Circle Jerk

October 4, 2013

The big radio controversy this week stems from a Clear Channel corporate PD, Darryl Parks, who went off on the FCC’s efforts to address the AM radio problem.  While the blog in question has been taken down, it appears here, and has stirred up a lot of anger, especially among those who are toiling away, trying to keep amplitude modulation stations alive and well.

logo_colorBut that wasn’t the part of Parks’ rave that stood out to me.  Another of his swipes was laser focused on the recent Radio Show in Orlando.  He dismissed it as “the yearly circle jerk gathering of broadcasters.”

Now I have a horse in this race, having been honored with a Super Session presentation in conjunction with Arbitron and Strategy Analytics’ Roger Lanctot.  This year, the Radio Show addressed key issues facing radio from the “connected car” to digital sales to talent coaching.  And I have to believe that the majority of attendees came away from this year’s conference with a renewed focus, some action steps, stronger personal and professional connections, and even a few great stories to tell about what’s happening in the radio business.

But too often, radio’s self-haters – people who make a living from the business but torpedo it any time they get the chance – go after conferences and conventions like The Radio Show for no apparent reason.  We all may have different angles and believes about what’s ailing the business and how to grow it, but the big truth of radio’s challenge in the digital era is that we’re in it together, for better or for worse.

Mobile is a great example of this phenomenon.  You may believe that the future is apps like iHeartRadio, or individually branded apps like the kind we design and build at jacAPPS, or the NextRadio FM chip in smartphones.  Or a combination of those solutions.  But however you view radio’s opportunities or speed bumps, industry events like The Radio Show provide a great forum to discuss, debate, and learn about what’s next in mobile – and a myriad of other issues.

Did I like everything about this year’s show?  Of course not.  We all have our issues, whether it was the choice of host city, the hotel/resort, individual sessions, or who won or lost Marconi awards.  Those types of criticisms are natural.

But to dismiss the entire event as useless, pointless, and irrelevant displays an arrogance that is not only misguided, it is a big part of what’s wrong with radio.

How many companies don’t even bother supporting an event like The Radio Show, yet wonder why key issues that affect them aren’t being properly addressed by advocacy groups like the NAB and RAB?  Or the corporate honchos who personally make the trip to Orlando, but deny other key managers and players in their companies the opportunity to learn from and experience the event?

And in Parks’ case, he couldn’t have possibly been in attendance at The Radio Show, thus making his remarks even less germane and more misguided.  If you want to gain some insights about an event, try showing up for it.

So, Darryl, maybe next year in Indianapolis, you’ll decide to be a part of The Radio Show, and maybe even take the time and make the effort to help make it better.  It’s close to home there in Cincinnati, and you may just find that it has more value than you think – assuming, of course, that you’re allowed to go.

There’s never been a time in radio where individuals have had more opportunity to be a part of the problem or be a part of the solution.

Darryl, you are part of the problem.


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13 Responses to Circle Jerk

  1. Mark Biviano on October 4, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    Fred…’ve got it right! Parks is either part of the solution…or part of the problem….and I think we all know where he falls.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on October 4, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      I do not want to come off as a Pollyanna for the radio industry, Biv. But the cheap shots – from the inside – are fatiguing and only make it more arduous to make it better. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Bob Bellin on October 4, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Snarky rant alert!!!

    I hate to say it, but I think Darryl Parks has a point.

    iHeart radio and FM chips in smartphones are part of the problem, not part the solution. They will have somewhere between negligible and no impact on radio’s future as audience or revenue builders. They’re part of the problem because they are being discussed at all – and because many still believe that they can be part of the solution.

    Apps are great, they’ll generate some revenue and they’ll make the CE better, but they won’t save radio from itself. iHeart radio is fine – radio should be available wherever and however people want it. But don’t be mistaken – its no game changer. If anyone took the time to do the math on FM phone chips, they’d see that they don’t create enough new listening opportunities to move the ratings needle. AM? oh,come on! I’m sorry, but its time the folks who champion this stuff were laughed at rather than followed.

    Why are these part of the problem if their impact is so small? Because the’are being focused on rather than things that could really matter. Championing FM phone chips or AM modifications and wasting lobbying money and time on them is like waving an idiot flag for all to see. Your connected car summit will probably be more focused on radio’s real opportunities and challenges than the last 5 NAB’s combined. And while the car companies will forge ahead with R+D to give people whatever they want, radio will likely settle for platitudes like “we certainly can’t do things the way we have been” and change little to nothing. Someone should do a comparison of all of the things presented/demo’d by auto and consumer electronics reps at your summit with radio’s latest ideas.

    While I agree that criticizing this year’s NAB without being there is lazy and begs the credibility question, all one needs to do is read the trades to find out that nothing that could seriously impact radio’s future was given much time there. If radio’s head honchos are seriously addressing the issues that could keep its future bright, they’re keeping it a secret and away from major conventions.

    Radio people should ask themselves this question: How much of your net worth would you wager on radio’s relative health 5 years after the connected car becomes the standard? I’m talking about your retirement, your kids college fund, etc.

    I thought so.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on October 4, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      Bob, my point is that radio’s issues are complicated and at times, very perplexing. But we get closer to solutions when we’re working on solutions as companies and as individuals. Fraggins gets us nowhere. Sometimes, industry blogs come off like “Crossfire.” Everyone in the industry acknowledges there are challenges, and some of the solutions (FM chips, apps, HD radio) may not work. But I think we have to applaud innovation in an environment where there has been so little of it for so long. Thanks for the comment.

    • spotmagicsolis on October 29, 2013 at 1:36 AM

      Good points – all.

  3. John Anderson on October 4, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Fred, you hit the nail on the head when you said, “I think we have to applaud innovation in an environment where there has been so little of it for so long.”

    Given that that is the environment in which radio has found itself for years (if not longer), is it so surprising that occasionally heated rhetoric comes to the fore?

    I mean, people have been frustrated with HD (for example) for many years now, and anytime someone has criticized the technology they’re branded as “haters,” “naysayers,” or “Luddites,” and told to GTFO.

    I think industry sentiments on these pressing issues are quite similar to our dysfunctional political system: migrating to extremes where there’s little hope of compromise, much less constructive dialogue.

    I plan on coming to the NAB Show in April. Here’s hoping that the industry will at least be welcoming enough for me to speak some uncomfortable truths…because after all, I *will* be there to seek constructive dialogue. And if “the big truth of radio’s challenge in the digital era is that we’re in it together, for better or for worse,” then “worse” is part of the mix, and we shouldn’t be afraid or dismissive of that aspect of this continuum.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on October 4, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      No, it is not surprising that the rhetoric gets heated. But again, hot air for hot air’s sake does not advance the cause. You are right that the scene in Washington is somewhat reminiscent of what we sometimes see in radio. Lots of passion – few solutions, and very little constructive criticism and collaboration. I cannot speak for the NAB, but I believe that as stated in today’s post, working to advance the cause rather than tear it down is a goal. Hopefully, that’s the approach you’ll want to take. Thanks for chiming in.

  4. Jack Taddeo on October 4, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Fred, as you stated we all have our thoughts and positions on what radio needs to do to be better. And I never have a problem with someone voicing those thoughts. God knows I have. Since we are on this subject, I’d like to direct attention to the many consultant/blogger/columnists who are largely absent from the daily grind…because they are no longer employed in the business! It sure is easy to tell everyone else how stupid and disconnected from reality they are when (unlike Jacobs Media) they haven’t had a paying client in 5 or 10 years. So, researchers and self-appointed musical historians: get a job. Then you can shoot your mouth off.

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on October 4, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Thanks, Jack. And to our many clients at Jacobs Media & jacAPPS, thank you for helping provide the context and perspective that is in fact so valuable. Appreciate hearing from you, Jack.

  5. jolana leigh smith on October 5, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    THANK YOU for being part of the solution.

  6. rainy night in georgia on October 7, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Fred, I think you’ve been in the circle jerk too long. Weren’t you one of the ones who thought AM Stereo was going to be the big savior of the medium?

    • Fred Jacobs
      Fred Jacobs on October 7, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      Hey, it was a nice try. Yup, those were the days when I was trying to get Classic Rock off the ground, and the FM world wasn’t buying it. Can’t win ‘em all.

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