I’m Going to Stage a Secret Radio Meeting

…much like the one being staged in “secret” at the NAB Radio Show right now.

And like that meeting, the purpose of mine is to plot radio’s digital future.

Because, as we all know, the future of any industry is best mapped out by its leading executives, locked together in a private room with nary a consumer in sight.  Consumers will do what they’re told, after all.  The control is all ours! This is how General Motors did it for years!

I will make sure only to invite folks who see eye-to-eye with me on the main issues of the day, as I see them.  Troublemakers need not apply.

Also not welcome at my secret meeting:  Arbitron and Triton – it’s just measurement, after all.  And Clear Channel and Cumulus – because this isn’t about their digital future, and hopefully every consumer and advertiser knows the difference.  Also absent from my meeting: Pandora and Slacker and Apple and Google and Spotify and Amazon because they will never create ad-supported platforms that attempt to steal our listeners and advertisers. Besides, with a room that big we’d need to hire an A/V team and I can’t possibly expense that.

We shall also map a digital future without any representatives from companies which are digital first and radio perhaps not at all.  They are not at this conference, after all.  They go to conferences with words like “digital” in the name.

And together we shall act as a consortium, not unlike the one that powered HD radio to its current success.

Nowadays, the best laid plans are those established from the top-down and spun into ad messaging gold from Don Draper and our team at Sterling Cooper. Get me Draper on the phone now!  Tell him we’re having Bob Struble for lunch – no, not literally!

Oh I don’t know.  Maybe I’m mistaken with this approach.

Maybe I should instead invite a slew of consumers – consumers with choices and control.  How are they making decisions differently and how will new choices and mobile devices affect those decisions?  Maybe I should also invite some agencies who spend a bunch of money in digital – how are they making decisions today?  Maybe I should invite somebody who doesn’t live in the U.S. – do you know anybody?

Maybe I should look ahead to what our brands can be in an era of unlimited choice and – even more scary – unlimited access and convenience for that choice.  Maybe I should open my meeting to broadcasters and their friends with exciting ideas, not simply those with executive titles.  Maybe it’s not just about picking partners and mapping out static plans in a fast-changing media world.  Maybe it’s about rethinking business models and brand extensions. Maybe this is more than a one-day meeting and an informal consortium. Maybe this is a discussion – an ongoing one – where all broadcasters, their clients, their friends, and their fans are invited.  Maybe we’re all in this together.  Even if our invite got lost in the mail.

Maybe I should question what radio is and what it means to an audience participating in fraying its edges.  Maybe this is the way we should start the conversation – focusing on the consumers and our clients first.  How do we connect them in the presence of our brands in the markets we know best?

Maybe this is all so complicated that it gives me a headache.

Hopefully news of my secret meeting won’t leak out, or the headache will be much bigger.

So many of the people working in and around radio – including many of my friends who will attend this meeting – are smart and creative folks who care deeply about their brands and the future of the medium.  Wouldn’t it be great if their efforts were invested wisely?

* = required field
  • Molly Pipkins

    Is there an emoticon for “thumbs up”?

  • No, but we at the consortium plan to develop one.

  • if nothing else, i’m fairly certain this meeting will produce a “visual hammer”.

  • Deep reference there! For P1’s to this blog.

  • Dick Taylor

    “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

    When has radio ever accomplished something as an industry when members of the industry separated into separate camps? Leveraging the benefits of digital (for listeners & advertisers) is an industry-wide problem that takes everyone rolling up their sleeves to tackle. Did we learn nothing from AM Stereo or Quad?

  • My only question, will there be snacks?

  • bobl

    “And together we shall act as a consortium, not unlike the one that powered HD radio to its current success.”
    ’nuff said.
    great post.

  • Yes. You and I are it.

    Mark Ramsey

  • Yeah it’s kind of a dirty word nowadays, huh? Thanks!

    Mark Ramsey

  • Yaman

    Among your top best posts of all time!
    Those few, like you, who have a clear vision of radio’s future no longer get together with other “radio people” in “radio events” for inspiration and actionable intel. They get together with people who have nothing to do with radio but everything to do with consumer behavior and client needs. Because those who will sustain the relevance of radio and make it as essential in the future as it was it in the past are not in Dallas this week. I’d vent more but I gotta run to a secret meeting with my mistress. Keep the fire burning Mark.

  • Thanks Yaman!

    Mark Ramsey

  • Eric,

    Thanks for the thoughtful note.

    Yes, I made the same point that the leaders and members of this group mean well. They are my friends as they are yours. And if you’re invited it’s tough to say no. But good intentions only get you to the doorstep of wise strategy – they are not a substitute for one.
    That said, the challenges to radio are very real. While cume is quite strong TSL is off by a significant (and understandable) margin. Ubiquity, passivity, and convenience of alternatives will eventually challenge even cume, all other things equal.
    Also, the newspapers didn’t get into trouble because they tried to invent new things. They got into trouble because their consumers and advertisers moved away from printed media. I’m working with a “newspaper” now, and it’s innovating like crazy. They see their job the way we should see ours: connecting consumers and advertisers in the presence of their local market brand any way they can.
    Mark Ramsey

  • That’s fair. But without transparency how would anyone know?

    I know many of these groups as well as the folks at CC and CBS and I would argue that all these corporate cultures are fairly similar, but that’s just my opinion.
    The main point of the post is not to criticize a meeting I didn’t participate in. It’s to suggest that there’s a much better way.
    Mark Ramsey

  • radioboy, I think you missed Mark’s point. It is simply to say that maybe radio needs a better way to plan radio’s digital future. One that includes thought leaders in many different spaces including consumers, advertisers and digital audio innovators. -Blair

  • Jim Hooker

    As Mark knows, the Future of Radio Conference has been doing what the later part of Mark’s message suggests for the last 4 years. You can read about all of our deliberations at http://www.futureofradioonline.com

  • That is correct!

    And thanks for sharing the link, Jim.

  • Rusty Hodge

    Radio “as an industry” seems to want to keep out the new upstart music services that are providing a radio-like service. As an industry, it’s already separated into camps: terrestrial/existing media companies and digital upstarts.

    Maybe getting everyone together and seeing what can be done to make the whole ecosystem better for everyone would be a good start.

  • Sounds good to me!

  • Morgan Wood

    Excellent article — and painfully funny.

  • Morgan Wood

    Excellent article — and painfully funny.

  • Thanks Morgan!

    Mark Ramsey

  • Thanks Morgan!

    Mark Ramsey

  • I know I’m not part of your gang but may I tell you what my company wants to do? We see radio being delivered digitally with little changes needed to the way things work. Radio consultants and everyone else just does what they do now because radio as a medium isn’t changing, just the delivery mechanism. One important new development will be that radio can now be a visual medium and in some ways will be able to compete with TV. Some of the important new things that we can do with software is to deliver with zip code accountability. This development solves a current problem that has not even been addressed out there yet but that we have solved and this localization keeps music and talent fees in check. And we don’t have to spy on individuals and sell their information which is becoming a growing problem with face book and the cookie guys. I see commercials that are integrated into the visuals so that they are not intrusive and even become fun. And I see this content easily produced and tracked through the system. But a lot of this stuff is automated so that you, the radio professional, does not have to do it. You just use your energy to make good radio. And guess what, it costs less than what you are doing now. It has to. That’s just some of the future we already have done and are getting ready to roll out. I invite everyone to be a part of the development and some early, proactive folks may even decide to own a part of it.
    I’m a ex-jock and radio spot director and producer, not a writer, so please excuse any grammar errors.

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