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Confront Chaos With Constants

11-30-2012

If youre a general manager, market manager, or group executive, youve seen a lot of fundamental change in our business over the last few years. And if you sat down and thought about it, you could no doubt put together a list of Things I never thought I would see when I got into this business like the Internet and all it has brought with it, bad and good, or predictions of traditional radios demise from people both smart and dumb (including college professors who notice their 10-year-olds are listening to iPods in the car).

I think many would agree that the change in our industry over the last five years has been more chaotic than all the changes of the previous 25. Enter the platitude Nothing is constant but change. 

But while the ability to operate and adapt successfully in times of great change is extremely important today, there are some constants that need to be acknowledged, even in the face of chaos.

These constants are simple, but that simplicity can also make them easy to forget or ignore. So, to jog your memory and help set your day in motion, here are those industry constants.

CONTENT IS KING

If you program something people will seek out for myriad reasons great personalities, a local connection, music thats correctly targeted for the market landscape, etc. people will listen. Period.

If you program something that has no reason to exist in the market or that is done poorly or on the cheap, people will ignore you. Period. Just changing format to the latest PPM darling doesnt guarantee success. You have to fill a need, and do it well. Believing If you build it, they will come in todays world of almost infinite choice is a recipe for failure. Can you name a few examples of that over the last couple of years? Ill bet you can.

CASH IS A CLOSE SECOND

When I read that General Motors canceled advertising on Facebook, saying it wasnt working and, further, that Facebook acknowledged it was having trouble selling mobile I thought, Wow, theyre human after all. Now theyre walking a mile in our shoes. Even recognizing that Facebook makes a ton of money, the fact is that no matter how brilliant and popular your idea or technology is, if you cant sell it, eventually bad things will happen. The digital big names are actually going through something not unlike growing pains. Recognizing that they are already giants, if some bumps in the road wake them up and they address their current revenue challenges, what does that mean for us? Leaders and managers who recognize that whatever cant be monetized is useless and who support a culture where revenue generation and growth are a priority will flourish. Those that dont, wont.

TALENT RULES

Radio is at a crossroads with respect to talent. Successful companies arent saying people are no longer important. But with all the realities of the day competition, the economy, consolidation, corporate debt, etc., there is a huge temptation to minimize the importance and necessity of talent, both on the air and off. Its actually happening, every day. How far will this industry let things go before the conventional wisdom lets the algorithm trump the person?
Is that old school? Am I fighting the inevitable? Id like to think not, but thats your call. The best managers will make having the best people a priority and will figure out how to finance and fund that within whatever parameters they may be given.

How do you do that? In todays world, you have to pay your own way. So if you feel strongly that adding people is your solution, be prepared to put a number against it more revenue, or more ratings and the resulting profit.

If you think talent upgrades are the answer, position it as a reallocation of resources. If your mantra is content and cash, put your money there. The bottom line stays the same. Youre just putting resources where theyll do the most good. You know there are other areas you can cut. There always are. Unfortunately, they usually end up being back-office cuts in departments that are already overworked, but nobody said management was supposed to be easy. What youre demonstrating with either of these strategies is, first, you respect the bottom line and are capable of fiscal responsibility, and, second, youre willing to make tough decisions and put yourself on the line in the process. Even in the present environment, there are more jobs lost over not being able to make a decision than over making a tough, educated, well-thought-out call, even if it slightly misses the mark.

To be a better manager today, you should look to these three tried-and-true constants to confront chaos in todays radio world.

And dont forget to communicate your thinking to your people. Once they know your basic vision, it will be much easier for them to develop the full strategy.

Marc Morgan is the former SVP and chief revenue officer for Cox Media Group; he retired in 2011. He can be reached at marc@marcmorganconsulting.com.




(12/4/2012 7:57:51 AM)
As a former "Talent" that has worked for Mr. Morgan, I can honestly say he got it right. His fairness, faith in the product and dedication to seeing it succeed was a great experience for The Lex and Terry Show. Lex and I have always known that it took guys like him and companies like COX to head the way for talent. We can't do it on our own .... it's a total team effort.

We are still going strong. Success stories on our terrestrial stations and online. But LOVE radio with a passion. Don't go!

- Terry Jaymes

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