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Friday, October 10, 2014

Shapiro: Radio Can Do Better


Gary Shapiro is on the cutting edge of the most innovative technology. As CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, an organization Shapiro has been with since 1981, he gets to celebrate innovation on a daily basis and he?s written two books on the topic. The international organization he presides over has more than 2,000 corporate members and is at the forefront of the rapid change within all the technology sectors consumers are connected to on a daily basis. Shapiro will be a keynote speaker at Radio Ink's DASH conference in Detroit which kicks off in eight days. He's also on the latest cover of Radio Ink Magazine. In our interview Shapiro says Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan is one of his hero's, he discusses the evolution of the automobile dashboard and he says too many radio station owners are just coasting. Here's a portion of our interview with Shapiro

RI: Has the radio industry been enough in touch with the automotive world to have a strategy that can compete with everybody that wants a position on the dash?
: I think when you talk about an industry, it?s difficult, because there are different players. To generalize is dangerous. I think too many radio station owners have just coasted. It?s a cash cow. There?s not a lot of innovation. It?s more of a financial game, how you can cut costs and get rid of local talent, pay as little as possible, under-invest. And then there are those who have really tried to make a difference. The HD Radio crowd, the iHeartRadio folks. I even have some respect for Emmis and what Jeff Smulyan?s been trying to do, once he got away from the [proposed] government mandate [for FM in cell phones]. They?re trying different things. It requires constant innovation. It requires partnering with people that you are not used to partnering with, which means you have to get out of your industry events and go to other industry events, like the CES ? but not just the CES. It means trying things and failing.

That?s why I have great respect for Jeff (Smulyan, Emmis CEO). He?s doing something. He tried the government-mandated approach. He saw that wasn?t going to work. He?s trying to build up partnerships, and I respect that. I don?t respect people that go to governments to solve their problems because that is never going to work, and it is just going to cause resentment because there are others coming around in a competition for a consumer?s attention.

RI: So you support the FM chip as long as radio stays away from a mandate?
I think it?s great. Jeff Smulyan is one of my heroes. He?s trying something different. He?s experimenting. He?s pushing the marketplace forward. He says, ?I believe in radio, but here is how we have to evolve.? That is exactly what he should be doing. But, frankly, he needs the support of other radio broadcasters. He needs the marketing push radio can offer. I think radio?s biggest mistake is not promoting itself and experimenting the way Jeff has experimented and embraced things like that. With the exception, I would say, of HD Radio and iHeart- Radio. Those are two successful experiments that have shifted radio forward. I think Jeff has a shot at being the third.

RI: You?ve watched the dashboard evolve to where it is now. What are your thoughts on innovating the dash?
It?s still evolving. I?ve spent some time in Detroit, because I actually live there, visiting with different carmakers. What?s really interesting, first of all, is that some of it is cultural. Some of the dashboards are produced differently, depending on the culture. Some prefer different colors or different looks. And there are trends. First, engineers in Detroit kind of ruled, and they were going to digital more quickly than people were comfortable with. So they switched back to analog. They didn?t do pop-up displays because people didn?t like them. Now, what is funny is they are starting to creep back in both those areas, with a digital look and pop-up displays. You are getting to see a lot of different things there. GM?s recent announcement about getting engaged with distracted driving
in terms of measuring your head movements and alerting you is great, innovative stuff. We are still in the beginning here. This is evolving very, very quickly. There are very sophisticated algorithms and technology and sensing devices. That is what has changed in the last five to 10 years, because cell phones have become so pervasive, the components of the sensing devices that measure so many different things are going to transform the world. It is going to be the Internet of Things. It is going to affect automobiles. It also affects safety in a very positive way. Basically, you will have ubiquity of all sorts of ways of measuring what we want and when we want it and being responsive, and also keeping us safe. I think that is all good.

RI: What can a radio manager learn at CES, bring back to their station, and implement to be more successful and create new revenue?
Shapiro: I would personally guarantee that any Radio Ink subscriber who attends the CES will be glad they did. And if they are not glad, I will buy them lunch. Part of the key to success in life, I believe, is to get out of your rut, to try something different, to be prepared for experiences that will open your mind. The most strategic and brightest people sometimes come from abroad, because they have seen how the rest of the world operates. They are open to trying new things. Our challenge is to try to expand and learn new things, and be lifetime learners. That?s how I?m raising my kids. That?s how I deal with my employees. I encourage them to do things outside their jobs. And that?s how we run the show. We run it so there are many different things going on. You can?t help but be inspired and learn and appreciate the experience. Our research shows, indeed, that?s what people value ? the fact that they can go, and in a few days? time, get, as one CEO told me, 20 new business ideas, or be inspired, or meet 20 new people that you would have had to spend four or five months traveling around the rest of the world to meet. It?s just a matter of going there and being open to the opportunity. You can go there and be drunk or gamble, or you can experience 160,000 other people who are at the top of the innovation world in different categories and learn what they are learning and do things differently.

Register for DASH today. GE HERE

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