Category Archives: NAB

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 gomediafix.com.

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.

I Think, Therefore I Am

“Cogito ergo sum”

“Je pense, donc je suis”

“I think, therefore I am”

In whatever language you speak it, Rene Descartes’s famous self-analysis phrase on existence speaks volumes about the shape of radio, the ad industry and media itself.

With the latest ad revenue results for the last 6 months (down 15% to 32% year-to-year, depending on the radio group in the U.S.), the radio industry (and media in general) thinks the market sucks…and therefore it continues to be.

The industry/market seems to be in a vicious self-perpetuating cycle: huge operating/financial debt loads, dramatic downturn in economy, smaller ad budgets, more media competition for fewer $$$, staff cutbacks, weakened local programming, more syndicated/voice-tracked content, missed budget goals, forced unpaid days off, speculation about inevitable radio group bankruptcies, more cutbacks — leaving remaining staff with work overloads, etc.

Execs are even turning down their contracted bonuses and stock options. When it gets to that, you know things can’t be good. With times like this, everybody hurts.

Gosh, all that bad news does wonders for industry self-confidence.

I think therefore I am

We are all living in the “aftermath of a go-go economy.” As Peter Drucker, father of modern management practices, once said: “Every such era believed there would be no limit to growth. And every one ended in debacle and left behind a massive hang-over.”

For the last year or so, this is the massive collective hang-over.

Now that the NAB is looking for a new chairman, Radio could use someone with serious vision mojo to help the industry see out of this morass. Someone who can take a room of radio CEOs and get them to see past this mess they helped create on their own watch.

But whom?

Who is that person?

As the expression says, “Go where there is growth.” (as said by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and countless others.)

As another well-known expression goes, this time from Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Who can avoid doing the same thing as radio has done before and go where there is growth in order to expect different (better) results?

On the Jointblog, we’ve already suggested Stuart Smalley…but he is busy trying get to formally accepted into the Senate.

What about the return Eddie Fritts? Doubtful, as Fritts left due to the board’s need for change and who now heads The Fritts Group, a D.C.-based lobbying operation that represents Fortune 500 companies on Capitol Hill.

Too bad Bill Clinton is also busy with political conflicts.

Jack Welch? He seems to have time on his hands.

Someone smart who can think different, express change and the new reality…and lead others to growth…

Tony Robbins?

Tom Peters? (if ever there a need to returning searching for excellence, this is that time)

Donny Deutsch

Guy Kawasaki?

Jeff Jaffe?

Chris Anderson?

Walt Mossberg?

Steven Covey?

Seth Godin?

Chris Brogan?

Or, to be really contrarian, how about Jerry Del Colliano?

Who do you nominate for the NAB search committee to replace the resigning David Rehr?

New NAB chief: “I think, therefore I am.”

Radio For Sale: The End of Radio Station Super-Sizing

Radio’s been hot on the selling blocks lately, with more than two thousand station transactions in 2006 in the U.S. The last time that many stations were sold off was back in 1997.

The difference?

Then: consolidation merger mania. Now: The post-consolidation end of super-sizing.

Clear Channel leads the “For Sale” movement spinning off lesser market properties while trying to go private. Spanish-broadcasters Univision did go private last June for almost $13 billion. Infinity shed about 35 stations in the past 6 months. Bonneville station swapped with Entercom. And, most recently, Citadel completed its 18-month financial journey purchasing ABC Radio.

The last time radio saw this amount of selling action was right after the Telecom Bill of 1996, which changed all the owership limit rules, spurred fast merger and acquisition consolidation and created super-sized radio groups.

Back then, market values for stations soared as groups raced to get “big” as fast as possible…all in the name of increasing radio’s competitive position for ad dollars against other media (or so we were told), damn the consequences.

Ten years later, stations are selling again…but the motivation is different this time around.

“Less is more” might really mean “cluster/group right-sizing”.

Instead of station sales creating mega radio groups, radio is scaling back by selling off to smaller groups…or even to brand new small groups. This brings more competition back into radio and creates more-manageable operations, especially in the unrated, small-sized, and mid-sized markets.

Radio needs this retro trend of ownership diversfication, which hopefully can attract fresh creativity and innovative content ideas that work.

Meanwhile, station groups in Canada are being sold off, too…with Astral making a play for Standard and CHUM going to BellGlobal…but there’s a difference between radio in Canada and the U.S.

Now that we’ve entered the post-consolidation phase, what did the last ten years bring to radio? There are a small few who made a ton of money, some who made a little and then there’s the overwhelming majority — people who lost gigs and careers (and money) as well as radio listeners who gave up, moving on to different (better) media choices (or, at least away from commercial radio and over to either NPR or new media forms of radio).

Radio remains important and profitable. This new active buy/sell phase is good for radio, leading to smaller major radio groups (as opposed to massive, complex-to-manage divisions).

With all these recent station sell-offs, what bodes for radio’s future? Will it improve quality? Minimally, the gap between executive management and the content will shrink somewhat (that’s good). Will radio reinvest in creativity and real (not just financial) innovation? Going private and having radio less beholden to Wall Street is also a good thing. But what about that elusive increase in radio’s share of total advertising dollars?

And what about radio’s issue fighting against the proposed XM/Sirius merger when radio is trying to get its own house in order?

The chart below shows the amount of station selling activity last year:


BIAfn reports:

For the first time since 1997 radio station transactions reached levels above 2,000 in 2006, according to the first edition of BIA Financial Network’s quarterly Investing In Radio® Market Report. The breakdown of 1,544 station sales in radio markets (as defined by Arbitron) and 562 unrated areas last year (compared with 1,613 and 637, respectively, in 1997) [led by the proposed privatization of Clear Channel Communications]…demonstrate an interest in the purchase of small market stations as long term investments.

Is radio making a U-Turn? Is old school sanity returning to radio? Was the consolidation run-up just another merger mania cash grab? Did radio watch “Super Size Me” and decide it needed to reduce to “get healthy”?

Will former radio leaders run out of the industry due to consolidation find new opportunities to return and reinvest? Will Wall Street continue to downgrade radio? Is the unretirement of Dan Mason a sign of things to come for the industry?

So what is the future of radio? There will be lots to discuss at next week’s NAB show in Las Vegas April 14-19.