The Economy Did Not Cause Radio’s Problems

Joint Communications CEO John Parikhal was rummaging through some old cyber-files in his office over the weekend and came across an interview he did with legendary radio programmer Steve Rivers in 2005.

In the article, John put on his “hat” as a longtime media guru and futurist and shared some predictions about radio’s future, which clearly came true.

Asked what he saw as true “radio killers” between then and 2010 Parikhal (pictured) replied,

“The biggest killer of all will be current management, unless they: Stop dancing to Wall Street’s whip, institute formal training and recruitment, start surrounding themselves with smart people who challenge them, create cultures of formal innovation and begin to get serious about spot loads. Radio can control this. They can’t control [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs, the Internet or any other of the so-called “killers” of the medium.”

Parikhal says that while many in radio today are blaming the economy for the industry’s woes, re-reading what he said five years ago suggests otherwise.

“This was all predictable, long before the current economic crisis,” he says. “You could see it coming, yet irresponsible people — who didn’t want to invest the necessary time and money — caused terrible pain for so many in the industry.”

For a re-read of the full article, click here.

And what about some other past predictions? Here’s some more thinking from 2006 about the pending state of radio just prior to the economic ad rev meltdown.

As a reminder, here is what John said in September 2009 at this year’s annual NAB on how radio to get back its growth.


24 – The Unaired 1994 Pilot

My, how times have changed.

15 years ago, there were an estimated 38 million Internet users worldwide, mostly in the U.S. (IDC).

As of June 2009, approximately 1.67 billion people worldwide use the Internet, according to studies by Miniwatts Marketing Group.

Humor often can be insightful. “Insightful” isn’t a typical description for the humor found on; however, the site’s content is often damn funny.

My media friend Dan Forth of discovered something both “funny” and “insightful” from CollegeHumor: the “unaired pilot” of ’24’.

Ever wonder how Jack Bauer could save the world and stop the bomb from exploding back in the day when we relied on payphones, slow modem dial-up, and AOL/Prodigy chatroom for online conversations?

Well, now you can see…and marvel at how fast our world operates online now. Times have changed.

John Parikhal at the NAB: How To Stimulate Radio’s Growth

At the NAB in Philadelphia on September 25, 2009, Greg Solk hosted a panel of ‘stimulus Czars’ to see what could be done to help radio.

These are John Parikhal’s notes for his contribution to the discussion:

Two Things Before You Even Start

Get rid of all Czars. They screwed up everything in Russia and exploited the people. So, why do we put Czars in charge and expect things to get better?

Why don’t we think about stuff like this? We don’t question words, even when they don’t make sense.

If we are going to fix radio, we have to think more. Which means the first step is…

Stop lying to yourself. Things are bad. The top people in radio made a lot of mistakes. You can’t take true action till you are honest with yourself. Things can get better – but not if you don’t face the truth. It’s like the 12 step program. Start with honesty.

Describe your ‘current reality’ – honestly. The tension between ‘current reality’ and what you want to create (your Outcome Statement) is what creates action.

Then, if you still want to take action, use 3 Tools.

Three Tools for Being Proactive Around Growth

Use Strategic Thinking. This is the most powerful strategic tool in business. Create an Outcome Statement – what ‘outcome’ do you want to create? Once you have identified what you want to create, identify what you have to ‘do differently’ to get there. Start making the changes.

Use a ’90 Days’ summary. Work with your direct reports and, for each of them agree on what they have to do in the next 90 days.

And, demand that your boss meet with you (in person or on the phone) every 90 days to determine what you have to get done in the next 90 days.

This is the best get-it-scheduled-and-done tool in the business. It worked for Lee Iacocca.

Practice Listenomics. Get rid of all Czars and be like Lego and Nokia. Empower your fans. Don’t try to control them. Listen to the conversation. More details at

The Most Important Thing To Do On-Air

Focus on what’s immediately relevant. Relevant is more important than local. Even though local is important, it is a subset of immediate – not the other way around.

Get rid of all the Czars – the same ones who said HD was the next big thing. The same ones who say the only future is local. They are playing follow-the-leader.

The Litmus Test

Sell a 20 year old on working in radio. Write a speech to persuade them to come into the radio business. Think your speech through. Write it down. Try it out. Be honest.

If you can’t persuade them, ask the 20 year old – ‘What would have to change in order for me to be able to encourage you to work in radio?’

Next, ask yourself – ‘What would I want to change in radio to make it more attractive to a 20 year old?’

Then, look at your answers and theirs – and set to work immediately on influencing the necessary changes. One step at a time. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

For additional coverage of the NAB 2009, click here: RBR, RadioToday, and Inside Radio.

What the F**k is Social Media (One Year Later)

Social media is no longer just a new marketing experiment. Nor is it just a hot fad. 3 out of 4 Americans and 2 out of 3 worldwide web users are on it. Yet, corporations still only think of it as a marketing tool. It is much more than that. It’s a chance for business to communicate with its fans; to create, build and satisfy new audiences; it’s a chance to brand. Yes, all those things. But that’s just on the business side. It’s also a chance for listening, sharing, exchanging with fans, who will in turn help promote you more.

So why the f**k is social media so important? This updated report from Marta Kagan really explains it well.

Get on it. Do African-Americans Need a Separate Search Engine?

What Went Wrong With Rushmore Drive

As posted on today, an article co-written by Pepper Miller and John Parikhal:, the first black search engine, recently shut down only a year after its launch. This raised the question about whether there is a market for a black version of Google.

Rushmore Drive was the brainchild of Barry Diller’s IAC, which just reported a “first-quarter net loss of $28.4 million compared to a profit of $52.8 million in the same quarter a year ago.”

Too bad. Rushmore’s failure is not only another negative statistic from the fallout of the economic downturn, but also from questionable planning.

Early on, several folks from both the black and mainstream blogosphere balked at the idea of Rushmore. Bloggers criticized Rushmore for being racist and separatist while others didn’t understand the concept at all. Additionally, a few questioned why IAC, whose focus is e-commerce websites, would even consider such an idea. Importantly, naysayers wondered how Rushmore would compete with the powerful Google brand?

At Hunter-Miller, we understand why and how Rushmore (and even Blackbird, the black web browser) traveled down that path. Many African-Americans — be they business owners who target African-American consumers, students or those who want a deeper understanding of black culture — look for specific black content, resources and stats. These black-consumer information searchers often complain that the web isn’t delivering. We discovered several types of African-American content that appeared on earlier pages of Rushmore’s site but appear a lot, lot later on Google and on Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. Thus, it appeared that Rushmore was better than Google at collecting, organizing and disseminating Black information.

There are some who are sorry to see Rushmore go.

Donna Smith-Bellinger, co-founder-VP of PCG Technology Services, a digital strategy company, says: “We need special search engines like Rushmore Drive to make it easier to identify and locate African-American information online. An African-American search engine not only helps other African Americans find Black-owned business websites, but it can also aid corporations looking for minority companies to hire.”

Additionally, Donald Moore, newly appointed president of Burrell Digital, added: “I believe that ethnic search engines have a place in the digital space. What I do question is how will they build scale and sustainable profitability?”

However, business strategist Jaclynn Topping doesn’t agree. After learning about Rushmore’s failure on Huffington Post, Topping questioned Rushmore’s strategy. “There was nothing missing [from using Google] as a Black person. The concept of a race-based search engine (or browser) is ridiculous, especially in the face of the move to open platforms. The world-wide-web is color-blind, gender-blind, disability-blind. No barriers. It’s all about the tag, keyword density and linking strategy. It’s the Internet’s greatest strength. What is Rushmore giving me? What’s Black about browsing?”

John Parikhal, co-author of this post, and an expert on both the internet and black consumer preferences, provides another perspective: “Rushmore’s failure is really about a lack of consumer understanding. They didn’t recognize the difference between search and engagement. Search usually starts with utility — just give me something I want. That’s what Google, Yahoo and Bing are fighting over. It has less to do with color. But engagement (which really makes ads work) is different. That’s where understanding Black America really pays off.”

~ ~ ~
John Parikhal is a “practical futurist” and consultant specializing in media strategy, marketing, research and consumer trends.

Pepper Miller is founder and president of the Hunter-Miller Group, Chicago.

Parikhal on Radio-Info and the Return on Inveatment of the Mercurys

As reported in this morning’s, Joint Communications’ John Parikhal had come choice words about how Mercury radio advertising award competition need a big re-think. Says Parikhal:”Return On Investment really shouldn’t be a measure for the Mercurys. A radio ad can be engaging and persuasive, but the product packaging might turn customers off at the store. Or the price might be too high, etc. In other words, the ad worked, but the rest of the chain didn’t.

For serious marketers like Procter & Gamble or Coke, ROI is a complex equation in which the ad medium and the dollars spent are only a part of the formula. But if by ROI, you mean – can I tie the ad to a sale? – then take a page from the best awards ever – the Effies. They measured ‘effectiveness’, asking participants to submit their ‘before and after’ case studies with the ad.

The Mercurys should be about ‘effective’ radio ads – not ‘creativity.’ And, an effective ad starts with ‘engagement.’ Often, judges confuse engagement with entertainment when they are asked to decide what is most ‘creative.’ They choose ‘entertaining’ ads and call them ‘creative.’ Some very engaging ads are not entertaining. But they work. Just check out spoken word ads on News and Talk stations. Bring back the Effies.”