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Notes & Quotes from Indy

| September 12, 2014

NAB/RAB Radio Show and RAIN Summit coverage by consultant Holland Cooke


cookewriterINDIANAPOLIS — We’re radio people.  We think aloud.  So gathering this many of us in one place is bound to produce plenty of sound bites.  If you missed reports I filed earlier this week, here are my notes from:

*  Tuesday:

*  Wednesday:

The Radio Show wraps today.  So if you couldn’t be here – or if you could, and were attending different sessions concurrent to those I hit – here’s more of what I heard that you also might find instructive.

“Make your customer experience like walking into an Apple Store.”

Alan Mulally was CEO of Boeing.  Now he’s on Google’s Board of Directors.  Most Americans know him best for what he did in-between, as CEO of Ford Motor Company, the only Big Three auto maker that didn’t take government money during the Crash.  Mulally turned-around a $17 BILLION (not a misprint) loss.  How?  “Continually think about what you’re going to do to add value.”

For our purposes, Mulally believes that “consumers are looking for more personal and intimate relationships with all their media.  People really want to be connected;” and he reckons that “bringing-local-to-life” should be stations’ strategy.

Mulally offered two management tactics he credited with Ford’s renaissance:

*  To purge the disharmonious atmosphere he inherited, he “described the expected behaviors” he became known for: teamwork and transparency.

*  He color-coded every issue on the docket at his weekly 7AM Thursday management meetings.  Items were either green, yellow, or red.  When he first got there, nobody would own-up to items that should’ve been Code Red.  “We’re losing $17 billion this year, and everything’s FINE?” he asked.  Eventually, gradually, “turning reds to yellows to green” became cool.

Try both at your station?

 Got “local?”

In two separate sessions, the CEOs of radio’s two biggest groups pivoted when asked about the emerging consensus that stations need to revert to local content that’s suffered from Consolidation-era automation and syndication.

*  When asked about Cumulus’ NASH template at the NAB Leadership Breakfast, Lew Dickey said “Country is much more than a format.  We see Country as more of a lifestyle;” thus the array of on-air/digital/print/event/record label assets Cumulus is assembling.

*  Few captains of our industry are more controversial than Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman, and few pitch radio’s story better: “There is no franchise better, in my mind, than a radio station.”  With his company’s perennial iHeart Radio Music Festival coming up this month in Las Vegas, Pittman explained how he papers the place with ad industry influentials.  Then, there, in the middle of his really big show, he says “I tell ’em ‘Look around.  THIS is the power of radio.’”

Dickey also made a statement my client stations are accustomed to hearing from their consultant: “We are principally an in-car medium today, and I think we’ll continue to do well in-car.” 

“We’re about content more than we are an appliance.”

That’s CBS Radio President & CEO Dan Mason, who appeared with Pittman in the Super Session “From The Control Room to the Board Room,” which began with NAB’s John David playing vintage airchecks of Pittman and Mason from their early-70s small market DJ days!  (And, to play fair, David played a clip of his own early on-air work; and all three of ’em ran a tight board.)

From that session:

*  Dan Mason declared that “local content” is key to CBS stations’ success.

*  Both spoke to the value of exploiting Social Media tools, Pittman offering that “Facebook is the new request line.”

*  And both underlined the power of radio’s bond with listeners.  “What we’re really trying to do is rent our consumer relationship with an unrelated third party,” in Pittman’s view.

“Radio is inexpensive.  Stocks don’t reflect consumer behavior.”

Marci Ryvicker is Managing Director, Wells Fargo Securities, and her NAB Leadership Breakfast audience gulped when she displayed a chart forecasting radio’s share of advertising revenue declining to 7% by 2022.  That forecast assumes flat growth “until someone proves me wrong.  You just have no revenue growth.”

It could be worse.  Ryvicker says newspapers will be the biggest losers as dollars flow to digital.  And don’t mistake digital’s down growth year-over-year, “because ad dollars are getting bigger.”

“The one big positive for radio that I see is NextRadio,” the move to activate FM chips which remain sleepers in many smartphones now in use.  “This is what I like to talk about with investors.”

Other quotable quotes from Indy:

“If streaming is the answer, we’re gonna be a hobby, not a business.”

NextRadio champion and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan: “People are paying for data.  When people start paying for things they’re used to getting for free, they stop.”

“…and then came Cumulus.”

WCBS-FM morning host Scott Shannon, in the SRO “Radio’s Storytellers” session, after moderator  Gary Berkowitz acknowledged Shannon’s 23 previous years at crosstown WPLJ.  Shannon will also now host a weekend show for Classic Hits stations, which United Stations will distribute.

“How long can we count on being on AM radio? Should I be thinking about turning my AM license back, if I have a translator?  Does AM really matter in 20 years?”

NAB Radio Board member and station owner Paul Tinkle

“You hear accounts say ‘I got tired of training radio Sales people.’”

Olin & Associates’ Kay Olin, when asked by “Transactional Deathwatch” session moderator and Entercom/Boston Market Manager Phil Zachary: “What do we need to STOP doing?”

“We’ve got to stop thinking about ‘selling commercials,’” she urged.  “Focus on solutions.”

*  And Olin noted that “it used to be hard to sell events.  Now that’s what they want, access.”

*  Fellow panelist Joe Schwartz, President & CEO, Cherry Creek Radio, disclosed that We rarely if ever hire radio reps.”  Instead he scouts people who sell other things well.

*  And BrandsFormation’s Chuck Mefford – who is both a Sales trainer AND ad buyer – begged attendees to “be more customer-focused.  Advertisers don’t get up in the morning thinking ‘I need some news/weather/sports 30s/60s.’”

Coming-up today: The NAB/RAB Radio Luncheon.  This year’s keynoter is FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who’s made revitalizing AM radio his priority.  I’ll post notes at


Holland Cooke (@HollandCooke on Twitter) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet; and he covers industry conventions for Talkers and RadioInfo.  

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Category: Analysis