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What Broadcasters can learn from Steve Jobs – the Tao of Steve

What lesson does Apple’s just-departed Steve Jobs have for broadcasters?

As one Appler once told me, “Steve doesn’t think anybody listens to the radio.” And while this person’s tongue may have been placed slightly in cheek, it’s certainly true that Steve doesn’t think anybody should be limited to what they hear on the radio.

I once caught sight of Jobs on the Apple campus.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and there was Steve talking to a coworker a few feet away.  As a result of his health issues he’s a slight man, almost unrecognizable in a crowd.  His presence does not shout “charisma,” nor does he seem to intend it to.  Yet his influence on commerce and culture has been unparalleled.

What broadcasters can learn from Jobs is what makes him different from the rest.

What makes Steve different is the force of his ideas and his ability and passion to execute them.

What makes Steve different is a relentless focus on innovation and an obsession on solving consumer problems elegantly, even ones we don’t yet know we have.

What makes Steve different is a recognition that trends are made to be surfed, and by the way, trends are very often made.

Indeed, “what business you’re in” is a function of the opportunities the marketplace presents as seen through the prism of your own company’s competitive advantages.  That’s why Apple is no longer Apple Computer. And it’s why “radio” is no longer the industry that elevated the head of your group to a leadership role.

Jobs knows that everything begins and ends with the consumer and the consumer is us.

Contrast that with the broadcast leader who tends to think many of the following thoughts:

  1. This business hiccup is only a passing phase.  1999 is just around the corner.

  2. We are the Great and Powerful Radio and can enforce our will on consumers if we run enough promos to do it

  3. Don’t worry about Google and Groupon and Pandora – just sell more spots

  4. Everyone who listens to the radio today consumes as much of it as ever – maybe even more!

  5. We can defend our importance among consumers and advertisers even as we trim out all that expensive stuff between the songs

To Jobs, the “passing phase” is a trend worth surfing, and 1999 is gone forever.

To Jobs, the power of Apple is in direct proportion to the passion of its followers and consumers and is beholden to that passion

To Jobs, more “business as usual” will get you fired

To Jobs, consumer behaviors are as fickle or as fixed as the entertainment options which attract them.  A better idea executed well that solves a problem has nothing to fear, not even from a 100-year-old industry with entrenched relationships and billions of dollars in revenue.

To Jobs, you don’t cut your way to growth.  You don’t cut your way to relevance.  You don’t cut your way to consumer passion and continued advertiser interest.

What broadcasters never seem to get is that folks think radio is less important nowadays because so much other stuff is more important.  And “importance” is an outcome of consumer passion, not a byproduct of radio industry marketing and PR.

Do things that make consumers love you, stay ever so slightly ahead of their desires, put your consumer strategy before your corporate one.

Then you will know the Tao of Steve.

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