Top ten things for a radio CEO to do tomorrow

CEOs are time-poor and less technologically inquisitive: here's ten ways to fix that

By James Cridland
Posted 9 May 2016, 1.11am bst
Evan P. Cordes

Recently, in a radio conference, I heard a really good, passionate speech from a big radio CEO. They outlined their company’s history and where it was going next, and was the sort of performance I’d have been proud of hearing had I worked for them.

A Q&A portion started, and when the subject of podcasting came up, they discussed how much of a fan they were of podcasting: and that they’d started listening to them when Serial came out.

I checked. Serial came out in 2014. Podcasts started more than ten years earlier.

Listen: I get it. It’s hard to balance the time investment here. That’s why you have digital people in your team. But, given that typically CEOs are outside the age range of the listeners their company is trying to attract, it’s becoming more important that you, too, are confident and savvy with some of this new technology.

The more you know this stuff, the less that digital people can throw around their accusation that radio people just don’t “get” the internet. Being ten years late to the party doesn’t help.

So, CEOs of radio companies - and GMs, and PDs - here are ten investments of time (and, yes, investments of money, too) that you might wish to make:

  1. Get your IT department to fix you up with the latest iPhone or Nexus-branded Android phone. Pay for some one-on-one training on it, so you’re confident about using it, and replace your existing phone. (And pay for one-on-one training for the below, too, if you’re keen to do things right). I’d also recommend buying this stuff for your partner and other close relatives to watch how they use them, too.
  2. Install and use Twitter. Follow Twitter accounts from your own company, competitors, your favourite journalists, and others. Look through the account of @markscott - the former Managing Director of the Australian ABC - for a great way to use it: sharing great content from his own organisation, publicly congratulating his teams, and adding a little personal thought, too. This is how you can reach and inspire employees throughout your company as well as learn how Twitter is used as an information source for all.
  3. Install and use Facebook. This is the major news source for a large chunk of your audience, and an important place to meet your fans. Learn how private/public works, and watch how others use Facebook to market themselves (paid or organic).
  4. Install some of your company’s apps. See if you use those apps on a daily or weekly basis: and if not, ask yourself why.
  5. Listen to some podcasts - from your own company and from other organisations. Don’t stick to traditional broadcasters: trawl through some of the recommendations and top charts, and choose some at random. Listen for the commercial opportunities, too: and see how differently they’re being monetised to radio.
  6. Use your company websites on this phone - that’s how most people are consuming your websites these days. If it’s hard to read, get that fixed.
  7. Visit your car dealership. Ask them to ‘pair’ your phone with your car’s audio system. And, while you’re there, ask them about the dashboards of their newest models: can you get Pandora, or Spotify on them? Ask how the audio works, and see a demonstration.
  8. If you run news radio, install NPR One. Use it on your daily commute for a few days. As the system learns from what you like and don’t like, ask yourself whether this is a better listen than your own service; or what your company can learn from it.
  9. If you run music radio, install Spotify or Pandora, keeping it on the free, ad-supported, setting. Use it on your daily commute, or round the house. Ask yourself whether your promise of “the best mix of the 80s, 90s and now” is still relevant. And ask yourself whether the advertising you hear is revenue you might have got.
  10. Er, and hire a radio futurologist that can help you with trend-spotting. Keep them on a monthly retainer so you’ve always got an independent voice to help you, or get them to do an audit on what your company is doing. I know a very good one. Cough.

Multi-platform radio - making the most of content across all technologies - is the future of radio. It’s never been more important to get multi-platform CEOs who understand this stuff.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.

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