While watching a recent streaming video segment from CNBC – "The Business of Innovation" - featuring Mel Karmazin, it reminded me of Mel’s talent for proofing ideas and forcing his people to exercise logic, strategy, and fiscal sense. In the clip below, Mel talks about how Sirius came up with the idea of streaming television (Nickelodeon, etc.) for mini-vans in a deal they put together with Chrysler (starting at about 7:35 into the clip) . He refers to his "devil’s advocate" method that demands sound answers for a plan, and notes, "I Mel-ed them to death." Of course, when his team was able to justify the plan, he green-lighted it.
If you ever asked Mel for a music test or to hire a particular jock or to even change formats, Mel would put you through the ringer. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it forced you to think the strategy through, from beginning to end. In the process of honing your own thinking in order to "do battle" with Mel, you ended up crafting the best argument for going forward – or in many cases, not bothering to pitch a mediocre idea in the first place.
As the radio industry constricts and belt-tightens, too many good ideas aren’t seeing the light of day. And too many positive and important components of radio success are being blindly cut in order to reduce expenditures. Perhaps the "Mel Method" – forgotten by many, but still a very valuable exercise – is a great litmus test for the evaluation of "best practices." (I still hear his voice in my head.)