Change is scary and uncomfortable for most people.
It just is.
Humans like to know they are safe and secure. We want to know we have enough money for food and someplace hospitable to rest our head at night. So, when pink slips start flying like they did at KGO last week in San Francisco or organizations are merged and realigned like Corus Entertainment last week in Canada, fear takes hold. It’s instinctual.
But resisting change is actually more lethal for entertainment and information industries like radio (see: music industry, Blockbuster Video, newspapers). There is hope and opportunity in change. You just have to be willing to see it and seize it.
Yes, what happened in San Francisco to KGO is tragic. It was a juggernaut of a radio station that has slowly and systematically been starved of resources and been a victim of benign neglect. The dedicated staffers who were sent packing after years of pouring their heart into a product deserve better. They tried to find a small part of a corporate beast they could love and quickly realized the beast was indscriminate. But now they are free. Unschackled. No longer beholden to a dream of yesterday’s KGO. There is life after KGO right Gil Gross??
Right Claudia Lamb? (Article: KGO and the Death of Radio)
In Canada, a completely different scenario. Not one of downsizing and cost-cutting but of investing and growing. Eerily, employees feel similar. Corus just completed a $2.6B acquisition of Shaw Media and new corporate structures were unveiled. The questions came fast and furious; Why? Where’s this worked before? What’s it mean for me? How can this possibly work? When are they going to fire me? Don’t they know we’ve never done it this way before?
Fear. It’s contagious.
Keep in mind, change isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s just different. When companies change it often creates opportunities. New managers, new faces, new processes and procedures and fresh eyes on old problems. It doesn’t have to be scary. It should be exciting. Anytime you get to work for a leader who has bold vision and a sense of purpose and direction embrace it, champion it, and rejoice. The opposite is stagnation. The opposite is KGO.
It reminds me of a phrase I quickly learned while working at ESPN; “evolve or face extinction.” In the past week, we’ve seen this played out in both directions in dramatic fashion.
Each year I find it gratifying to look back and take stock. It’s been a fun, frustrating-at-times, insightful, enlightening, empowering year thanks in a large part because of you. What I write on these pages is a reflection of what I’m experiencing in the world as it relates to radio. Here are the posts that drew the most attention this year for one reason or another.
10. Stop Questioning, Start Creating. This was a talent-focused piece on how to best engage listeners and a plea for the world to stop asking so many questions. It’s an engagement device that really doesn’t work as well as you think it does.
9. 1,000 Miles of Radio Listening. This entry was inspired while moving my family from Seattle, WA to Atascadero, CA. It reflects my time in the role as a real radio listener. (Spoiler: Radio remains, to my dismay, mostly cliché, predictable, forgettable, and crammed full of poorly written commercials.)
8. Radio is Overloaded. I WANT to love radio, but I am increasingly dissatisfied with the return on my investment of time. Gang, we got a spot problem. There’s way too much clutter.
7. Building a Championship Team. Sometimes we need to look beyond the four walls of the studio or station to be inspired for greatness. This entry focuses on Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and how he built a World Championship team.
6. How to Quit Your Radio Job in 10 Steps. There is going to come a time when you want out of your radio station. Here is how to do that with dignity and grace.
5. Fun Cannot Be Formatted. This was a 50% inspiration and 50% kick in the ass. A major portion of people in radio have forgotten how to have fun. The future success of the industry depends on the spontaneity of personalities and giving them permission to try new things and fail.
4. Six Tips for Co-Hosting a Radio Show or Podcast. Co-hosting a radio show or podcast seems like it should be easier because there are two of you, but that also means there are twice the problems. Here are some tips to get you started in the right direction.
3. Making Sense of Another Radio Firing. Anthony Cumia, the second half of Opie & Anthony, was fired by SiriusXM over the weekend for a series of offensive tweets he made about African-Americans after a woman physically assaulted him in New York City. I examine the firing from a radio perspective.
2. Seven Hours with Tom Leykis. This my takeaways from spending the day with former radio star turned internet radio star Tom Leykis. Tom doesn’t hate radio. He says he’s been doing it too long, made too many millions off of it and has too many friends still in it to hate it. “I love radio. NOT the appliance, but the concept.”
1. Prepare for the Pink Slip. This entry is the most viewed blog post of 2014 and it also originates from my day with Tom Leykis. It is full of advice from Tom to those of us still working in the traditional radio business.
There is an issue facing thousands of radio co-hosts and sidekicks across the country; the radio station values the main host of your show more than it values you. That was the revelation this week for Fitz in the Morning sidekick Tony Russell when the host of his Seattle-based morning show got a new deal.
“I realized Fitz signed for another 5 years, but I didn’t. No one came to me to sign a contract for another five years.” Tony, who is documenting his mid-life crisis on the blog www.TheNextHalf.com, confessed his frustration on this week’s Radio Stuff. “Basically, Fitz’ decision was my decision. I had no say so in it what so ever. So I’m here for another five years too, basically. It’s kinda like Brooks & Dunn.”
It was a swift kick in the gut.
And then another does of reality hit.
“Hell, I’m not his co-host, because if I was his co-host this would be a 50-50 deal. Thus the word “co.” I’m a sidekick. And I thought, ‘Wow. I don’t really want to be here another five years if I don’t make more money.’ The truth of the matter is while I make great money for the rest of the country, for here (Seattle), I don’t even qualify to buy the average home. I thought, ‘This just sucks.'”
“The biggest mistake I made early on was not saying, ‘Hey I want my name on the show.’ Because, if your name is not on the bumper sticker your equity goes way down and so does your pay in comparison to a host. Get your name on the show when you’re starting out. Make sure you’re part of the brand not just part of the team.”
If all this sounds a bit mopey and “woe is me,” Tony has a caveat. He’s not bitter with Fitz or even blame him. He owns it. And as a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister he offered himself some advice;
“Watch your attitude. Because it’s easy to get bitter. Remember you get to do something everyday that thousands and thousands of people would love to do. Walk in everyday like your pants are on fire and do the best you can do and again brand yourself. Find what your good at and don’t go ask to do it, don’t wait to be asked, initiate and show your value if you want to stick around.”