retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past "FaceTime" videos, visit the MorningNewsBeat Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

The first thing you need to know is that Michael Sansolo and I are enormous Tony Kornheiser fans. Mr. Tony, as he is known to the legions of people who follow him, is the former Washington Post sports columnist who has found a second career with a local radio program in Washington, DC, and as co-host of "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN. He used to be a writer; now, Mr. Tony says, he yodels for a living, and makes no apologies for it. He also is an unapologetic neophyte when it comes to technology - he doesn't have a smart phone or an iPad, he refers to computers as "Google machines," and he makes no bones about the fact that when he buys a new TV, he needs someone to come in and set it up for him. That's who he is, but it also is part of the shtick.

I tell you all this because I heard Mr. Tony say something very smart about technology the other day, and I wanted to share it with you.

When I go for long drives, I like to listen to podcasts of Mr. Tony's radio show that I download from iTunes. They're entertaining, funny and they can make a long ride go a lot faster. However, they're always posted a day after the original broadcast; Michael can listen to him live because he lives near DC, but I don't have that option. I don't particularly mind; in fact, the podcasts I was listening to the other day were from late June, and I was trying catch up. (Thank goodness he takes the summer off...I have until Labor Day to finish listening to shows about the NBA finals and how Lebron James may turn out yet again to be a choking dog, which has a whole other level of entertainment value at this point.)

However, Mr. Tony is caught up in a running battle with management over the podcasts. He thinks they should be run the same day, and believes - correctly, I think - that a lot of people would be willing to pay to get them in a timely fashion. But management doesn't want to do that, because it is judged on how many people listen to the program in DC between 10 am and 12 noon, Monday through Friday.

It was in talking about this battle with management that Mr. Tony, who verges on being a Luddite, made a salient point about technology. He said this:

The management of the radio station is fighting the last war. Today, whether it is TV or movies or radio programs, people want to watch or listen to them on their own schedules, not on someone else's. Smart management does not make the podcast audience wait, but rather tries to figure out how to monetize the podcast ... especially because the podcast audience is a lot bigger than the traditional radio audience. it's global, not local. And it is highly committed to the product.

Management, he suggested, is hemmed in by old notions of how radio programs ought to be broadcast. I'd old, Mr. Tony said. I understand what that's like. But I also know that we don't want to be caught up in playing by old rules, even if we don't completely understand the new rules.


That is an enormously perceptive thing to say.

Mr. Tony suggested that the radio station management needed to get a bunch of 20-30 year olds in a room, and find out what they think about podcasting availability, monetization, and technology-related questions. He pointed out that at newspapers all over America, nobody really did that when the internet started encroaching on traditional news sources, and now newspapers are dying out.

Again, bingo. That's exactly what every management team should do. Not only are these 20-30 year olds the customers of the future, but they may be the customers of the present. Attention must be paid.

One does not have to be a technology wiz to be able to appreciate the fundamental changes that are affecting every industry. One just has to know that these changes are taking place, and then be willing to adjust and change. To fight the next war, not the last one.


This commentary, by the way, allows me to sign off in a way that I've always wanted to:

If you're out on your bike tonight, do wear white...

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind...

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