November 30, 2015

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First Mediaworks

09/04/06 Recognizing The Clues That Signal Change

I slid down in my chair and buried my head in my hands as I watched the television reports of the potential bombings on flights originating from England and headed to the U.S. I was scheduled to board an aircraft in just a few days, but surprisingly, I wasn't disturbed by the potential danger; I was disturbed by the fact that I'd have to check an overnight bag and increase my wait in security lines. I'd rather not kill time checking or waiting for luggage.

Remember how our lives changed after the 9/11 hijackings? We were subjected to increased security, which gave birth to a new airline security industry. What industry will be born of this inconvenience? Imagine the possibilities, and the businesses that will be born as a result of more increased airline security, decreased inconvenience, and limited carry-ons?

In Japan, I can check my bag at my hotel. From there, it's delivered to the airline, so I don't see my bag again until my arrival in the U.S. Now, as I contemplate my next airborne trip, I'm wishing there was a service I could use to ship my bag without going through the airline. (I guess I could FedEx it, but that sounds expensive.)

My other concern was the possible inability to carry laptops, electronic devices, etc., onto planes. My office-in-the-air is the one place I can catch up without interruptions, and the thought of using a yellow pad again is daunting. Airlines could make a fortune providing in-seat laptops that could network to my PC if I'm no longer permitted to or just don't want to carry my own. In fact, some European flights already provide e-mail service.

This thwarted terror plot and its fallout may impact how we travel and why we travel. I know I will scrutinize the value of every trip, and ask if it can be done via phone or video conferencing instead. If these issues are compounded, I can see increasing regionalization of business within driving distance. I can see new businesses surfacing to make travel more convenient or less necessary. I can also see businesses emerging to replace the items I can no longer take on airplanes. (In-airport or hotel drugstores may do a booming business in portable shaving kits.)

So what does this have to do with radio?

Single events can change industries. They could be events related to politics, war, religion, regulation, culture, or technological change. Late-night television changed when Ted Koppel created Nightline to provide daily updates on the Iran hostage crisis. The abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine resulted in the proliferation of AM Talk radio - Rush Limbaugh was the first on the scene, and he still reigns as king. One reality TV show - American Idol - changed the television industry, and no one can come close to its ratings. The iPod changed music listening, and is now changing television viewing. The cell phone changed the telephone industry, and the invention of digital audio and video is converging the camera, the music player, the video player, the telephone, the computer, entertainment, information, communication, and organization.

As broadcasters and businesspeople, we always need to be asking the question: "How does this new trend or new product impact our industry, and how should we react or change?" One little change can open new doors to reinvention. If you're not risk-averse, if you're willing to take heat for your ideas that others say will never work, you could break new ground and revolutionize the industry. The key is to listen for clues signaling change, and to act fast. What recent changes does radio need to react to?

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