Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How the world's largest broadcasting company thinks

By Don Keith N4KC

All Access ran the second part of their interview with Clear Channel Communication’s Chairman and CEO, Bob Pittman, today.  (If the name is familiar, he is the same Bob Pittman who once programmed some darn good radio stations, started MTV, and was CEO at AOL, Six Flags, and Century 21 Real Estate.)  

In the first part, he talked a lot about technology and little about programming content.  He also talked about how CC has top-notch talent on the air, even in their smallest markets.  They do that by having big-market talent voice-track shows on other stations.  I think regular followers here know how I feel about that.  If they were truly doing more than just "That was Fleetwood Mac and this is Journey on Rock 107" then I might agree that was a good thing to do.  

They aren't.  And it ain't.

There was nothing too pithy or incendiary in the second installment, either, but his final answer sort of made me see red.

JD: And finally Bob, what are your biggest goals for the next five years?
BP: First of all, our goals are to bring money to the radio sector. We have to do that. Then we have to continue to embrace technology and make it work for us. And, we have to continue to develop new products and services that help our advertisers make better use of radio and help us deliver more for them than we have in the past.

Did I miss something or was there nary a word about improving the over-the-air product…unless that vague third goal includes putting something on the air that nobody else has and that people would be excited enough about to seek it out on whatever technological platform on which they could find it?

I would hope that the man who controls more radio stations than anybody else on the planet would realize that trying to compete with Pandora, iRadio, Spotify and other pure music streaming services by streaming music over the air is a dead end.

I applaud Bob's comments about showing advertisers that their commercials worked, and to work harder to develop a plan that helps advertisers sell widgets.  But I would also hope that someone who has been so visionary in the past would have a plan to do something revolutionary that assures that the brand equity that many traditional broadcasters still have can be leveraged in new and exciting ways.

"Broadcast-speak" warning!  Pittman and others in the biz MUST start thinking beyond smart-phone apps for FM, 30-and-60-second commercials, time sold based on average-quarter-hour share-of-listening estimates from Arbitron, and playing "the most and best hits of the 80s, 90s, and today!"

There is talent and music and other content out there that can bring people to the FM band (maybe even the AM band, but I now believe that is a lost cause) as well as a plethora of other ways of distributing it.  Listeners want more than a constant stream of music.  They also want companionship, empathy, two-way communication, and to be part of a tribe of other folks just like them.  Radio still has the power to provide all that.

I just hope Bob Pittman and his peers know that and are willing to take the chances necessary to provide it.

No comments: