Monday, January 28, 2008



Went to a big book store looking for an old title. I couldn't believe how many books there were about the secrets of marketing and success. In scanning through a few of them, many of them struck me as ego trips for the writers...or simply nonsense akin to a Sunday morning Informercial. Few addressed common sense or judgement...or the basics. Way too many voodoo and "keys to success" books. Of course there are some great ones too, like Jim Citrin’s books. I had a problem finding the long out of print book I wanted so I went home and ordered it about five minutes. DIY.

Do It yourself is often where it’s at. Quite a change from the service oriented “we do it for you” era. Remember buying an airline ticket? Go to a travel agent and they do the work. Other than some specialty trip or big corporate ticketing, who wants the hassle of using a travel agent? Travelocity is SO much better. Same thing with…just about everything. Then there are things you just DON’T want to do yourself. That’s where there’s a big opportunity and I’m amazed at how companies are blowing it. If you’re in a service area—better serve. I’m amazed at how difficult it was to get a returned call from a PLUMBER…or how you can actually get bad service in a restaurant…or bad service ANYwhere. All part of the massive “re-think” that’s required to succeed in the 21st Century. Re-thinking and AFDI’ing what is essential is what defines the blueprint for success.

Back to the Plumber: First the lies. Yellow pages full of “24 Hour Service”…yeah right! Just try to call one on a Sunday. I got four unreturned messages, two guys pissed off because we called them on a weekend, two guys who could be here midweek. Then the attitude that they’re doing you a favor. Then the exorbitant bill.
,, and we STILL couldn’t get someone here on a Sunday. If there was a DIY plumbing thing. I’d DIY.

How about Airlines? It is an absurdly complicated and expensive business, compounded by bad fuel prices, labor problems and an angry press. Just like plumbers: The lies: Been delayed? Whenever anyone at XM gets delayed, they usually e-mail me so I can find out what’s REALLY going on. I do, and it’s always totally different from what passengers are being told. Then the attitude…pissed off employees…and it shows. I’m fortunate enough to have a plane. I DIY.

Selecting a car, making a record, shopping…DIY

My point is—if you are supposed to provide service, provide it-- or people will DIY. Take XM. We HAVE to provide interesting music, or people will DIY. TV stations have to provide killer programming or people will DIY (as in rent movies). Newspapers have to evolve or people will DIY (the internet). Companies forget that in today’s environment, it’s easier and easier to DIY if you aren’t at the absolute top of your game.

Sometimes it’s about getting out of your space to get a better grasp on thinking about your mission. I’m going on ten years here at XM, and I remember early on, XM was a United Nations of careers. We had guys from cable, hardware, aerospace, rocket science, military, etc…all mixing it up. It was a positive challenge. If I came up with some “radio” idea—it would be quickly challenged. Sure, a few radio things are timeless and I had to explain that…but SO many were nothing more than “radio ideas” that I was conditioned to doing, but weren’t necessarily valid. You can see ‘out of your space’ thinking happening in other areas. Richard Branson starting an airline? Steve Jobs running the music Industry. Sometimes it takes people out of their space to force successful change.

Flew up to White Plains New York a few days ago. Went with Rob Johnston from our research team and Kenyon Crouch on our marketing team. Kenyon Crouch. In the 60’s a station would have paid a ton to use that name for their News Director. What a classic Radio News name. His Dad was an astronaut! That’s kind of cool. Once we landed at the freezing White Plains airport, we were picked up by Dwight Douglas who invited us up for a lunch. Dwight was an associate at the old Burkhart/Abrams. He needs a manager to sort out his ideas. He’s working as a VP at RCS, a music software leader, but went on and on about how he has written 17 screenplays, 5 books, 9 sitcoms and a play. In fact when I worked with him, he seemed to write a book a week. Needs a manager.

The flight was great. I love flying in and out of New York. Tests your abilities mixing it up with planes that have crews. The controllers have NO patience and god forbid you should sound amateur. Rob was hoping we’d run into ice so he could see my Cirrus’ de-icing equipment work. No ice. That’s good. Ice is bad stuff on airplanes. My plane and most new generation planes have a wide array of equipment geared to keep you OUT of it. Big jets can climb in and out of it pretty fast, but a piston plane often toils around for a long time at those icy altitudes. I have XM Weather onboard which is possibly the most important piece of safety equipment in the last 30 years. It provides a pilot with an arsenal of information to help decision making while airborne, then if you get yourself into an icing situation, there’s a back-up called TKS. The leading edges of the wings and tail section have metal strips with about 800 holes per square inch. Called a weeping wing. When ice happens, flick a switch and the holes bleed out a fluid that melts the ice and creates a protection on the entire wing and elevator surface as the fluid lows backwards onto the airfoil. Then, you ask ATC for a different altitude or route to get you out of the nasty stuff.

The key to safe flying is not only the equipment…but JUDGEMENT. The public would think that most general aviation accidents are things like the engine quitting over the mountains. In fact, it’s almost always stupid pilot tricks. Some form of BAD JUDGEMENT.

I’ve lost about 50 pounds or so. Quincy Jones once told me—“There’s a reason you don’t see many fat 70 year olds”. I’m far from 70, but he made a real good point there. This has put a serious re-think into my weekly Lunch flights where I grab a bunch of victims from XM to test out regional food favorites. Fortunately, I have a plan. Pre check the menus at the famous and figure out the least dangerous items ahead of time. Seems to work. Funny about losing weight: It’s EASY, and there’s ways to do it that are completely sensible. Plus, I get an extra 3 knots out of my plane with the reduced load.

Would someone tell Obama and Hillary to stop bickering? It’s SO bad, that it’s being positioned as comedy. Looks like the Dems might yet find ANOTHER way to lose. Sure seems that if either took a more “I’m bigger than this nonsense” position, it would resonate and make the other candidate look like a bozo. Common Sense 101.

Then there’s Ralph Nader threatening to run. Why?! Is his ego SO out of control that he can’t just write books and bust big companies? I assume he’s a super liberal, so guess what—His entry as an independent will suck over liberal votes and clear the way for a conservative. Not that that’s bad…though I can’t see any of them currently running having the vision to save a Country having a nervous breakdown. Another tip: Learn Spanish—and use it.

So they are building a giant monument to Martin Luther King here in DC. About time. Of course now there’s an uproar because a Chinese person is sculpting it. This guy is probably the world’s greatest sculptor. Ah…wouldn’t Martin want it to be the best sculptor? Instead you hear “A Chinaman!!—This is terrible!!”. I really wish the Political Correct era would end. Bring on THE COMMON SENSE ERA!

Good Judgement and Common sense...seems pretty simple.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I was going through some notes...old notes…scribbled stuff on legal pads. I wrote out the "notes" seen below in 1998 in preparation for joining XM. I also remember talking to other “programmers” from other National media to get some feedback. The only thing is, none of them were really programmers. They were “deal guys” who SIGNED stuff but rarely created anything. Often Smart guys, but it quickly became apparent that we were on our own when putting a staff together for XM. Law degrees and track records weren’t really going to move the needle. There was really no staffing model. Or any kind of model. We had to find people to CREATE more than aggregate content. It was helpful that Hugh Panero, our CEO, told me “Get people with green hair and rings in their noses…not your old pals…”. I never let on that most of my pals HAD green hair. These notes refer to the creative side as some of these below mentioned characteristics might be TOO out there for people with more traditional responsibilities (I had to transcribe these from scribbles--I think I got most of it):

WE ARE NOT BRINGING IN A STAFF....WE ARE SIGNING UP A CAST. Once You have the blueprints, the company support of the Vision. You have the makings of the ultimate Operations team that has a prayer to execute some crazy ideas.

People running the creative have to have a great mind. More mind than track record. Then the tools to REVOLUTIONIZE Broadcasting are secondary.

What could possibly fuck things up???
HIRING AVERAGE PEOPLE! OR—creating an environment not conducive to creativity, imagination, freedom and passion.

Look at it like a movie. XM should sound like a soundtrack to life...not "radio".... there's already radio and it's free.

Fabulous Script. Studio Support. Critics tensed and ready. Great Directors & Producers.

Everything is in place.

What could fuck that up???

THE WRONG ACTORS.....Average casting.
With the right Actors, ya got an Oscar coming.

Look at any GREAT movie. It's got the Story.....It's got the Sound.....It's got the RIGHT ACTORS. Great casting

..Broadcasting is the same thing. We gotta hire AMAZING individuals.
That means:
*Brilliant dreamers
*The right person for the plot. The wrong DJ on an XM channel is like casting Woody Allen for the Rocky part.
*People that have "it"
*Eccentrics......all the way to the bank
*Warriors. Ready to accept and complete the mission of revolutionizing. In XM's case, we preached: Liberating Radio listeners with the same Moxie as a motivated group of Rangers freeing up a village. XM IS NOT THE PLACE FOR THE MEEK OR FOR THE "K-109 PLAYS THE HITS” CROWD......its war out there. WE HAVE THE THANKS. WE HAVE THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS...WE JUST NEED THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO CAN WIN THIS DAMN THING!

Nothing will sabotage the mission more than an "average" hire to execute. Nothing will speed up total creative victory than a great hire.
Gotta keep a place runnin' on eccentric energy....hyper creativity...otherworldly's the spirit that's going to take a place through the's an intensity...a cleverness...a "way of thinking" that separates you from the rest of the pack.

I have nightmares about pukers, Joe Radios and average types polluting an inventive environment. Innovative turf is sacred....hiring is an we recruit, you must maintain the standards, high values and”it" radar that got YOU hired in the first place.

At XM, and I'd think with most inventive media companies:

Out Of Work....pretty average, but ", and can come quickly." NO!
Out of Work because they got drunk with Jimmy Page after the Zep show in '73, and barfed on the GM while giving him a lift back to the station in Jimmy's limo. YES!
A fried of yours who is a nice, reliable guy but not amazing NO!
A friend of yours that happens to be amazing... (C’mon you know that's rare) YES!
...the point is we'll raise a big red flag with out of work or personal friends who's merit id your friendship.......I worry about convenience over brilliance.

Natural voices. No Pukers...No forced "Big Voices"...we're all about reality not balls
Format Passion. Livers of the format lifestyle. Not "Generalists".....but guys & gals who live and breathe your formats. Never: "Hey, I can do AC, Country,...passion what's that?...I'm a "radio guy". Test them! Play Fawlty Towers and Three Stooges to potential hires to check if a candidate "got it"....

Eccentricity. “Getting” the things that aren’t so obvious. Most don't...we don't want them if they don't.
*New Ideas. Already doing a call without "10th Caller" cliché?? Hmmm.thats good.
*Unhireables...weirdos.....Bring 'em on! 85% may be TOO weird...but 15% might be BRILLIANTLY weird.
*Smart People...real smart people. Not necessarily “educated" smart....but life smart.
*Experienced pros? 90% are tired burn outs. Experience is often Bullshit. It's where your mind is now and where it can GO. (Now—as far as a Doctor or Airline Pilot—I’ll take experience every time…but in our world, experience can mean baggage)
*Strange Accents? Yes! What’s with this thing radio has about hiring nice clear voices? Let’s get some street in there.
THINK!....Does the candidate:
A) REALLY AND TRULY show potential for greatness...or is their tape and mind maxed out. BE HONEST!
We need people who
CAN HOLD UP, JOIN IN and CONTRIBUTE. This is the "creative" majors. No creative minor leaguers in this camp, pal! This is not the place for the creatively weak, suit n tie, normal Americans. Bring us your brilliance...not your average.
c) Live in the same space we do? Most people don't.
We can't pollute XM or the Airwaves with anything less than brilliant people.....
*Whiners, Boring or Negative people will not last here. Grumpy is OK....Goofy is OK.....Out There is OK...Boring or Negative are unacceptable.
99.99999999% of Americas radio guys are in the Evil Average Zone...AVOID THEM.
Seek people who can stand up to the intensity of "The Mission" and help you take it higher and further. Working at creative places is hard, challenging, insane, tiring...but there is no other gig in the World as cool as a place that's re-inventing. HIRE ONLY SPECIAL PEOPLE!

OK…so much for the note scribbles…now a few some random thoughts:

*Flew Southwest Airlines recently. Couldn't take my plane because of a snowstorm brewing. THOSE GUYS get it. Smooth...reliable and extremely impressive. No wonder they actually make money. From uniformity of their aircraft and route structure to the simple basics of happy employees...they are a hell of an airline--Quite a story in today's environment. Google Herb Kelleher. You'll see the kind of thinking that set the pattern for this successful company.

*Got feedback on my disdain for political polls and "traditional research". Well, I think most Focus groups, auditorium tests and polling that most media does is flawed. The NON TRADITIONAL research that is mind blowingly GOOD is the R&D that goes into Mars Landings, Cancer cures, new technology and new thinking that makes a difference. If media got into researching on that level--you WILL see change

Monday, January 14, 2008



There has always been music…but in 1955, it all changed, there was ROCK N ROLL which went far beyond “music”. AND here in 2008,—there has always been news/information and some form of technology, but the opportunity is to do to information and technology what Rock n Roll did to Music is what's moving the meter. It's all been happening for awhile now. But from a brainpower and innovation viewpoint, Rock n Roll looks backwards. The vision is on information and technology. And it's probable that Rock n Roll’s inventive/world changing days are behind. NOW---That doesn't mean its dead—in fact it’s very much alive, but I think the magic of Rock n Roll in the 21st century is all about immersing ourselves in its deep and unbelievably rich history. People in the music business are usually hopeful that it's all about "new music". It WAS...but the magic now is in mining the history, which only a thin layer of it has been touched. Mining can mean DISCOVERING what’s out there, or seeing amazing bands perform their history at the well honed level of today. Music will impact people forever and there'll be other forms of it that engage the world, but my point is that that "Rock n Roll thing" is more about the past (and that's fine and can be/is EXTREMELY lucrative) than the future. Of course, not a pleasant thing for a business that is focused on breaking new acts…but a pretty good time for the miners. If I were in the music business, I’d focus on mining and technology instead of the old school trying finding the next big hit and getting it played a lot. Vegas has better odds.

Rock n Roll is a universal term. EVERYone knows what it means from 7 to 70…and pretty much everybody was touched by it. It’s plain un-American to not like Rock n Roll. In 1956 it meant teens, but now, it’s demographically universal. Hell, Obama’s song is by U2 and Huckabee is using Skynyrd! ROCK N ROLL is an attitude that resonates around the World---but it can be and IS being applied to non musical initiatives.

In its purest sense Rock n Roll arguably means:


Done right it’s like:


(Lasting … integrity …quality …in touch with the soul of the Nation)

Those above mentioned points and artists are the same points that will and are defining the NEW "Rock n Roll"--INFORMATION & TECHNOLOGY

Today’s information merchants can and often do also go Cheesy, manufactured, short lived, soul-less….say—that sounds like a lot of today’s “pop” music!

I would classify Naomi Campbell interviewing Hugo Chavez as not exactly life changing. Too bad she wasn’t a pop figure in the 70’s—we could have had her interview Idi Amin.

In many ways Information delivery is where music was in the 50’s. POISED for something new. And ‘something new’ IS happening before our eyes. Just the fact that you are reading this blog is NEW.

And where music was once the definer, now it’s often an add-on…something that makes technology a richer experience…kinda like a video game with amazing music.

The Music Business ate itself… A lot of why music ate itself is because those controlling it, forgot they were in the ROCK N ROLL business and got absorbed by the gaming and bullshit and forgot:


,,,I don’t blame the music was all inevitable


I love music as most people do, but the pulse of the Nation is information and technology based. THAT’S the buzz. That’s where the excitement is…where the action is.

Looking back is fine and enjoyable---There's SO much there. But looking forward---the excitement will more likely be information and technology based discovery than a hot new artist that has the lasting impact of a Dylan, Beatles, Pink Floyd or Zeppelin. Oh--and for those who say that they were special cases---Yes they were, but imagine the state of music without the driving influence they had on other artists. Without Elvis and The Beatles, Patty Page would be voted the most important artist of the 20th Century.

POLLS: They sure nailed it with Obama “winning” New Hampshire. What a joke. At 4pm the day of the voting, networks were writing Clintons eulogy. THAT is what I don’t like about traditional research.

....Passionate about the past and excited about the future!

Monday, January 07, 2008



Uh oh, we are entering “Awards Show” season. Celebrating everything wrong with entertainment. The whole “the red carpet” thing…the tux clad crowd trying to out fashion each other…and having been to some of these: The small talk and bullshit. “Hey there’s Artie Fufkin! ---Hey Artie, you ya...long time no see big guy (hug)”…then five minutes later “Fufkin—what a jerk…” Yeah—can make good TV ratings and sell more ‘product’, but I wish they’d just go away. They are SO goofy. The Grammy’s and Oscars are grandfathered in and done well—in fact we are doing quite a bit with the Grammy’s and it gets great traction. They have a historical thing going---that’s fine…but most of the others are made-for-TV ultra junk.

Ever watch LINK TV? That is one weird channel. I think it’s about bringing cultures together. To me, it’s all about bringing another boring unrealistic channel to my TV set.

OK—so much for my bad attitude about TV, I can always tune in TV Land to watch their great promos, or watch International news shows for the interesting production, or Fox News for the cute girls.

The big opportunity for media in 08 is de-laming it while simultaneously growing the audience. Do-able. I’ve seen study after study, as well as instinctually feel that America doesn’t actually LIKE much what they’re seeing hearing or reading…but they do it anyways. Sorta like a lot of food---It may taste pretty average but ya gotta eat. Going a step further, it’s unfashionable in the trade and un-businesslike to admit any of this. Maybe as in radio, the innovators have mostly cashed out…or maybe most of today’s breed of media titan is so self absorbed with the boys club they’re in that they just don’t care. Probably a little of each infused with this burning desire to stay clearly within the profitable (a good thing) but the ultimately limiting zone of safe (a bad thing). The old boy’s club thing holds innovation back. Same guys…same style…same M.O....the same elitist disattachment...the same kiss ass political gaming. I think part of Barack Obama’s appeal is that he ain’t in that club. Look at any tired, faltering but once, maybe even still prosperous business or institution and you’ll see The BOYS CLUB running the show. The “club” is’s on its last legs. The new club will can see it fact, it’s there if you look at whose winning.

It’s going to take some rebels to change all of this…and there’s too much opportunity to keep the rebels down…young and there’s SO much to rebel against, with new ideas. The rebels are out there, winning and going to win. The myth is that the rebels are the “new” generation. Nope. I’d put old guys like Jobs and Murdoch right in there with “new” rebel thinkers. It’s all about weather one is sitting back in “the boys club” or thinking like a rebel. And there’s a tendency to think that the Boys club are old guys…not necessarily, as they are recruiting young guys for the club too. It’s all about a state of mind and a will to “fight” the average.

It IS nice to see some shows TV blending interesting with theater. The Off Road Trucking and Kitchen Nightmares kind of shows…and the Top Chef type competitions.
Most of these concepts originated in Europe and Japan….then they come to the USA and get slickened. I hope we get a bit more innovative. Japan did it—they’d steal our ideas and make them better…now they create often better products. Time to CREATE better products, and our traditional #1 export ENTERTAINMENT is a good place to start.

I’ll never forget when I was in Australia and a noted programmer asked “Why is it that all American radio stations give away prizes to the ‘9th caller’? It is some sort of regulation? I replied “Sheep”.

New Years Resolutions: The only new Years resolutions that work are the ones you start in August.

Candidate theme song artists:







At least in Iowa, looks like Classic Rock is what sells.

I’m not so sure about these “theme songs”. More cheapening I think. More utilization of the “pop culture” card. Probably more effective if only ONE candidate discovered it, but when they ALL have their theme songs, it further takes this escapade into cheese territory. Something a High School student council candidate might try. Wonder what would happen if one candidate said “This is all about the business of running the Country, not some song…”?

There’s a word revolution….First Offices- Here’s my in/out list for office lingo:


PING: Call

BAKE IN: Add to




METRICS: Numbers

OFF LINE: Shut up and we’ll talk about it later

OWN: If it screws up it’s your fault

DOWNLOAD: Here’s what happened

PRE MEETING: Let’s make sure we are all saying the same thing

DIVERSITY: Different stuff

ACTION ITEM: Something you gotta do

IDEATE: Come up with stuff


I did a presentation for the University of Richmond Business students awhile back called "Secrets from the Creative Side" that dealt with filling them in on what those guys are thinking. Three of them came up to me and said they were enlightened because I talked like a civilian.

A word revolution needs to happen beyond the office. On radio, TV and in print, there’s a kind of media speak that speaks to everyone but the user. In radio: We need to evolve from "Radio Speak" to "Street Speak"....a little history:

In the 50's, Radio was the transmitter of pop language. Borrowed from the beatniks, the truly influential DJs like Alan Freed peppered their raps with "Man, Cool, Dig It, and even Daddy-O"......They talked street.

In the 60's, cool stations borrowed from the urban streets. "Boss Radio, Rip Off, and Hippie" didn't come from a focus group or some suburban wordsmith.

In the 70's, ”Far Out, Oh Wow, bogus, decent and bad ass" we're right out of the late 60s underground.

THEN---In the 80s and 90s, most radio stations evolved from "Street Talk" to "Radio Speak"......The Most, The Best, Home of, The New, etc...
It was part of the data revolution that just went too far! It helped create a very sterile sound. I was at focus groups where we'd actually "test" street terms. You can imagine how that went. Not well. What tested well was "The Best, The Most, Home of, The New etc..." --of course those focus groups were 30 years ago, and those terms are STILL everywhere.

This all fueled a setback for talkin' the streets not the marketing report.


Make it up. Seriously. Radio has the power to make up...fabricate words. Say them and they will come. In fact, I doubt if a well scrubbed teenybopper in 1965 knew that when she was saying "Wow! That new Tommy James record is Boss" she was technically saying "Wow! That new Tommy James Record is good heroin” (Boss was a drug term originally from the 30s). Anyways, what I'm saying is, MEDIA IS POWERFUL. You say it...and if it “sounds” right, they'll use it.

RECLAIM COOL NEW LANGUAGE FROM THE COMPUTER PEOPLE. ---Hey, they don't own cool culture! But those guys are brilliant at coming up with cool names: Spamming, Hacking, I.M. Cool words that stick.

Of course, the Hip Hop Culture OWNS word invention

Words rule.