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September 23, 2007 - September 29, 2007 Archives

September 23, 2007

1968: THE APATHETIC OWL

Let's waste time with another TV Guide, this one from December 15, 1968:

Followed by "The Cockatoo That Didn't Give A Flying F-ck" and "The Oriole Who Just Plain Gave Up On Life And Committed Suicide."

"The Owl That Didn't Give A Hoot"? Disney promotes apathy amongst America's already jaded youth? And if the owl doesn't give a hoot, why should anyone else?

Or perhaps "didn't give a hoot" is meant to be taken literally, meaning that it was a stirring tribute to Marcel Marceau, performed entirely by an avian acting ensemble. Look, "Owl Walking Against The Wind"! "Owl Trapped In A Box"! And no hooting!

Probably not. Probably just an incredibly boring "WOnderful World of Color" episode. And it was on against "The Ed Sullivan Show," which that evening featured the debut appearance of Rossi and Ross. Not Allen and Rossi, but Rossi and Ross. This was during a splitup of Allen and Rossi, and Steve Rossi needed a partner, so he teamed up with none other than Joe E. Ross, as in Toody from "Car 54, Where Are You?" Rossi also teamed up with Slappy White and a guy named Bernie Allen, but it was hard to replace the "Hello Dere!" man, Marty Allen. But if that wasn't enough, you got Norm Corsby! Gewn Verdon! Anna Maria Alberghetti! Magicians Anna Lou and Maris! And, next-to-last-billed, singer Stevie Wonder, performing his new ditty "For Once In My Life"! And after that, the Smothers Brothers with guests The Doors, George Carlin, and comedy group The Committee, which at the time probably included Howard Hesseman, Peter Bonerz, Del Close, and others you'd recognize from TV or improv.

But back on NBC after Disney was "The Mothers-In-Law," co-starring a guy I know, followed by "Bonanza" and Phyllis Diller's variety show with Jack Benny, Dean Martin's daughter Gail, and, again, Norm Crosby. Can't have too much Norm Crosby. Malaprop humor never wears out.

In the same TV Guide, this from "TV Teletype: New York": "JOAN RIVERS is being given a crack at handling The Tonight Show for one night, on Jan. 6, when she'll substitute for JOHNNY CARSON." That was her first shot. Worked out, too, at least for a while. In the same column: "This year's Model of the Year, CYBILL SHEPHERD, will ride a spectacular float in the Cotton Bowl Festival Parade on CBS New Year's Day." That was two years before "The Last Picture Show."

And then there was this tidbit in the "TV Teletype: Hollywood" column: "BOB NEWHART has been asked to star in an Odd Couple series as part of his TV-and-movie contract with Paramount." Can you imagine that? Can you believe the bullet the world dodged with that one? Instead, we got both Randall-and-Klugman and Dr. Bob Hartley. Sometimes, things work out for the best.

Let's celebrate with a nice big dessert bowl filled with bloody vomit:

Appetizing.


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September 24, 2007

TOP-NOTCH EDUCATION, SPELLING OPTIONAL

In the mail today, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District's "Measuring Progress" newsletter. The district is highly rated, and they get an enormous amount of money from taxpayers. Perhaps they should spend some of that on a word processor with spell check:

"Superintendant"?

But they can't even spell their own name right:

Impressive. I feel confident that the children are in good hands.


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September 25, 2007

A VISIT FROM MY FATHER

Early this morning at LAX, I stopped in the men's room -- too much information -- and on the way out, I glanced at myself, and I saw my dad.

I don't much look like my father, actually. A few features are like Dad, but the blond hair and fair skin are closer to Mom. But this morning, just for a second, at a particular angle, in a particular light, I saw my father in my reflection -- the shape of the face, the eyes, the look, Dad, right there in the mirror.

Yes, it freaked me out a little.

Not that I'm unhappy to be like Dad, not at all, but, geez. Way to be reminded that I'm not 27 anymore.

And that's how my trip to Charlotte started. Absolutely nothing of major import happened after that. I flew here, I landed, I got a cab ride from a driver who never said even one word and didn't bother helping me with my bags, I checked in, saw some friends in the lobby, registered, worked, used the gym, ate, worked. The End. Tomorrow: Convention fun, including the panel where analysts and group heads talk about reducing costs and finding synergies and never mention the need for quality programming. I can't wait.


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September 26, 2007

THE CHARLOTTE DIARIES: WE DON'T CARE ABOUT THE OLD FOLKS, TALKING BOUT THE OLD STYLE TOO

Charlotte seems okay so far, given that I haven't had a lot of time to explore. I ran very early this morning through the streets of the Dilworth neighborhood, and it was actually quite nice, and I had a terrific soul food lunch at Mert's -- shrimp and grits! -- but otherwise, it's been the inside of the Convention Center and the inside of the hotels.

First on the agenda: The "Broadcast Financing" conference was a stark representation of what the people complaining at the FCC's ownership hearings are all exercised about. The room could accurately be described as "The Old White Guys In Suits" conference, because that was about 85-90% of the attendance. It was enough to make Michael Copps' head explode (although I believe that his head exploded several years ago anyway). Even the younger guys had that Old-White-Guy-In-Suit-In-Training look to them. If you want to meet the heart of radio in 2007, these guys are it -- they're here for the money. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish that someone in the room would bring up the value of programming and talent. They never do. You are a line item to them, under Expense, and the less of you there are, the better it is for the guys in that room.

The room was packed, by the way, indicating that someone still sees terrestrial radio as an opportunity. Given that one of the analysts was quoted in the Wall Street Journal last week as looking forward to the big radio groups finding more synergies -- ways to reduce expenses -- after going private, I don't think this is a good thing for employees.

There was a series of ads a couple of years ago in which a mutual fund touted how their analysts and traders would go to the businesses in which they invest, see the operation, learn everything about it, and otherwise learn the business inside and out. It was symbolic, really, that a panel of Wall Street radio analysts featured four guys who couldn't be heard in the back of the room because they couldn't figure out that you have to speak INTO the microphone for it to actually pick up your voice. That pretty much sums up what these guys know about the business.

(By the way, here's a tip to the guys-in-suits: if you're going to do things like stand in front of someone to block his view, or quite obviously check someone's name badge and snub him because he's "not important," or just generally be rude and obnoxious, try not to do it to a member of the working press. He will remember your name just as surely as you'll forget his. Just a suggestion. My list is growing, including the Washington lawyer wo bent over to read my name badge and turned away without a word. I know who you are. Kiss my ass or pay the price)

Later, the heads of Emmis, Cumulus, Saga, Cherry Creek, and Greater Media took the dais and talked about how radio has to stand up for itself and stop being so goddamned negative. There was only one mention of talent, a comment that the XM-Sirius merger might drive up the cost of talent. Again, talent is a line item to be reduced. That's the theme of this thing so far.

I did see a couple of other forums, part of a podcasting thing, part of an odd talk radio thing, and, finally, the highly-touted "Bedroom Project," which Arbitron and Jacobs Media put together as a sort of focus group-without-the-group (they call it "ethnographic research" -- okay) and which basically said young adults don't really care much about radio, period. They're into other things. Radio is what your parents listen to, or what you hear, grudgingly, in the car because you can't figure out how to get your iPod to play through the radio yet. Funny, though: the things the young adults say they DO listen to on the radio were, specifically, "Big Boy," "Kevin and Bean," "Howard," and "that FM talk station." Well, whaddya know -- the only thing cutting through to get young adults' attention on the radio is talk and personality radio. Interesting. Perhaps I'll have more on this tomorrow in "The Letter," or maybe I'll just copy and paste a lot of this. You'll know more when it comes out.

But here's a MAJOR CELEBRITY SIGHTING!:

Yes, it's Chubby Checker himself! Um, well, okay, that's not a major celebrity sighting. But I'm at a convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. What do you expect from me?


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September 27, 2007

THE CHARLOTTE DIARIES: PLACEHOLDER

I got back late, so I'm going to save the details until tomorrow. But today did feature not one, but TWO consecutive surprise appearances by yours truly in sessions at the NAB convention, including one long-winded filibuster, some of which will constitute The Letter this week, which will be posted here... tomorrow. I gotta get SOME sleep now. Sorry.


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September 28, 2007

THIS WEEK'S "THE LETTER": REPORT FROM CHARLOTTE

This week's All Access newsletter sums up the NAB convention. Oh, well, it was an interesting career while it lasted:

The line that described the mood at this year's NAB Radio Show in Charlotte was this:

"If it makes you feel any better, we're all gonna die."

That was actually something I heard Chris Carlin tell despondent Mets fans on WFAN early Friday morning, but it applies to the radio crowd, too. I encountered a lot of people whose mood regarding the business and the future was somewhere between uncertain and fatalistic. But I'm here to tell you that there IS a future, that you shouldn't give up hope, that the doom and gloom, while partially justifiable, isn't the whole story.

First, though, just a thought on the industry's new public relations offensive: "Radio 2020"? They PAID someone for THAT? What the heck IS that? One less than Radio 2021? What does that MEAN? Apparently, it means that all the industry has to do is TELL people that radio's neat and ginchy and hep and funky fresh and it'll "reignite" consumers, who will presumably be pleased that someone is trying to set them on fire.

Anyway, at the unveiling, the assemblage was briefed on the "Radio 2020" thing (frankly, if I was starting a marketing campaign and the best name they could come up with for me was "Radio 2020," I'd be concerned), and we were told to heed the words of George Washington, who, in the freezing winter of 1776, wrote the stirring words, "Where did I put my teeth?" No, he wrote "Victory or Death." Those were the words left hanging in the air: "Victory or Death." How... motivating.

But there's a more accurate way to put the industry's dilemma: adapt or die. While the "Radio 2020" thing plans to tell people about "playlist variety and format diversity," which happens to be what you can also get from iPods and satellite and streaming, the message should be something else entirely. The message should be that the industry has to start planning -- should already have planned -- for the day when the license, antenna, and transmitter are not what defines the industry. What the "radio" industry has that can't be duplicated is content, not music playlists but personality. If you're a radio company, the assets that you control that can't be blown away by technology are the contracts you have with talent, with hosts and programmers and coaches and producers who can create material that people will want to hear, whether it's broadcast over a licensed facility or delivered as a podcast or streamed or played through a bullhorn on a city street.

Think of it the same way television mutated from three or four over-the-air channels to hundreds of cable channels. The programming doesn't need to be delivered over a broadcast TV station to reach people, to be popular, to succeed. And we're already seeing TV shows being delivered over the Internet via iTunes or YouTube other means. Younger generations don't see the difference between a show being sent to them over a TV station or a cable network or on a TiVo or through YouTube or iTunes -- it's all the same, a TV show. Radio will be there soon enough. In the meantime, despite some predictions that radio will disappear within, I don't know, ten or twenty years, remember: the radios in cars aren't going to disappear that quickly. The installed base is still massive and most cars aren't going to be sold without AM and FM anytime soon. There'll be more choice -- not just satellite, but iPod docks and WiMax -- soon, but AM and FM will still be available and free and viable, even with a shrinking slice of the pie. TV isn't dead just because you can get a TV show on your computer, and radio won't be dead just because you can hear audio from other sources.

And that means there's a future for talent, and even a future for radio companies that figure this out. Some won't. At the "Broadcast Financing" forum, the only mention of talent or programming at all was a mention of concern that talent costs could be driven up by the satellite merger. Or driven down. It wasn't clear. But talent, in that room full of your top bosses, is a line item to be reduced as much as possible to please Wall Street and private equity firms. (Exaggeration? The group heads on the panel said that they actually liked the "discipline" of those quarterly financial reports that have to please investors and analysts. If revenue's down, how else can they please investors? Yeah, exactly) Meanwhile, a panel with two successful syndicated morning shows and a top talk PD moderating it drew a less-than-packed house. I didn't see a lot of GMs there, and a few I did see were among the rare GMs who came from the programming side and understand the value of personality.

One last thing about personality, though -- in that big "Bedroom Project" study of young adults, the subjects consistently showed that they really didn't listen much to the radio with one major exception: morning shows with strong personalities. They mentioned their favorite shows by name. None are music-oriented. And one even said how she never listens to commercials except on the FM talker in her town, because she wants to hear what the hosts say when they come back on. I'd call that an endorsement for moving away from music towards personality and talk.

Bottom line: Radio's true asset isn't necessarily physical. It's content. Smart companies will snap up people who can create saleable, marketable content -- whatever the delivery method -- and will recognize that they have the advantage of brands and name-brand content and the goodwill and trust of the consumer to compete in a wide-open field. The people aren't going to be "reignited" about radio by a public relations campaign; they'll be excited when they get shows and content and personality that they like and want and can't get anywhere else. I'm looking forward to the day when the industry launches a campaign to point that out instead of "we're cheap, accessible, and easy to use. Oh, and we're now HD where available."

I gotta wrap this up and get outa Charlotte, so I'll dispense with the long plug -- just get on over to Talk Topics at All Access News-Talk-Sports for show prep, "10 Questions With..." KFXX (1080 The Fan)/Portland's Jason "Big Suke" Scukanec, and the rest of All Access for radio's best industry coverage and more stuff. I'll also thank Valerie Geller -- buy her book! -- and Bill White -- listen to WBT! -- for the shout-outs at convention panels. Go Phillies. Normal blather resumes next week.


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September 29, 2007

RANDOMNESS: EGO GONE WILD, GOOD CHARLOTTE (BUT NOT THAT GOOD CHARLOTTE), ALL THUMBS

I'm still recovering from the Charlotte experience, and for various reasons I ended up unable to head out to Ontario (CA) for the Podcast expo, so nothing much today. Just some leftover observations:

1. Why isn't there more criticism of the NAB's "Radio 2020" PR campaign in the trade press? One guy even called it a "bold" initiative. Are radio reporters so in bed with the people who run radio that they can't call B.S. when they see it? Do I really need to answer this question? The difference between me and some of the competition is that I don't care what the big bosses in radio think about me; seems to me that they should be the ones concerned what I think about them. /egotism

2. Charlotte is a lot more interesting place than I expected -- it has some very nice neighborhoods and very nice people, and there are efforts to bring a coolness factor to town. I kinda liked it. But it is weird to be in a large and growing city that has no real historical center to it. I'm sure there are landmarks of a sort, but you're dealing with a city with a downtown -- "Uptown," perversely enough -- that appears to have been built entirely since about 1980, and mostly a lot more recently than that. Again, though, it was somewhat of a surprise, someplace I liked more than I expected. It could use more cabs in more places, though -- getting back from Del Frisco's steakhouse, one of the hotter restaurants in town, to my Uptown hotel proved more of a chore than it should be. Memo to the people running Del Frisco's: how about making sure someone's at the front desk to call for cabs when the place is still open for business? Did you expect us to walk to South Park Mall and find the bus?

3. Thank you to all the vendors and programming folks and marketers who now send promotional presentations on thumb drives. I'm amassing a nice collection, which will provide some convenient portable storage. Might wanna make sure they work before you send 'em out, though (one of the latest I've received doesn't show up as a drive when you plug it in), and it's inadvisable to send out ones that require Windows XP to seek out and install drivers and then open up web pages that require use of Active X controls blocked by your browser. Love the thought, guys, but you gotta work on the execution.

And now I'm going to go watch me some TV and forget about the Phillies game today. I suggest you do the same.


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About September 2007

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in September 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 16, 2007 - September 22, 2007 is the previous archive.

September 30, 2007 - October 6, 2007 is the next archive.

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