What Apples Teaches Us

The 2 most important lessons

Every company wants to emulate Apple’s success these days.

But for Radio, it seems to me, there are really 2 main lessons to be learned:

1. The vision comes from the top.
I don’t think anyone disputes the notion that Steve Jobs is Apple, that it is his vision and his passion that drives their creativity and success.

Does Radio have any visionary leaders, anyone who clearly sees where Radio is now, where it needs to go — and how to get there? Bruce Reese? Peter Smythe? I don’t know either, dude, so you tell me: Where is our next Gordon McLendon or Todd Storz?

It’s clear that the primary vision at the biggest consolidated radio companies is how to reorganize after bankruptcy filings so that the CEO’s pay isn’t cut, and how to keep hundreds of stations on the air while spending ever less money on the product each year.

2. Even remarkable products need marketing.
It’s impossible to watch TV this time of year and not see an ad for an Apple product.

Apple never sits on success. They didn’t stop trying to make iPods better after the initial series sold out. They didn’t stop innovating after the first iPhone or MacBook. And they never stop marketing.

Instead, with each new generation of their gadgets, they invest tons of money persuading us we can’t live without the latest improvement.

Apple might actually grow on word-of-mouth, but they don’t. Only Radio is that arrogant and short-sighted.

The last Radio company I know of that was committed to marketing was Viacom under Bill Figenshu, and that’s 20 years ago.

How pathetic is it that an industry that makes its profit from selling other businesses on the value of marketing is now run by people who don’t believe in marketing their own stations?!

And how short-sighted is it that an industry that produced 40% and 50% margins for decades never invested a penny into keeping the devices that made these profits possible as sleek and sexy as an iPhone?!

Really, what has the NAB been doing with their money all these years?

What can we say about a generation of radio owners and executives whose only thought was to enrich themselves while they cut staffing and blithely signed off on what’s happened to local radio?

Luckily, there’s still time.

An overwhelming percentage of the population still listens to radio every day.

There’s obviously a lot more we could emulate about Apple, but if we could just find the leadership, the will, to implement these two, Radio would enter a new decade with more hope than at any time since deregulation.

Who’s up for the challenge?