People in Radio. We choose the people on the list by exacting criteria, including number of stations, billing, number of employees, involvement in the radio community, and overall influence on the industry. Our committee, made up of myself, CEO Jim Robinson, EVP/Radio Deborah Parenti, Editor-in-Chief Ed Ryan, and Managing Editor Brida Connolly, hold one another accountable so our relationships and other influences don't impact our decisions. We spend hours on research and discussions until we all feel we have it right, and we believe the list in this issue accurately reflects the state of radio in 2012.

Power, in our eyes, is the ability to make change that impacts the industry as a whole. A decision to cut out a position across one company may mean that position disappears across the industry -- just as an innovative move can turn us all into followers.

If you've ever been camping, you've probably heard someone say, "Leave it better than you found it. If you carry it in, carry it out, and if someone else left a mess, clean it up and carry it out too." What will you do to leave the industry better? Or will you leave a mess for others to clean up?

All take and no give is short-term thinking. What will you give back to this industry that has given so much to you? How will you lead your company to innovation so others will follow? You have a responsibility to your board to make sure your company is first with the advantage, but what if your advantage damages other radio companies? A strong radio company in an unhealthy industry can only be good in the short term. Like it or not, we are linked by the radio dial and the consumers and advertisers who share us. It's critical that you ask yourself about the effect of your decisions on the industry as a whole.

Radio is at a moment of great opportunity, but I feel as though it's an opportunity being ignored by too many. At our recent Convergence conference, we revealed statistics that show listening is trending down, and radio is in danger of ending up like newspapers. Meanwhile, online listening -- and not just to terrestrial radio streams -- is rising rapidly. That's not guesswork or conjecture, it's fact. Attacks by past devices and technologies haven't hurt us, so most in radio are still pretending we can't be hurt.

You may need to let Wall Street believe all is well, but the iceberg is dead ahead. You can't afford to wait any longer to invest more deeply in digital. Advertisers are demanding it and local advertisers are jumping ship to digital at record speed. But most in radio still operate as though this ship can blast through any iceberg.

Radio's "good old days" are never coming back. But good new days and a new golden age can be ahead. Every company on this list should be funding out-of-building initiatives to find ways to replace what we have today -- to put it out of business. With very few exceptions, new companies replace old giants when technology changes. The survivors have come from skunkworks funded specifically to deal with new competitors. We have to assume that what we do, and the ways we do it, will be replaced by others who do it differently, and better.

The leaders of the newspaper industry didn't listen. You, as the leaders of radio, have been given a bit of a reprieve. But that doesn't mean we can avoid the unavoidable.

Radio still has a powerful relationship with its listeners. We can sell them something new. For some of you, it's TuneIn and iHeartRadio, and that's a great start; it puts you on the new aggregated dashboards. But our dominance in the automobile is over. The decisions you make about digital in the next 24 months will make or break this industry.

There are dozens of ways you, as the leaders in radio, can leave this industry better off: amplified training of our troops, embracing new forms of content, serving our local communities, deep generosity to our advertisers, and taking advantage of the brainpower of our experienced team members. But nothing will have a bigger impact than investing in our digital future and reinventing ourselves, today.

I'm honored to have each of you on this list. I know some of you are deepening your investment in digital (and some others are only pretending). The women and men of this fine industry are looking to you to make decisions that will give us a promising future. I encourage you to take that responsibility very seriously, and to keep in mind that every decision you make affects the industry as a whole.

P.S. This year is Radio Ink's 20th. I want to thank each of you, and the entire industry, for allowing us to serve you. We deeply appreciate your subscriptions and your advertising. We know that sometimes it seems it would be easier if we just went away because we work hard to challenge the status quo in our industry. But we do it because we believe in radio. We hope to see each of you at our reception for the "40 Most Powerful" at the Harvard Club in New York on November 28, after our Forecast conference. 


To order a copy of the 2012 Radio Ink issue of the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio call 561-655-8778
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