tv John Dickey on the Future of Radio CSPAN August 26, 2015 7:20pm-8:01pm EDT
the senators. the most intriguing incident i've come across was a president of the united states almost came to physical blows with one of the senators. >> explain. >> president theodore roosevelt had in what historians see as a real blot on his record, had basically fired without retirement benefits 160 african-american troops in texas. and senator took up the cause and was very loud protesting the way president roosevelt treated him.
they were sort of sparked by a cartoon that was in the dinner program, which looking at that today is a pretty racist cartoon. they got into -- president roosevelt said i'm not waiting until 10:30. i want to give a speech now. he gave a speech ripping into senator foraker. he ended up responding. they ended up not serving all the courses ort entertainment because it was so biting. because it was so ferocious, they ended up realizing they had to get rid of the off the record that year. people had to write about that. that's probably the single most surprising event of any dinner.
>> george condon international dinner historian, thank you very much for being with us. >> surely. coming up, a hearing on on thursday president obama will visit new orleans. he'll also deliver remarks, live coverage on c-span gets underway at 5:00 p.m. eastern. also take your phone calls. florence harding once said she had one hobby and that was warren harding. she was adept at handling the media. despite hardships, scandals, her husband's infidelities, his death in office as well as her own poor health, she would help define the role of the modern first lady. this sunday night at 8:00
eastern on c-span's original series "first ladies: influence and image examining the public and private lives of the women who filled the position of first lady." from martha washington to michelle obama. sundays at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. on c-span 3. next, the executive vice president of cumulus media. examining industry trends, digital technology and the changing landscape of political talk shows. his remarks were part of a talker's magazine event in june. [ applause ] >> that you very much. i always take it very personally when people come to this event s because it's really hard to get
people to go anywhere these r days.get when you think about the level of quality, the quantitative ll nature of this crowd, i just say i can't believe it. 25 years ago we started talkersi magazine. we made up the word talkers. it sounded novel. we had a newspaper called d talkers. talkers, what an interesting word. talke now i see talker being used as c the generic name of a whole genre of performance. it's very satisfying. begi i can't begin to tell you how honored i am you're all here.i i also have to admit talkers, l, even though it's 25 years old y and this conference is 18 years old, it's a minute to minute deal.is people laugh at me. i say this is the last time agai we're going to do this conference, we can't do it again.cation we're going to have to stop wor
talkers because what do we represent.rst i don't want a publication abouo digital world, even though digit tal world is the thing we firstg foretold. we called this new media seminar 18 years ago. people said why are you calling it the new -- i said, because coming up in the next 20 years,a radio's integration into the moi digital era is going to be the d most important thing we deal with and it turned out to be ah true as evidence by look at the obsession we have. back to us.e there has to be this central hub called radio or there's no need for talkers. or ther it's so widespread. i'm living on the age, this talr could be the last day.ad. not to mention we're getting older. i savor these moments and especially this fireside session, even though the fire is covered.
it's way too warm to have a fis fire.idiscuss the idea of a fireside chat, ane intimate, informal discussion between friends. hope and i would be presumptuous to l say my guest is my friend, but would like to hope someday he ia will be. i will tell you this. there would not be a conference today if it wasn't for john dickey.him, i was in a conversation with him, and it was actually the first time we ever met in person. i said to him, i don't know if we can continue to do this conference. he looked at me and he said with the most serious look on his face, he said, you have to do this conference. i got chills. i'll never forget it. that's the only reason we're doing this conference this year. after last year we were so exhausted, so blown out. reas this is so hard to put together i said to my wife bernadette to when it was all over and went back to the room, i said this is the last time i am ever putting
myself through this. i then shortly thereafter i have this conversation with john dickey and he said you have to do this conference. that was so inspirational to me this enterprise as all our enterprises do, as you get oldew you realize that.our on a thread. every day you have to reinvent a yourself. i welcome this gentleman with as tremendous amount of gratitude y in my heart for all he's done md for me and all that he does as a lover of radio, who is one of the toughest jobs anybody coulds possibly imagine. let's see you do it. let's see you do what this guy d does and what his brother does and what the people who are running these gigantic complicated businesses that is t the sum result of river of time events that led to radio in the year 2015. let's see anybody do it.esident he's the executive vice
president of cumulus media. he is in charge of their content and programming strategy and hem operations.sting he has a long pedigree in radio. he comes from a broadcasting family as does my son. he's a graduate of stanford sio. university. g he's brilliant and he loves or radio. i love the fact i'm going to get to chat with him for the next half hour or so intimately in front of the fire of our minds, mr. john dickey. [ applause ] >> that felt good. >> we were standing in the back. it was standing room only. are you good?were >> i'm good. >> i asked you a question in the meeting almost a year ago, how a do you deal with the stress, running so many operations. i go crazy running a business, small business.
we're a hand full of employees. you've got vice presidents, market managers, different formats. basically it comes down to the human element. >> peo >> it does. who >> people think, who knows what goes on in the tower. i said, how do you -- you topped and looked at me and said it is stressful. could you tap into that for a moment, human-to-human. how to you run an operation thio big? an >> well, i appreciate -- first , of all, let me say, the remarks were very kind. i don't know if i'm responsible for the conference or not, but the way michael recalls it is accurate. i'm a big believer in conference.rence i think all industries that areo healthy have a conference aspecs to them. the fact this conference going d
away or sunsetting didn't set well to me. is if i had anything to do with itc which i had a small part, i d appreciate the kind remarks. we are all gifted to have somebody who is as passionate and devoted so much of their life to the format and the progress this for mat has made in the last 25 years. again, without turning this into a retirement party, because we e want michael to be around for years to come, let's give him one more round of applause. [ applause ]nt mcomonap mc now, to the question of stress, i will say this off thet record, even though nothing is off the record. heard what i do personally, hire mike mcveigh and kick him four timesi
a day. mike, where are you back there?e hu okay?g a he's sitting down. no, it is a stressful job. i know everybody has heard this old saying before, find out something you love to do and you never work another day. i truly feel fortunate and blessed to be doing what i'm gr doing.ea as i try to do the best job i can.i it's a very difficult and sometimes thankless job. i try to approach it with a little bit of levity and a little bit of humility.e.'s nice maybe a lot more humility than t most would. it's a tough job.y stress like anything else, no p
matter if you're programming a p radio station in topeka, kansasv where we have a great cluster o. stations or in new york like hi3 craig is with 77, it's the sameo it eats you up if you don't deal with it. you've got to have outlets. i think it comes down to, and l. this will tie into sort of genius of that question, it tiee into balance.ne balance in life. i've got a very great family. i'm very fortunate about that a. well. great wife, three kids, one on l the way.ible i started late.o? so that is a whole other fun thin for me. i it's nice to have a balance. it's nice to come home.in kids don't know what you do, wha
you are, they just know you're a dad.i they jump in your lap and make sure they keep dry cleaners in business and it's all good. i feel very fortunate that way. balance is important.tics, i think part of what we'll talk about in this 30 minutes s. together is balance and content. really the way forward in content. i'll let michael take the lead. >> before we get into that, onea cannot ignore, one of the things people were saying to me was one of the best panels they have seen at a convention, the way sean just ran. i approach radio ratings, what n see is what i think. what i see is -- i'll ask it asd a question, is it possible to rp ever accurately rate radio?
>> well, i'm a recovering statistician. i studied statistics in school. it wasn't my area of passion.cor it was an area i was good at. my passion was history. i loved it, couldn't figure out how to make a lig out of it. to this day, still passion abou, it.e to statistics, days before on the t research side, a consulting company 14, 15 years. richard harker, he was a great competitor in that field. i knew mike mcveigh from those days and lots of other people in the room. but to the question, can you accurately measure consumption in radio, i think the thing that i would say are two points. one, sean and i happen to agreer on almost everything on that panel. some people would find that to be interesting and funny and iron in, because i think there's a perception that sean and i don't agree on a lot of things. that's not true. we see eye to eye on that issue. i'll come from a different perspective. the other thing i would inu and arbitron is margins of
error. i don't think i'll have too many hand popping up, anyone know how to figure out margin of error oe person 25 to 54 average quarter hour share or rating in month of may in ppm market? anybody know how to figure that5 out.ting i there's smart people -- i know n john can go and figure it out. there's smart people that woulde figure out how to get the answer and do the math but what we're buying is a product we're unfortunately representing as t chapter and verse. the ad agencies to their oduct advantage take it as chapter ane verse. we unfortunately and probably unwittingly accept that. the first thing i would submit to everybody is, it's accurate but accurate to a point. if you don't know what that if point is, you're paying for something you're misusing. i've been a staunch advocate of this for 13, 14 years. neilso back in the days when i fired arbitron and brought nielsen he into radio for the first time, i
don't remember, six, seven years ago in diary markets. so margin of error is important. we have two issues in this format.rks rega we have audience that is not fld accounted forks regardless of what we think and how flawed or not the methodology is, and we have margin of error, which is a going concern and has been pre. my opinion, back to the famous quote in "a few good men" we can't handle the truth. the truth of the matter is the s margin of error is a lot greater than what we want to is acknowledge. furthermore, the truth of the fu matter is, solving for that margin of error costs a lot more money than we're willing to paye i would almost take neilson's y point of view if they would be honest about this and advance it this way and say, fine, we'll give you what you want. are you going to get your fine, checkbook out?ou does it make sense? if the answer is, no, it doesn' make sense, we can't justify
that. what we should do is work backwards from where it does ba make sense. that product i promise you is gn going to look different than thh product we have today.ence that may not make a difference from nielsen from a business perspective, as we have been informed, they make far more money with procter & gamble than they thought about with us, then you ask yourself, why do they care about us. we are the missing piece to the puzzle to monetize and represen they have listeners from home to cash register.th without us they don't have that. story. i think they owe us more than what they are giving us.ore th that could lead us into pitch an forks and torches and we'd haves to give john a head star. i'm not here to bash nielsen, tg i'm just here to present the ivd truth. the truth is we're out selling e numbers that have a band on thee that don't -- or a bracket that we don't represent.that i was proponent of putting r whoever on estimates.
it's easy to do.rep put your mouse over a number ant get margin of error. they can do this. they can build it in. they know they can do this. they don't want to do this.ey dn does it bother me?does yeah, it bothers me.ers what bothers me is when people p are misrepresenting the truth rh and that is a blatant a misrepresentation of the truth. we're paying a lot of money for this. what made it difficult, seven, f eight years ago it's a rounding error, now it's our most meaningful expense behind ow payroll. okay. arbitron nielsen weren't supposed to be a tax, an payrol additive. it's becoming more apparent it's a tax. ed to >> in toronto i had anbe opportunity to have a similar fireside chat with your brother lou. >> i'm sorry to hear that. >> it's going to be interestingt to hear your answer to this question a year and a half later.
he was extremely eloquent and ei detailed about the need for mi metrics in any kind of advertising sales. i'm s >> i prepped him for that speech. t >> we talked about different platforms selling on and agencies want metrics, they want numbers. need yet throughout this room and throughout the industry, there are people that are selling outside the numbers. they call it nontraditional revenue.ent they call it qualitative. and i see michael from kso is here. he sells in santa cruz, all rouo kinds of interesting ways. he even says advertising isn't t important anymore, selling products on the air, qualitativl selling. does this fit into the cumulus . philosophy at this point? >> it does. i would say, again, and this ise the honest truth. i would say from us to i heart to cbs all the way down, none of us and i mean none of us do as good a job as we should sellingi
the quality of the audiences we have.i woul that's the reality of it. i it's far easier to go sell rankf and rating than it is to take an audience and go out and talk f about, as sean said, what o go percent of my audience has got a disposable income that can wha actually do something with yourt product or service. can if that were the case, we'd be having a conversation about relevancy of 3564. c i know i'll see every hand when. i say to everybody, wouldn't yon like to be bonused and rewarded, against 3564. can i get an amen? amen.can the reality is then you have to sit across the table and look a a stooge like me and say can't e
do it, because our guys can't se sell 3564, even though it's fais and the right thing to do. i would never tell you it isn't persons 35-64 is where the vast majority of buys are placed against. the v then it cascades down to -- depends on the market, women --- persons 18-40, women 18-34, then goes down. do i think that's right? no. down. increasingly as we have more millennials living on couches and not getting out and in a not position to start their life until they get in late 20s and t 30s, you would think madison avenue would wake up and peopled wake up and say, you know what, with school and wage stagnation and increased amount of pressure on incomes vis-a-vis taxes -- i sound like i'm running for office -- all these different things, you would think somebody would wake up and say, you're or right. you're probably not in a position to go buy a second cara buy a jet ski, go to a nice dinner and buy a $50 bottle of
wine or $80 bottle of wine, unless you're in the absolute ed five standard deviations outside the norm, a whiz kid from silicon valley or hedge fund with no moral compass.u're i that didn't sound right. devi any hedge fund people here?at you've got to be in your 40s or 50s before you have anything jingling around. that ties into the conundrum, average age, take phil's word, late 50, 60 years of age.com there's an old saying, don't fight city hall. got to we can't fight that fight. the good news is the demographics of the company aret working to our favor.average there are more people coming of, age and waking up and finding, 0 hey, i need readers.demo i can't see like i used to.le hey, i just discovered am band, that's cool. i didn't know that was sitting out there. i there are more people falling into that classification, this e is great for us.i didn't
the question is how do we get them and what are we going to ds about it?s ho >> i always find the argument your audience is dying off, yout have to go for a younger ou audience to be illogical. does seventeen magazine become eighteen, nineteen, close high schools when they finished e twelfth grade. they are going to college. you just create program for new old people. there's a cyclical nature to e. life. you answered the question and s basically the answer is this is the way it is. is not a matter of what's fair,i it's the way it is on a deeper,n moralistic level we can deal with it. the way it is. there are thousands of people whose lively hoods hang on this question, at least they would like to know because of the number of people that work at cumulus and the tremendous influence you have in the talk radio sphere. t what is the position of talk
radio at this point within the bigger cumulus plan? >> that's a great question. i would answer that first by saying you are correct. the we have a very special responsibility in the format. by virtue of the stations and the markets those stations are y in that we are custodians of. ce that's how i view that cial responsibility. we are stakeholders an our company owns them. we own the license.ations let's face it, we are custodians of these great brands. as a custodian of a great brande and in a larger context of thisy format, we have a huge let's responsibility. cus i go to bed with that thought t every night, among others, and wake up with it. back to stress, i don't know if it contributes to stress but it certainly keeps me grounded and. contributes to the gravity and n urgency that i approach this ai format and how we find a way co forward in this format.nt so we are -- so part of the
answer is that. the other part, and it relates h to that, we are heavily investey in the format.format we are not running from the the format. we are not looking to get out od that format. relates we are deep in the format and are going deeper into the format. the real question is what ut constitutes the format today. what does that format look and feel like.p in the i'm back to branding. my brother and i ran a pretty ft successful market research company for a long time. lou, i don't give him enough accolades. he's a very smart guy. not as smart as me but he's really smart.u, i d he wrote the official book that was one of nab's best sellers d. for a long time called "the franchise." me it was all about branding and taking the whole concept of branding which fortune 500 was n companies have been doing for st years and applying it to radio.l back when we were kids and le getting into the business, bill
was the king of research. been everybody in this room protect . had marketing on their book shelf. it was a samurai sword to have n that.res there was a lot of great parenting from bill and his company. he was to radio what fred was and might still be to the television. when we got out of school and in that space and looking at that strategic framework and how people approach radio, what gre didn't sit right to me, startins to fragment, individual attributes of a product were going to brand the product.and meaning 10-0 radio station, hand my hat on and win by virtue of t that. that only works until somebody p does what, like the old baseball bat game, they become an 11 in s row radio station. none of that felt right to lou and i. ra when lou went back to school and got an mba at harvard he did study around branding and applying the art of branding too radio. therefore the book came out of it. ke today, which is very in a
interesting, we talk about brands as if we always talked f about brands. that wasn't the case.inte the warfare metaphor, sun tzu to marketing warfare and recent was the strategic paradigm we livedh off of until we changed that. and we changed it to the better. getting back to concept of mark branding and talk as we approached it. we've got to figure out what th brand is going forward. we understand the objective on reaching a younger audience or broader audience makes sense. when i say broader, i mean audience more inclusive demographically and psych audie graphically. they are selling niche format. i don't take my word for it, take even what i said about margin oe error, take a look at ratings i most markets.
the stations that are really y. winning on the am side or am t m with fm deployed are all new stations or sports stations.rork i'll come back to that in a sti little bit. but talk -- purely talk and ame where the format sits, it's beer in decline. so we've got to figure out what that way forward is. michael's question to us, we ar. not afraid to admit we don't know exactly what that looks like, i don't know what it re exactly looks like. i know the conversation has to t be broader than what it is.rsato i know from being fortunate enough to be around a lot of smart, interesting, different r people at cocktail parties and dinner parties, i know what a a good table feels like and i knoi what a bad table feels like.li i know what people 35 years of age up to 55, 60 years of age.5, i know what they are talking
about when they are sitting n down, got a couple of belts in a them and everybody having a good time. they talk about a lot of things. they talk about a lot of things. i can promise you sports is part of that.ey mike would agree with that. they talk about business.ds, they talk about morality, they took about philosophy, i.e. religion, they talk about kids,l they talk about politics.y they talk about all kind of stuff. that tends to only be further facilitated as wine bottles area ordered.re so if we are going to be a reflection of those conversations as a format we need to start thinking about that. arting that doesn't mean -- i'm not si taking an ideological position g one way or the other i'm saying if we want a successful format moving forward, given the ll reality of where we find ourselves today, it's incumbent upon all of us to try different things, to broaden our horizons and to see what's out there and to look at our talent at a different way than we have in the past. >> i was thinking when you were
saying, maybe we should just hire drunks. tha i remember when i was first breaking into radio. >> i'm going to get lots of e-mails from madd now. lots of e-mails from that. >> when i was first breaking ba into radio i would look for jobd in broadcasting magazines. they would say drunks and drifters need not apply. that would be a name for a book. it's interesting you mentioned sports. because we're allwe'r obsessed sports. they say sports is the microcosm of life. to a certain degree it is.and we pulse ate from generalism to specialty. then you have a specialty. it gets broader again. you pulse ate back to generalism. you see see mccafes. mcdonald's is starbucks.
and chicken places selling beef and beef places selling chickenu do you think general talk radio: gave up this franchise to become its own specialty so in the own heart of qualitative lucrative selling?ethin >> hindsight is a wonderful thing. i can answer that with a ooki categorica categorical, yes, we blew it. the wjrs, the tigers and jp mccarthy, and all of this great talent and this wonderful place where people would meet on the radio and discuss all things important in greater detroit and the world and what have you, he that was a wonderful position to
be in. for some reason, we all get howp that kind of works. if something new happens, more of that is a good thing. we are all part of an nment entertainment eco system that is very formulatic driven. it is not a knock on our form business. it's just the realityven. of ouu business. it happens in the filmlity busi. it happens in audio entertainment. it happens in anything in life. it happens in the music business. if something is working, you ges five or six artists that roll out fast with the same kind of twist. if that's hitting on a sweet now tooth, let's keep going. i don't know if blowing is the right characterization. back to what i was saying in the conversation at the dinner tabl table, to me figuring out the t puzzle and trying to pick the lock on how we get back into a healthy position has to start with that.
it has to start with the reality that people talk about a lot of things. and not just politics. politics is important. and politics, by the way, offeri a clue to what the way forward r is. because what's the old saying about politics?politi all politics are local.ght? that's the other key i think to working -- in working our way out of this conundrum we're in.. i think what shawn does is great. what rush doesgr is great.what l what allen does is great. we're in that business. there is wonderful syndicated program that belongs and deserves to be on these greatdeh radio stations and will esbe.ns it's a question of how much. what do we surround it with.nd how do we view our responsibilities. working, it wase easy to sit back. i'm fond of saying before google invented this, we had the first
self-driven cars. we would have all the talent piped into us and watch magic happen. it was great.reat no problem. it worked. but that, like anything else, us back to branding, its runs its course. it had a great run. it's had a great run. and that run has come to an end through self-inflicted wounds th and through the nature of the brands and life cycles.d life so it is incumbent thinking about finding our way forward t really ask ourselves how much of the solution is premised on muco being more local.lution i how much of the solution is how premised on finding out how to showcase these great syndicatet talents like shawn in an environment that will allow them to shine even more successfully they are. how much is premised upon widening the aperture and saying, hey, if i'm at a dinner party, are we not going to talk about a, b, c, and d and those g are the ground rules of the ta dinner party? i don't think so.
if you're stacking the table successfully at a party, you are bringing all of that to the table, right? they're bringing a savant. you're bringing all kinds of different talent to the table.ll through the miracle of alcohol, you're letting it all just sort. of come out, right? and take your watches off and somebody famous said the s ultimate insult is wearing a tes watch to aul dinner party.pa it doesn't matter what time it e is. good time.g a that's what we want the radio tt be like again.we we have to do it within i structure, content and format. i think we need to start broadening out more from that perspective. it takes couragect to do that. because you're going to throw -a we have a cooking analogy. you' you will throw noodles against t thehr back of the stove. they're not all going to stick.e you're goingy to try things ands it's not all going to work. you need to have ownership of that.
everyoneowne has to realize we to try things differently or we're not going to move forwardg and figure out the way forward. >> okay. i have a couple more questions, and then we will move on honestly.n i was going to ask about local g and national. but you answered it in your yo answer to the other question. let's talk about the balance of talk and music. most of the stars are on the talk side. the radio star is usually a talker. there are some big stars in aro music radio. in most are syndicated and most oft them are produced.ey a they are not live, natural, and organ ic. they are kind of plastic.f is there any future for the any deejay again in radio?agai or is that just good-bye?-bye? it does relate to people in talk radio. i view all radio as radio. we didn't blow it because we'reo sports talk too. with it's just balance.musi what is going to happen in terms
of people talking? is is that over? or is it just a temporary drought? me >> he's asking me some really s. tough questions. i don't think it's over. i don't think that's over.that's i think back to kind of the tail end of my last answer. i think all of us have a think responsibilityal to go out and y to aim our talent and do it o differently and bring and encourage talent to come in.ling our biggest selling proposition is the reach of our media. that's the one thing that we can positively say pm has done for us, is it's gone -- and we don'e talk about that anymore.e. but i remember the pitch back when everybody was talking about changing the methodology and going into this form of meas measurement. and the pitch was all about -- it was going to make radio op easier. it will open more dollars. a cost per point reset. and i looked at pierre and said that's great but i didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday.l
you will never quantify this orl sell this, but you have to lead with it's going to give us a better opportunity to demonstrate the expansive reacha of radio. and it has. you have seen kumes in new yorks approach 5 million.azy. it is huge. to it's crazy. back to talent. any informed talent, and we have to continue to push this agendas looks at radio and broadcast radio.broadc it's broadcast tv. broadcast radio. if you look at broadcast radio and you look at the vast reach, if you are a gift of the gab gt fellow or woman and you want to beyp a brand as the prior panel was discussing or mike was li discussing prior to the panel, e wherere else would you go?blow this is the place to blow up as a brand. so i think our privacy in that regard hasn't changed.
it's only been advantaged under ppm and where we sit today. and the story i take out repea repeatedly to talent as much as i can is exactly that. if you are trying to build a ryg brand and you're trying to become a nationally known person or figure, there's no better place to do that than on the radio. and backpl to what michael saidd earlier, i don't think there's a program who would disagree witho us. talented, otally you're going to move music out them do more let of what they're going to do.'s unless it is premised entirely different. you're goingol to let people doo what they shouldr do, give them more rope and let them connect in ways that only truly a onl talented person can connect. >> john, the greatest compliment anybody can pay me and you paide me is i asked you tough or questions. i would hate to sit here in pee
front of your peers and ask youi softball questions. ques i wouldn't ask any question i didn't think i could answer.swe you did a heck of a job answering some tough questions, and i'm very grateful. thank you, john. [ applause ]. tonight on c-span3, it's american history tv in primetime with our series american artifacts. first we go inside senator lamar alexander's office where the republican lawmaker talks about his public service and the stories behind some of his political mementos. and a look at a blacksmith on wheels built over the course of two wheels built on 19th century plans of the archives. and after that, artifacts from the american museum set to open in early 2017. later, a look at the civil wa