November 29, 2015

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05/24/99 Shifting Power In A Shifting Culture
In the 20s, the big media barons were in newspaper. Icons like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer ruled America. Then, almost overnight, came the invention of Radio. Although it took a couple of years to catch on, most of the original Radio station owners were former newspaper barons. They abandoned Radio early, however, because it was bleeding red ink and not showing a profit (sounds like today's Internet companies).
Meanwhile, a couple of obscure, no-name people embraced Radio, created a vision for it and became the new media barons whose empires have lasted to this day. William Paley formed CBS, and David Sarnoff formed the Blue and Red Networks, which later became NBC and ABC. They retained their lead by embracing television, which they controlled just as they had Radio.
These men continued to dominate media in America for 75 years because they were willing to shift their worldview along with the shifting paradigm. Meanwhile, the rest of America said, "It'll never catch on." It caught on.
Today, the balance of power is again shifting before our eyes. Unknown little Internet startups, which began as nothing more than search engines or E-mail programs, are rapidly becoming the next big media networks and will ultimately become the next group of media barons.
Just as the Radio startups took the power base away from the newspaper barons, the Internet is shifting the paradigm, and the power is moving away from the television moguls. Or it could.
The announcement of Yahoo!'s purchase of broadcast.com is proof of its intent to become the world's largest media company. Though the technology and necessary bandwidth don't appear to be present yet, I believe that they have a long-range plan for changing the face of television, Radio and all media in America.
Does Radio have such a plan? Has the NAB, RAB or anyone announced one? Yahoo!'s vision is for on-demand, personalized programming. NBC saw it coming and linked early with Bill Gates. This alliance took them light-years ahead of the others.
Then NBC partnered with Snap.com. ABC/Disney purchased Infoseek and has attempted to make GO.com its portal of choice. CBS spun a partnership to create CBS Marketwatch.
Now, Mel Karmazin has finally seen the light and is scrambling to own the Internet before CBS goes the way of the newspaper barons. The past, rumored AOL-CBS relationship could have made Mel a player in the new big leagues.
I think that the media barons of tomorrow are Steve Case and Bob Pittman (a former Radio soldier) at AOL-Netscape, Jerry Yang and Mark Cuban at Yahoo!, Bill Gates at Microsoft and Mike Weiss at Web-Radio. These companies will become the new media giants that will control the eyes and ears of the world. I fully expect your Radio station to become one of their acquisition targets, soon. What do you plan to do when it happens? Have you even thought about it?

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