We’re Selling the Future
by Tim Moore
We’ve spent the last decade immersed in the hyperbole of high tech. Digital TV, band-width, XM, Sirius, I-Phones, I-Pods, Ibok … I surrender. Those who singularly sell the future and those who buy it, face the risk of backing a lizard. No law, written or moral, holds that all technological advancements must provide rewards. A toast to AM Stereo …
In fact, the larger the tech advance, the greater the chance some R&D vice president is now doing afternoon drive at Burger King, since many significant tech moves result in innovation that rapidly becomes ancient history. Does this colloquy suggest technological innovation is wrong? Obviously a resounding ‘no’ is appropriate.
While we still have time for remedy, let’s acknowledge media’s technological innovations have been impressive, including HD and all that it implies. Yet, in our insatiable avarice for all things scientific, we’ve put the technology cart before the performance horse, leaving us to ponder why listener loyalty and audience passion have all but vanished. When companies began importing tracked talent, pointing to the hub and spoke econometrics from their innovation, they forgot about a very fundamental truth: only someone from Duluth can talk passionately about Duluth. And when PD’s were redirected away from daily talent coaching and development, told to focus on cluster efficiency, we lost the very heart and sinew of our business: radio’s unique relationship with people next door.
Today, if we’re awake and candid within our building we may come to grips with the truth: some of our stations are generic, not at all reciprocal with their listeners, disempowering in their one-way delivery and imaging, and worst of all out of touch with the target beyond demo and gender-speak. How we arrived here is hardly the point. Instead, how can we reinvent our brands as relevant, on-trend, intentional radio stations?
Accept it or don’t, historic dynasties and today’s gold-standard market leaders have one common connection, and it’s not technology. Yesterday, KVIL owned ratings and the hearts and minds of Dallas / Fort Worth based on people. Today, KBCO, WNTQ or WSB enjoy dynastic roles based on the same formula: high concept to strategy, strategy to people. Taj Mahal or hole in the wall, state-of-the-art technology or 80’s museum, radio stations stocked with leaders and developers will inherit the future, all else being equal.
While we should embrace tech innovation, let’s leave the adoration to conglomerates which come to share the follies of established conglomerated non-conglomerates, including the worship of their own myths. Any functionary can live exclusively in science, while the brilliant optimize their people.
Can I say I think and act “strategically” or am I often only winging it?
Do I have enough tools to execute at this level of competition?
Have I lost belief in select talent or department people?
Can I rely on reinforcements from the company — research, marketing, or talent acquisition?
Do I have the self-confidence to ask for help?
Does anyone care?
Am I objective about my work or kidding myself?
Are ratings the only criteria by which I’m scored?
What do I need to do to get some coaching?
Regardless of my numbers today, is there any stability here?
There are only a handful of radio thinkers with 1,000-horsepower minds. We could list them on a half-page. That said it’s not enough to do our best … we must do what’s required. We mentioned three companies that over the long years have exemplified graduate work in radio’s rare circle of achievement.
There are more companies, of course, several of which aren’t inside the top-25 markets and while the magnitude differs their scope is the same. It’s easy to write off high-profile leaders as meretricious bubbles on media history. But think about it: How many people can you credit for having been decisive, positive factors in your career? It’s good to study them, emulate them and like them, “ask questions.”
Audience Development Group Managing Partner Tim Moore served as Vice President of the TM companies in Dallas before buying and building his own radio stations, which he grew into top-ranked stations in ratings and revenue in every market. The success of his own stations led to a unique situation where stations began calling him to help with their challenges, launching Tim on his present career path.