Sunday, November 29, 2009

Radio: Smart phones and dumb radios

There are smart gifts and there are just plain dumb ones.

Let’s handicap the Christmas shopping season with two products that relate to radio.

Say you have a product that few know or care about, which features a medium in desperate need of reinvention and revitalization? Do you really believe that it’s on anyone’s Christmas wish list?

A recently released survey of 4,225 U.S. consumers by Changewave, a research network that spots budding trends and technologies, show that twelve percent plan to buy a smartphone in the next ninety days.

Last Christmas, iPhone owned the smartphone market. This year, iPhone’s 3G S is up against real competition from the Droid, the new Blackberry Storm2, a new Palm Pixi/Pre, Motorola’s CLIQ, and the HTC Hero.

I’m saying Steve Jobs has little to be concerned with on that front. His iPhone remains the superior product. It enjoys a two and a half year head start -and is numero uno in Brand Keysannual survey - with a 74 percent of satisfaction rating versus only 43 percent for Blackberry owners.

It’s true that most of the time the pioneers get the arrows. But Jobs has the unique ability of taking roads less traveled, which turn out to be the shortest distance between two points.

Sure, Google is great, Google is good. Let us thank them for our search - and our e-mail, maps, social networking, video sharing, and advertising - but can they make a go of it in the smartphone biz with the Droid?

The iPhone’s not invulnerable. It has its Achilles’ heel. AT&T.

Of all the iPhone users you know - is there one that has not complained about AT&T?

It remains to be seen what becomes of the iPhone-Droid rivalry. My guess is that Jobs will deal with iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity. He doesn’t really have much of a choice when his two chief rivals, Motorola’s Droid and Blackberry’s Storm2, are tied to Verizon.

Advantages? iPhone has over 100,000 apps - ten times the amount of Android, its nearest competitor. Then, again, what product apps will translate into dollars? For example, name one radio station app that will increase its listenership and sales.

This is strictly empirical. Roughly half the smartphone users I know connect to Internet radio - and none via an app. Of those that do, most listen to out-of-town terrestrial, NPR national, or Internet-only stations.

We’ll revisit this topic in next quarter.

Both Apple’s iPhone 3G S and Motorola’s Droid retail for $200 and offer an average $1,500/yr. plan.

Like Mac users, iPhone users are loyalists. If anything, I’d bet on the Droid cutting wide and deep into Blackberry’s Storm2 sales. It limped out of the box with a soft launch compared to Droid’s $100 million-plus campaign. Compared to both iPhone and Droid, Blackberry’s dated design negates any positives on the product’s attributes. Storm2 comes in $20 cheaper than the iPhone and Droid - and that sends a cheaper isn’t better message to consumers.

To some Sprint is a pariah best to be avoided. That translates to a limited market for Palm Pixi/Pre. It’s cheaper - $99 for the Pixi; $150 for the Pre - with an average $1,200/yr. plan. It’ll attract newbies and those in fear of being outsmarted by their phone. Beyond that? Not much.

The same holds true for the HTC Hero. Sprint is the carrier. Hero was the top-selling Sprint product prior to the Palm Pixi/Pre hitting retail. HTC claims it’ll have the heaviest promotional campaign of all smartphones, with its “You” campaign, pushing the Hero's personalization and customization abilities.

It’ll be a Christmas in the red for Motorola’s CLIQ. It’ll do well with the T-Mobile loyalists and young demos - don’t expect much beyond that. It has a boxed-in following, which will attract, at best, a few new consumers into their fold.

There’s also the Samsung Moment - but it’s hitting the market too late to make much of an impact during the Christmas season.

Now, we dumb down to a product that most in the radio industry have chosen to link with - HD Radio.

The only smartness connected with HD Radio comes from the crooked and crookeder Bob “Booble” Struble, whose iBiquity stuck radio with an investment they can’t get out of.

It’s a low-tech 21st century version of Rebel Without A Cause. We have the major radio chains - and other investors - nervously eyeing one another, and continuing to play chicken with their properties while wondering whom their Buzz Gunderson will be.

By committing to HD Radio, the radio industry bought an apple for an orchard.

It’s perplexing. The economics of the radio industry are remorseless, but it’s still alarming to witness this continued cannibalism.

We don’t need more radio stations and formats - we need better radio stations and formats.

Ask anyone with Sirius XM or an Internet radio fan. They listen to the same two, three, four, five - and no more than six stations - that’s it. Most have a favorite and a second favorite. Offering more choice - especially when they're even worse than the conventional terrestrial fare - will not draw consumers to HD Radio.

Struble doesn’t always tell a Struble, which is synonym for not telling the truth. Sometimes he just talks out of both sides of his mouth.

Just a couple of weeks ago Struble released another torrent of press releases announcing new HD radio models, apps, and adapters and predictions on how well HD Radio will do at retail this Christmas. More lies - more Strubles.

The latest misadventure occurred when Struble tried to perfume his HD Radio hog with a new app and attachment.

We live in a compact, wireless world, Bob. Why would you sign off on an HD Radio iPhone app that requires one to go to a participating Radio Shack, and pay $79.95 plus tax for this bulky add-on HD Radio tuner, which you have to attach by wire to your iPhone? And, Bob, it can’t work with a car’s docking system because the iPhone’s 30-pint port connects to only one device at a time. Brilliant.

Please explain this to me. There isn’t a shred of evidence that this is HD Radio’s year at retail. If anything, you’ll sell fewer HD Radios this season than you did last - and that's even less than you did the year before and the year before that. Prove me wrong.

The time has come to recognize and own up to HD Radio as a major blunder. It’s not happening. It hasn’t in the past, it isn’t now, and it never will. DAB radio is a failure in Europe, too.

What’s taking place is simply not working.

I think you look at it a different way. Why work when you’ve forced radio to do all the heavy lifting for you?

After all, robbing isn’t the toughest part of heisting. The getaway is. That's what separates the pros from the cons.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Radio: Of golden turkeys and chucked ducks

Choices, choices. Who's most worthy of radio's Golden Turkey award?

Let’s bring out the three finalists.

Lew Dickey, President and CEO of Cumulus.

Farid Suleman, President and CEO of Citadel.

John Hogan, CEO of Clear Channel Radio.

Come on down.

Lew, Farid, and John have contributed immeasurable improprieties to the decline and fall of the radio industry. They’re the top executives at radio groups where failure is continually rewarded.

Let’s begin with Lew.

You’re Lew Dickey. You and your brother John boast of being amongst the select few mere mortals to be born with “these extra-large hard drives” in your heads. Your words, not mine. Say you’re right. So what? It’s not the hard drive. It’s what’s on it. The palpable mismanagement you’ve given Cumulus only reinforces the maxim, “garbage in, garbage out.”

You’re Lew Dickey and we can’t fault you for being so vain. Maybe you and John are the smartest men in any room. Okay, Lew, you are the smartest; John is a little slower - but close.

You’re Lew Dickey and anyone with the unfortunate fate of being involved with you and your Brainiac brother finish up in a quick spin through the official Cumulus revolving door.

You’re Lew Dickey and you and John know how to clutch your piece of the action while the company dissipates around you. On the day when Cumulus finally fades into the fog, you and John will wink, smile, look you the rest of us in the eye and paraphrase that old Connie Francis song, “Who’s Smarter Now?” as you walk from your corrupt deal wheel-barrowing bushels of cash.

And how about that Farid Suleman? Talk about rewarding failure!

You’re Farid Suleman. It’s all about bankrupting your company so thoroughly that its lenders are forced to keep you on since you’re the only one who truly knows how badly you screwed up Citadel.

You’re Farid Suleman and you lusted for own kingdom and got it - but you were King Midas in reverse. Everything you touched turned to crap.

You’re Farid Suleman and, you couldn’t even afford to keep one of your Pennsylvania stations on the air - so you just turned it off and fortuitously forgot to report that incident to the FCC, which you are obligated to do as a license-holder.

You’re Farid Suleman and you always wanted to be a number one and now you’ll have the dubious distinction of being the first CEO of a major radio chain to drive it into Chapter 11.

John Hogan? Have you gotten used to the mechanism and strings Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee attached to your body?

You are John Hogan. Clear Channel led the way in voice-tracking and now, here you are - voice-tracked by Bain and Lee.

You’re John Hogan. You believe that we must flout the fact that local sales have as much to do with building relationships as ratings. Don’t confuse Bain and Lee with those facts. They plan to nationalize radio sales.

It’s Das Klear Khannel all over again.

Their radio markets are mere Klear Khannel satellite republics. There’s New Yorkistan, Los Angelistan, Philadelhiastan, San Franciscoastan, and Bostonia, and others too numerous to manage, er, mention.

Like the Soviet Union, it may work on paper - but in practice it will be a dismal failure.

Remember a few years back when you signed off on Clear Channel banning some songs written by John Lennon from airplay? You should’ve banned Vladimir Lenin, whose playbook has too much in common with Clear Channel’s.

You’re John Hogan and if your programming isn’t done locally, why should sales be trusted with those who know the market best? So you hire Chris Soechtig, the former Tampa sales director for the new position of Senior VP of sales operations to oversee the thousand-plus properties.

You’re John Hogan. Your national programmers control what everyone hears on the air. Now, Soechtig will be the counterpart for sales. We can expect those “one day fire sale” e-mails a few markets promoted to become uniform.

If it worked in Philadelphia, it’ll work in Detroit. Same lunch bucket market, right? Sorry, John. Didn’t mean to quote Dan Mason.

You’re John Hogan and you remember the old term “black dollars,” the buys agencies would set aside for urban contemporary formats, some which were on minority-owned radio stations. Clever sales managers at these stations would make sure the buys were spread to all of their properties.

It worked - and it kept many urban stations afloat during lean times.

Now, Clear Channel plans to do this nationally by creating an urban network and putting all of its African-American targeted formats under one umbrella. Buy one? You gotta buy ‘em all.

Okay, turkey of the year? It’s up to you. Lew, Farid, and John. You pick. It’s too close to call.

One more thing.

You can mark this date on the calendar since I’m making a rare, positive statement about the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Yes, you read that right.

I’m thankful that the NAB chucked the duck and David “Fumbles” Rehr along with it.

So far, I admire the approach its new CEO, Gordon Smith, is taking with the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) robber barons.

He’s not sending Congress and the RIAA stuffed ducks. He’s not making veiled threats to labels and artists. He’s not writing long-winded letters to the President.

What Gordon Smith is doing is telling the truth.

Radio doesn’t have money. It cannot afford the ludicrous performance royalty tax the RIAA wants to levy on the industry.

Radio is not in the bail out business for the labels.

I’ve said it before. There are no good guys here. When the labels were healthy, radio took advantage of them.

It wasn’t entirely their fault. Whenever the labels offered payola and other incentives for airplay - radio took it.

Radio took it whether it was illegal, semi-legal, or legal. It doesn’t really matter.

In the end, it nearly killed both industries. Music radio ceased to provide the soundtrack to popular culture and the labels pushed only music by artists and managers willing to give up a percentage of their royalties to fund payola.

Radio lost its ability to sell music and the labels have no solid replacement.

Before there is even a discussion on why the RIAA wants to siphon off of radio what it can no longer get from the consumer its labels screwed - Smith is telling it like it is. There is no money to be had.

Mismanagement on radio’s behalf, though real, is not an issue since the record industry suffers from the same disease. Smith didn’t have to say if the music’s not free, we’ll be all sports and talk.

The NAB still faces a tough battle in Congress. David “Fumbles” Rehr did nearly irreparable damage to the radio industry’s image during his brief reign. His abrasive “ready, fire, aim” statements and threats can’t be erased that easily.

Let’s be thankful for two things. Fumbles is gone and we’re another day closer to effecting change in our industry. It will come.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Radio's Rubes

Rube Goldberg is the patron saint of the old radio industry.

Don't know Rube? He was a popular early 20th century cartoonist who sketched comics depicting multifarious devices for performing simple tasks in unusual and often convoluted ways.

By the early thirties, the Merriam-Webster dictionary turned his name into an adjective, defining it as "accomplishing something simple through complex means."

The same definition could be applied to the old radio industry, accompanied by banking, insurance, and a select - but large - number of public companies that cloak their cooked booked financial statements in indecipherable jargon and figures.

But eventually even the most complex, convoluted financial schemes crash and burn.

Take the ethically dubious Farid Suleman, CEO of the crumbling Citadel radio group, which, at any moment, will file for Chapter 11 protection.

Poor Farid. Tired of toiling under Mel Karmazin as his official bean counter, he wanted to prove he could be a number one.

Instead, he proved to be a lifeguard who couldn’t swim. Mini-Mel he will never be.

But failure is rewarded in the radio industry many times over.

Despite his destruction of the third largest radio chain in America, one notion being bandied about would have him falling uphill by staying on as CEO of Citadel to help bring the chain out of bankruptcy.

When Suleman gobbled up the ABC Radio chain - he got the networks, too. Losing Sean Hannity to Clear Channel and Paul Harvey to his life cycle erased $8 million in revenue off the books compared to a year ago. Overall, network revenue was down 31.5 percent, which translates to a $13.5 million loss.

Let’s stop here for a moment. Paul Harvey was 92. How many more years and how many more breaths did Farid foresee squeezing out of him? Did he expect Harvey to give him five years advance notice before he passed away?

I’m stunned that Suleman didn’t come up with some Rube Goldberg apparatus that would record every word Harvey ever said so he could assign some poor minimum wage schlub to continue his broadcast by rearranging words from prior newscasts and commentary.

When Farid bought the nets, Hannity made it apparent that he had no intention of sticking around and cozying up to the draconian management of Citadel once his existing deal expired.

Granted, Citadel-ABC was the last bad big deal in radio broadcasting - but it’s painfully evident no lender bothered to skim through Farid’s faulty Rube Goldberg-style business plan. Was it assumed that being Mel’s beanyman was reason enough to fund his folly?

Disney wanted ABC Radio off their books. They were cutting a deal with Steve Jobs to acquire Pixar and weren’t interested in holding on to yesterday, especially when the radio division was likened to a country club.

Last Tuesday, just after Suleman signed off on still another massive staff bloodbath and the elimination of whatever localism remained on his distressed properties, he joined eight other radio group heads, to pitch the FCC on myths and legends. Specifically, they were asking the commission to make FM receivers mandatory in cell phones. That way, in case of an emergency - FM stations would be available to provide detailed information on where to go, what to do, and why.

Insert laugh track here.

Excluding public radio, give me twenty FM stations in this great country of ours you could listen to for immediate emergency information. Okay, I’ll settle for ten. No, final game scores on sports-talk FMs don’t count as emergencies.

Actually, I’ll tell you what FMs do provide that coverage. Small, independent market FMs. I’ll give you one - WATD in Boston’s South Shore, which on many occasions has provided my family and friends who live in its signal range with pertinent and vital information related to regional news, weather, and traffic.

Does the station make money? Yes.

Did these radio CEOs understand that the FCC has no jurisdiction to force manufacturers to add FM to cell phones?

Do these radio CEOs really believe the FCC is not aware of how these chains ruined the radio industry post-deregulation?

Then we have Lew Dickey, the CEO of the Cumulus chain who also made the trek to the FCC.

The smartest man in any room was shrewd enough to kick ahead its inevitable insolvency for one more year with his Rube Goldberg accounting so he could continue screw his shareholders, investors, vendors and anyone else who’s reluctantly hitched up to his wagon.

Lew doesn’t know how to make money but credit him for knowing how to filch it. He is challenging Clear Channel CEO John Hogan and the aforementioned Farid Suleman for the title of career derailment king.

Instead of stepping aside when his company spiraled downward in revenue and ratings under his direction, Dickey’s slanted family and friends’ board anointed him to save it.

Dickey’s in serious need of a spine transfusion before he even considers a financial one for his company.

You’ve probably heard the joke. How do you identify an old radio chain? Look for the makeshift morgue.

I define radio to those who ask as a business where luck is running out for those who are presently controlling it - but it’s like passengers in an airplane where the pilot dies and there’s no way to land the plane without crashing.

The only good news is that by keeping Suleman, Dickey and the other usual suspects in place will speed-up the impending fire sales.

I saved the best Rube Goldberg for last. By now, you’ve heard of iBiquity’s latest scheme to jumpstart their D.O.A. HD Radio.

Here’s a seriously flawed technology that has zero consumer interest despite millions of dollars of donated radio time to promote it.

At iBiquity, there’s nothing more rewarding than to spend other people’s money on preposterous promotion, marketing, and gadgetry.

So what do you make of the HD Radio iPhone app?

Yes, the app is free - but there’s a catch. It’s iBiquity. There’s always a catch!

To receive HD Radio on your iPhone, you must go to a participating Radio Shack, er, the Shack store and plunk down $79.95 plus tax for a bulky add-on HD Radio tuner, which you have to attach to your iPhone.

Yes, you are now carrying around two devices. One, which is sleek and stylish, the other - pure Rube Goldberg.

There’s another catch. You cannot use the device through your iPod-docking car stereo system because the 30-pint port of an iPhone connects to only one device at a time.

It is said that iBiquity CEO Bob “Booble” Struble hasn’t even uttered the word “Zune” since his iPod Rube, er, app, was released.

Wonder if Freddie sold him the app? Together we con!

Rube Goldberg and radio. Life imitates art.


Carl Hirsch & Gil Rosenwald interviews from 1979

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Radio: Drawn and Third Quartered

All hail the genius that believes he’s the smartest man in any room, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey.

He’s one of a few broadcast CEOs that were spinning their companies’ third quarter results this past week.

Yes, it’s time again for another swirl of misinformation and panic.

So many disasters, so little space. I’ll do my best.

Lew Dickey believes that every time he speaks, he learns something new.

The smartest man believes that every time he reads one of his quotes in a trade, he gains even more insight into his own mind, which he’ll let you know is such a fine mind.

He'll also remind you at least once during conversation that it’s also a Harvard University educated mind.

He has an insatiable obsession to brag of his intellect with the masses, and the smartest man in any room actually looks forward to delivering his spin to his quarterly conference call to analysts.

It gives him a break from seeding future fiascos.

So what is the eminent brainiac of broadcasting ready to impart to us mere mortals?

How about wrong is the new right and smoke and mirrors are the new transparency.

Let’s listen in on how Lew weasels his way in and out of Cumulus’ third quarter.

It’s almost apocryphal. And Lew doesn’t even have to look that word up.

“Larger markets appear to be gaining revenue traction,” sayeth the Lewdick. He reached that conclusion since revenue at the Cumulus Media Partner markets, which include Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco, was down an average -15.9% for Q3. His small and medium markets, which Lew used to call the “bread-and-butter” cities of Cumulus Media took an -18.5 percent plunk.

“We have to do a better job of selling our industry, selling the true value of it.”

Here’s one problem with Lew. He assumes we’re almost as smart as he is so he never gets around to explaining exactly what that true value is.

Some of Dickey’s new-speak reads like it was lifted right out of a late nineties bomb business plan.

For example, he said Cumulus believes in “sustainable operations” in 2010 and beyond by “employing state-of-the-art technology to run the enterprise and drive productivity.”

Maybe Lew was talking up the spy videophones he had installed at most of his stations to keep an eye and ear on his salespeople?

At least that’s what I think he was pontificating about since he followed that line by a claim that Cumulus hired fifty - count ‘em - fifty new sales people in just the last six weeks alone.

He also plans to hire another fifty by the end of the year - though he neglected to mention that the next fifty will be replacing the fifty he just hired over the last six weeks when they don’t work out.

Okay, Lew. Let’s do the numbers. What say you?

“Our industry revenues peaked in 2006 at $21.5 billion. So, in 2006 radio was a $21.5 billion industry – and this year revenues are forecast to finish around $15.5 billion, a decline of $6 billion. We believe it could be – from peak to trough back to peak again – it could be 10 years, maybe 2016 before we reach $21.5 billion again.”

What’s it going to, Lew? 2016 or 2019? Or will 2012 be your apocalypse?

Back to Lew.

'We definitely believe the industry is going to come out of this cycle and continue to grow, but it’s going to be quite some time before we reach the 2006 level. So, more than ever before we believe efficiency is becoming the greatest source of competitive advantage in our business today.”

That all well and good, Lew. But what about all the people you’ve already fired? How do you run a business when you’ve lost or fired most of your best executives and you’re stuck inside a downtrend with a skeleton crew?

“It’s not about cutting bodies, but rather it’s about resource allocation, systems and customer-focused solutions.”

Okay, Lew, enough of the b.s. Let’s do your numbers now.

I’ll spare you his well-placed gobbledygook and get down to business.

Lew successfully sidestepped providing analysts and investors on the conference call with specific dollar figures for its fourth quarter guidance - but insisted that he was budgeting for positive revenue growth in 2010.

Let’s stop here for a moment.

Could you imagine what Lew would’ve done to any sales manager that failed to provide specific sales figures for the next quarter within a nano-second of being asked?

Here’s how Dickey did it. He “expected” to improve on both revenue and the EBITDA performance posted for third quarter, which he released a few hours before the call.

He called it “improvement.” The third quarter revenues were down from a year ago - but they weren’t as bad as the second quarter. Put another way. Q2 was -21.1 percent down. Q3 was only a “mere” -18.5 percent down. And that was directly due to his elimination of human stink at his facilities over the last few months. Need proof? Dickey’s operating expenses dropped 20.9 percent.

Cumulus Media also landed an income tax benefit of $27.2 million in the third quarter. A year ago, it had an income tax expense of $7.3 million.

He added that, “Further consolidation is going to be essential to improving the overall fundamentals of the industry."

Only the smartest man in any room would want to acquire even more radio stations when he can’t even preserve what he already has.

Excuses, excuses. When it comes to answering a question, Lew, despite his Harvard education, is a man of few words - repeated over and over and over again.

You’re Lew Dickey, you’ve been there, done that, and really, what will it all amount to in the end?

Now, let’s quickly move to CBS, where the news was not too bad being the new incredible. Revenue dropped a mere one percent.

Good news first. TV’s doing well - both network and syndication - to show a 9 percent increase. Radio? Well, would you believe a -19 percent drop? That translates to a fall from $392.5 million to $318.9 mil.

CBS Radio operating income was $41.1 million, which included an impairment charge of $31.7 million for station divestures; in particular, the Portland, Oregon stations sold to Larry Wilson.

Though CBS CEO Les Moonves alleged that he planned to keep radio as part of CBS’s portfolio, he was barely believable. Would you be if you had Dan Mason running your stations and running out of excuses?

They don’t make radio CEOs like Dan Mason anymore. Then again, the world he occupied simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Now, let’s touch upon the “not really a radio company” radio company, Sirius XM. Their revenue was up $630 million - a 3 percent increase over a year ago. Its subscriber base was down 2 percent from a year ago, but up by 102,295 subscribers. Mel Karmazin didn’t say why - but I will. Three words: Cash for clunkers.

Mel’s creative financing also made their “material” payments due disappear until 2011. How does Mel do it?

“We expect the company’s cash flow growth momentum to continue into 2010,” sayeth the King of Karma. “And we project full-year adjusted income from operations to increase approximately 20 percent next year.”

Mel also told the Street he expects revenue growth in the “mid to high single digits” and free cash flow growth.

And how about that? Mel’s the only radio guy being taken seriously by Wall Street.

In keeping with bad is the new good; Salem’s 11 percent tumble in Q3 was nothing short of a Godsend, so to speak.

True, it would've been a lot worse had the saints at Salem not bartered most of their stations up the tokus with religious programming.

Salem. I feel for you. Seems like only yesterday that you could conjure up even a C-list of right wing zealots for a talk show network and make it work. Alas, their audience is getting long in the tooth, and harder to sell; especially when so many of them have turned into survivalists. You know that survivalists don’t listen to the radio because they’re convinced they’re all implanted with microchips and they're listening to them.

Then you have Christian Hot AC. The Fish format programmers are just figuring out that when all of your music sounds the same, the entire format fries.

Their Fish and Foul talkers revenue fell from $47.4 million to $42 mil.

Sale hoped to find some divine revenue intervention with new media - like - but that site has been renamed, an inactive site, which is being maintained in the interim by GoDaddy, where you can watch their host’s “Too Hot for TV” spots. OMG! Still, some of the other sites are still on-line but their revenue slipped from $7.1 million to $6.9 mil.

Salem also took a $14.1 impairment charge on the value of radio licenses in Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, and Portland Oregon, and its still playing the waiting game on selling WRFD, a AM in Columbus, Ohio to another conservative group, Christian Voice of Central Ohio for a whopping $4 mil. Will it ever close? God only knows.

Come on, now. Admit it. If you’re in radio - either in sales or programming - do you really believe you could get away with offering the same lame excuses your CEOs offered to Wall Street last week?

I’m calling it radio noir. There are those unable to change with the times. So the changing times roll over them.

The past decade of unrestrained consolidation led to an arduous crusade of cost reductions, as well as departures of key long-time creative executives. Sure, Dickey, Mays, Mason, and the usual suspects can aver new hires - but it’s obvious that the loss of institutional knowledge has crippled the industry.

In the go-go buy-sell days of the late nineties, few mega-chains even considered a plan B. Now, it faces an uphill battle to define to both listeners and clients what radio is - and will be - in the 21st century.

Instead of being mired in its own mediocrity, radio needs to concentrate its efforts on where it can win and contain its losses.

There are so many radio CEOs that are chasing something they couldn’t hold on to even if they caught it. Some part of them realizes the vainness of this chase even as another part clings to the need for it.

For the next quarterly report, I suggest that Lew Dickey allow other radio CEOs to share his videophone - and instead of another mumbo jumbo of words and figures, show a Road Runner cartoon. Fast forward to the end where Wile E. Coyote takes a flying leap of a cliff, followed by a rising cloud of dust.


A 1981 investigative report into radio station exclusives