Saturday, July 07, 2007

OLD THINKING FOR NEW MEDIA...AND NEW THINKING FOR OLD MEDIA

OLD THINKING FOR NEW MEDIA AND NEW THINKING FOR OLD MEDIA

When we put XM together, a lot of it was actually about “old” thinking. The technology was strikingly new---but the programming was in some cases…old. In this case, much of it was about bringing back the joys of radio which had pretty much vanished, at least on the music side. I think this is critical in today’s break neck speed of life. Instilling OLD thinking in new Media and NEW thinking in OLD media for the best of all worlds is something that escapes many. If you think about it—what the old media needs is stunning new ideas that connect, whereas new media often needs the old “passionate” thinking to balance out the often soul less and cold pure technology inherent to much of new media. I see that in music too. Some of the greatest and most timeless recordings ever, were made on 1, 2 and 4 track tape. Banging it out the hard way. A few of today’s artist could benefit from whatever “it” was that made this music so powerful and lasting. I talked to one band that made spectacular records back then. On 8 tracks. Recently they utilized futuristic technology, recording parts from different parts of the world and joining them together via sound files and technology. I kinda think that they need to inject some “old” thinking into the equation, because the result was a high tech, modern….disaster.

Not all old thinking is good…much is, old and deserves to stay that way. BUT---there are some concepts and angles that are perceives as old, but in fact are TIMELESS, but simply categorized as old and invalid because they haven’t been utilized much in recent times and have been thrown out with the notion that ALL old ideas are obsolete in today’s era. As exciting and powerful as NEW ideas are…there are often opportunities to inject old thinking into new concepts. Take XM’s 60’s channel. That’s PURE 1965 thinking, but performed on a 2007 platform. We COULD have done 60’s 2007 style and it would be pretty charmless. But that’s only one example of uniting the ‘character’ of many old ideas with the modern vision of today.

Ten there’s OLD media. I look at newspapers. I really don’t think they will die unless they are allowed to. Maybe not the medium of choice for an I-pod wielding 16 year old, but I think thery have tremendous potential simply because they are so much a part of society. But, man, do they have issues. Do THEY ever need to instill NEW thinking For example, newspapers are often perceived as:


*The bastion of “slow media”.

*Bulky and unwieldy

*Tired

*Hard to navigate

*Perceived as Operated by cigar chomping Lou Grant types who still use typewriters…and are in complete denial about life in 2007.

*No pulse, edge or bite.

*Presenters of yesterday’s news…literally.

*Unscannable. Ponderous.

*Not proponents of junk culture…but not proponents of smart culture either—kind of in the gray middle zone that isn’t exactly a compelling place to be.

*Not as exciting to “get your name in the paper” as it was. Now you can have your own website.

*Dirt media. Then ink gets on your fingers.

*Who has time to read them?

But with that said—IF they park the denial at the door, and drastically re-think, they could continue to be an important part of culture. All I read about them though is cost cuts. A nice Band-Aid. The cuts are probably very necessary, but I have seen NO “re-thinking” of the basic creative and business model. Kinda like taking a terrible radio station and cutting staff…it’s STILL a terrible radio station, but just has fewer employees.

Tech heads of all generations are quick to convince that the old is dead. In 1955, Radio was supposed to be dead. In fact, it was about to enter it’s prime…but it TOOK a lot of re-thinking, with a little help from guys like Storz and McLendon. (Pick up Marc Fishers book “Something in the Air” if you don’t know about those two guys) That’s why I think print isn’t dead—unless it’s left to die. Imagine injecting new thinking into those tired old ink dogs. And—New thinking NEEDS to be about the products as much as the economic model.

Media is timeless—you can cherry pick from all eras. Some things WERE better before…And at the same time, there is a fountain of new ideas that will excite and stimulate that are yet to be discovered. I really think New Media needs some Old thinking to put soulfulness and magic into their mix, while Old media needs spectacular denial free new ideas to cut through the ever growing clutter. Denial is the key word. The Old Media guys tend to be so engrained in the way it’s always worked…new media guys often reject some of the old values that may be unfashionable in the board room, but enlighten and satisfy consumers. Hotels are like that. Some “modern hotels” lack character. Some old hotels, are…old and ratty. But the Old Hotel with all the modern conveniences and charm…or the new hotel that has character and vibe---that’s the magic combination. Old Media integrating new ideas...or new media integrating (the good) old ideas---That’s the plan.

Old thinking into New Media…and New thinking into old media.

Eric Logan had an Offsite meeting recently. It was actually very productive. Held at his Golf Club. In the early XM we had a “bootcamp” wih programmers and air talent at an exclusive Yacht Club in Annapolis. Needless to say, we were not invited back as the other guests didn’t get, like or appreciate our behavior. Eric’s meeting was pretty focused, plus he belongs to the club so he has some clout. And it wasn’t a bootcamp…it was a strategic discussion—different vibe. XM has a lot of Offsite meetings. I’m not sure I get that. Stuffy meeting rooms with all the character of….a meeting room, $12 muffins, parking headaches and fluorescent lights. I always preferred Field Trips to Offsites….or just staying in our wonderful building. We used to have these staff Fiekd Trips to places like The Museum of Horrors and Birchmere—the cool music venue….with a bar. Predictably, many of the Rock guys partook in the bar option, but in reality, it loosened them up and put tem on the offese rather than being imprisoned by a long meting. The result was truly incredible productivity—it WASN’T because of the bar…it was because of the environment and attitude. In any case, I’m personally not a big fan of Offsite meetings unless there’s something that makes it special…but that’s just me.

From the great stations department: Went to the Billboard convention in 1968. I was 15, and there were a bunch of us in the full Networking mode. There’d be a PD from a station in Kankakee illionis, and we’d be drooling all over him. But it was the big stations that really got the few kids like myself there going crazy. They set up a room with nothing but airchecks of the big stations that you could strap on headphones and listen to. It was packed, but WAYS in Charlotte was empty as most people were checking out giants like KHJ. WAYS blew me away. It was clearly Medium Market…but they managed every ounce of magic from that signal. The hour before the convention ended I walked into the WAYS booth and stole all the cassettes and left a thank you note. Years later, Kent Burkhart and I consulted WAYS and their sister styation WROQ FM. I focused on WROQ (the first of the W/K-“Rock” stations). The station was as crazy behind he sceneas as on the air. It was owned by Sis and Stabn Kaplan. Two extremely tough, hard core operators, who knew their shit. Both were tough as nails, but actually really really nice people. During visits I always stayed at their house. Maybe it was to save hotel expenses…but I think it was actually out of kindness. I’d be awaken every morning with Stan bellowing “God Damn it Sister!!!!!!…..the ____acount bla bla….”. It was kinda like being at my parents’ house, but everything was about radio. I remember Stan going on and on one night about the PTL Club---telling me how it was a scam and it shouod be called “Pass The Loot”. This was before those “ministries” were exposed. Then going inton the station was a trip. Located at 400 Radio Road. Sis had this HUGE poodle that defended her office. There were maniacs like Jay Thomas rolling around the halls. WAYS was always a leader in “Morning Shows” –WAY before they became the norm. Jack Gayle, then Jay Thomas. They were a very progressive operation—and very successful. They also owned WAPE in acksonville. Company meets were held in a room with a pool table at their house. Stan, Sis and their stations were classics…the best of the independent operator. Rough, No BS, loud, colorful, smart, brash and positively endearing….not to mention successful.

Travelogue: Flew up to White Plains to pick up Randy Ezratty and his two kids to fly them to summer camp in Maine. Saved Randy 16 hours of driving there and back. It was the day Putin was visiting Kennebunkport so the whole area was on high alert flight wise. The flight was fantastic. Perfect day. And it was cold. In fact we picked up Ice coming into Wiscasset Maine. Odd for July! Once we landed, Randy got a car and we toured the lush beautiful area where he used to have a place. Headed to Robinsons Wharf in Boothbay for lobster, steamed clams and other Maine food. Great. Right on the water. Then deposited his kids at camp and headed back to DC. Randy was going to hang at XM DC but upon arrival found that all of his meetings were cancelled as many were out for the 4th. So the poor guy takes a train back to NYC after flying in from Maine. Maine is definitely a relatively undiscovered place. It’s amazing. Very remote, but really not THAT far from the East Coast metroplex.

News story of the week: UK Bombings. So the TSA reports that US Airport Security has been beefed up. Interview with TSA person who then lists the airports affected with higher security. If I was a terrorist, you look at that list and choose a Milwaukee which wasn’t on the list.

Reason 305-C on why the record business is screwed up: XM signs up an artist to do an ARTIST CONFIDENTIAL. In many respects, these are “Infomercials” for an artist that get aired across XM, on AOL, DirecTV, and on several major airlines for a potential 44 million listenership. XM covers ALL the costs. Plus we do a video for the artist. Major label tells artist (one that NEEDS the exposure) they can’t do it with XM. Result is that the ARTIST is penalized…the artist misses an opportunity. Unbelievable.

…finally check Bob Edwards’s blog: www.bobedwardsradio.com/blog Quality guy we commandeered from NPR. And the absolutely coolest place to check out THE most bizarre and wonderful shirts and tee-shirts is www.cafepress.com Give yourself an hour to discover the completely whacked and massive selection of clothing they have.

8 Comments:

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous John Navin said...

I was with you at those WAYS/Charlotte meetings under another name. You were explaining to Stan about your format, which played less rock and got mellower in the midday. He wasn't quite getting it. I piped from the other side of the room, "Stan, he's talking about dayparting. Not so much loud stuff in the middle of the day."
Stan said, "Oh, dayparting. I understand that."
My reward for piping up and helping you to make this clear to Stan was a very dirty look from your boy Kent Burkhart.
I left the room.

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

L.A.,
An L.A. 7/7/07 SPLITTY, I See,
All these AC video's, This is what I am talking about. This is the stuff for the TV Show.
"XM Diversity"
"Themes, Dreams, and Schemes"
Derrick

 
At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would a label steer an artist away from XM? An exclusive agreement with Sirius, or just hostility toward satellite radio in general? I know the recording industry isn't enamored with the Inno's ability to store music, but you'd think exposure on XM might generate SOME sales of CDs as well as the freeloading the industry loathes so much.

 
At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Jerry said...

Lee, glad to see you came to maine briefly. We are all over XM up here. Next time, I'll buy you a beer or three.

 
At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it's time for some new thinking again on channel 6. The playlist has become quite FM-ized (i.e. narrow) and the jingles are painfully stale. Not to mention it is so frustrating to hear the DJs talk over songs to constantly plug XM sports channels that I have no interest in at all. Subtract more points for the sound quality which is, well, quite honestly a notch worse than AM.

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger UnseenLibrarian said...

Lee,

While I applaud the breadth of XM and saw it coming years ago when I was part of a Rhode Island collective researching the feasibility of a Cable Satellite Radio station, I still feel the medium is way too tethered to corporate mediocrity rather than the tastes of its listeners. There are gems within each genre span, but where is avant garde jazz, free improvisation, noise, electroacoustic, 20th and 21st century Classical, World Folk music, Bebop that isn’t stale, non-mainstream bluegrass and folk, political comedy and spoken word more than a five minute soundbite, more interesting rock despite the incredible Deep Tracks reservoir, old-timey non-mainstream country, novelty tunes, non-mainstream funk, conscious hip hop, sound art and field recordings, and much more? If you truly embrace the old mediums positive attributes then please start incorporating a more holistic programming attitude. Satellite subscribers may be even more intelligent than much of the dumb-downed fare infers.

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

60's on Six is very stale...sounds like any other FM oldies station. I no longer hear the "wow" songs that used to pop up. Please widen the playlists again. I find myself going to Escape more often.

 
At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee,
Congratulations on your new position at Tribune company.
Here are some ideas to implement the “New thinking for old media” approach.
Like cable companies "bundle" approach to subscriptions, newspapers should bundle their newspaper subscriptions (old media) with internet access (new media) by becoming or partnering with an ISP. Newspapers with millions of subscribers would become an instant ISP powerhouse. The “bundle” could be become an attractive two for one subscription for consumers and advertisers alike.

The allocation of Tribune printing and news room resources is begging for a review and re-allocation.

Given that all old media newspapers face the same challenges, a sharing of print facilities or even spin off print, insert and distribution operations into subsidiaries. This would allow utilizing efficiencies to create a favorable profit level. Economics would suggest if an alliance of newspapers or a subsidiary format would provide the print, insert and distribution services of the newspaper future.

Unused print, insert and distribution facilities could be sold or re-allocated. A reduction in staff would add to an improved bottom line.

A re-design of news gathering formats would allow more involvement of readers, bloggers and other contributors would increase the connection between media and the subscribers at large. Wire Services and the newspapers editors would remain the professional core of the news room.

I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of your contributions emerge.

Hans, Hartford

 

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