Last year at this time, I had breakfast with a client who asked me to speak at his company’s meetings. Over fruit and granola, we got to talking about the many initiatives Jacobs Media is now involved with – mobile apps, audience research, the “connected car,” the DASH conference public radio, digital strategies – and of course, consulting radio stations in the Rock, Classic Rock, and Alternative formats.
I was feeling good about the direction of the conversation. And then during a pause, he turned to me and asked, “So what business are you in?”
I stopped eating. It was a great question and it begged a more thoughtful response. As we continued the meal and I struggled for a comeback, he reminded me that our company has been transformative through the digital revolution, walking the walk, and moving our company out of the “radio cheese room.”
While that had a nice ring to it, that breakfast interlude continues to serve as a reminder to me and our team about the ongoing need to reassess our mission, our goals, and our activities as the environment undergoes roiling change.
It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine – running a radio station, cranking out music logs, making the quarterly sales goals, and planning the evergreen events – and miss the overriding message that blurring lines, changing media habits, and consumers redefining how they use our brands are occurring at a pace that’s much faster than we think.
That’s why when you think about major media organizations around the world, they must be going through many of these same processes, but on a much larger scale. To that end, the BBC is reportedly planning on demolishing its television and radio divisions this spring, according to The Telegraph.
If it happens, this move would signal a major fork in the media road, and the story suggests it’s coming from the top – BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall. Now in fairness, it’s still in the rumor stages, but it should serve as a sign for media’s C-suite denizens that these conversations are fluid and ongoing. Everyone is reassessing how to reimagine their holdings and the essence of their companies.
When you look at the news apps on your smartphone or tablet, it’s hard not to notice that The New York Times, NPR, Newsweek, and your local newspaper all offer multi-media apps that include audio, video, text, and photos. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether you’re looking at the Associated Press or USA Today.
In numerous ways, a BBC’s announcement that the silos could be coming down would represent the most sweeping structural overhaul in the institution’s 93 year history. And it begs the question why more media entities that have divisions called “TV” and “radio” aren’t considering this same type of organizational reboot.
While this kind of move would undoubtedly create cost efficiencies and anticipated firings and redeploying of staff and management, it may speak to the importance of stepping back to answer the question, “What jobs are consumers hiring us to do?” And in the process, it’s an indicator that media organizations don’t just produce and market TV or radio programming, but instead provide entertainment and information services that require multiple content offerings.
In many ways, this is happening now at the local radio station level. More and more companies are asking their PDs and personalities to produce podcasts, social media content, videos, events, and merchandising. This multi-media sea change in content creation is part of the media blur we’re all experiencing. We’re not just making “radio” – we’re transitioning and transforming our brands and our staffs to think multi-media entertainment.
So what business are you in?
That is the question.
Prior to launching the company, Fred spent the majority of his time designing and managing research projects as the Director of Research for the Radio and Publishing divisions for Frank N. Magid Associates, a leading research and consulting firm. Later, Fred became Director of Radio Research for the ABC-FM Owned and Operated Radio Stations. From there, Fred gravitated to the station side, becoming program director for legendary WRIF-FM in Detroit, before forming Jacobs Media.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults Jacobs Media’s major market Classic, Mainstream, and Active Rock clients, while having input in every client relationship.
Fred has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and a Master’s degree in Telecommunications from Michigan State University.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
- Looking For That Breakthrough Benchmark - March 15, 2016
- There Are Only 13 Facebook Status Updates - March 14, 2016
- John O’Connell: The 5 Biggest Challenges Launching a New Radio Station - March 11, 2016