November 27, 2015

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01/06/03 A Kid With Big Plans Comes To Radio
“Hello, Mr. Rhoads. I’m in the area, visiting my parents; and while I’m here, I’d like to tell you about a new company that I’m starting. Can you spare a few minutes to see me?” Something in my gut said to see this guy. Unlike so many salespeople who would call for appointments, this one sounded sincere and was filled with an enthusiasm that I wasn’t used to hearing. We met a few days later.

“Branding is what Radio is all about, yet so few people in Radio know anything about it,” said the kid fresh from Harvard Business School. “ I plan to bring a level of sophistication to the Radio industry unlike any it has ever seen before. I have big, big plans.”

I sat back and listened carefully, though with a touch of skepticism. So many people before had promised to “set Radio on fire,” but none had lived up to the promise. The young man was full of enthusiasm, but he was also a bit brash and cocky. After all, what Harvard grad doesn’t think he’s going to set the world on fire? Aren’t they all a bit full of themselves and over-confident?

When he left the conference room, I turned to Dick Downes, my top executive at the time: “Dick, something tells me this kid is different. I think he may be one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.” The young man’s confidence and enthusiasm made me believe that he knew what he was talking about — marketing concepts I’d never heard before.

We did what we could to help this guy start his new company, Stratford Research. We gave him a few ideas, but he had it mostly figured out already. I don’t really think the kid needed us. But I was pretty sure that we needed him. The kid was Lew Dickey, who helped us position Radio Ink as “Radio’s Premiere Management and Marketing Magazine” — he created the slogan with our input, and he made us promise to never, ever drop it. Of course we still use it, and his marketing advice helped us live up to the slogan.

Today, 10 short years later, Lew Dickey runs the second largest Radio broadcasting company in the world (based on station count). A little over a year ago, many people thought it was over for Lew after Wall Street analysts began slamming the company and its practices. Lew responded by making substantial changes in personnel, and today, those same analysts are singing the praises of Brother Dickey and his amazing ability to turn a company around in record time.

This is the time of year when we honor the broadcaster who has made the biggest impact on Radio in the past 12 months. This year, there is no question. The vote was unanimous. Lew Dickey is the Radio Ink Executive of the Year. My gut tells me that Lew Dickey won’t bail out of Radio just to put a few hundred million dollars in his pocket. This is one of the smartest men that Radio has ever seen — far too smart to quit while he’s gaining momentum.

Keep your eye on the Kid from Harvard. Something tells me that he hasn’t even begun to show us what he’s got.

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