I may be a little late on this call, but I noticed this morning that the Sun-Sentinel has followed the Palm Beach Post's lead and is posting mugshots from the Broward County Jail. Well, you know it is a public service. Whenever you feel like a loser, start wading through those sad-ass mugshots. You'll feel better about yourself in no time.
Also, I'm a little late on posting this latest "think piece" from Tribune Co. innovation czar Lee Abrams. Wanted to wait until I could read the whole thing and understand it enough to summarize it. Unfortunately, I failed to complete that mission. He "repurposes" something from XM radio here to motivate the troops, but I wonder if he knows that XM/Sirius stock is selling for about 60 cents right now.
I post this for historical purposes only. Don't feel that you need to slug through it.
--------------------------------------- September 29, 2008 THE NEWSPAPER RENAISSANCE...AND MORE ON TV CREATIVE.
Today, we launched the new Chicago Tribune....yesterday, the new Hartford Courant. Without reservation, these two papers took bold, and sometimes painful steps to address the negativity surrounding this business with positive moves that will create a renaissance for these important news brands.
Being based here in Chicago, I was closer to the re-invention activity than most of our other newspapers, as the action was an elevator ride away. What is remarkable about the Chicago Tribune is that few thought they could evolve. Comments like these symbolized the perception:
"Chicago Tribune...they'll never change....good luck" ---A company veteran in a T-6 market April 2008
"The staid Chicago Tribune is attempting to modernize, though it is unlikely they'll be able to because of their conservative change resistant infrastructure" ---A Blogger on a UK website, July 2008
"This place is toast...we'll never change.." ---A Chicago Tribune employee April 2008
Well, there were roadblocks. But those were removed, and the New Chicago Tribune is more than a new version of the timeless Tribune, but it represents a completely new attitude in the newsroom, marketing floor...everywhere. A coming together and focus of some real smart and passionate people to create a high quality newspaper that is aggressively tackling the problems with actions.
Key to the reinvention process is that we'll never have to do it again, because it will happen every day. There's a new flexibility and freedom to have so much belief on the brand, the city and the people that we can take chances...try things...have the attitude of re-invention locked into our genes so we can compete...and prevail without the shackles of sacred and tired old line thinking that is weighty enough top sink us all into the land of
It's a whole new day...and attitude.
...and take a look at the Orlando Sentinel's front page yesterday on newseum.org. Brilliant. Another example of the reinvention simply being the first step in a new attitude that opens the doors for daily reinvention that's going to set the tome to grow this business.
Along the lines of continual evolution, I had the pleasure of visiting Allentown and Baltimore last week. Both newspapers relaunched...but that was just a plunge. Now, they are re-inventing themselves DAILY. I was afraid of pushing back to old habits. Hardly, as these guys have used the reinvent date as a starting point and now they are more inventive than ever. I thought Allentown did an good job with their re-invent...it wasn't really that WOW though, but it is clear that they are a model of daily re-invent as they are on fire with new ideas and angles. They're continually launching new features, upgrading existing ones and THINKING about the newspaper...an a 24/7 basis. This is SO important because a redesign is just a first step in a whole new attitude.
The Baltimore Sun is equally alive with evolution. And notable is that their recruitment classifieds called "Find It" (a complete and dramatic rethink) has GROWN in revenue by 9%. Key word there: GROW.
A few ideas popped up in our discussions. One is that in our quest for local takes on Global stories, why not offer election polls based on neighborhoods? We have National State and regional, but imagine if you could see results for your neighborhood? Then there's a very controversial item: "Special Advertising Sections".
The Baltimore Sun did some very nice special sections...BUT--they were plastered with the line "SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION"
OUCH! Why not just say "Don't read this because it's a bunch of ads and no credible content"
I understand the importance of seperating these from the traditional news, that's fine, but how about another name??
A PUBLICATION OF (PUT PAPER HERE)
The idea being "Special Advertising Section" is worded as a turn off....A bunch of ads. We can reword this and the readers, advertisers and pretty much everyone will have a better experience, AND clearly keep it separated from traditional news reporting. The things I saw the Sun do were really well done....but that "Special Advertising Section" thing seemed to cheapen the content. There's GOTTA be a better way to present these sections.
On the TV front, had a conference call with the Creative Service Directors at our TV stations. While radio is a past life for me, I got thinking that TV's creative challenges are surprisingly similar to the challenges that XM radio faced in terms of re-thinking. Yes, I'm repurposing some things here, but many of these thoughts translate to ALL competitive media, though keep in mind they were written from a radio POV...but may well apply to your mission:
AFDI: The battle call. The center of our programming universe. Instead of researching EVERYthing, commitees and "we can't do that"...the idea is to actually EXECUTE on the ideas that are created. SWAGGER: The way we carry ourselves on and off the air. An air of confidence based on AFDI and collective ego. Radio has been beaten up by other media--time to fight back. MINUTE BY MINUTE: The musical bottom line. Forget Depth. Forget Tight. If you, at any given point in time (minute by minute) are playing the right song for your target, you will win the music battle. ARTIST OWNERSHIP: Re-claiming artists. Bringing them back to radio. Radio has given up on trying to own artists...given up to MTV, Print and Cable. XM must bring artists back to radio. CELEBRATION: We don't simply "play" important music. We celebrate it. A Gospel Church may celebrate the Lord...well, we're the Gospel Church of music. AUTHENTICITY: In a plastic world, we are the real deal. No compromises. Guys likeWard Cleaver and Manny Malig run XMLM our Metal channel. They bleed metal, and listeners will hear and respect that. SONICS: It's the evolution of "Imaging"...it's the SOUND of your channel. Don't think bumpers & promos. Think beyond that.....it's all about a whole sonic environment you create. SONIC DENSITY: The intensity and frequency of sonic pieces. CAUSE I WANT TO: Doing things on air, "because you feel like it"...maybe a break in Swahili....or Pig Latin.....Spontaneity! HUMVEE CRASHING: The art of crashing an R/C humvee into the wall during an important meeting. XM must live and breathe in the hallways too! SUPRISE ATTACKING: Wanna mess up the competitors mind: Run a Top 5,000 three weeks BEFORE Memorial Day. You will screw up their system... 24 HOUR MORNING SHOW: There is no morning. We don't shut down at 10am. We are always on. JUST DO IT!: No bragging...no cheezy claims . No "Most Music" "Best Mix" "Never a Bad Song"........Those claims have no credibility. Just deliver the goods and our fans will know. FANS: To Ad Sales they're listeners....to Marketing they're customers...to programming: They're Fans. Treat listeners like Fans. Think like a Fan. This is show business. Relating to listeners as numbers is fine---for the sales people. MUSICAL CONFIDENCE: Delivering the goods musically. Not lying about how musical we are...actually delivering music to the point where listeners believe we're in it for "The Passion not the Cash". Cash is a nice reward if we make people happy.
BIBLE OF MUSIC: Your station is the center of your music's' universe. You have the chart. You have the answers. You are in command. You must deliver. You must deliver. You must deliver. MTV, Rolling Stone, Spin...fine entities, but YOU must own the charts, the info, etc...listeners must come to YOU to know what's going on musically. CINEMATIC RADIO: The sound of your station is more like a wide screen movie soundtrack than a radio station. You should close your eyes and your sonics ignite with cinematic brilliance. Even News....Even Classical...no format is exempt from creating cinematic magic between the songs. BAGGAGE: Old radio thinking. There's a lot of radio thinking that's timeless...like playing the best songs...but there's a lot of baggage too....lose it.
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ER: Bigg-ER.....Badd-ER....Intense-ER. Think like Walt Disney did in the 50's..."ER". Rides were fastER, parks were cleanER, etc... OTT: Over-the-Top. Subtle sucks. Want to cut through the Internet, AM/FM, print, TV etc....well, you ain't gonna do it unless you do everything OTT TOP DOWN SOUND: There is nothing more magical than driving down a freeway at 100mph...top down...great station blasting at top volume! XM will bring this experience back to Americans. Think about this experience as you program. It's more than great songs...it's the whole package...it's the essence of "The XM Sound" ECCENTRIC...ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK: Doctors, Repairmen, Cops should not be eccentric! We should be....all the way to the bank. Smart eccentrics make the great art. WRCX: (or any other station we worked at): Lose it. Kill it from the memory. These stations are NOT the standard to compare. If we are to compare the XM Sound to something, make it a Kubrick movie......a Beatle epic.....a Radiohead track. NOT radio stations we used to work at. CREATIVE BATTING AVERAGE: % of ideas you come up with that work. 300 Average is All-Star. Ya gotta take some swings to get hits. CLICHE BUZZER: Three buzzes and sayonara. But the real cliché buzzer is in your head. SONIC DIVERSITY: Using the World of Sound. Not some damn production package or pre-cut promo factory CD. USE SOUND! Thunderstorms...static...busy streets....short wave radio tuning....sample a TV Newscaster and repeat "In Todays News..In Todays News.. over and over. Discover the world of sound. Use it. VOICE DIVERSITY: Discover the world of voices. I'm mildly depressed that Fine Tuning was the only format that at CES used foreign voices, voices off the street, etc.... "Professional" voices are fine...but you're only using 2% of the voices out there. There is magic in the human voice. There is cliche' in the radio voice!!! THE GEORGE MARTIN GENE: Everyone has it. Activate it. It's the gene that tells you to diversify your sound. There are no rules. Our Reggae channel can have signatures that combine Gregorian Chants with Steel Drums. WE MUST RE-INVENT THE WAY RADIO SOUNDS. There are no barriers except your imagination. CONVENIENCE HIRES: It's only natural, and often correct to bring in people you know and trust. But, it's also natural to bring in people who are convenient. We must hire only the brilliant. IT FACTOR: Some people got "it"...some don't. If you don't get "it"....please see me asap MOUTH OF AMERICA: XM should sound like America. From hicks in Mississippi to Brothers in Chicago to Mothers in San Francisco to Yuppies in St. Louis. We must open the phones to reflect the magic of National Radio. MOOD/RELIABLE: Mood listeners tune you in when they're in the mood...Reliable listeners never tune you out. That's the secret to rating success (or satisfaction in our case). The only way to achieve this balance is to never compromise....stay pure....play "your" hits...don't fear tune out. In other words: Do your thing, but do it brilliantly and consistently. STAR WARS: Those goofy laser sounds that must die THE CHUCK VAN ROGERS FACTOR: OK, if you have a radio name and don't want to change it...fine. Especially if you've had it for years... But if you do want to change it..Go for it! Mike O'Morgan (whoever he is) just reeks of fake, old, tired radio. This is Show-biz. Like the WWF, who's gonna win the bout? Bob Stevens or The Masked Killer from Mars. Again, not a requirement, but cool names, real names (Frank Schmutzbaum is cooler than Mark James) or Nicknames that are "XM" are great. Why does radio have this thing with TWO first names?? Robert Stevens, Steven Roberts, Michael Williams, William Michaels? PAPER TIME vs REAL TIME: On one of our deeper formats we'll tend to look at two lists: A 20,000 title list and an 10000 title list. 10000 probably makes more sense...though on paper 20,000 looks better or 200 if you're an old school research guy. This is the difference between paper and real-time listening.The point is separating paper from reality. TODD STORZ: The creator of Top 40 on Real-Time listening: Just when DJs are going to strike because_____is still on the playlist is the same time Mama is learning to hum the verse". The point: Paper Time vs. Real Time. Think like a listener/fan not a DJ in terms of music rotation. CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE FUTURE UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND THE PAST: An appetite to learn about the history of contemporary radio. If you weren't there, learning about the great battles will arm you with powerful knowledge. THE LETTERMAN FACTOR: Disco Demolition, Hit This Plane & Win $5,000, Snow Sharks, and other stunts are pure America. People love it. The more radio versions of "Stupid Pet Tricks" we create, the better we'll be....on the RIGHT channel of course.
THE CULTURALLY CHALLENGED: We must never be "too hip for the room". We target everyone from musical elitists to the culturally challenged. KNOW YOUR PLACE. Sophisticated humor on "America" is as bad as stupid contests on XM Classics. Knowing WHERE the edhe is and delivering right on it is an art. WARPED: A way of looking at things. Akin to eccentric. If we can take an angle and warp it, we've done our job. Clapton warped his guitar in '67 by using a wah-wah pedal....Warping is taking a sound or idea and modifying it to "the XM Sound" SMELL THE SPEAKERS: Our formats should be SO sonically dense...SO pure..so authentic, that they should smell. Smell the speakers during Frank's Place and it's martinis, an old deck of cards and Sammy Davis Junior's cologne. AUTHENTICITY: XM is to FM what EPCOT is to Reality. We aren't a model of the real thing....we ARE the real thing. PURITY: Every format must be pure. There's magic in what you DON'T hear. You'll hear Deep Tracks and never hear Foreigner...You'll hear BONEYARD and never hear Steven Stills, etc.....We must avoid Good-Good-Shit-Good-Shit, meaning a few "correct songs" then a shit (or misplaced) song. Every song will get played SOMEWHERE on the XM band...the key is in purity so each song happens where it's meant to happen. YELLOW PAD: Everyone should be filling these up with ideas. Document your dreams. AS ACCESSABLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT LOSING LISTENER CONFIDENCE: The goal shouldn't be how "deep" can I go. It should be how "far" can I go WITHOUT LOSING listener confidence. It's a magic zone where you reach the most listeners and satisfy them all simultaneously. Too commercial and there goes satisfaction...too deep and there goes the volume of fans. WHACK FACTOR: "Where in hell did these guys come up with that!"....thats what listeners should often think. AVERAGE SUCKS/EXTREME RULES: Ever been to Ben's Chili Parlor down the road? It is a dive...a dump....and it's magical. It's extreme. Give me Ben's over a nice clean Denny's anytime!! The point: Amazingly good or Amazingly bad---who cares, as long as it's amazing. Anything but average!!!! 2001FACTOR: Pre 2001 (the movie), all Sci-Fi was goofy robots crushing Tokyo. Then 2001 reinvented Sci-Fi. Lush Space Scapes...Classical Music....a whole new approach. It changed Sci-Fi forever. No "Help Me Will Robinson cliches" no spooky Theramin sound effects.(though those are kinda cool in a campy way) THAT is how we must change radio sound. It's happening in publishing. It's happening in video...radio is next-if we let it happen THE MILLIONAIRE FACTOR: Like the TV show completely re-invented game shows...we must completely re-invent radio. It ain't evolution...it's revolution. EMPATHY: Walking the halls, I'll often hear how "Stairway to Heaven" and Creed really suck. Well, if those aren't part of your potential playlist...cool..they suck. BUT---if these belong on your list, you need to learn empathy, because these are major. In 1970, I was a hard core Prog Rock fan, but worked at an early FM Top 40 where we "celebrated" Donny Osmond. I learned there, the importance of empathy. I hated that shit, but learned how and why it worked, and never whined about a song again. Even, neutral programming via understanding why things(songs/artists) work. ENVIRONMENT: Song environment is key. Stairway next to BTO & Doobie Brothers is a snooze, but next to Traffic and a cool Hendrix track, the songs' magic can emerge. That's a great thing about XM: Even the most tired "great" popular songs can live on a format where they can find new life by what they're surrounded by. NOTHING IS SACRED: We urge you to re-think EVERYTHING. Many things are indeed evergreen...many are not. YOUR HITS: XM is hit driven. Every format. But the definition of a hit differs by format..dramatically. And in our world hit isn't driven necessarily by sales. Hits can mean: -Song driven. The standard hit song as with Oldies formats. -Artist Driven. as in Deep Tracks. Santana, Cream, Beatles...but not the same three songs. Careers...not just the most played tracks. -Novelty Driven. The Jetsons theme never charted..but its a hit -Sound Driven. "Hit" is irrelivant...it's the "sound"...a Coltrane piece may not be a 'hit' by traditional definition but in the frameork of Real Jazz...it is. -Non Radio Driven. Edgy car ads can be hits ..the point is: A Hit to XM means simply: An important song that gives you minute by minute musical excellence. KNOW WHAT "TYPE" of hit works for you...every format is different. CANNON BALL/FORT THEORY: If the Fort's destruction is your goal, then each cannonball that hits the fort is a hit. Miss the fort, it's a stiff or an un-necessary song. More hits on the fort and the faster the fort falls. Every song must serve a purpose, regardless of it's chart position or traditional hit definition. THE RECORD BUSINESS & MUSIC PRESS ARE OFTEN LOST: There are some smart people and there are some clueless people. That's why I constantly impress the need for you to study the genre you serve....know your genre beyond passion. Passion is easy... but balance that with knowledge and that's what makes you dangerous . The reason college radio has never been a factor is because it's all passion.... but find a college radio person who balances passion with understanding--and there's a positively dangerous person--that we should hire! We must continue to absorb REALITY and not simply feed off the industry and press.. CULT/FRINGE: Every successful artist has fans who are cult or fringe. Know the difference and program appropriately. Cultists are REALLY into the artist....Fringe fans like the artist for the fleeting hit(s). Doing a big Spectacular?? You're wasting your time if the fan composition is heavy fringe. SPECTACULARS: They enhance your image...recycle listeners and create buzz. Run them prime time (NOT 11pm Sunday Nights). Build them. Think about them. Hourly, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly. Go OTT. (Over-the-top) Repeat them. The classic cliché is taking a cool program and burying it because it varies from the song/dj/song format. MEAT: When you promote...promote Meat. Never: "Great Music Coming Up"....give 'em something to chew on: "The lost Elvis tapes found this morning" INCIDENTAL SOUND: Sound that just happens. Sound that "fills in the cracks"......Audio theater. THE XM TRAVEL AGENCY: XM Formats must take you places. Too often the music takes you to the stars...then THUD. The reality of a "radio break". XM must be an "out of ear" experience. Bluesville takes you to the land of Bluesville..you ARE there. 60s on 6 takes you back to the sixties. Fed takes you inside Fred's mind... These are truly "mind fucks"....this is cinematic radio. Movies take you places.....XM must take you to the same places. Never "Thud" people.....Sonic Density..... MOXIE: You should know what this means. THE BIG THREE: Music....Character (Magic between the Songs)...Muscle. THE PLAYBOOK: Terrestrial is: Get a morning show...test the library...throw up some billboards......and everything is fine. Great radio is complex. Develop a playbook. A gameplan. A mission beyond the obvious. THE TRUTH: XM tells the truth. Don't like Hendrix? Fine...don't listen this Friday. XM 20 on 20...the top 20 over and over and over...until you're sick of them. TELL THE TRUTH. HUMOR: XM is about reality humor. 99.9999% of all funny things on radio are only funny to the staff. The best humor is reality humor: Old TV themes....real stories, etc.... Other than our Comedy channels humor is delicate....few things will cliche you back to the FM Band than things that really aren't funny.
THE XM CREATIVE METHOD: Starts with the blueprint.....then PD builds it....Producers and Talent decorate it. We are Frank Lloyd Wright not Hill Valley Homes. Ever wonder why every home sorta looks the same? Me too. If FM is safe suburbia...we are edgy Frank Lloyd Wright. ONCE IN A LIFETIME: The opportunity to change radio window is open. If we don't do it, we should all be shot. It'll never happen again in our lifetimes. Remember my cycles in music chart....we are at the beginning of another 56, 64, 69, 81, 92 up curve. we are in sync with history. TRADITIONAL RADIO RESEARCH SUCKS: It's flawed. If it worked, why does every station sound like it does? Everyone does research....it's proven it doesn't work in it's traditional form. POPCORN CAN RADIO: An old Z-Rock trick. Huge Popcorn can was in lobby after contents being consumed. Clever DJ decides to do entire show from inside the popcorn can (mic and all). They did it because they could. STUDY SOUND: Collect it. Warp it. Radio is in last place in the sound department. Movies are light years ahead of us in sound...TV commercials are too, so is MTV, hell...so is NBC. Use it. We live in a world of sound, yet sometimes we're deaf to all but WRCX (nothing personal against WRCX employees of the past.....but it's symbolic of "radio"..nothing more, nothing less). SURGERY: We are operating on radio. This ain't out-patient. This is somebody on a death bed....penecillan (research) didn't work....new drugs (consultants) didn't work. This patient is dead unless we come up with a radical operation. SOUL: Radio has lost its soul...we must bring it back. A consciousness...a spirit....a genuine desire to bring radio back to the people...and AFDI. You must know the business side of things, but not at the expense of your soul. What I'm saying is SO unfashionable...SO uncool in today's' lets make a deal environment, and I'm not in any way bad rapping that critical side of our business...but the front line of programming needs a heart. We must bleed XM colors....cry at the magic of a great song (or break), program for the people, live and breathe art, move forward with fist clenching intensity and desire to win through brilliance and imagination. Funny thing is that as un-Wall Street as that might be, that sort of thinking will deliver the kind of radio that XM needs to win the war. Think and program like an artist. A smart artist. Kinda like Springsteen. Uncompromising. He just "Does it". An American Original........... CAMP: XM must celebrate life in North America. The good, the bad and the ugly. That's why we love TV themes, old commercials, homeless guys doing promos, heavily accented people doing IDs, bagpipes in bumpers. Celebrate America by DELIVERING THE SOUND OF NORTH AMERICA. ANTICIPATION: There is ALWAYS something coming up on XM. We program forward.
SELLING: Sell the Music...sell the programming...sell the specials, etc...Selling is a lost art. I'm not talking about selling Used Cars...I'm talking about ridding ourselves of the Radio Inferiority Complex and selling the shit out of the cool stuff we're doing. This isn't bragging, because bragging is generic, bordering on lying. Selling is talkin' it up and DELIVERING. If we sell AND deliver, credibility will occur! This is a mission...not a gig.